Ghoncheh Ghavami released but Iran must drop all charges against her

Ghoncheh Ghavami

Ghoncheh Ghavami

When Ghoncheh Ghavami decided to take a stand this past June to protest Iran’s ban on women attending volleyball games, she likely did not figure she’d spend the rest of the summer and fall sitting in a miserable prison cell. Ms. Ghavami, who just turned 26, surely also did not predict that her call for equality would generate hundreds of thousands of supportive voices from around the world.

The outpouring of support for this brave young woman has truly been extraordinary and I do believe, although cannot prove it, that the outrage at her imprisonment, expressed by so many thousands of people around the world—including many Amnesty International activists—contributed to the Iranian government’s decision to release her on bail on Sunday, pending the outcome of her appeal against her one-year prison sentence (plus two-year travel ban) for “spreading propaganda against the system.”

But the happy news of her release—she is reportedly in poor health because of her ordeal (she was kept in solitary confinement for extended periods of time and had recently been transferred to Gharchak, a particularly harsh prison) and the hunger strikes she undertook to protest her treatment—is tempered first of all by the fact that her legal situation remains unresolved, and also because there are dozens of other prisoners of conscience suffering in Iranian prisons who have been accused of the same nebulous charges. These include journalists, bloggers, film-makers, trade union activists and human rights attorneys.

Documentary filmmaker and women’s rights activist Mahnaz Mohammadi is serving a five-year sentence in Evin Prison. A Revolutionary Court handed down the sentence on the charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the system.” Her “crime”? She was convicted for her alleged cooperation with BBC Persian and other foreign-based media organizations, demonized by hard-liners in Iran’s ruling establishment, as well as her role in the making of a documentary film called ‘We Are Half of the Iranian Population’ about women’s rights demands in the lead-up to the 2009 presidential election.

While activists have reason to be gratified that Ghoncheh Ghavami is no longer in prison, we still must remind the Iranian government that we call for all charges to be dropped against her. The Iranian government must immediately stop imprisoning its citizens for exercising their rights—guaranteed under international law—to peacefully gather with others and to peacefully express their opinion. The idea that Ghoncheh Ghavami’s participation in a peaceful action to protest the exclusion of women from sporting events is somehow a threat to national security warranting harsh punishment is utterly preposterous. It is equally preposterous that Mahnaz Mohammadi and so many others languish in prison as well. Please add your voice to those calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran.

Young, Black, Alive: Breaking the silence on Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate

The new “Young Black Alive” campaign is aimed at tackling the underlying human rights issues behind Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate. © Anistia Internacional Brasil

The new “Young Black Alive” campaign is aimed at tackling the underlying human rights issues behind Brazil’s soaring youth homicide rate. © Anistia Internacional Brasil

By Atila Roque, Executive Director of Amnesty International Brazil

Earlier this week, many people around the world waited with bated breath for a grand jury’s decision in a case where a police officer shot dead an unarmed young black man on the street. While the 9 August shooting of Michael Brown took place in the US suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, the case has a deep resonance here in Brazil. The tragic course of events leading up to the teenager’s death could just as easily have played out on the streets of our cities orfavelas.

Of the 56,000 homicides in Brazil every year, 30,000 are young people aged 15 to 29. That means that, at this very moment, a young person is most likely being killed in Brazil. By the time you go to bed, 82 will have died today. It’s like a small airplane full of young people crashing every two days, with no survivors. This would be shocking enough by itself, but it’s even more scandalous that 77 per cent of these young people are black. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

3 Things Amnesty International Has Seen in in Ferguson That Worry Us

Amnesty International USA deployed a team of human rights observers to Ferguson, Missouri to monitor protests and law enforcement response in the wake of a grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown. While it is not possible to make sweeping conclusions still this early in a fluid situation, here is what we know has happened so far in Ferguson:


Discrimination is not natural; it is learned: Ending violence against women


Sometimes when I’m in a group of women, I find myself silently ticking us off by sets of three: one, two, three; one, two, three.  Statistically, I know, 1 in 3 of us will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused in her lifetime.  Such statistics can often ring hollow, but when I count off in my head, I’m thinking of real women; real lives; real suffering. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Ferguson: Today marks a pivotal moment for US human rights


Today, we learned that a grand jury in Ferguson decided not to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown — an unarmed 18-year-old — in August.

The community response to Mike Brown’s death, and the response that is likely still to come, mark a pivotal moment in the human rights movement and in U.S. history.

It’s a moment of passion, of frustration, and of activism.

It’s within this moment that officials in Ferguson and throughout the United States must stand up to ensure that each individual’s human rights — including the right to freely express themselves in the form of peaceful protest — are respected, protected and fulfilled. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Good News! Afghan Authorities Commit to Ensure Brishna’s Safety



Victory! Following the sentencing of Brishna’s rapist, Afghan authorities have now committed to ensuring Brishna’s protection.

In May 2014, Brishna, a 10-year-old girl from Kunduz province, was raped by a local mullah.  She was able to receive medical treatment and protection thanks to the assistance of the organization Women for Afghan Women, but members of her family and community threatened to kill her and “dump her in the river” simply because she was a victim of this crime. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Attacks Continue against Honduran Rights Activists


White crosses in memory of those victims of violence are seen around Tegucigalpa after being placed by members of human rights organizations, on July 9, 2014. (Photo credit: ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)

It has been almost two years since Amnesty International launched its report on attacks against human rights in the Americas, Transforming Pain into Hope. Many of the cases it documented took place in Honduras, often against campesino (rural) leaders. Unfortunately, human rights abusers continue to target rural activists. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

It’s time to ensure support for Indigenous women after sexual violence in the US


It is time for the Obama administration to ensure implementation of standardized sexual assault policies aimed at helping ensure that Indigenous survivors of sexual violence  can access medical treatment and support services. Indigenous women face disproportionately high levels of rape and sexual violence.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) compiled statistics that show over one in three Native American and Alaska Native women will be raped during their lifetimes. They are also 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the USA in general.

Tell President Obama to Adopt and Enforce Promised Sexual Assault Policies


Noose tightening around NGOs in Egypt

Egypt NGO

The noose is tightening around Egypt’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These Egyptian NGOs — essentially what we call “nonprofits” in the US – focus on everything from human rights to other important issues.  They may soon lose their independence under an old law that the new Egyptian government is bringing back to life. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

From Ferguson to Zimbabwe, Police must Protect Peaceful Freedom of Expression

Zimbabwe police

Riot police in military gear in the streets, dispersing peaceful protestors gathered to address grievances with their government. Protestors threatened with weapons. Civil rights violated. Despite similarities to recent events in the US, I’m not talking about Ferguson. This is Zimbabwe.