Helping Free Women Inmates for Financial Offences

Launched at the start of the current fiscal year (March 21), the Arghavan Campaign seeks the release of several women on July 25 – the National Girls’ Day observed in Iran marking the birth anniversary of Fatemeh Ma’sumeh (SA)
 From July 1990 to August 2014, more than 85,000 prisoners of involuntary or unintentional crimes were released with the help of philanthropists. From July 1990 to August 2014, more than 85,000 prisoners of involuntary or unintentional crimes were released with the help of philanthropists.

Nearly 18,000 patrons so far have contributed more than $62,500 to the so-called ‘Arghavan Campaign’ in financial assistance to help women serving prison terms for unintentional money-related offenses.

“By helping clear their financial commitments, the women prisoners can be absolved of the charges,” and get their freedom, said Vice President for Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi on Wednesday, on the sidelines of a charity festival in Tehran, IRNA reported.

The campaign aims to help release women jailed only for unintentional financial crime. It hopes to herald a new spring (as the name ‘Arghavan,’ eastern redbud blossom known as harbinger of spring, suggests) for the imprisoned women.

Launched at the start of spring in the current fiscal year (began March 21), the campaign seeks the release of several women on July 25, on the occasion of National Girls’ Day observed on the birth anniversary of Fatemeh Ma’sumeh (SA), whose shrine is in the city of Qom.

Explaining about the campaign, Molaverdi said the National Diyyeh (blood money) Headquarters has urged people to donate money via ATMs or their cell phones by dialing the code (*780*101#). “We have also approached some companies to encourage their staff to make a small contribution.” Even a donation of $2 or 3 will help.

Right now, 220 women are in custody for unintentional money-related crimes and are in detention centers across the country, she said. “Ninety percent are first-time offenders. Most of them committed the offenses due to negligence, ignorance and lack of information, and many are guarantors for other people’s debts and loans.”

“Very small amounts (of money) are required to release each woman languishing in prison for their inadvertent financial crimes.”

Given that the women prisoners are serving terms for not-so-serious offenses, they are not really criminals or swindlers. Keeping them behind bars can have adverse psychological impact; also their families face severe financial and psychological problems. “People’s charity is crucial for their freedom,” Molaverdi said.

Staying in prison also can cause many problems for the women like financial instability, poverty and more debt.

Celebrities who support the campaign are Taraneh Alidousti and Sahar Dolatshahi, two celebrated Iranian actresses.

From July 1990 to August 2014, more than 85,000 people held in prison “for involuntary or unintentional crimes,” were released with the help of philanthropists.

  Kindergartens in Prisons

On the sidelines of the festival, Mehran Montazer, deputy head of the Association to Support Prisoners, said currently, prisons in 13 provinces have kindergartens. “The figure should be increased; however, such facilities require contributions from the people.”

According to a law passed in 2010, children of female prisoners can live with their mothers till they reach the age of two, after which they have to be handed over to relatives or the state welfare centers. The law also stipulates that the children’s length of stay in prison is not linked to the type of offenses committed by their mothers. All mothers (except those charged with child abuse), have the right to keep their children until they are two years old.

Earlier, Parnian Ghavam, head of the judiciary’s social work and counseling office said, “As the number of children in prisons is regularly fluctuating, we cannot announce the exact figure, but it is generally around 400 to 430 kids.”

The Women’s Prison in Tehran has a kindergarten which opened in February 2015. There is also a separate section for nursing mothers and their babies, which is well-equipped.

According to Molaverdi, women constitute around 3% (more than 6,000) of the total number of prisoners in the country who number close to 210,000.

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