US list of 'unjustly imprisoned' women leaves out Palestinians

US list of 'unjustly imprisoned' women leaves out Palestinians
The US has launched an initiative to highlight cases of women who Washington says have been “unjustly imprisoned” by governments around the world, without any Palestinians on the list.
3 min read
02 September, 2015
The campaign will bring attention to the plight of women political prisoners [Twitter]

The US ambassador to the UN announced an online campaign on Tuesday to bring attention to the plight of women political prisoners around the world with the exception of Palestine.

Samantha Power unveiled the initiative and its promotional hashtag #FreeThe20 during a press conference in Washington DC, the campaign will highlight the plight of 20 women throughout September, it says have been unfairly imprisoned for their political views and actions.

“In naming these women, we are sending a message to their governments and others like them: if you want to empower women, don’t imprison them on the basis of their views or on the basis of the rights they are fighting for,” Power said.

The US has claimed no nation had been targeted or excluded from the campaign, although when asked about why Palestinian women such as parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar were left out, Powers said, "I am not familiar, again, with the specifics of the case so I can’t comment on that."

"This list is a representative list, not an exhaustive list. I also want to stress that this is not the sum total of our efforts on political prisoners around the world by any means," she added.

Jarrar was arrested by Israeli police in April and given six months in administrative detention, with no recourse to justice, charge or trial for defying Israeli orders to be deported to Jericho from Ramallah. 

One of the women on the list is 21-year-old Egyptian student activist Sanaa Seif who was arrested in 2014 under Egypt’s anti-protest laws for taking part in a peaceful march asking for the release of political prisoners, including her brother Alaa who currently serving a five year sentence for “organizing an unauthorized protest”.

Seif is one high-profile example of Egyptian leftwing activists and Islamists who have been arrested or have disappeared in mysterious circumstances, in the harsh government crackdown against Islamist and secular opponents that began after the 2013 military coup.

33-year-old Syrian Rasha Shorbaji will also have a day dedicated to her, she was arrested in 2014 along with her three young children in Damascus’ immigration government offices as she was applying for new passport.

Shorbaji who suffers from tuberculosis was pregnant at the time and has since given birth to twins behind bars, according to the Violations Documentations Centre in Syria.

Iranian student activist Bahareh Hedayat, 33, was arrested in 2009 during mass arrests following anti-government protests in the wake of the Iranian presidential elections that year.

She was charged and sentenced to ten years in prison for several “offences”, including “interviews with foreign media,” “insulting the leader,” “insulting the president,” and “disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings.”

The campaign has been organized in advance of a UN conference this month planned to revisit the Beijing Declaration, a manifesto on gender equality and women's rights that concluded a landmark conference in Beijing 20 years ago.

The other names in the #FreeThe20 campaign include three Ethiopians, three Chinese and two Azerbaijanis.