BBC News, Tehran
Parvin Ardalan was blocked from travelling abroad to receive an award
Four more women in Iran have been sentenced to jail – six months behind bars – for campaigning for women’s rights.
They were accused of “spreading propaganda” against the Islamic system here – specifically for taking part in the Million Signatures Campaign for equal rights for women.
One of those sentenced, Parvin Ardalan, was awarded the Olof Palme Prize this year – on her way to collect the honour, her passport was seized at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Teheran, and she was unable to travel.
She had to accept the award by video-link.
An estimated 50 women have been detained since the signatures campaign began.
Women in Iran have severely restricted freedom of choice, and no equality with men.
A married woman must obtain her husband’s permission before taking a job outside their home.
A man may have up to four wives. A woman may not have up to four husbands.
Women must observe the Islamic dress code – showing as little hair as possible, and their arms, their legs and their feet must be covered.
God forbid that the Majlis should add another problem to the existing problems of women
Ayatollah Yusef Sanai
There is no protection against so-called honour killings for women who are raped; a husband – or a father – who kills the rape victim cannot be prosecuted and sent to jail for murder.
“This is inhuman,” a law professor at Tehran University, Rosa Gharachorloo, told me.
Most of the people I have spoken to here agree: they believe rape victims should be comforted, not killed.
Women can be stopped and inspected by Gasht-e-Ershad, Ministry of Islamic Guidance patrols.
They have vehicles that look like police cars. They are often seen outside main metro stations in Teheran, checking women for hair or dress infringements.
They also go to parks, to ensure that couples sitting or walking together are married, engaged or related.
Feminists in Iran celebrated a significant victory for their cause at the end of August.
In the Majlis – the Iranian parliament – legislation that might have encouraged polygamy was sent back to committee for more discussion.
Article 23 of the Family Support Bill would have allowed men to marry a second wife without the permission of the first.
Patrols check women are keeping to strict dress codes
Although polygamy is legal in Iran, it is not widely practised and, Rosa Gharaachorloo told me, not generally accepted in Iranian culture.
So, opposition to the bill was on principle, not because it is a widespread phenomenon.
The same is the case with honour killings – they are not common here, but women’s rights campaigners believe rape victims should nevertheless be protected by law.
The polygamy article may have been shelved indefinitely – the campaign against it revealed an improbable alliance of opponents.
As well as feminists, the speaker of the Majlis expressed his reservations.
And Ayatollah Yusef Sanai, a leading source of what is known as “emulation” of the Prophet and his teachings, wrote on his website that a second marriage without the permission of the first wife is “harram, a sin, a religious offence… contrary to the concept of justice prescribed by the Koran”.
He went on: “I pray that such a decision that is oppressive to women will not be made into law… God forbid that the Majlis should add another problem to the existing problems of women.”
Women’s rights campaigners welcomed that strong and unexpected acknowledgment of their complaints.