Saturday, 10 May 2008

Iranian authorities urged to halt threats to “cyber-feminists”

Reporters Without Borders has called on the authorities to halt a crackdown against women’s rights publications after three women were jailed for six months in March this year and on 2 May, Parvin Ardalan, editor of feminist website “Change for Equality” was handed down a two-year suspended sentence.

“The Internet is the only way for these feminists to demand their rights. They have become an easy target and are suffering real harassment,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The websites they contribute to are regularly blocked. We urge the authorities to halt this systematic repression of cyber-feminists”.

Ardalan, 36, was sentenced on 2 May to a two-year suspended sentence for “illegal assembly and refusing to obey police orders with the intention of harming national security”. Legal proceedings against her date back to 4 March 2007. She was tried for taking part in a demonstration in Tehran’s Hafte Tir Square on 12 June 2006 calling for reform of laws that discriminate against women in Iran. She was in March awarded the 2007 Olaf Palme prize for her commitment to advancing women’s rights in Iran but was denied the right to leave the country to receive it.

Three feminist activists were each sentenced to six months in prison and a suspended sentence of six strokes of the whip for “disturbing public order”. Nasrin Afzali, Nahid Jafari and Marzieh Mortazi took part in a demonstration on 4 March 2007 in protest at the trial of five women for their part in the June 2006 demonstration, including Parvin Ardalan. They contribute regularly to websites “Change for Equality” and “Feminist School”.

Elsewhere, the first sports website for women ( as well as feminist websites “Change for Equality” (, “Feminist school” (, “Canon Zeman Irani” ( and “Meydaan” ( are inaccessible. In addition the news website Fararu ( was blocked from 19 to 24 April.

Iran is on Reporters Without Borders’ Internet Enemies list and is the Middle East’s most repressive country towards bloggers. More than ten of them were arrested in 2007 in connection with articles posted online. Iran is in 166th position on Reporters Without Borders’ world press freedom index, which monitors a total of 169 countries.

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