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.

It’s been a Big Year for Uganda, For All the Wrong Reasons

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By Emily McGranachan, Member of Amnesty International USA’s LGBT Human Rights Coordinating Group

While pundits in the U.S. lament the political stalemate on Capitol Hill, legislatures elsewhere have had a banner year. Take Uganda, for example, where no fewer than three major pieces of controversial and internationally scrutinized legislation were signed into law between August 2013 and February 2014: the Public Order Management Act (POMA), the Anti-Pornography Act (APA), and the now-nullified Anti-Homosexuality Act (AHA). This flurry of activity in the lead-up to Uganda’s 2016 elections legalized repressive and discriminatory policies.

Thanks to these three laws, restrictions on the rights to free expression, association and assembly for all Ugandans have intensified. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

No Bigger Fish to Fry? Why Iran is Imprisoning a Sports Fan

Going to watch a volleyball game shouldn’t mean having to make a major political statement. It certainly shouldn’t mean arrest and indefinite detention in solitary confinement. But that is exactly what happened to dual British-Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25-year-old woman who went to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in June to watch a match during the International Federation of Volleyball World League games. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How This Week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Can Help End Violence Against Women in Morocco

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While Morocco has amended a law that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims if they are younger than 18, there are still numerous legal and procedural ways in which it actively discriminates against women and girls (Photo Credit: Amnesty International).

This blog posting is part of a series Amnesty International USA is publishing to coincide with the U.S.-Africa Summit occurring August 4-6th, 2014. We are utilizing the series to highlight human rights concerns on the continent we feel critically need to be addressed during the summit discussions.

Contributed by Jihane Bergaoui, Amnesty International Country Specialist for Morocco and the Western Sahara

This week, President Obama will welcome nearly every African head of state to Washington, D.C. for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. As one of America’s oldest and most strategically important allies, Morocco is expected to participate in the conference.

Morocco’s continuous efforts to appear as one of the region’s most stable and progressive countries provide human rights activists and U.S. government officials a unique opportunity to successfully pressure Morocco to end violence against women.

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SHOCKING: Gang-Raped Woman in Indonesia Faces Caning for Adultery

A crowd watches as a woman is caned by a sharia police officer dressed in black robes at a public square in Aceh, Indonesia's only province that practices partial sharia law (Photo Credit: Riza Lazuardi/AFP/Getty Images).

A crowd watches as a woman is caned by a sharia police officer dressed in black robes at a public square in Aceh, Indonesia’s only province that practices partial sharia law (Photo Credit: Riza Lazuardi/AFP/Getty Images).

By Claudia Vandermade, Amnesty USA Southeast Asia Co-Group Chair and Action Network Coordinator 

Yes – you read this blog title correctly. Maybe you shook your head, gasped, blinked your eyes and re-read it. The answer to your sputtered question is: Shari’a laws in Aceh, Indonesia.

On May 1, a group of eight men stormed into the woman’s house in Langsa district, accused her of having an affair with a married man, gang-raped her and beat her male companion. Now, she may face being caned a maximum of nine times for the crime of adultery.

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This Mother’s Day, What More Can be Done to Help End Violence Against Women and Girls Globally?

The International Violence Against Women Act introduced yesterday in the Senate would make legislation ending violence against women a diplomatic and foreign assistance priority for the U.S. government (Photo Credit: Sarah K. Eddy).

The International Violence Against Women Act introduced yesterday in the Senate would make legislation ending violence against women a diplomatic and foreign assistance priority for the U.S. government (Photo Credit: Sarah K. Eddy).

The eyes of the world are currently focused on Nigeria and the efforts to free the nearly 300 schoolgirls currently held captive by Boko Haram. The abduction of these girls is yet another deeply disturbing example of the ways in which violence against girls and women affects every aspect of their lives, in this case, their right to education.

Even as we work to #BringBackOurGirls in Nigeria, we continue to press for a permanent solution to end violence against women and girls globally.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate took an action that would help.

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