Women, Prison, and Iran

Published January 6th, 2011 - 09:56 GMT
Witness Hajar Tehrani, Evin prison survivor (1981-1984), who was personally tortured by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joins Iranian exiles protesting against stoning and condemns the forced concessions
Witness Hajar Tehrani, Evin prison survivor (1981-1984), who was personally tortured by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joins Iranian exiles protesting against stoning and condemns the forced concessions

I was a little girl when the Revolution began in Iran. There were very few women activists back then and it was highly unusual to discuss such activities in public. It was unusual because political activists men often went to prison. 


Politics was a man’s business; women could rarely get involved and most of them didn’t want to get involved anyway. 


The public frowned at any woman who was jailed for her political activities.
Because of the cultural and social nature of Iranians, even the family of a woman, who went to prison usually went into hiding and hoped no-one would find out.

Back in 1982, my late uncle, who had once served in the Revolutionary Guard, was arrested and charged with conspiracy against the system.

I well remember going with my uncle’s wife and my mom to see him in prison, bringing him a big bag full of food and clean clothes. 

We had to wait for hours outside the detention centre before the guards would let us in. Today, 31 years after the Revolution, things have changed and there are actually more women than men actively involved in politics, human rights and women’s rights. These days, it is the men who go and visit their female relatives in the detention centres.

The families of activists are very brave, doing their best to support their detained relatives. But times have changed: no-one is ashamed anymore to have female relatives in prison.

Nowadays, women challenge the system, educating their families to support them in a cause which is good for coming generations.

In a recent case, when lawyer and human rights activist Mrs Nasrin Sotodeh went on her second hunger strike in Evin Prison in Tehran, her husband gave an interview to the media, informing the world that his wife was very sick and needed urgent medical attention.

Nasrin, the mother of two children aged only two and six, was the lawyer for some detainees, who were arrested after the disputed presidential elections last year. She is now on hunger strike, protesting against her arrest and the charges.

Meanwhile, two student activists, Bahareh Hedayat and Mehdeh Gholro, both arrested during the street protest against the outcome of the elections last year, have been sentenced to 10 years in prison one of the heaviest sentences approved by the Higher Court in Teheran.

Both of them went on hunger strike on Tuesday December 21, because their husbands weren’t allowed to visit them, although they’re meant to visit their wives once a week.
The same day, their proud husbands told the media how worried they were about their dear wives and called for the nation to support them.

These women are just three of many who have been in prison since last year.
From journalists, to political and human rights activists and students, they have all been charged with threatening national security, insulting the President and the Supreme Leader and contacting a foreign enemy.

None of them had a fair trial. Like Nasrin, many others are married with small children, such as Henghameh Shahidi, a journalist sentenced to six years behind bars. A culture, which respects women greatly and is merciful towards them, can’t tolerate this attitude. 


The history and culture of Iran is full of delicate, ‘poetic’ behaviour towards women, who play such a heavenly role as mothers.

The way these activists has been treated has shocked the nation and shown the nasty side of Iran’s system. 

Think of poor Nasrin, who was so weak because of her hunger strike that she was unable to hold her children when they came to visit her the first visit they’d been allowed in two months.

When her husband appeared on BBC Persian TV and told their story to viewers, the nation was shocked. 

Activists and her relatives asked her to give up her hunger strike and called on the regime to release her immediately.

She wasn’t released and refused to give up her hunger strike. She’s not the only women on hunger strike in Evin Prison. How can Muslim women be treated like this? Is the Government in Tehran so afraid of the new generation of Iranian women?  


Entekhabifard is an Iranian journalist based in Dubai





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