MADRE Articles

Coalition Calls for the Immediate Release of Iranian Women Human Rights Defender

Posted on: Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Keywords: Iran, Middle East, Combating Violence Against Women, Women Human Rights Defenders

This statement calling for the immediate release of Iranian women human rights defender Maryam Bahreman, comes to us from the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC). MADRE endorses the statement and joins the WHRD IC along with many others in calling for Maryam’s release.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition is deeply concerned by the ongoing detention of an Iranian women's rights activist, despite a legal order for her release. Maryam Bahreman, a member of Iran's One Million Signatures Campaign, was arrested on 11 May and held in solitary confinement. After questioning at the Prosecutor's Office on July 5, an order was issued for Ms Bahreman's release on bail. However, the order was not implemented and she remains in Shiraz prison. 

As a women human rights defender, Ms Bahreman has been targeted by Iranian authorities for who she is as well as what she does. She is one of at least seven women from the One Million Signatures Campaign currently imprisoned because of their work in promoting human rights and gender equality. The Coalition notes that it is Ms Bahreman's gender identity, in combination with her activism, which makes her a target for intimidation and harassment by the authorities. Women human rights defenders, such as Ms Bahreman and her colleagues in the One Million Signatures Campaign, have been recognized by the international human rights community as facing specific vulnerabilities and needing support. In her most recent report, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya noted:

Women defenders are more at risk of suffering certain forms of violence and other violations... This is often due to the fact that women defenders are perceived as challenging accepted socio-cultural norms, traditions, perceptions and stereotypes about femininity, sexual orientation, and the role and status of women in society. Their work is often seen as challenging "traditional" notions of the family which can serve to normalize and perpetuate forms of violence and oppression of women. This can, in certain contexts, lead to hostility or lack of support from the general population, as well as the authorities. (December 2010)

The Coalition calls for the immediate release of Ms Bahreman, and for an end to the intimidation and harassment of women human rights defenders by Iranian authorities. The WHRD IC urges Iran to comply with international human rights law, particularly in its treatment of women's rights activists and other defenders. The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders clearly outlines Iran's obligations to promote and protect the rights of defenders, including women human rights defenders. The Coalition also encourages Iran to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which provides guidelines for progressively addressing gender inequality and ensuring that women are not discriminated against, including under the law. 

For more information on Maryam Bahreman’s case and how to take action, please see Amnesty International.

The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) is a resource and advocacy network for the protection and support of women human rights defenders worldwide.

This statement has been endorsed by the following Coalition members:
Amnesty International; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA); Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD); Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID); Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL); Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL);Information Monitor (INFORM);  International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Front Line); Isis International; MADRE; Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Urgent Action Fund; Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR)

For more information, contact:  Tara Chetty, WHRD IC Communications Associate,


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