World and Nation

Iranian Authorities Arrest Women After Protests Outside Courtroom

Iranian authorities arrested 33 women on Sunday after protests outside a court where five of the women were being tried for leading a campaign to gain more legal rights for women, newspapers reported Monday.

The five women were put on trial after they organized a demonstration for women’s rights last June, the ILNA news agency reported. The agency said that the women had been charged with endangering national security, propagating against the government, and taking part in illegal gatherings.

The arrests on Sunday were part of a crackdown against female activists and protests in general since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005.

Authorities broke up last June’s demonstration and arrested 70 people. The five organizers now on trial are: Noushin Ahmadi Khorassani, Parvin Aradalan, Shahla Entesari, Soosan Tahmassebi, and Fariba Davoudi Mohajer.

The five women, who have not been in custody, were arrested on Sunday after they left the court. The daily newspaper Etemad Melli reported Monday that all 33 of the women were taken to the notorious Evin prison, which has the largest number of political prisoners in the country and where many prisoners say they have been tortured.

Women have been pursuing two major campaigns since last year. One calls on authorities to change a law that permits stoning women to death if they are convicted of adultery. The other is an ambitious project to collect a million signatures for a petition that calls on authorities to change discriminatory laws toward women.

Iran’s laws codify traditions that place little value on a woman’s life and give slight credence to women’s opinions. For instance, a woman’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man and, if a woman is killed, the compensation due her family is also half that required for a man’s death.