Iran must free women held over veil protests, say UN experts

In this Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 file photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, university students attend a protest inside Tehran University while anti-riot Iranian police prevent them to join other protestors, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
Updated 17 August 2019

Iran must free women held over veil protests, say UN experts

  • The experts said Tehran responded to their concerns by noting that the women “had been arrested on charges relating to morality and national security offenses”

GENEVA: A group of UN human rights experts on Friday called for the immediate release of three Iranian women given long jail terms for protesting laws compelling women to wear veils.
The trio were charged after a video posted online showed them handing out flowers on Tehran’s metro on March 8, International Women’s Day, according to a statement co-signed by five UN special rapporteurs and another expert.
The women — named in the statement as Mojgan Keshavarz, Yasaman Aryani and Monireh Arabshahi — were not wearing veils.
They “peacefully protested against Iran’s compulsory veiling laws and advocated for a woman’s right to choose whether or not to wear the hijab,” the statement said.
According to the experts, who are independent and do not speak for the world body, the women were detained in April, “forcibly disappeared” for up to two weeks, and denied access to a lawyer through the initial investigation.
“Their legal representatives were also reporte

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Keshavarz has been sentenced to 23-and-a-half years in prison while Aryani and Arabshahi were both given 16-year terms for handing out flowers on Tehran’s metro on March 8, International Women’s Day.

dly prohibited from representing them at their trial,” the statement said.
Keshavarz has been sentenced to 23-and-a-half years in prison while Aryani and Arabshahi were both given 16-year terms.
All were convicted of national security violations, spreading anti-state propaganda and “encouraging and providing for (moral) corruption and prostitution,” the UN experts said. Keshavarz was convicted of the additional crime of “insulting the sacred.”
“We call upon the Iranian authorities to quash these convictions and immediately release all human rights defenders who have been arbitrarily detained for their work in advocating women’s rights,” the statement said.
It was co-signed by Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on rights in Iran, Dubravka Simonovic, UN expert on violence against women and Michel Forst, rapporteur on human rights defenders.
David Kaye, the expert on freedom of expression, Meskerem Geset Techane, who heads the UN working group on discrimination against women and girls, and Ahmed Shaheed, rapporteur on religious freedom, also signed the letter.

The experts said Tehran responded to their concerns by noting that the women “had been arrested on charges relating to morality and national security offenses.”
The rapporteurs also reported that arrests of women’s activists have risen in recent weeks, with Iran’s government having issued an official warning that those who do not wear a veil will face severe punishment.
They cited unidentified reports that 32 people had been arrested, and at least 10 imprisoned, since January of last year for protesting against ruled mandating that hijabs be worn.


Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

Updated 47 min 14 sec ago

Outsider leads after divisive Tunisia presidential poll

  • Law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting

TUNIS: Political outsider Kais Saied was leading Tunisia’s election with just over a quarter of votes counted, the election commission said Monday, in the country’s second free presidential vote since the Arab Spring.
Saied was on 19 percent, leading imprisoned media magnate Nabil Karoui, who was on 14.9 percent, and ahead of the candidate from the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party Abdelfattah Mourou (13.1 percent).
The announcement came after both Saied and Karoui’s camp claimed to have won through to the second round, in the highly divisive polls.
Local papers splashed photos across their front pages of law professor Saied and magnate Karoui, after exit polls showed they had qualified for the second round of voting.
“An unexpected verdict,” ran a headline in La Presse.
Le Temps titled its editorial “The Slap,” while the Arabic language Echourouk newspaper highlighted a “political earthquake” and a “tsunami” in the Maghreb.
The initial signs point toward a major upset for Tunisia’s political establishment, in place since the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
It could also usher in a period of immense uncertainty for the fledgling north African democracy, the sole success story of the Arab Spring revolts.
Tunisia’s electoral commission (ISIE) reported low turnout at 45 percent, down from 64 percent in the country’s first democratic polls in 2014.
Late Sunday, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed called on the liberal and centrist camps to band together for legislative elections set for October 6, voicing concern that low participation was “bad for the democratic transition.”
Chahed, a presidential hopeful whose popularity has been tarnished by a sluggish economy and the rising cost of living, could well turn out to be the election’s biggest loser.
The election comes against a backdrop of serious social and economic crises.
Karoui, a 56-year-old media magnate, has been behind bars since August 23 on charges of money laundering and Tunisia’s judiciary has refused his release three times.
A controversial businessman, labelled a “populist” by critics, Karoui built his appeal by using his Nessma television channel to launch charity campaigns, handing out food aid to some of the country’s poorest.
His apparent rival is political neophyte Saied.
The highly conservative constitutionalist, known to Tunisians for his televised political commentary since the 2011 revolt, has shunned political parties and mass rallies. Instead, he has opted to go door-to-door to explain his policies.
He advocates a rigorous overhaul of the constitution and voting system, to decentralize power “so that the will of the people penetrates into central government and puts an end to corruption.”
Often surrounded by young acolytes, he also set forth his social conservatism, defending the death penalty, criminalization of homosexuality and a sexual assault law that punishes unmarried couples who engage in public displays of affection.
“It’s going to be new,” said a baker named Said on Monday, issuing a wry smile.
“We’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, what matters in Tunisia is the parliament.”
The first round was marked by high rates of apathy among young voters, pushing ISIE head to put out an emergency call to them Sunday an hour before polls closed.
On Sunday morning, senior citizen Adil Toumi had asked as he voted in the capital “where are the young people?“
Political scientist Hamza Meddeb told AFP “this is a sign of very deep discontent with the political class that has not met economic and social expectations,“
“Disgust with the political elite seems to have resulted in a vote for outsiders.”
Distrust of the political establishment runs high in Tunisia, where unemployment is at 15 percent and the cost of living has risen by close to a third since 2016.
Extremist attacks have exacted a heavy toll on the key tourism sector.
Around 70,000 security forces were mobilized for the polls.
The date of a second and final round between the top two candidates has not been announced, but it must be held by October 23 at the latest and may even take place on the same day as legislative polls, October 6.