Monday, June 13, 2005

Iranian women protest sexual discrimination

Hundreds of women staged an unauthorized demonstration in Tehran on Sunday, protesting sex discrimination under Iran's Islamic leadership just days before the June 17 presidential elections.

The protest was the first public display of dissent by women since the 1979 revolution, when the new regime enforced obligatory veiling.

"We are women, we are the children of this land, but we have no rights," they chanted.

More than 250 marched outside Tehran University, and about 200 others demonstrated two blocks away after hundreds of riot police swarmed in and barred them from joining the main protest.

There were reports that the police clubbed several women, though there were no hospital reports of injuries. Demonstrators said they saw some women being detained and dragged away by officers. But the situation appeared to stabilize, and after about an hour of demonstrating, the women disbanded without further incident.

"We will continue such protests because it shows that women are aware of their rights," said Roohi Afzal, 52, a translator who was at the protest. "It seems that our presence today really hurts the government, that it has deployed so many forces. Maybe it will react and respond to our demands."

The demonstrations were part of a recent push by women's rights advocates in Iran to draw attention to their cause during a time of relative tolerance by the government as it seeks to draw more voters to the polls.

Rare Bomb Explosions Kill Nine in Iran

Bomb blasts struck Iranian government buildings in the capital of an oil-rich border province, followed within hours by two other bombs in central Tehran, killing a total of nine people days before Iran's presidential elections.

Iran's security service blamed the bombings - the deadliest in Iran in more than a decade - on supporters of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

State-run television quoted hospital officials as saying at least eight people were killed and 86 injured in four bomb explosions in Ahvaz, capital of the southwestern Khuzestan province bordering Iraq.

Hours later, two small bombs exploded in central Tehran, killing one person and wounding four. Police said one suspect was taken into custody.