May 15, 2005 VOLUME 12
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
As we celebrate the first
anniversary of E-ZAN, WFAFIs monthly publication, we would like to thank all
of our readers for their continued support in keeping the voice of women
against fundamentalism in Iran live and loud in America and elsewhere. Together, we will
continue to facilitate the political voice of Iranian women in support of peace
and against the misogynous rulers in Tehran.
Since mid-April, Tehrans negotiation with EU, on its outlawed
nuclear program, has captured the international headlines. At the same time,
there has been a re-launch of:
Crackdown on women in major cities in Iran, and
Campaign of volunteers to carry out suicide bomb attacks
against Americans in Iraq and against Israelis.
In response, Washington has been silent and EU is too busy
appeasing Tehran. The fact remains, Tehrans danger is growing on daily basis.
Womens goal is not to put Washington and EU on notice, but to give them a wake
up call. If only Washington and EU could pay more attention to the status of
women in Basra, southern city of Iraq, they would notice the depth of Tehrans influence in that country. If only
EU, particularly France, could see beyond its economic interest, they would
notice the growing danger of a nuclear state-sponsored of terrorism in their
own back yard.
Iranian women, along with their
Iraqi sisters, will continue to press their political agenda for democracy as
the only strategy to defeat Tehran and its influence in the region.
Therefore, it behooves Washington and EU to recognize the voice of women as
they review their policies in the both Iran and Iraq. Any policy short of that will prolong
the danger and influence of Tehrans fundamentalist regime in the
E-Zan Featured Headlines
April 18, 2005
The main global humanist
organization and a group of former Muslims on Monday accused European countries
of ignoring violations of human rights in their Islamic communities to preserve
"multi-culturalism". In a presentation to
the United Nations Human Rights Commission and at a separate news conference
and a seminar, they also argued that Muslim countries were trying to use the
body to quash any discussion of their own rights record. "Western society
tends to turn a blind eye to the plight of European Muslim women and girls
because 'Muslim culture is different'," Roy Brown, president of the
International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), told the 53-member Commission.
Agance France Presse April 19, 2005
Tehran police chief Brigadier
General Morteza Talaie has announced a new campaign to ensure women keep covered
up in public in keeping with the rules of the Islamic republic, newspapers
reported Tuesday. "The press will
take firm action against those who disturb security and moral order with their
behavior and their clothing," he was quoted as warning. He said 30 percent of complaints to police
involved cases of women not covering up properly, with their hair not kept out
of sight by a scarf, and "improper behavior" by the young. Iranian police issue the same warning each
year in the run-up to summer and patrol areas where the young gather. Talaie's predecessor, General Mohammad Bagher
Ghalibaf, who has stepped down to contest the June 17 presidential election,
said last year that women were behaving like "top models" on the
streets of Tehran. All women in Iran have to wear a scarf
and the traditional chador, a robe which flows from head to foot, or a
conservative coat to conceal their figure and hair from the eyes of men.
Agance France Presse April 19, 2005
Iranian men and women
met in Tehran to declare
their readiness to carry out suicide operations against Israel. Some 250 men
and 150 women, all members
of Islamist militias,
responded to an appeal by two non-governmental
organizations urging them to support
Palestinian suicide bombers and declare their
own readiness to become "martyrs". Grouped together in
a hall in the centre of Tehran, women in
chadors and men wearing headbands with the
inscription "There is no God but Allah" heard the organizers read out
a religious decree legitimizing suicide
attacks. Such actions are "permitted
and considered relevant in the holy war for the good of Allah when the
difference between the military forces of the
army of Islam
and those of the enemy is too great and there
is no other classical means to hurt the enemy
at strategic points," according to the decree from
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nuri Hamedani
I am ready to take up arms,
travel to Palestine
and fight against the Zionists," said Mansoureh Sadeghi, 31, a student.
"People die in any case so why not die for one's ideals?" The Islamic
republic has always made clear its refusal to
and its support of the Palestinian cause. However it denies providing anything
other than political support to militant
Palestinian groups. The authorities keep their distance from
events gathering together would-be suicide bombers,
saying they can do nothing to prevent such events taking place.
Agance France Presse April 25, 2005
She said existing
vetting procedures meant free and healthy elections were not possible. Ahead of
the 17 June presidential election, the Guardians Council, a watchdog which
screens all candidates, has said it is sticking by its interpretation of a key
word in Iran's constitution that has
long been taken as meaning that only men can be president. "I object to
the Guardians Council's interpretation of the word 'rijal'," Ebadi told a
news conference in Tehran. The disputed word
"rejal", which comes from Arabic and refers to man (or men), could
also be interpreted as meaning "personalities" in Persian and this is
the translation used in some English translations of the constitution.
"The approbatory supervision by the Guardians Council ... negates a free
and healthy election," said a statement issued by the Defenders of Human
Rights Centre, a group headed by Ebadi.
Aside from barring women, the Guardians Council can also weed out
candidates it deems to be unsuitable. This power was used to devastating effect
prior to the February 2004 parliament elections, when nearly all pro-reform
candidates were disqualified.
Agance France Presse April 25, 2005
Police in the Iranian
capital are poised to launch a fresh crackdown targeting "models of
corruption", or in other words poorly-veiled women, press reports said
Wednesday. "The police will act against the models of corruption out in
public places and against those who may not be ladies of the street but whose
conduct does not respect Islam," Tehran province's police
chief, General Reza Zareie, was quoted as saying. The general pledged that his
forces would deploy in parks and streets around the capital that are frequented
by residents on weekend picnics to escape the sprawling city's heat and
pollution. Pre-summer crackdowns on skimpy clothes and flimsy headscarfs are
common in Islamic Iran, where all post-pubescent females are required to wear
the veil and a long coat that conceals their bodily form. Violators risk fines
or imprisonment. In large cities such as
Tehran, the dress code has been increasingly flouted
-- with many women barely covering their hair and sporting brightly-colored,
figure-hugging coats. Earlier this month
Tehran city's police chief, Brigadier General Morteza Talaie, also warned of an
impending operation targeting those "who by their conduct or dress are
perturbing public security and morality".
Middle East On-line May 9, 2005-05
Iran's Guardians Council, a
hardline body that screens all legislation, has rejected a highly contentious
law that allowed abortions in limited cases, the student news agency ISNA
reported on Monday. "It is against sharia (Islamic law) to abort children
who would inflict a financial burden on the parents after birth due to mental
or physical handicap," ISNA said, quoting parliamentary sources. Iran's
conservative-dominated parliament decided last month - in the face of
opposition from religious right-to-life MPs - that abortions be allowed within
four months of gestation if the foetus was mentally or physically handicapped
and would inflict a financial burden on the family. At present, women in Iran can only get official
approval for an abortion if their life is proven to be at risk because of a
pregnancy, leading to a booming but angerous backstreet business. According to
local press reports, at least 80,000 illegal abortions are carried out in Iran each year but some
believe the actual figure could be far higher. The legislation will now be
referred back to parliament for amendments and if it is still opposed by the
Guardians Council, Iran's top arbitration body
the Expediency Council will make a final ruling.
Campaign of suicide
bombers to free "occupied Islamic countries"
By Parisa Hafezi, Reuters
April 21, 2005
TEHRAN, Iran - Around 400 volunteers signed up in Tehran to
sacrifice their lives in "occupied Islamic countries" on Wednesday
night, inspired by a fatwa from a top hardline cleric giving religious backing
to suicide missions. Wednesday's registration session was the latest by a group
called the Committee for the Commemoration of Martyrs of the Global Islamic
Campaign, which says it has enrolled 35,000 volunteers nationwide for possible
attacks since last year. Iran's pro-reform government
has repeatedly said it would not allow groups to carry out such attacks and no
Iranians are thought to have directly executed suicide bombings in Israel or elsewhere in recent
But the presence of President Mohammad Khatami's adviser on
women's affairs and a representative of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
leant some official backing to Wednesday's event. In a dark hall decorated with
pictures of female Palestinian suicide bombers, dozens of men and women queued
to fill out registration forms. "As a Muslim, it is my duty to sacrifice
my life for oppressed Palestinian children," said Maryam Partovi, 31, a
mother of two. A banner hanging over the main entrance quoted Khamenei as
saying: "Sacrificing oneself for religion and national interest is the
height of honor and bravery."
JIHAD FOR GOD
Iranian hardline cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamedani's
religious decree was read to volunteers over a loudspeaker. It said
"martyrdom operations" were permissible in the "occupied Islamic
countries" as a weapon of war against modern armies. "Any
martyrdom-seeking operation is a jihad (holy war) for God," it said. Women
dressed in the traditional head-to-foot black chador and men wearing red
headbands which read "Prophet Mohammad is God's messenger", responded
with chants of "God is great".
Videos of Israeli army attacks on Palestinians were shown on a wide
screen. Books and CDs on the Palestinian uprising were also for sale.
Hamid, a 20-year-old student who lost his father in the 1980-88
Iran-Iraq war, said he was ready to sacrifice his life. "I want to kill
Zionists and free my Palestinian brothers," he said. Since its 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has refused to
recognize Israel and supports
anti-Israeli groups like Hamas.
"Our enemies are Zionists and other occupiers of Islamic
countries," Mohammad Samadi, spokesman for the group of volunteers, told
Reuters. "America is definitely
considered an enemy." He said the
group was an independent organization with no ties to the government. Its work
was limited to encouraging volunteers to carry out suicide attacks. "We
will not dispatch them anywhere ... they will locate the targets
themselves," he said.
Basra's intrusive Islamists reject
Iran's theocracy as too tolerant
By Delphine Minoui, Chronicle
May 4, 2005
Basra, Iraq -- Sheikh Assad
al-Basri says there's no need to worry that he and his Islamist militia intend
to recreate an Iranian-style government in Iraq. For the local
representative of rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Iran's theocratic state is
far too liberal for his tastes.
"Only 5 percent of Iranians abide by real Islamic laws," said
al-Basri, who boasts that he and his cohorts already have blown up most of Basra's liquor stores,
punished "decadent picnickers" and imposed Islamic dress codes.
"The rest of Iranians are corrupt. Look, there are drugs and girls who
don't wear hijab (traditional head coverings) properly in Iran." Iraq's new Shiite-led
government in Baghdad vows it will respect
and tolerate all religious and ethnic groups and will create a constitution
that will be a model for a region gripped by Islamic fervor.
But on the streets of
this once-liberal port city of 1.5 million, militias already have begun
imposing a harsh version of Shariah -- Islamic law.
"They have managed to impose a republic of fear," said Yasser Qassim,
a local journalist who publishes stories under a pen name out of fear for his
safety. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which has
mounted armed uprisings against U.S. forces in Najaf and Baghdad, has launched a reign
of terror on Basra's streets, residents
say. Al-Basri said that 12,000 militiamen have been trained for combat and
"are ready to mobilize in case of a crisis."
Residents say militia
members are hunting down unveiled women, attacking liquor stores and clamping
down on the local press.
During celebrations two months ago commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussein,
an important Shiite saint, 6,000 armed militiamen of al-Sadr's Mahdi Army
marched through the streets. "They are everywhere," said Dr. Muhammad
Nassir, who heads Basra Maternity and Pediatric Hospital. "Some of them
recently visited our hospital to try to convince us to forbid male doctors from
curing female patients." His
colleagues at nearby Sadr Hospital -- renamed after the fall
of Saddam Hussein's regime in honor of Muqtada al-Sadr's slain father --
complain that al-Sadr's followers have hung posters of the young cleric inside
the wards. "They watch us,"
said one doctor, who requested anonymity out of fear for his personal safety.
"I have received a few death threats. I am afraid to talk. To protect
myself, I bought a pistol, which I hide under my shirt." Although Basra lies within the sector
of Iraq patrolled by the
British military, residents say the British are turning a blind eye to the
dilemma. "It is a difficult situation," said one British diplomat,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "There is a vacuum of power. We fear
even more tensions in the hot summer months as energy supplies run short." Basra officials concede the
militiamen are creating problems, but are hesitant to crack down. "We are
going through a sensitive time, and we must be cautious and careful," said
Muhammad Saadoun al-Ebaadi, chief of the new provincial council. On the streets, fear is palpable. One day
three months ago, a female student from Basra University's college of sciences
was ordered to cover her hair. She refused to comply. Three days later, she was
found dead on the road to her house, said her classmates and professors.
Even picnics along the
Shatt al-Arab waterway, where the Tigris River meets the Euphrates River -- a popular spot in
steamy Basra -- have been declared illicit. In a high-profile incident first publicized
by television stations in Baghdad, the Mahdi Army
violently broke up a March 15 picnic attended by hundreds of engineering
students beneath the palm trees of al-Andalus Park. As young men played
volleyball and young women listened to music, black-clad militiamen armed with
knives, metal bars and assault rifles rushed them, firing shots into the
air. "A man dressed in black, his
face covered with a mask, stood in front of my group of friends and asked why
we were not wearing hijab," said Celia Garabet, a 21-year-old student
recovering from neck injuries inflicted in the melee. "I was too afraid to
reply, and I received a big hit on the back of my head, from behind. It was
panic everywhere." When police
finally intervened, students said, some assisted the militiamen. "They
were accusing us of being infidels. They were calling girls prostitutes,"
said 22-year-old Muhammad Samir.
Outraged students organized two large demonstrations and demanded an
apology. Under pressure, al-Sadr's office issued a statement promising not to
attack any more picnics. Local officials
downplayed the incident. "What happened was insignificant compared to the
other cases of disorder and violence in Basra," said al-Ebaadi,
the council chief. Al-Basri, al-Sadr's
top man in the city, is unapologetic. Sometimes, he says, violence is the only
way to stop corruption. "You should
punish and beat a kid in order to protect him from playing with the fire,"
he said. "During this picnic, girls were wearing shirts that were far too
thin. We could see their arms underneath. Boys were dancing. It was
immoral." Even Christians, he says, must abide by Islamic dress codes.
"Wasn't the Virgin Mary covered?" he asked. "Christian women
should cover themselves, if they are good Christians."
For longtime residents
of Basra, the violence and intolerance are heartbreaking.
"When I was a student, I went to the movies and casinos every
weekend," Juliana Youssef Davoud, an English professor in her 50s, said as
she leafed through an old album with photos of her wearing a miniskirt and
hanging out with her male friends in a Basra park. "We used to go to the cabarets,"
she said. "Young people drank beers. We used to go on picnics every
weekend. None of these little pleasures of the youth are now allowed in Iraq."
Iranian Volunteers Training for
By Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated
May 13, 2005
Tehran, Iran -
More than 200 young men and women presented themselves Thursday as
volunteers to carry out suicide bomb attacks against Americans in Iraq and against Israelis. The meeting was organized at Behesht-e-Zahra
cemetery, south of Tehran, by the Headquarters for
Commemorating Martyrs of the Global Islamic Movement, a shadowy group that has
sought volunteers for attacks in Iraq and Israel since last year. It was the third
such ceremony that the group has held, but there has been no independent
confirmation any of its volunteers has carried out a bombing.
Most of those attending Thursday's
meeting, half of them women, were members of the Basij militia, a hard-line
paramilitary group, and have already had military training. But the movement
says it provides more training for suicide attacks.
The movement's spokesman, Mohammad
Ali Samadi, told the audience that the volunteers were preparing for
``martyrdom attacks against occupiers of Palestine, the assassination of
(British author) apostate Salman Rushdie and attacks against occupiers of holy
places (in Iraq).''
The volunteers, who chanted ``Allahu
akbar'' - ``God is great'' - and ``Death to America,'' wore white shrouds symbolizing
their willingness to die and headbands with the slogan ``There is no Allah but
the Almighty.'' No weapons or explosives were visible at the ceremony. The two previous such ceremonies - in
December and April - each had 200 volunteers.
The Iranian government has distanced
itself from the organization, but the group has occasionally used buildings
belonging to semi-official hard-line organizations. Certain hard-line lawmakers
and some commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards have spoken in support of
the movement. The volunteers were given
metal name plates to identify them after they've carried out attacks and
presented wills to Samadi. They refused to show their will to reporters.
One woman, who only gave her first
name Zahra, said a ``sense of obligation'' encouraged her to leave her family
and become a suicide bomber.
Under the Veil of Iran's Nuclear Aspirations
By Roya Hakakian, The Forward
May 13, 2005
The Iran of May 2005 is, in some ways,
looking very similar to the Iran of November 1979. Back then, when
the American embassy in Tehran was seized by hardline university
students, every other domestic issue was cast into oblivion. Nothing mattered
more than the hostages. Nothing superseded the war with the "Great
Satan." The hostage crisis became so giant of an issue that all else
alongside it was immediately dwarfed in particular, the issues of freedom,
civil liberties and human rights.
With each passing month in 1980, as
the world's attention increasingly focused on the hostages, more and more
arrests took place throughout Iran. Given the absence of both domestic
and international scrutiny, acts of summary justice were performed far
more swiftly. After January 1981, when the hostages returned home, the state of
oblivion only deepened.
Today the dominant discussion about Iran is focused around another giant
issue: Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. More attention is now focused
on Iran than at any point in time since the
1979 revolution; nearly all of it is in regard to Tehran's intentions for its uranium-enrichment
program. As media around the world report on the day-to-day details of the
European Union's ongoing negotiations with the Iranian regime, the story of the
Iranian people's daily struggles is increasingly buried.
How can Iran how can any country
ever reach democracy when truths are so constantly twisted, when acts of
heroism prove merely ethereal and are vulnerable to the will of the rulers?
...A permanent space for the issue of human rights must be carved out so that
they will no longer be subject to political trends and headlines.
These days, among Iranian scholars a
dangerous argument seems to be gathering momentum, one which essentially brands
any criticism of Tehran's human rights record as unpatriotic
particularly given the presence of American troops in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq. However, those of us who lived
through the 1979 revolution and its aftermath know better than to agree.
Back in 1979, when Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini proposed reinstituting the Islamic dress code, Iranian women
who took to the streets in protest were accused of being unpatriotic. With the
revolution still in its infancy and with the grave threat posed by the United States, the argument went, truly conscientious
Iranians were those who sacrificed their personal happiness on behalf of
collective unity. Women who advocated for free choice were, among many other
things, slandered as selfish.
The Islamic dress code, of course,
soon became mandatory. We were driven under the veils and the uniforms and the
scarves. In retrospect, it is clear that the enforcement of the dress code
paved the way for the loss of other civil liberties.
Given this history, now is the best
time indeed, the only time to be talking about the issue of human rights in
Will the E.U.'s negotiations with Iran succeed? Will there be a military
strike? Will there be a deal? If a deal is struck, those who care about the
cause of democracy in Iran must play their humble part in
making sure that Iranians' human rights won't be sacrificed for the sake of
Tyrannies thrive on forgetfulness.
Their hold over society is made clear to the public every time they manage to
obliterate someone's record of opposition or someone's existence.
As the international community
converges on Iran to sort out the nuclear problem, it
should remember that focusing on human rights is, in itself, an exercise in
sovereignty it infuses the debate with preoccupations that ultimately affect
only Iranians. It is a way for the Iranian people to make our own demands. It
is a way for us to wrest the subject from political and partisan wrangling and
claim it as our own.
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12, May 15, 2005
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