Iranian Human Rights Working Group IHRWG

Linked to our presentation of Hossein Bagher Zadeh – Iran on December 13, 2005. And to human rights panel of the CIRA conference on the same date.
Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG) is an Internet-based community of individuals committed to campaigning for the improvement of human rights in Iran:

History: The following text was provided to SCI Site by IHRWG in Nov 1999:

It all started with the news of a yet another stoning (to death) in Iran in March 1994.

Sam Ghandchi was outraged and posed the question in the electronic bulletin board soc.culture.iranian (SCI) if something could be done by way of petition to stop this barbaric practice. Hossein B. Zadeh followed it up by arguing that the real evil is the death penalty itself – human beings allowing themselves to take lives of other human beings.

Then followed a series of correspondence in which Hossein also invited a group of other like-minded SCI contributors to take part.

In the discussions that followed, a number of human rights issues, including torture and various forms of death penalty in Iran were raised. It was realized that organizing a thorough and effective campaign against any of these abuses of human rights in Iran required more self-education as well as a forum for discussion and planning actions. And so the idea of forming the Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG) was born.

Some 14 members of the people who were involved in the discussion welcomed the idea and registered themselves as “founding members” of the group. They approved a Charter for the group and elected a 5-member Steering Committee in May 1994 after which the group was officially launched.

Early in 1995, proposals were put forward for some changes in the Charter. As a result of these changes, the number of Steering Committee members was raised from five to eight and their terms of office from one to two years (elected on a roll-over basis).

Please note that IHRWG has been running a campaign against the death penalty, which covers qessas killing and stoning. Please if interested, visit the following webpage to add your signature to IHRWG’s petition:

Activities: A 90-mile walk in Britain with Amnesty International-UK against COPEX, a manufacturer and merchant of torture equipment; audio interviews with Iranian intellectuals and human rights activists. The main means of communication is electronic.

Twenty years after the “Islamic Revolution” the human rights situation in Iran remains poor. The Government restricts citizens’ right to change their government, manipulates the electoral system and represses political dissidents. . Systematic abuses include extrajudicial killings and summary executions; disappearances; widespread use of torture and other degrading treatment; harsh prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention; lack of due process; unfair trials; infringement on citizens’ privacy; and restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. Religious minorities, in particular Baha’is, have come under increasing repression by conservative elements of the judiciary and security establishment. The Government restricts the work of human rights groups. Women face legal and social discrimination, and violence against women occurs. (derechos).

IHRWG’s Statement on the Occasion of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: The Iranian Human Rights Working Group takes the opportunity provided by the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women to draw the world’s attention to the plight of Iranian women.

The Iranian women have traditionally been deprived of many of their basic human rights and have suffered from both male centered ideologies that treat women as irrational, child-like and immature, and from widespread discrimination policies which affect their lives from birth to death. However, since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, their lot has become much worse and the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has successfully implemented a gross policy of unequal treatment of Iranian women under the law.

From early childhood, girls are discouraged or prevented from venturing into fields and activities which are deemed “masculine”, be it in sport, recreation or education. The policy of enforced hejab (veil) and segregation is used to limit their access to the state’s scarce education and recreation facilities and to institutionalize their confinement to the limited career and life opportunities available to them. The same policy follows them into adulthood and facilitates the objective of turning them into second class citizens of the society.

As they grow up, girls are driven more and more into a world dominated and manipulated by their male relatives. They can be given away in legal marriage without their knowledge or consent while still in their childhood. The process, in effect, paves the way for marrying off underaged girls in return for financial gains.

As adults, women suffer a catalogue of discriminatory laws affecting all aspects of their lives. To begin with, they have to follow a very strict and restrictive set of dress codes. They are deprived and banned from sharing many public resources with their male counterparts — effectively reducing their access to these stretched and scarce resources. They are barred from certain careers, notably in the judiciary and many public offices. They are discriminated against in inheritance, giving them at most half of the share of their male counterparts.

The law of Hodud and Qesas (the law of talion and physical punishments) treats women as half-human (or nothing) even in their honesty or observation power — valuing a woman’s testimony in courts as half of a male’s testimony (or even as nil when it comes to testifying against murderers – as, according to article 33 of this law, no woman’s testimony is ever admissible in murder cases). Even in death, a woman is valued half of a man in terms of their death dues; with the implication that a man killing a woman and sentenced to death may only be executed if the victim’s family pay the murderer half of his death dues. That is, according to article 6 of this law, the bereaved family has to pay to the murderer to get ‘justice’ done (irrespective of the fact that the death penalty itself is totally unacceptable).

The laws governing marriage are among the most regressive in the world in terms of the discrimination against women. While males are allowed to marry up to four wives at a time in permanent marriage and an unlimited number of women in what is known as “temporary” marriage, strict monogamy is expected from women. And any woman who deviates from this unjust set-up may be brutally and savagely punished by publicly being stoned to death — the officially sanctioned and frequently executed punishment for extra-marital affairs.

Inside marriage, the man is given almost a free hand in controlling his wife/ves. Rape inside marriage is sanctioned (as no consent is required for sexual relations inside marriage) and even wife-beating may be tolerated in the process. The woman’s movement may be restricted by her husband, and his permission is required for getting official travel documents. The law gives very few (if any) rights to women in sharing decisions in married life and/or in regards to the custody of children. Moreover, there are no proper provisions in the law to prevent men from transgressing their rights and/or abusing the extensive power they have inside marriage.

When it comes to divorce, again, the man has almost a free hand while the woman has a very limited recourse to the law. The grounds for which a man can divorce his wife is almost unlimited, while only in very unusual circumstances can a woman file for divorce. The extent of this gross and utterly discriminatory law was best exemplified by a recent report that an Iranian court has taken fourteen years to approve a divorce request from a woman who complained she was tortured by her husband, regularly reporting new incidents of abuse to the court, and agreeing to drop all financial demands against her husband, and who finally had to contact Iran’s Prosecutor-General (who reported that she “shivered violently” whenever her husband was mentioned) to get her divorce. In another case, the process took eight years.

The divorce law also inflicts huge financial and emotional blows to the woman. The woman has to forfeit almost all financial claims if she files for divorce, while the settlement she receives if the divorce is initiated by the man is still very limited. The emotional loss is much greater and more hurtful: the woman is deprived from the custody of her children (some as young as two) which is usually awarded to the man. Within and without marriage, even the father’s father is given priority over the mother in custody matters.

The extent of discrimination against women in marriage goes still further. A virgin woman (whatever her age) has no right to marriage without her father’s (or her father’s father, in the absence of the former) consent. A Moslem woman has no right to marry a non-Moslem, (a right her male counterparts have — with some limitations). And a divorced woman has to wait for a set period before re-marriage (no waiting period for a divorced male).

The plethora of of discriminatory laws against women has created favourable conditions and a suitable environment for widespread abuses and atrocities practiced against women. Women have no effective recourse to the law in case they are abused, beaten or raped. Even many incidents of rape outside marriage go unreported because of the justifiable fears of the victim from being `dishonored’ and cursed or even murdered by members of her own family and friends or being prosecuted by the State and brutally punished by a large number of lashes or stoned to death if she was judged by the court as being a willing partner.

Many of the common laws such as the law of Hodud and Qesas, in conjunction with the discriminatory laws mentioned above, work directly against women. For instance, while the law of Hodud and Qesas prescribes `equal’ punishments for men and women, its the women who suffer most from its most barbaric measures. A married man having an affair with unmarried women can always claim (true or false) that they were “temporarily married”. But a woman in a similar position would have no such defense and would be punished a torturous and humiliating death by stoning.

As another example, if someone commits homicide in an all-female environment (the frequency of which itself being a by-product of many existing discriminatory laws), it will be impossible to get a conviction based solely on the testimony of the women present (no matter how many of them). According to article 33 of the law of Hodud and Qesas, no homicide case may be proved in court solely on the basis of women’s-only testimonies.

In short, today, Iranian women suffer one of the most discriminatory set of laws in the world. They are denied many basic opportunities and access to many positions in the religious, political, judiciary, and military arenas. An assortment of supervisory social regulations regarding women’s behavior in public areas has been designed to restrict women’s participation in public life and further isolate and restrict their lives to the private domain of their homes. They are denied many basic rights and at the same time they are punished, both inside and outside the law, more severely than their male counterparts. The discriminatory laws regarding women’s rights cover a wide range of areas in marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance, as well as anti-women labor laws and social policies. These have had the devastating results of economic deprivation and social isolation of women and their children. The Iranian women have been fighting hard against these injustices, but have had a very limited success in the face of the overwhelming power of the State and its institutions.

We, on the occasion of the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women, add our voice to that of the Iranian women and call on the international community and participants in the Conference to put pressure on the Iranian government in order for it to commit itself to its obligations under the international conventions on human rights, to put an end to its anti-women policies and to annul the various discriminatory laws in force against women. We further call on all Iranian men and women to campaign jointly for equal rights for all citizens regardless of their gender, belief, ethnicity, social and family background or personal attributes. Women’s right are human rights — and human rights are universal. The Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG). (

The Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG) maintains that the laws stated in the following article are in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): Policy and Law – The “Press Law and Women Bill” was ratified into law on the 13th of August 1998 in Iran; it is the Fifth Amendment of Article 6 of the press law. The bill states that, “commercial use of women’s image and texts declaring women’s issues, humiliation, insult, propagation of formality, use of ornaments, and defending women’s beyond the bounds of legal and religious law is forbidden.” Violators of the law will be punished with lashes and imprisonment, as well as losing their publication license. Consequences of “Press Law and Women Bill” include:

According to this amendment, supporting or defending the rights of women in any publication is strictly banned because it is believed that such arguments create more contention and adversity between men and women. However, men are excluded from the above law. This encourages a culture of male chauvinism.
The ratification of this bill does not allow any criticism advocacy, in the press, of the laws governing women’s rights.
This bill will ban all female images, texts, or arguments for modification of the existing law. Therefore, women’s issues are completely invisible in the media.
This bill will create conflicts between the clerical community and the press because the law has never defined “commercial use of women’s image and text.” Therefore, the subject is completely left at personal interpretation and judgment. Because of the fanatic nature of Islamic rulers, this amendment means complete elimination of women from public media. (”Iranian Women Brief #2,” Association of Iranian Women USA (A.I.W.US), September 1998)

Married Iranian women require their husband’s permission to apply for a passport, according to Article 18 of the passport law. In case of an emergency or absence of the husband, the public prosecutor’s office can issue the permit within 3 days from the date of the application. (”Iranian Women Brief #2,” Association of Iranian Women USA (A.I.W.US), September 1998)

Islamic government does not recognize the divorces and the marriages administered in foreign countries unless they are endorsed by Iranian embassies, consulates, or the rituals are repeated in Iran. The consequences are:

If an Iranian married couple immigrate to a foreign country and divorce according to the laws of that country, the divorce is not legitimate for the woman. The process must be repeated in the Islamic embassy or the consulate. If each of the spouses remarries separately after the divorce in the overseas country and travels to Iran, the wife could be arrested and tried for committing adultery. The punishment for adultery is burying the woman in the ground and stoning her to death. However, this does not apply to the man. By law, the man is not in marriage violation.
If a couple have children, and the court granted custody of the children to the mother, if they traveled to Iran, the husband could take the children away from his ex-wife because husband is the sole custodian for the children. No custody privilege is granted to women under any circumstance.

If a couple divorce in a foreign country and then travel to Iran to finalize their divorce proceeding, the divorce process for the woman might take years because the consent of the husband is always necessary to finalize the divorce. The husband may go ahead and marry another woman while his case is pending with the first wife. (”Iranian Women Brief #2,” Association of Iranian Women USA (A.I.W.US), September 1998)

Under laws imposed after the 1979 revolution, women

Must cover all parts of their bodies (including their hair) except for the face and hands, with loose-fitting garments.

Must not wear any make-up.

Unrelated couples are not allowed to socialize at all.

The penalties for violating these rules, imposed in the name of preventing social vice, vary from simple reprimands to lashes and payment of fines, and even execution by stoning in the case of illicit sexual relationships. The Iranian Human Rights Working Group (IHRWG) maintains that these laws are in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to which Iran is a signatory. (”IHRWG Statement: Social and cultural restrictions in Iran violate universal human rights,” Edited/Distributed by HURINet – The Human Rights Information Network, 16 June 1998)

Official Response and Action: On May 18, 1998, some 20 women and girls were arrested by the Iranian police in Tehran for socializing with unrelated men or failing to observe the strict dress code that is mandated for women. These types of arrest have occurred regularly since 1980. In April, 1998, an Iranian girl, detained by authorities on suspicion that she was having a relationship with a man, committed suicide while in detention in the southwest Iranian city of Abadan. (”IHRWG Statement: Social and cultural restrictions in Iran violate universal human rights,” Edited/Distributed by HURINet – The Human Rights Information Network, 16 June 1998)



HR Antology;

Middle East Assoc. Studies;

Coalition against traficing women international;

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