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U.S. Senate Resolution Seeks Freedom For Women Political Prisoners

#FreeThe20 campaign poster showcasing 20 women political prisoners whose release is being sought.
#FreeThe20 campaign poster showcasing 20 women political prisoners whose release is being sought.

The resolution is backed by all 20 women senators in the chamber, and calls for the release of Khadija Ismayilova, among other political prisoners.

The 20 women members of the U.S. Senate have come together to present a resolution to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the release of female political prisoners, including RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova.

Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced Resolution 262 on September 22 in support of #FreeThe20, a campaign waged by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power to free 20 women political prisoners.

The resolution “calls for the immediate release” of the 20 women whose plight is showcased in the campaign, and otherwise “reiterates support for efforts to empower women and secure universal human rights for women.”

The #FreeThe20 campaign was launched in conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment, a milestone in the global movement for gender equality.

Announcing the campaign on September 1, Ambassador Power directed her remarks to the governments that have jailed these women, telling them, “If you want to empower women, don’t imprison them on the basis of their views or on the basis of the rights that they are fighting for."

To the prisoners and their families, Power said, "We have not forgotten about you. We will keep pressing for your governments to free you...We will insist on reminding the world how much we lose when your voices are silenced – today and every day that you are behind bars."

Ismayilova, one of the women highlighted in the campaign, is a journalist from Azerbaijan who was sentenced to seven and 1/2 years in prison in a case that RFE/RL has called "baseless," and says is retribution for her investigations into corruption involving members of Azeri President Ilham Aliyev's family.

The verdict has been condemned by rights organizations and foreign governments, including the U.S., France, and the UK.

Other women cited in the #FreeThe20 campaign include Leyla Yunus, Nadia Savchenko, Bahareh Hedayat, and Matlyuba Kamilova.

--Ruth Douglas