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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Urgent Action Appeal - Arrest of Iranian Women's Rights Activist


- From Amnesty International USA

To read the current Urgent Action newsletter, go to
For a print-friendly version of this Urgent Action (PDF):

10 April 2008

UA 93/08   Arbitrary arrest/ Prisoner of conscience

IRAN        Khadijeh Moghaddam (f), women's rights defender

Women's rights defender Khadijeh Moghaddam was arrested by
security officials on 8 April at her home in Tehran. She has
been accused of "spreading of propaganda against the state;
disruption of public opinion; and actions against national
security" and is held in Vozara detention center in Tehran.
Amnesty International believes she is a prisoner of
conscience, held solely on account of her peaceful
activities in support of equal rights for women in Iran.

Khadijeh Moghaddam is an active member of the Campaign for
Equality, which aims to collect one million signatures of
Iranians for a petition demanding an end to legal
discrimination against women in Iran. She was arrested at
her home at 11am when security officials forced their way
into her house. She was shown the warrant for her arrest
only after a lengthy argument. Khadijeh Moghaddam was taken
to a base belonging to Iran's Revolutionary Guards known as
Eshrat Abad, Tehran (also known as Prison 59), where she was
interrogated for several hours about her involvement with
the Campaign for Equality, before being brought before an
investigative judge of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. The
judge also interrogated her, charged her and set her bail at
an amount approximately equivalent to US$ 112,000.

Khadijeh Moghaddam's family and friends spoke with her while
she waited to be transferred to the Vozara detention center.
She told them that she was arrested for hosting meetings of
the Campaign for Equality in her home and that the
investigative judge had asked her to identify seven or eight
members of the Campaign who had participated in these
gatherings. Later Khadijeh Moghaddam told the judge that she
was unable to pay the bail. According to a statement issued
by Campaign for Equality activists, the judge said that
Khadijeh Moghaddam would be imprisoned for a week before
being brought back before the Court for questioning, when
she would have another opportunity to provide the names of
the Campaign members and the bail amount. When she was asked
to make a statement in her defense, Khadijeh Moghaddam
stated: " way of life is my defense."

Dozens of activists and supporters have been arrested in
connection with their activities for the Campaign for
Equality, some while collecting signatures for the petition
aiming to end legal discrimination against women in Iran. As
of January 2008, the Campaign's website had been blocked by
the authorities at least seven times (see: Official permission to hold
public meetings has frequently been denied, and Campaign
activists usually hold their workshops in the homes of
sympathizers, some of whom have then received threatening
phone calls apparently from security officials or been
summoned by them for interrogation. At least one such
workshop was forcibly broken up by police, who arrested
those present, beating some.

Two women, Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi, remain detained
in the city of Sanandaj, Kordestan province (see UA 297/07,
MDE 13/130/2007, 7 November 2007) because of their
affiliation to the Campaign for Equality.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as
- expressing concern at the arrest of Khadijeh Moghaddam in
connection with her peaceful activities in support of equal
rights for women in Iran;
- urging the authorities to release her immediately and
unconditionally since she is a prisoner of conscience;
- asking the authorities to ensure that while in detention
she is granted immediate and regular access to her family
and lawyer of her choice and that she is protected from any
form of torture or ill-treatment.

Head of the Judiciary
His Excellency Ayatollah
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh
Office of the Head of the Judiciary
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737,
(In the subject line write: FAO Ayatollah Shahroudi)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Intelligence
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie
Ministry of Intelligence
Second Negarestan Street, Pasdaran Avenue
Salutation: Your Excellency

Leader of the Islamic Republic
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed 'Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street - Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Salutation:   Your Excellency

His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
The Presidency
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Fax:             011 98 21 6 649 5880
Email:          via website:

Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran
His Excellency Mohammad Javad Larijani
C/o Office of the Deputy for International Affairs
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
Panzdah-Khordad (Ark) Square
Fax:             011 98 21 5 537 8827
(please keep trying)

Iran does not presently have an embassy in this country.
Instead, please send copies to:
Iranian Interests Section
Embassy of Pakistan
2209 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington DC 20007
Phone:          202 965 4990
Fax:              202 965 1073

Check with the AIUSA Urgent Action office if sending appeals after 22
May 2008.

Tip of the Month:
Use shortcuts: Do whatever is necessary to make your
letter writing as quick and easy as possible. This way,
letters will not be put off and they can be sent out sooner.
Start by making a generic file for each type of concern;
paragraphs on torture, the death penalty, disappearances,
denial of medical care and so on, can be copied into your
working file and edited as needed.

Within the United States:
$0.26 - Postcards
$0.41 - Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To Mexico and Canada:
$0.69 - Postcards
$0.69 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)
To all other destination countries:
$0.90 - Postcards
$0.90 - Airmail Letters and Cards (up to 1 oz.)

Amnesty International is a worldwide grassroots movement
that promotes and defends human rights.

This Urgent Action may be reposted if kept intact, including
contact information and stop action date (if applicable).
Thank you for your help with this appeal.

Urgent Action Network
Amnesty International USA
600 Pennsylvania Ave SE 5th fl
Washington DC 20003
Phone: 202.544.0200
Fax: 202.675.8566


Gays in Egypt Besieged by Wave of Suppression

From the International Herald Tribune

Gays in Egypt besieged by wave of suppression

By Daniel Williams
Bloomberg News

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CAIRO: The young men who loitered at the west end of
the Qasr El-Nil Bridge in Cairo spied the blue pickup
truck, a sign they should scatter.

"They're police," said Ahmed A., making a two-finger
gesture on his shoulder to indicate epaulets. "They
park and the pigs come out and grab everyone they

For three months, the Egyptian police have embarked on
periodic sweeps of streets in central Cairo to clear
them of presumed homosexuals. The raids, independent
observers and human rights activists say, reflect not
simply official disgust. They're part of an effort by
governments throughout the Middle East to out-moralize
Islamic parties that have denounced the perceived
depravity of Arab societies under autocratic rule.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, though it is a
convenient target, said Hani Shukrallah, executive
director of the Heikal Foundation for Arab Journalism
in Cairo.

"Meaningless crackdowns have become a regular thing,"
Shukrullah said. "If not gays, devil worshippers. If
not devil worshippers, apostates. The government needs
to outbid Islamic opponents as guardian of morals."

In January, six men in Morocco were accused of
homosexual conduct, a crime in that country, after a
video circulated that showed one dancing at a wedding
dressed as a woman, according to Amnesty

The men were sentenced to jail terms of 4 to 10
months. "Persons imprisoned solely on the basis of
their alleged or real sexual orientation are prisoners
of conscience and should be immediately and
unconditionally released," Amnesty, which is based in
London, said in a statement.

In December, the Kuwaiti Parliament passed a law that
criminalized "imitating the appearance of the opposite
sex." Subsequent roundups netted at least 16 suspects,
Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York,
reported March 31, adding that three detainees were

The suppressive wave created another stir among human
rights activists in February when the Egyptian
morality police arrested two men on a Cairo street.
One said he was infected with HIV, the virus that
causes AIDS. The police threw both men in jail and, by
inspecting their mobile phones, found the numbers of
10 acquaintances, whom they also arrested. They forced
all of them to submit to HIV testing, according to the
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, based in

Four of them were sentenced to a year in prison for
debauchery, a crime that Egyptian law defines as
having sex for money or with a number of partners over
an extended period. Five of the remaining eight face
trial April 9 on the same charge even though they were
found to be free of disease.

"From a public health perspective, this is dangerous,"
said Suha Abdelati, an EIPR official. "It forces
people underground. "

On April 7, 117 human rights organizations from 41
countries sent a letter to the Egyptian Health
Ministry and a government-sponsore d doctors' union
condemning the crackdown and participation of medical
personnel. "Doctors must put patients first, not join
a witch hunt driven by prejudice," Joe Amon, director
of the HIV/AIDS program at Human Rights Watch, said in
a statement.

The Egyptian government's National AIDS Program
provides testing and treatment. When asked to comment
about the impact of the arrests, Zein El-Din Abedeen,
an official, said, "We're not allowed to talk about."

Ashraf El-Enany, a spokesman at the Interior Ministry,
which is in charge of the police, declined to comment.

Against this backdrop, it is dangerous to "come out,"
a fundamental virtue in Western gay-activist thinking.
Take Behaa Saber Semeda, 35. The police first arrested
him at a Cairo café in 1997 with a group of friends.

He said he was beaten into signing a confession to
prostitution; a court sentenced him to six months
imprisonment. He appealed and remained free while the
case languished for more than five years, during which
he served in the army and worked in restaurants.

In 2003, he asked a court to dismiss his case on the
grounds that the statute of limitations had expired.
Instead, he was sent to prison.

In 2005, he became politically active, creating a
double whammy. He said the police found him with a
Human Rights Watch report and jailed him for six days.
In 2006, he was caught in a roundup of anti-government
demonstrators and detained for 15 days. In 2007, he
was charged with disturbing the peace at a
pro-democracy rally. That case is pending.

He said he is unemployed and lives off his family. "I
don't have a future," he said, noting that his
original conviction for debauchery is still on his
record. "If they don't get me for being gay, they'll
get me for being anti-government. "

The Egyptian police harassment of homosexuals burst
into public view in 2001 when they raided a floating
disco on the Nile called the Queen Boat and arrested
52 men, subjected them to forensic examinations and
charged them with debauchery.

Twenty three of the detainees were sentenced to
between one and five years hard labor. President Hosni
Mubarak overturned the verdicts in May 2002, because
the trial was held in the wrong court. A retrial
confirmed the sentences. By that time, most of the
defendants had gone into hiding.

Ahmed A., a 20-year-old computer student, said he had
no intention of letting his predilections become
public. He meets acquaintances in homes or wanders the
streets for entertainment. There are a few clandestine
bath houses and movie theaters where gays gather, he

"We don't go to discos," he said. "In Egypt, everyone
will push you away if you are gay."

Ahmed and four gay friends decamped to Tahrir Square,
a crowded spot where hanging out attracts little
attention. Still, they were on the lookout when a pal
rushed up and put his fingers to his shoulders.

"There's a policeman over there," he said, pointing to
a man in a loose-fitting civilian jacket.

The group walked slowly up Talaat Harb Street and
disappeared into the crowd.

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