Did you hear the one about the Iranian-American women's advocate who walked into a bar and got arrested for trying to help change laws that discriminate against women? Actually, the bar was in Iran and there was no bar, but there was an American-born women's advocate who got arrested in Tehran for doing research for her master's thesis at CSUN, a college in Southern California, not far from my old digs (in fact, I used to date a CSUN grad).

Seems Esha Momeni was quite an outspoken advocate for the rights of women in Iran as well as for the perception of Iranian women outside of Iran. The following comes from Momeni's bio, which she wrote back in 2007:

During her studies Esha was stunned by stereotypes of Iranian women in the United States as weak and passive as well as distressed by the possibility of American military intervention in Iran. Therefore, Esha decided to make her master’s thesis project a personal exploration of the shared experiences of everyday Iranians which included interviews with some members of a grassroots women's rights campaign called the "One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws." The Campaign has made it clear that its activities are peaceful and merely aimed at reforming the Iranian laws in areas that discriminate against women and that it has no political objectives otherwise. Esha is determined to better the lives of her fellow citizens and banish stereotypes of Iranians through photo and film.

Sounds like a pretty cool chick, huh? Well, she's been in a prison cell for two weeks now.

What follows is an excerpt from a blog post at for-esha.blogspot.com that describes how Momeni was arrested:

Esha Momeni, women’s rights advocate and a volunteer of the Campaign from California was arrested on Wednesday October 15, 2008, while on a visit to Tehran. Momeni who is a photographer and graduate student was arrested in an unusual and illegal manner after being pulled over on Moddaress highway, by individuals who identified themselves as under cover traffic police on the pretense that she had unlawfully passed another vehicle while driving. Esha was arrested and taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison, managed by the Intelligence and Security Ministry.

Prior to her transfer to Evin, security officials searched her home and seized property, including her computer and films which were part of her thesis project. The security officials had an arrest warrant and court permission to search the home and seize property.

There is a petition you can sign that requests the government of Iran provide her with health care, a lawyer, contact with her family, and basic human rights. It also requests a "Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Esha Momeni,"

It's a little scary that such a thing has to be requested, but when a country like the USA does such horrible things to its own citizens (COUGHjosepadillaCOUGH) how can we expect American citizens abroad to be treated fairly?

Please sign the petition! I just did.

For the latest on Momeni's situation, please visit: for-esha.blogspot.com

Here's a video you can pass on to people or embed in your on blog that tells Momeni's story in a nutshell:

You can also read more about her arrest at CNN.com here:


and from AP.org here: