The winner of RAW in WAR’s third annual Anna Politkovskaya Award is the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality (Iran). The grass roots campaign, launched in 2006, aims to collect one million signatures of Iranian nationals to a petition demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iran. Legislation for example, values evidence given by a woman in court as only worth half that given by a man. Girls under the age of 13 can be forced to marry once her father permits it. Women do not have equal rights with men when it comes to marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance.
Although campaigning peacefully and legally, activists are often subject to arbitrary arrests and imprisonment. The recent political protests have increased government pressure and persecution of those actively supporting the campaign. Charges against members range from acting against the national security of the state and propaganda against the state, to membership in the One Million Signatures Campaign itself. Many activists are serving suspended sentences and face regular harassment and persecution by the government. For example, on 14 June 2009, Shiva Nazarahari, a blogger and active member of the campaign was arrested in her home in Tehran following the post-election protests of June 2009. Held without access to a lawyer, she was released on bail for $200,000. One of her lawyers, women’s human rights defender Shadi Sadr, was pulled into a car and beaten by plain clothed security officers on 17 July, and also taken to Evin Prison, only to be released on 28 July.
Leila Alikarami (pictured above), a lawyer and human rights activist, collected the Anna Politkovskaya Award on behalf of the Campaign. Alongside the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi, Leila has defended many of the women members of the Campaign including Aliyeh Eghdam Doust, who was the first women’s rights activist in Iran to be imprisoned for the full term of her 3-year sentence.