IRAN: Opposition websites encourage supporters to join hands with activists on International Women's Day, call for fresh protests
Iranian opposition websites have posted calls urging supporters to take to the streets Tuesday, International Women's Day, to join activists demanding more gender equality in the Islamic Republic and to protest the "incarceration" of opposition leaders Mir Houssein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and their wives, who are reported to be in detention.
The statement was issued by the Green Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, an umbrella organization backing the two opposition leaders, and encouraged opposition supporters to join hands with women's rights activists for the occasion.
The council "announces its readiness to join women activists and supports turning this day into a day of protests against the incarceration of two Green women and the leaders of the movement," said the call, which appeared on the opposition website Kaleme on Friday.
Iranian women's rights activists have called for demonstrations Tuesday demanding greater gender equality in the Islamic Republic. In a strongly worded statement, human rights lawyer and 2003 Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi urged Iranians to stage rallies pressing for reform of constitutional laws to achieve better gender equality.
"Incrementally the identity and the character of the Iranian woman has become the target of attacks by men who didn’t even respect the rights of their mothers," she charged in the statement, which was on the website of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. "Those who viewed themselves more worthy than even their mothers, shamelessly wrote laws which valued women as half that of men.
"Iranian women are not starved for political power nor are they demanding decadence. They are simply weary of enduring more cruelty and disparagement. They are in search of justice and equality," added the message.
The calls for new protests come days after protesters clashed with security forces in Tehran at a demonstration demanding the release of Mousavi and Karroubi from house arrests.
Opposition websites and family members of the two men claim they have been jailed along with their wives -- claims denied by Iranian authorities.
But Mousavi's daughters say they were barred from visiting their parents despite high-ranking Iranian judicial officials saying Mousavi was at home and hadn't been jailed.
"We read the news that our parents are not under house arrest and they are not prisoners ... which meant that we, their children, can see them," an open letter posted on Mousavi's website Friday from the unnamed daughters reportedly said.
"But this was not the case. We went to our parents' home, and from the iron gate installed at the entrance of the alley to their home we were stopped by the security, who said that 'you can't go, the news [that you can visit] is wrong.'
"We did not see our parents and did not hear their voices. We are concerned by all these discrepancies [in news reports]," the letter added.
The opposition vowed to keep demonstrating until Mousavi and Karroubi are released, adding that their continued alleged detainment is only self-defeating for the Iranian authorities.
"The ruling regime would understand that the imprisonment of these leaders will only add another black spot into the record of the autocratic rulers."
--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photos: Opposition leader Mir Houssein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, campaigning in 2009. Credit: Iranian Student's News Agency. Lower image: Gathering of women's rights activists in Tehran in March 2010. Credit: Payvand website