Iran slaps travel ban on celebrated poetess

TEHRAN: Iran’s most celebrated living poetess Simin Behbahani faced a travel ban today after being prevented from leaving for France for International Women’s Day ceremonies, an opposition website said.

Behbahani, 82, is also a feminist advocating

better rights for Iranian women who face several inequalities under the Sharia-based law in place in the Islamic republic since its 1979 revolution.

Officials confiscated Behbahani’s passport at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport this morning as she was set to leave and told her to follow up the matter through the revolutionary court, said.

“Paris municipality had invited me for March 8 and I had prepared a text about feminism and a poem about women which I was going to read at the ceremony and return on Wednesday,” Behbahani was quoted as saying.

“After I crossed customs and my passport was stamped, two officials called me, took my passport away, kept me till 5 am (0130 GMT) and asked questions,” she said.

The octogenarian poet is close to Iran’s Nobel peace prize winner and human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi — both condemning the Islamic republic’s treatment of women as discriminatory. Behbahani was reportedly beaten up by security forces in a 2006 rally in a central Tehran park on Women’s Day.

Iranian women’s rights activists have for years called for changes to the Shiite country’s laws which are deemed unfair to women in marriage, divorce and inheritance.

Under Iranian laws, a woman’s life and her testimony are valued at half those of a man. Married women can be prevented from working by their husbands and need his consent to obtain a passport.

Since the Islamic revolution three decades ago, women have been barred from working as judges

and the age of legal responsibility has been lowered to nine for women compared to 15 for men.