A Month After Her Arrest, Ambiguity Surrounds Somayeh Rashidi’s Case
Authorities refuse to provide any information pertaining to the case of women’s rights activist Somayeh Rashidi’s. Over the past few days, her temporary detention orders have been extended and she continues to remain in solitary confinement.
Rashidi, 24, was arrested on 19 December 2009. Prior to her arrest, authorities stormed her house on 14 December 2009 at 6:00 a.m., searched the premises and confiscated several personal items belonging to her and her roommate, such as computers and hand-written notes. At the time she was served a summons to attend Branch 12 of the Revolutionary Court on 19 December 2009. Upon appearing at the court, she was interrogated and read her charges, arrested, and detained.
During her detention, she has only made two contacts. The first time she contacted one of her friends and informed her that she is at Evin prison. The second time she contacted her family briefly. Somayeh Rashidi comes from a traditional and religious family, and has been active in women’s rights in NGO’s and also at universities over the past few years. Most of her activities were concentrated on domestic violence. She had started a student organization (Iranian Women’s Language Society) around this topic and was providing training in this area. The organization’s license was later revoked.
She was studying Sociology in college and passed the nationwide university entrance exam with high scores in Women’s Studies and Cultural Studies last year. But there was a star on her report card. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had completely denied the notion of “Starred Students” during the presidential elections debates. “Starred Students” is a term which has been in use since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election in 2004. Undergraduate students who engaged in political or cultural or social activities in colleges, notwithstanding their high grades, had to be “selected” by the Ministry of Information; but none of the “Starred Students” were able to attend their classes even after the attended the selection sessions and signed written promises provided by intelligence authorities. She had ranked number 4 in Women’s Studies and 29 in Cultural Studies. During the months after she became a “Starred Student,” she tried all legal avenues to follow up on her case, including meeting with parliament members. She had meetings with Ministry of Science and Technology’s authorities as well, but none of these meetings could help her to change her situation.
Other than Rashidi, other Starred Students tried to alleviate their difficulties through establishing a committee called the Committee to Defend the Right to Education. Some of those individuals are now in prison, facing unfounded charges. Some of these charges include “relations with Islamic Republic of Iran opposition groups such as the MKO.” These students, their friends, and their families have denied these charges.
Several Starred Students have told the International Committee for Human Rights in Iran over the past few weeks that the only “crime” these students have committed has been their fight for their right to education. They said their political activities were all within the Iranian laws, but those activities have kept them from higher education. Officials refrain from acknowledging these charges.
Rashidi is also a member of the One Million Signatures for Equality Campaign and has been active in the Campaign’s Education Committee. Previously, she lost her job at a research institute because of her social activities.
At this time, women’s rights activists Mansoureh Shojaee, Shiva Nazar Ahari, Parisa Kakaee, Omid Fahimi, Zohreh Tonkaboni, Alieh Eghdamdoost, Bahareh Hedayat, Mahdiyeh Golroo, Shabnam Madadzadeh, and Maryam Zia are all in prison. Journalist Badr-ol-sadat Mofidi and political activist Azar Mansour also continue to remain in detention.
Rashidi’s family live in Mashhad and due to their physical distance from Tehran, they are unable to follow up on her case.