Iran: Iran: Human Rights Defender Bahareh Hedayat Must be Released

09.10.14

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) calls for the immediate and unconditional release of student activist and women’s rights defender Bahareh Hedayat, detained in Iran since December 2009. The 32-year-old woman received among the heaviest sentences anyone in her position could have faced, and should be eligible for release now.

Bahareh Hedayat started her journey of activism as a student, when she joined the executive committee of a pro-democratic Iranian student movement, also known as the Office for Consolidating Unity, and became its spokesperson. Ever since that time, she has highlighted her identity as a woman in every issue she stood for as a student activist, including advocating through several campaigns such as the “One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws”, calling for the end of legal discrimination against women in Iran. Her work has enamored and influenced so many student activists seeing as how she stood at the frontlines of suppression and violence while seeking amendments to the law to promote gender equality and student rights.

On the night of 31 December 2009, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence arrested Bahareh Hedayat. The sentence imposed upon her by the Tehran Revolutionary court comprised two years for "insulting the Supreme Leader"; six months for "insulting the President"; five years for "acting against national security and publishing falsehoods"; as well as an additional two years imprisonment (suspended) for "acting against national security through holding a protest gathering for women." The years add up to a total of nine and a half years in prison, with two years suspended imprisonment.

The GCHR strenuously protests that Bahareh Hedayat was sentenced for defending women’s and students’ most basic rights through participating in legal, peaceful activities and for challenging the existing discriminatory laws against women, including for example under the campaign called Change for Equality.

Furthermore, we believe she has the right under Article 134 of Iran’s new Islamic Penal Code to be released after having served her longest sentence: the five year sentence for “acting against national security and publishing falsehoods.” Article 134 requires that prisoners charged with multiple crimes serve the sentence attributed to only their most serious offence.

Moreover, she has been denied the proper medical attention she direly needs. After an operation to remove kidney stones in July 2014, Bahareh Hedayat was directly summoned to prison again though she would have needed two weeks of aftercare for proper recovery.

Bahareh Hedayat, known as the symbol of Iranian students, was denied her right to visitation for long periods of time. She was also denied urgent medical treatment until July 2014. She was held for a long time in the methadone ward of Evin prison amongst drug offenders in order to inflict additional stress and pressure.

However, she continues to call for the most basic rights of women in Iran, even from within the walls of Evin prison. In a letter she addresses to other student activists she says, “These perpetual, sad and cold days and nights will surely end forever someday so that the hopeful promise of life surrounds us all over. There is no doubt in my mind that in our bright future, we will breathe in a free country while celebrating our liberty together.” She continues, “We must believe in this and stand up like before, informed and hopeful.”

In 2012, while behind bars, Bahareh Hedayat was awarded the inaugural Edelstam Prize by Sweden's Harold Edelstam Foundation for “outstanding contributions and exceptional courage in standing up for active justice against violations of human rights in Iran.”

This detention, we believe, silences human rights defenders and violates their right to freedom of expression, especially those standing up for national issues that are based on international human rights standards. The GCHR strongly believes that Bahareh Hedayat’s ongoing detention is directly related to her human rights activities in Iran, and as such, calls on the Iranian Judiciary:

  1. To immediately and unconditionally release Bahareh Hedayat
  2. To ensure the physical and psychological integrity and security of Bahareh Hedayat, which includes providing any necessary medical attention she might need.
  3. To enforce the new Islamic Penal Code and release all political prisoners who have served their time according to Article 134.
  4. To guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Iran are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

Legal reference:

The new Islamic Penal Code states under Article 134:

In the cases of offenses punishable by ta’zir, where the offenses committed are not more than three, the court shall impose the maximum punishment provided for each offense; and if the offenses committed are more than three, [the court] shall impose more than the maximum punishment provided for each crime provided that it does not exceed more than the maximum plus one half of each punishment. In any of the abovementioned cases, only the most severe punishment shall be executed and if the most severe punishment is reduced or replaced or becomes non-executable for any legal reason, the next most severe punishment shall be executed. In any case where there is no maximum and minimum provided for the punishment, if the offenses committed are not more than three, up to one-fourth, and if the offenses committed are more than three, up to half of the punishment prescribed by law shall be added to the original punishment.