Iran Clamps Down on Human Rights Advocates

01/23/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In our recent visit to Iran, we saw among the young university women what an important role model Shirin Ebadi is to them. As a female law student told us, "Shirin is our hero. That's why many of us decided to study law. We want to be like her and help the women of Iran gain equal status with men in areas such as marriage, divorce, custody of children, inheritance."

Shirin Ebadi received worldwide recognition when she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. The Iranian government has tried repeatedly to silence her, but to no avail. The latest government clampdown happened this weekend, when two human rights centers that she founded were illegally shut down without explanation or written justification. Both groups are highly respected in Iran and worldwide for their role in improving human rights conditions. The Center for Participation in Clearing Mine Areas helps victims of landmines in Iran, and Defenders of Human Rights Center, reports human rights violations in Iran, defends political prisoners, and supports families of those prisoners. Ebadi was also taken into police custody briefly Sunday following the raids.

The closure occurred just hours before a 60th anniversary of Human Rights Day celebration at the center, and is a sign of the increasing actions against women's rights and human rights activist by the government. "The collective activities of the human rights activists in Iran have angered the Iranian authorities so much that they have illegally ordered the closing down of two NGOs," Ebadi has stated in response to the incident.

Ebadi vowed to continue her work, saying "Obviously such a move does not have a positive message for other rights activists in Iran, but my colleagues and I will fulfill our duties under any circumstances."

If Iran truly champions human rights, the centers must be allowed to remain safely open. CODEPINK Women for Peace has created a petition to Iranian President Ahmadinejad calling on him to allow women's right and human rights activist to continue their work in Iran safely and freely, and to re-open the two organizations. Please sign it here.