Jila Baniyaghoob is a freelance reporter and editor-in-chief of the Web site Kanoon Zanan Irani (Iranian Women's Center), to which contributors inside and outside Iran provide news about women’s issues. The site has been filtered repeatedly by the Iranian government.
Baniyaghoob, 39, faces many social and political obstacles in her country amidst a restrictive environment for women and journalists. Her reporting on sensitive issues has led to her being beaten, arrested and imprisoned multiple times.
She was arrested most recently in June 2009 while covering the post-election protests in Iran. Baniyaghoob’s husband, journalist Bahman Ahmadi Amoyee, was also arrested at that time. Baniyaghoob was released in August, but her husband remained in prison.
While covering a women’s protest in September 2008, Baniyaghoob was sent to prison after being found guilty of “disruption of public order, failure to obey police orders and propagandizing against the Islamic regime.”
In March 2007, Baniyaghoob was arrested while covering those opposed to the Islamic Revolutionary Court’s trial of women’s rights activists. She was put in a wing of Tehran’s Evin Prison that is operated by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry. Baniyaghoob was subjected to numerous interrogations while in prison, all while blindfolded. She was put in solitary confinement and made to drink dirty water, which sent her into toxic shock.
Baniyaghoob was also imprisoned in June 2006, when security forces attacked a peaceful gathering of women’s rights activists in front of the University of Tehran. She was covering the event for Sarmayeh, a reform-oriented daily newspaper.
Baniyaghoob began her journalism career at the daily newspaper Hamshahri while still a journalism student at the University of Allameh Tabatabayi. She has worked for various newspapers since then; she has been threatened or fired many times for her reporting on government and social oppression, particularly as they affect women.
While working for Sarmayeh newspaper, Baniyaghoob started a section on women’s economy, which contained interviews with experts on the gender aspects of economic issues. The section was cancelled in 2008 due to pressure from the conservative owners of the newspaper.
Baniyaghoob travelled throughout the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria in 2001-2002. She has written accounts of refugees and women she met, covering topics such as social and legal discrimination. She is a founding member of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality, which aims to change the discriminatory laws against women in Iran.
Baniyaghoob has also published a book, Journalists in Iran, which documents the experiences of Iranian journalists, especially women under duress. The book includes stories of some of her own experiences. She is also working on a new book, Women in the Unit 209 of Evin, which is based on her firsthand observations of women prisoners in Evin Prison in Tehran. The book will be published outside of Iran.
Baniyaghoob was born on August 21, 1970.