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Iran -- Logo for One Million Signatures Campaign



A video shot by Amnesty International to show its support for the Iranian women's movement is attracting a surprising amount of worldwide attention.


The short but moving film -- posted on Amnesty's website and on YouTube -- was filmed at last month's Amnesty International U.K. Student Conference in the English city of Reading. It features evocative music and shows hundreds of students carrying banners and standing in support of the One Million Signatures Campaign to end discriminatory laws against women in Iran.

Not a single word is spoken.

Heather Harvey, Amnesty International U.K.'s Stop Violence Against Women campaign manager, says the annual student conference is always a big event for participants, but doesn't always generate a lot of media coverage.

This year was different, she says, with the video sparking calls of support from the Iranian diaspora, from Kurdish and other ethnic minority groups, and from student and women's organizations.

"I think it just shows how many people all around the world are actually watching what is happening in Iran and are supporting the women's campaign," Harvey told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

She said the film is not a direct effort to change Iranian laws. That's for the authorities in Tehran and the Iranian people to do, she says.

"We are trying to show solidarity, to say to the women that we do support what they're campaigning for. They're simply campaigning for equality and for equal rights. [Those] equal rights are perfectly within the framework of the Iranian Constitution, within Islamic women's rights, [within] international human rights. There is no real conflict."

Harvey calls the One Million Signatures Campaign in Iran "extremely courageous and inspiring."

Women's rights activists in Iran are under increasing pressure from the government over their campaign for equal rights.

"What I find shocking, I suppose, is that the Iranian authorities see it as so threatening," Harvey said, "because all it is is women want to have an equal role in building and creating their society. If you exclude 50 percent of the population from decision-making, then ultimately your decisions are going to be flawed because you're not going to be coming up with policies or solutions that are really helpful to the whole of that society."

Vasily Aleksanian in the defendant's cage of a Moscow court in February
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A Russian court has ruled to free on bail an oil executive who has HIV/AIDS after a long campaign by supporters who said the former Yukos vice president could not receive proper treatment while in custody.

Vasily Aleksanian, who is also going blind and has cancer, will be freed on a bail of 50 million rubles ($1.78 million), a judge told a hearing attended by reporters.

Aleksanian is a former vice-president of Yukos, an oil company whose chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was imprisoned in what was widely seen as a Kremlin campaign to punish the businessman for his political ambitions.

One of Aleksanian's brothers works as a translator at the Reuters News office in Moscow.

(by Reuters)

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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