March 15, 2005  VOLUME 10


To our readers,

March 8th, 2005, marked the 94th anniversary of International Women's Day around the world. As women in most countries have made progress in many areas, Iranian women are still struggling for their most basic and elementary rights. WFAFI believes Iran is the largest prison for women. There are widespread women's rights abuses that ranges from economic discrimination to political suppression. Forcing women into prostitution, sex trade and human trafficking, execution of minors, rape, and torture including stoning to death all reflect the extent of atrocities committed against women by the Islamic Fundamentalist rulers in Tehran. Girls between ages 10 to 17 are the prime victims of sexual slavery in Iran. In Tehran alone, 4000 street girls roam the city on daily basis and are subjected to sexual and physical violence. Reports indicate that 90% of the runaway girls end up in prostitution or sold in Persian Gulf human trafficking market.

Women and girls bare the brunt of Iran's poor economic conditions. 700,000 children, aged 10 to 14, work in black labor market in Iran. The latest statistics released by Iran's Organization of Management and Planning shows that 51% of the country's population live below the poverty line. Iran’s deputy Health Minister, Ali Akbar Sayari, admits that 20% of Iranian people go hungry daily. 67% of the students deprived of education are girls between 11 and 16 years old. Only 11% of Iranian women are employed. The rate of mental and psychological problems among women is almost 26%. In the western and southern regions of the country, suicides are mostly self-immolations among women, which rates more than 6 in every 100,000 women. In a western province of Iran, deputy of governor on women's affairs, Heyran Pournajaf, reports "About 70% of those who commit suicide in Ilam are women.” The director general of social affairs of the governor reports that "90% of these women were between 17 and 35 years old. The real number of suicides is much higher than what we have." The World Health Organization has placed Iran on the top 3rd ranking country on death by suicide.

In October 2004, Khameini’s hard-line paper, Jumhori Eslami, reports on the strategy to use non governmental organizations (NGO’s), especially the women’s organizations, to support and strengthen the security of the Islamic Republic. The article recommends that the government should infiltrate more in these organizations and groups to advance the agenda of “National Security”. It also suggests organizations who are formed outside of this framework should be considered as “enemies of Iran’s national security” and puppets of US and Zionism. Forooz Rejaeifar, a 47-year-old mother of three and former hostage taker, is now leading an NGO to train 15000 recruits for one of three missions: killing members of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, slaughtering Israelis (all are deemed ``occupiers of Palestine,'' according to official Iranian policy) or assassinating author Salman Rushdie. (Watch the Video Related to this NGO)

Tehran’s regime is a prime sponsor of international terrorism and a state-sponsor of violence against women. Therefore, the struggle of the Iranian women against this regime is extremely important in the field of international peace and security. Recognizing the linkage between the commitments made in the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, the UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and the Millennium Declaration, and emphasizing that sustainable peace is a prerequisite for development, Iranian women believe due focus should be given to their suffering and quest for freedom and equality.  On the nuclear crisis with Tehran, Iranian women emphasize on an Iranian solution and trust a woman-led movement against the regime. Tehran’s nuclear disarmament, peace, democracy and gender equality is only possible through Iranians’ endeavor to unseat the fundamentalist regime in Tehran.

E-Zan Featured Headlines


Iran Focus - February 16, 2005

Women and teenage girls comprise the majority of people in Iran's Ilam province (western Iran) who committed suicide throughout this year, according to the province's Councillor for Women's Affairs. At least 220 cases of women committing suicide in Ilam have been recorded out of an estimated 400 suicides, Heyran Pournajaf said to a state-run news agency. Iran has the highest suicide rate in the world.
"The most common form of suicide amongst women in Ilam is self-immolation, which is in protest to society dictating their lives to them", Pournajaf added. The number of attempted suicides is much higher. Pournajaf said that women and girls in particular find it hard to face society where misogyny and discrimination against women have been institutionalized by the clerical regime.

BBC News,
February 24, 2005

The court dismissed the girl's claim that she was raped. It said she had sex of her own free will, the official Iran Daily newspaper reported.
The girl was sentenced to 100 lashes because her accusations of rape and kidnap could have landed her partners a death penalty, the
Tehran judge said. Sex outside marriage is illegal in Iran and capital punishment can be imposed. The young men in the case were sentenced to 30 and 40 lashes each. The Iran paper quotes the girl, who has not been named, as confessing: "I trusted one of these young men, whom I got to know by phone, and went to his place. "But because he betrayed me, I filed the case against him and his friend out of revenge." International concerns continue to be raised about women's rights in Iran. In December the UN General Assembly voted to censure Iran for human rights violations, including discrimination against women and girls. Tehran rejected the criticism as propaganda. Under Iranian law, girls over the age of nine and boys over 16 face the death penalty for crimes such as rape and murder, while capital punishment can be imposed in certain cases of illegal sexual relationships.


Reporters Without Border – February 28, 2005

Reporters Without Borders said it was appalled by the imprisonment of pregnant student, Najmeh Oumidparvar, 26 - wife of weblogger Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi - who has been imprisoned in her turn, one week after her husband. Oumidparvar, who is three month pregnant, has her own weblog. She has been accused of defending her husband too openly. On the eve of her arrest she gave an interview to German radio Deutsche Welle. A few days earlier she posted on her own weblog a message her husband had written shortly before his arrest. In it, he claimed the right to express himself freely adding that he was "waiting for the police handcuffs". Plainclothes police searched Oumidparvar‚s home on the morning of 2 March 2005 seizing computers, CDs and every article written by the couple. She was arrested after the search. She was taken back to her home in the afternoon to collect some of her possessions. The authorities told her that she would have to stay in prison for at least ten days.


Radio FardaMarch 1, 2005

The office of Women’s studies and Research in Iran was set on fire while after hours. This office director, Shahla Lahiji told the Shargh newspaper that the arson was intentional and explosives were used to destroy her office. She indicated a motorcycle driver has broken the windows and used explosive to burn and destroy the document collected or produced by this office. The head of fire rescue also confirmed that the arson was intentional.


Agence France PresseMarch 1, 2005

Iranian women have begun to outnumber men in the Islamic republic's universities, according to new official figures carried by the state news agency IRNA on Tuesday.  The report said 50.68 percent of all students registered in universities between 2003 and 2004 were women.  Recent years have shown women to be more successful in university entrance tests, but the trend has not translated to success in the employment market -- where women make up just 10.5 percent of the national workforce.


Agence France PresseMarch 7, 2005

The Iranian women who wish to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, have two options: prove that the child is putting their own life in danger, or otherwise join tens of thousands who go through dangerous illegal procedures every year. Roya S., a 28-year-old woman from the Iranian capital Tehran, recounted how she nearly died in the process of aborting a pregnancy she didn't want, the report added. "I could neither financially nor emotionally afford to have a child. I was only married for two months and still living with my mother-in-law," recalled the 28-year-old woman.” But the doctor did a sloppy job. A month after the abortion was performed at his surgery, I started hemorrhaging horribly. It turned out part of the placenta had remained in my womb which would get infected and lead to my death if I did not have another operation.” According to this report, Roya eventually survived the ordeal, but emerged significantly poorer. In addition, the offending surgeon escaped any legal reprisal, given that if Roya filed a complaint she would have faced jail as well.” When you are desperate you have to entrust your life in someone who does not care and only pray not to get permanently damaged." Roya said. According to local press reports, at least 80,000 illegal abortions are carried out every year. But some believe the real figure could be far higher. "These cannot be exact figures, as the only statistics we have are based on reported complications. But these have dropped over the past years because there are more professionals doing a clean job," said gynecologist Malek Mansour Aqsa, a member of the states national family planning committee. "There is a good market tempting many doctors and midwives with good money and easy money. They are not even afraid of prosecution," Aqsa said. The performer of the abortion and the mother can be sentenced to three to 10 years in jail and have to pay blood money (the judicial price) for the child.


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, March 9, 2005

Mahboudeh Abbasgholizadeh is editor in chief of the Iranian women's magazine "Farzaneh" and a civil society activist. She has reportedly been charged with acts against national security and spreading propaganda. Fershteh Ghazi, correspondent for the Tehran daily "Etemad," had to be hospitalized shortly after being released on bail in December 2004. She suffered from poor physical and mental health. However, Iranian authorities have been clamping down on those who use the Internet to criticize the establishment. Last month, the Iranian judiciary sentenced Arash Cigarchi, a young Internet diarist -- or blogger -- to 14 years in prison for expressing his opinions. Human rights organizations and media groups have expressed concern that Iran is moving to silence freedom of _expression on the Internet. During the last eight years, more than 100 independent publications have been shut down in Iran, and the Internet remains the last outlet for freedom of _expression in the country.



E-Zan Featured Reports

Photo exhibit focuses on plight of Iranian women

February 17, 2005

Normandi, a professional photographer, will be presenting "Behind the Veil," a series of photographs of women in Iran taken by journalism students from the University of Tehran. Normandi said he hopes the "Hejab Series," which runs from this Friday through Feb. 24 at Harper College, will show the human rights abuses that many women who are unwillingly forced to wear the hejab, or veil, face. "There's a lack of equal rights to education, employment, inheritance, movement and travel, self-determination," he said. "Women are always subordinate to any male in the family." Normandi, who moved from Iran to the United States in 1979, commissioned 10 journalism and photography students to take the pictures on his short visit to the country. "This has been done somewhat in a clandestine way," he said, since the government would not allow the project. He hopes the exhibit will move feminists in the country to focus on issues that often come up in other countries. "Especially in a conservative religious society, in some cases it's actual gender apartheid," Normandi said. "I recommend any activist who works for human rights issues to come in and see the photographs." The exhibit will also include explanations of the photographs, describing the different subjects, and the actual hejab that Irani women wear, so that participants can experience for themselves how the veil feels. Normandi's intent, though, is not to criticize the actual wearing of hejab. His focus lies on women who are forced into the lifestyle, especially, as the case is in Iran, girls at the age of 7 who must cover themselves. He believes that force is part of the government's intent to keep the women from gaining power. "If it's by choice, it's an act of democracy," Normandi said. "When you see the points of view of different photographers, you will find out many of them see (the hejab) as part of their life and their belief."


United Front Against Fundamentalism and for Equality meets in Paris

February 26, 2004

Iran Focus - Paris

An international conference entitled, "United against Fundamentalism and for Equality," was held in Paris yesterday on the initiative of several women's rights organizations to discuss the threat posed by fundamentalists to women's rights and status. Over 1,000 political and human rights personalities and equality movement activists from Europe, the United States and the Middle East attended the conference. The event was sponsored by a number of organizations and personalities, including Ballymaurphy Women Center, Women's Trust, UNIFEM, National Association of Women's Organisations UK, European Network of Women, Collective Respect, Union of European Feminists, Women in Movement, Feminist Transports, Association in Solidarity with Kidnapped Mothers and Children, The Movement for Peace, The International League of Women for Peace and Liberty (the French section), Women for a New Europe, and the Association of Friends of Women Buses. Seven female British parliamentarians, including Lady Herman, Chris McCafferty, Jane Griffiths, Julia Drown, Baroness Gould of Potternewton, Sandra Gildley and Valery Davey, were among the sponsors. The keynote speaker was Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, who said, "The Tehran mullahs and those with stakes in the status quo want us to believe that any serious change requires a foreign war, and the only alternative to war is to make a deal with the mullahs. But the Iranian Resistance believes that in place of 'appeasement or war', there is a third option, which represents the real path to change: change brought about by the Iranian people and Resistance". Rajavi reiterated, "The decisive defeat of Islamic fundamentalist would be possible only through the pioneering role of women. For this reason, we underscore the need for the active and equal participation of women in political leadership". Emphasizing that women's rights are universal, Rajavi noted, "No one could use religious or cultural pretext or any other justification to distort women's rights, which are as universal as human rights, and deny their totality". She added, "Since the onset of their rule, the mullahs have not spared any discrimination and oppression against women. On the contrary, they have strengthened misogynous laws every year. Indeed, the pillar of all social relationships and the laws of the state is oppression and discrimination against women". Elizabeth Sidney, President of the Women's International Federation against Fundamentalism and for Equality; Francoise Héritier, a renowned French anthropologist and an honorary Prof. at College of France; Meili Faille, a member of the Canadian Parliament; and Emely James, a distinguished scholar on child and woman prostitution, also addressed the conference. At the end of the conference, Maria Farantouri, a distinguished Greek singer performed for the audience. On the sidelines of the Paris conference, an exhibition on the plight of women in Iran was also organized. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, an umbrella coalition of Iranian opposition groups, has elected Rajavi to serve as the interim-president of Iran during the transitional period after the fall of the current theocracy. Separately on Thursday, the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning Iran's human rights violations and urged the European Union to sponsor a separate resolution, censuring Iran in the United Nations. It called for the appointment of a special representative be re-appointed to monitor the human rights situation in Iran. The EP condemned "the serious increase in human rights violations, notably the growing number of reports about executions, including executions of juvenile offenders, amputations, flogging in public, a generalized crackdown on the press and media, widespread arrests – especially of women and young people – on unclear or minor charges".


Young women and girls, aged between 16 to 25, sold in Pakistan on daily basis

Iran Focus - Tehran

March 2, 2005  

At least 54 Iranian girls and young women, between the ages of 16 and 25, are sold on the streets of Karachi in Pakistan on a daily basis, according to report outlining the latest statistics. The report also revealed that there are at present at least 300,000 runaway girls in Iran, adding that the estimated number of women under the absolute poverty line was more than eight million. A senior women's affairs analyst today revealed the findings speaking to a state-run news agency. "According to an investigation by analysts, women comprise of only two percent of the country's administration force", Mahboubeh Moghadam said. "Every day 54 Iranian girls between 16 to 25 years of age are bought and sold in Karachi, and the root of this crisis is the government policy which has resulted in poverty and the deprival of rights for the majority of people in society", she added. Professor Donna M. Hughes, a Women's Studies expert at the University of Rhode Island in the United States, recently shed some light on the issue of human trafficking. "Slave traders take advantage of any opportunity in which women and children are vulnerable", she said.  "Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. According to the head of the Tehran province judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17, although there are reports of some girls as young as 8 and 10, to send to Arab countries. One ring was discovered after an 18-year-old girl escaped from a basement where a group of girls were held before being sent to Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The number of Iranian women and girls who are deported from Persian Gulf countries indicates the magnitude of the trade". Hughes added, "Police have uncovered a number of prostitution and slavery rings operating from Tehran that have sold girls to France, Britain and Turkey as well. One network based in Turkey bought smuggled Iranian women and girls, gave them fake passports, and transported them to European and Persian Gulf countries. In one case, a 16-year-old girl was smuggled to Turkey, and then sold to a 58-year-old European national for $20,000". Moghadam said that the report's findings indicated that organized gangs were smuggling girls and young women to the southern Gulf States by air and hinted that such a task was very difficult to carry out without some sort of government green-light. "The number of runaway girls in the country is at least 300,000. Nearly 86 percent of girls who runaway from home for the first time end up being sexually abused", she added. Highlighting the fact that more than eight million women are living in poverty, Moghadam said, "The number of youths who are suffering from psychological problems in Iran currently stands between eight to ten million people, the majority of whom are girls". Moghadam noted that Iran currently has the highest suicide rate in the world, adding, "Every year seven thousand people commit suicide, the majority of whom are women". Moghadam also criticised the government's treatment of women, adding that basic freedoms such as the right to choose what to wear and the right to take part in arts and sporting activities were non-existent.


Iranian women celebrate International Women’s Day “We will Win, Tomorrow Belongs to US”

Report from Tehran, Translated by WFAFI

March 4, 2005

On Tuesday March 1, 2005 the sociology students at Tehran University arranged a gathering in the Shariati Auditorium to commemorate the International Women’s Day. The title of the program was “We will Win, Tomorrow Belongs to US” that included several speeches about the difficulties women face in Iran as well as music, play and book displays. This program was enthusiastically welcomed by the female students and the Shariati auditorium was completely filled by. The program ended with a resolution demanding the recognition of the rights of Iranian women. The first speaker was Mrs. Roohbakhsh who spoke about the family laws and the civil code. She stressed the fact that a woman does not have any significant rights within an Iranian family. Women live in the shadow of their fathers or husbands and are completely dependent on theses men. The civil codes discriminate against women. The next speaker presented statistics on the situation of women in Iran and stated that the Iranian women have fought for their social and political rights for more than 100 years but their status has not improved much. She mentioned that the root of the problem lies in the laws and policies that clearly discriminate against women and they need to be changed. The civil and Sharia laws prevent women from becoming the president or a judge. The civil codes consider men as the breadwinners of the family who should have control over it and women are their dependents.  Do you think Islam approves the execution of 16 year old girls? She asked.  Do you think what happens in our country is really rooted in Islam? The true spirit of Islam believes in the equality of men and women and recognizes their liberty, responsibility and intellect as individuals. We want equality in all aspects of our lives since we believe that progress is possible only through men and women working closely and equally in the society. After the second speech a children’s play portrayed the injustices and difficulties women face within their families. The last speaker talked about prostitution in Iran and said some experts defend it based on their patriarch belief system. We should look at the root of this problem which is poverty and discrimination. At the end, the resolution was presented which was welcomed by the audience. The resolution described women’s legitimate rights as follows:

-Women have a right to participate in athletic and artistic performances.

-Women have a right to choose what they were.

-Women must be free to choose their husbands and to marry or divorce.

-All the employment and retirement laws that discriminate against women must be abolished.

-The inequalities women face in testifying in the court, inheritance and child custody laws must be revoked.

-Any kind of sex trade and human trafficking of women should be forbidden.

-Polygamy must be illegal.

-Women must be free to participate in all the social and political activities without requiring anyone’s permission. Women should also be allowed to occupy any social and political leadership position.

-Since women face numerous discriminatory laws in the society, we must provide them with Equal Opportunity and positive discrimination in all the aspects of cultural and social arenas.

The commemoration of International Women’s Day at Tehran University ended with a musical performance by four young women playing Iranian traditional music.


Women staged demonstration on International Women’s Day despite government’s ban

March 9, 2004

Iran Focus

On the event of International Women's Day, 1,000 women staged a demonstration at central Tehran’s Laleh Park yesterday afternoon. Clashes erupted between the protesters and State Security Forces (SSF) as local residents reported tight security in the vicinity of the park since daybreak. "We are only marching quietly. You are afraid of women. You will see what will happen when women finally stand up", one woman shouted, as agents rushed to silence her.  Motor squads of the Revolutionary Guards and the Bassij paramilitary forces assisted Special Security Forces (SSF) armed with Kalashnikovs and truncheons in arresting many women on the scene. Guards and plainclothes agents were ordered to charge at any gathering of more than three women in a bid to quell the threat of a major rally, according to residents. Demonstrators shouted slogans against the clerical establishment and sang patriotic songs, as SSF agents attempted to arrest anyone seen carrying a camera. Leaflets calling for "regime change" were distributed throughout the crowd. Some carried photos of Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, witnesses said. A number of those passing out leaflets were detained by the Iranian regime's security apparatus.

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Volume 10, March 15, 2005

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