Iran's most celebrated living poetess Simin Behbahani faced a travel ban on Monday after being prevented from leaving for France for International Women's Day ceremonies, an opposition website said.
French authorities slammed the ban as an "unacceptable new violation of human rights", while hailing Behbahani's bravery and saying it had been looking forward to seeing her.
AdvertisementThe 82-year-old poet 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 Monday as she was set to leave and told her to follow up the matter through the revolutionary court, Keleme.com 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 5:00 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.
The French foreign ministry hailed the courage of a "major figure of Persian contemporary poetry" whose attitude "mirrors that of many Iranians who in spite of repression fight peacefully for their fundamental rights".
"Our country was looking forward to seeing Simin Behbahani, whose commitment to the cause of women and freedom is met with admiration and who was notably awarded the Simone de Beauvoir prize for women's freedom in 2009," spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the travel ban was "another affront to this great creator" and an "unacceptable new violation of human rights in general and women's dignity in particular".
"The activities of this arbitrary and negationist police state can only reinforce democrats' determination to fight it," added Delanoe, a socialist.
Iranian women's rights activists have for years called for changes to the Shiite country's laws which are deemed as 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.
Iranian authorities have cracked down on women's rights activists since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. Scores have been arrested and jailed for organising rallies, petitioning or writing feminist articles.
Several have also been banned from leaving the country.
Iranian women account for over 60 percent of university entrants and came out strong in street protests against hardliner Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year.
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