On September 1, 2018, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence organisation arrested Tehran Allameh Tabatabai University student Najmeh Vahedi and lawyer Hoda Amid at their homes in apparent retaliation for their work promoting gender equality.
Vahedi, a graduate student in Women’s Studies and secretary of Tehran Allameh Tabatabai University’s Scientific Society for Women’s Studies, and Amid, a human rights lawyer and advocate for marriage equality who has published widely on gender-based discrimination, led a number of educational workshops, proposing the use of legally binding prenuptial contracts as a means of promoting women’s equality with respect to the ability to initiate divorce.
IRGC officers reportedly arrested Vahedi and Amid at their homes in Tehran, three days before one of their workshops was scheduled to take place at a Tehran cultural institute; they had reportedly secured the necessary legal permits in advance. The IRGC officers reportedly did not provide a warrant or reason for the two arrests.
Amid and Vahedi were reportedly detained in the IRGC-run Section 2A of Evin prison. Vahedi allegedly spent the first 10 days of her detention in solitary confinement. While Amid and Vahedi were in pre-trial detention, authorities reportedly refused to disclose the charges filed against them and denied them access to legal counsel. Vahedi was allegedly permitted a brief visit from her mother on September 18, but sources indicate that Amid was denied any family visitation.
On November 5, 2018, Amid was released on bail. Vahedi was released on bail the following day. Reports indicate that Amid was charged with “attempting to overthrow the family” and that Vahedi was similarly accused of “creating an association to overthrow the family”.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the imprisonment and prosecution of a student and attorney conducting educational workshops, in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression, conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. State authorities must refrain from restricting or otherwise interfering in the nonviolent exercise of such rights. In addition to harm to the immediate victims, such incidents are harmful to academic freedom, freedom of expression, and democratic society generally.