July 15, 2005 VOLUME 14


To our readers,

Although the recent presidential election farce in Iran was billed by the clerical regime as a display of Iranians’ national will, the desire for real change was put on public display during a major women’s protest earlier in the month in Tehran. Iranian women by all indications and reports received for Iran overwhelmingly boycotted both rounds of the recent elections. And with that, they sent a clear message to message to mullahs’ new president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "If you win the rat race, you're still a rat”. Many Iranian women see Ahmadinejad’s win as a blessing in disguise, something which would hasten regime’s ultimate collapse. "This is the best result," housewife Maryam, 54, told Reuters. “Now the people and the world won't be fooled by these fake reformers who have been in power. The moment of real change has just got much closer." Iranians, particularly women, for long have viewed the elections under the rule of tyrannical theocracy as meaningless and the office of presidency as lacking legitimacy. To them, terms such as “moderate”, “reformer”, or “pragmatist” are misnomers when it comes to the inner workings of the clerical regime.

According to Iran’s constitution, women cannot become president. Yet, with their relentless struggle against the mullahs, they have played an instrumental role in exposing the inherent incompatibility between women’s demand for equality and the nature of fundamentalist regime.

Much has been made in the West about the progress of women under “reformist” Mohammad Khatami. One, however, has to look at the social, political and economic status of women in Iran to see the hollowness of such suggestions. The record of Khatami’s eight years in the office is studded with propagation of prostitution, trafficking of teen-age boys and girls abroad, 23 cases of death by stoning, public lashing, and public hanging of teenage Iranians, including a 16-year-old mentally ill girl last summer. 

According to the 2005 annual Trafficking in Person Report released by the United States Department of State, Iran is “a source, transit and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of sexual and labor exploitation”. 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. As reports from Iran indicate, in April 2005, a number of government and State Security Officials were arrested in Neka (Northern Iran) as part of the ring forcing girls as young as 13 into prostitution.  Under Khatami’s watch the suicide rate among women, suffering from tremendous social and political despair, reached the highest in the world where 81% of victims were between the ages of 15 to 31. While some officials boast that 60% of students in Iran’s university are women, they fail to mention the 11% employment rate among women. Facts speak volume when it comes to Khatami’s record on women’s issues.

In short, the misogyny in Iran is an institutionalized phenomenon stemming from the fundamentalist nature of ruling regime. Now with the win of Ahmadinejad, signaling the dominance of the most extreme faction of the ruling regime on all centers of power, one should expect an increased crackdown on women. It must be noted that in the view of Ahmadinejad, the darling of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the idea of women's equal participation in society is "negative, primitive and childish." Ahmadinejad, a former commander of Iran’s ideological army Revolutionary Guards and a hostage-taker, has been reported to have been directly responsible for suppression, execution and hanging of female political activists particularly in 1980s.The women of Iran are the most suppressed sector. Their struggle, however, has shown that they are the most politically active sector of the society as well. They seek strategies which look beyond the realm of the theocracy for achieving political, social and legal equality.

Echoing similar demands in other rallies, Iranian women declared at the conclusion of their June 12th that “democracy will not be possible in Iran unless full rights of women are recognized”. Their declaration emphasized that the women’s organized movement will press on until democracy and freedom is established in Iran. World has been slow to respond and recognize the democratic desires of youth and women in Iran who are spearheading the democracy movement in Iran. They do not intend to outsource efforts for unseating the ruling change to a foreign force. Neither have they seen any benefit in pursuing the anti-Iranian and anti-women policy of engagement with the mullahs. No amount of dialogue or talks will improve the situation of women and human rights in Iran.

Indeed, the people of Iran have widely subscribed to a third policy option for achieving fundamental change in Iran through Iranian people’s democracy movement.  This legitimate option demands the Western governments, particularly the European Union, to cut off all ties with Tehran’s regime. As for Washington, it needs to place its full and unprejudiced support for the democratic opposition in Iran at the center of its policy politically and internationally isolate Tehran to demonstrate its seriousness promoting equality and democracy. Women have set the tone for real change in Iran. They are leading a democracy movement that will bring equality through establishment of a secular government, while fully respecting religious believes of people. Indeed the moment of real change is much closer.


E-Zan Featured Headlines


Agance France Presse – June 22, 2005

Left in a state of shock by Mahmood Ahmadinejad's surprise election success, young professional women in Tehran fear they could lose all their hard-won new freedoms if the ultra-conservative wins the presidency, according to AFP. "We are always worried. We have never been working at ease. But now, with Ahmadinejad as an option, I can say that worries could turn into a crisis. I do not know what to say," said film director Manijeh Hekamt. "The crackdowns on young people would heat up like in the 1980s because Ahmadinejad's people arose in that period," said Saeedeh Eslamieh, a journalist on the centrist paper Shargh."A part of youth in our society who spend the evenings in coffee shops will have to retreat to the haven of houses as the consequence of the fresh harassments." Ahmadinejad has complained of "uncontrolled" cultural policies in the past years and accused organised networks of "propagating decadence." Mahnaz, 29, a graphic artist said: "Compared to previous years, I think we have more freedom in personal issues, like choosing the colour we like and he would pull us back to two decades ago with regard to such freedoms." "His restrictions will only last a few months. His ideas are so the antithesis of our own that people will not let him stick to his intransigent positions," added Mahnaz, the graphic artist. Another young woman enjoying the peace of the park, who does not want to give her name as she squeezes the hand of her boyfriend, vowed Iranian women will not accept a new battery of restrictions on their freedom.


Iran Focus – July 4, 2005

A hospital belonging to the Revolutionary Guards in the Iranian capital is refusing entry for women not wearing the head-to-toe covering known as chador, according to local residents. Security guards outside the main entrance of Baqiyatollah Hospital were seen turning away women who were not wearing the chador. Canadian Photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died in Baqiyatollah Hospital in July 2003, after being taken there from Evin Prison where she lost her consciousness under torture. Shahram Azam, a physician who examined Kazemi on her arrival at the hospital, fled to Canada last year and has revealed gruesome details about the torture inflicted on the journalist and the way hospital authorities covered up the issue.


WorldDaily.net – July 7, 2005

An Iranian movement says it now has recruited 40,000 human "time bombs" to carry out suicide attacks against Americans in Iraq and Israel. In the July 2 television feature, spokesman Mohammad 'Ali Samedi said that since the movement's beginning a year and a half ago, he has been busy signing up recruits, organizing conventions and training members for martyrdom operations. Supporters of the movement include members of parliament and Revolutionary Guards officers, but Samedi insists it is not a government organization and is not supported by the Iranian regime. However, Iranian political leader Ali Khamenei and Revolutionary Guards Gen. Shabani praised the culture of martyrdom and jihad in speeches to students, urging them to become martyrs themselves in order to resist enemies, particularly the United States. The July 2 program includes an interview with a female member named Vesaly. "We are first and foremost Muslims and it is our duty to defend our brothers and sisters throughout the world," she says. "We don't need permission from anybody. This has to do with our religious duty and responsibilities. This is our choice, and we have no fear. We adhere to the legacy of our late leader, Imam Khomeini." In the broadcast, the reporter says, "These young women have forsaken the temptations of life, and have taken the hard way. Indeed, they have chosen martyrdom as a way of liberating the Islamic lands. This is what they say." The group does not distinguish between men and women or between Sunnis and Shiites, the reporter says over chants of "We all sacrifice for the sake of Islam." The reason they are sacrificing, the reporter says, is "what America has done in the holy places of Najaf and Karbala" in Iraq.


Iran Focus – July 11, 2005

With the arrival of a top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as the country’s new police chief, Iran’s state-run media announced a new summer-long crackdown on “social vice” in Tehran targeting in particular young women and runaway girls. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed on Saturday Brigadier General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, the number two in the paramilitary Bassij and commander of the force in Greater Tehran, as Iran’s new chief of police. A senior security official told one of Iran’s state-run news agencies, ISNA, that “mal-veiled or unveiled individuals inside and outside of cars” would be the target of arrests by Iran’s State Security Forces, the paramilitary police force. SSF in Tehran would also be on the lookout for “open examples of corruption in tourist and recreation resorts”. The top official said the police would embark on a systematic clampdown on “shops and public places where public chastity and Islamic values are ignored”. Loud music will no longer be tolerated, he said. Runaway girls and homeless young women would also be the target of arrests, and Tehran’s police force would also identify and crack down on places where “corrupt people gather”, the report added. The appointment of Ahmadi Moghaddam, who is among the top commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and a protégé of IRGC Commandant General Rahim Safavi, brings the country’s police force under the complete domination of the Revolutionary Guards and signals a readiness to crack down harder on what the ultra-conservatives see as “deviation” from the country’s rigid religious laws. Moghaddam was quoted by the state-run daily Kayhan as saying in November 2004, “A country where liberal ideas rule will get no where”.


Iran Focus – July 12, 2005

Most runaway girls in Iran are raped within the first 24 hours of their departure, according to an Iranian government official speaking to the BBC. Dr. Hadi Motamedi, the head of Social Ills Prevention Unit of the Health Ministry, said that the majority of such victims are rejected by their families if they choose to return after having been raped. Iran has one of the highest records of runaway girls and women in the world. In June, the U.S. State Department stated in its annual Trafficking in Persons Report that Iran was a source, transit, and destination country for women and girls trafficked for the purposes of sexual and labour exploitation. The DoS Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons noted that “the Government of Iran does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”.
“Internal trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation and children for forced labour also takes place”, it said, adding that such practices are fuelled by an increasing number of vulnerable groups, such as runaway women, street children, and drug addicts.
In April, a number of government officials and security officers were arrested during raids on at least five houses used as brothels in and around the town of
Neka, northern Iran. Many runaway girls, some as young as 13, were being forced into prostitution by organized child prostitution rings. A number of officers from Iran’s notorious State Security Forces (SSF), commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and heads of a number of local government departments and institutions were among those rounded up in the raids.


E-Zan Featured Reports

Gender pressure in Iran
Toledo Blade - Editorial
Jun 28, 2005

The ayatollahs must be getting nervous. Iranian women have had it with being treated like property, as their recent protests against gender discrimination suggest. In the first public protest since 1979, when they were forced to wear veils after the fall of the Shah, Iranian women took to the streets to denounce the discrimination and let politicians know that they are weary of promises for gender equity.

Protests by up to 450 women reflected determination, skill, and some risk. Demonstrations outside Tehran University and another about two blocks away underscored the women's weariness with the discrimination.

A few days before that demonstration, for the first time since the Islamic revolution forbid them from watching games in stadiums, they forced their way in to the Azadi Stadium to watch a soccer game.

The late Ayatollah Khomeni would be outraged. Such protests lay the foundation for change, and women in the free world support them.

According to Iranian law, women's value is less than half that of men, and they only inherit half as much as their brothers. Plus, only men can have up to four spouses and divorce at any time. Although usually highly educated, women must have their husband's permission to work outside the home. Rarely are women promoted, and they comprise a mere 14 percent of the government.

The protests sent a resounding message to the candidates in Iran's presidential election that Iranian women have been taken for granted long enough. The women, who can vote, say by their protests that they may not back candidates who merely pay lip service to gender equality. For 20 years women have supported such candidates, but to no avail.

Women in Iran know the protests have an impact. Why else would officials have deployed so many police to contain the demonstrations? If the Iranian government didn't get their message this time, they will. More protests are coming. Iranian women want and deserve change, and they seem determined to pursue it.


In Iraq, Iranian-Style Theocracy is taking hold

International Herald Tribune – Edward Wong

July 8, 2005

BASRA, Iraq -The once-libertine oil port of Basra, 560 kilometers, or 350 miles, south of the capital and far from the insurgency raging in much of Iraq, is steadily being transformed into a mini-theocracy under Shiite rule.  The growing ties with Iran are evident. Posters of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, are plastered along streets and even at the provincial government center.

 The Iranian government opened a polling station downtown for Iranian expatriates during elections in their home country in June. The governor also talks eagerly of buying electricity from Iran, given that the U.S.-led effort has failed to provide enough of it.

 "The political situation is very confused and very mixed up," said Saleh Najim, dean of the engineering college at Basra University. "Most of the radical Islamic parties are concentrated in Basra. The people feel very upset about these parties. They are wasting our time."

 Basra is not yet entirely in the grip of fundamentalism - pirated copies of American movies like "Showgirls" and "Striptease" can still be bought in the market. But conservative rule has affected daily life. Thursday and Friday have been designated the official weekend, rather than Friday and Saturday as in Baghdad, because Saturday is the Jewish day of rest.

Few women walk around without a head scarf and full-length black robe. A young woman who gave her name as Layla said she could wear jeans without a robe a year ago. But seven months ago, as she strode from her house, a group of men came up to her and warned her that she was improperly dressed. She says she no longer goes out in public without a robe. Religious Shiites do not have to legally enshrine Shariah, Islam's version of divine law, to exercise their will. Enforcement of Islamic practices is done on the streets, in the shadows.

 "We're trying to do it culturally, rather than impose it by law," said Furat al-Shara, a representative for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite political party that holds powerful positions in the national government.

 Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Bahadli, a top official in the Sadr movement prominent in the National Assembly, summed up the conservative view: "If Shariah exists everywhere in the world, in China, Korea or Japan, for example, and not just in Iraq, everyone will be happy."

 Politicians loyal to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and to Ayatollah Muhammad Yacoubi, a radical cleric close to the Sadr movement, dominate the 41-seat Basra provincial council. The governor, Muhammad al-Waeli, belongs to the ayatollah's party.  

Arriving in a convoy from Iran, he said Iraq, particularly the south, could benefit from closer ties to its Shiite neighbor. "The great Islamic Republic has a very formidable government," he said at a news conference. "It can be very useful to us, and it has a very honorable attitude toward Iraq."

But even in the south, many people still distrust Iran and political parties linked to it. Nearly one million people died in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, which started in 1980 over control of the Shatt al-Arab, the waterway here that flows into the Gulf. If the residents of this region begin to feel that Iran is exerting too much influence, they could turn against the governing Shiite parties.


Violence Against Women in Iran

UN Report, July 2005

On the occasion of the Universal Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, with the cooperation of the Iranian Women Journalists Association, organized an expertise sitting on Domestic Violence against Women. The sitting opened with the message of the UN Secretary General read by the director of the United Nations Information Centre in Tehran, Mr. Sunil Naroala. Presenting a report on the situation of violence against women, Ms. Zahra Nejadbahram, from the Information Committee of Women Journalists Association, said, “In developed countries, 63% of women and 67% of men see the use of tranquilisers as the main reason behind violence being committed against women. The same research also indicated that 90% of men are the main instigators of violence against women, and over 90% of the violence victims are in fact women.” Nejadbahram also said, “Women suffer mental or physical abuse from their husbands or their partners. Forty percent of women and thirty percent of men were raised in families with violence, and violence was something that they learnt from childhood. Sociologists believe that violence is not genetic, but it’s something that is taught and learnt. The individual within society and the family learns violence. A boy child learns how to be violent, and therefore in the future he subjects his wife to the same kind of violence that he saw his father commit. This kind of behaviour gradually becomes visible in the society at large. When women see violence committed against members of their own sex, these women themselves become victims of mental abuse. Most women that are abused have learnt to accept violence and abuse within the family atmosphere. This is the collective of behaviours is what we teach our children, and the society remains silent towards this unbalanced behaviour, by accepting abuse in other words.

The average age of abuse victims is between 28 and 34 for women, and 30 to 35 for men.”

Stating that the research on abused women was conducted in several towns and that most cases were in Tehran, Nejadbahram said, “the literacy level does not have a direct link on abuse and its acceptance, because out of the people that were studied, only eleven percent were either poorly educated or not educated at all. Women that were subjected to abuse had average education. Also 25% of women abuse victims’ husbands had abuse records. 61% of children of abuse victims had poor education performance, and showed particular sensitivity towards people’s behaviour towards them. I believe that women living in society have either been subjected to abuse, or seen or heard of abuse taking place. Most of the abuse takes place in the first weeks and months of married life, and over 40% of divorces take place within the first five years of marriage. One out of every six women in the world have been subjected to physical abuse.” Nejadbahram called upon the legal community to devise more sensitivity towards protective laws, and to amend existing laws whenever and wherever need may be. She further added, “the couts and police forms must make some amendments. If in the past men had been taught that women are good at keeping family matters to remain within the family and wear white clothes, today, we say they should be taught in a correct manner, and mass communication has reached a level that women must not stay silent and must defend their rights. Today the term is a joint house and not husband’s house, if the courts or the police help and support women, then there won’t be any unkind treatments.”

Following Ms. Nejadbahnam, the next speaker was the head of the Family Court Complex, Mrs Abbas Jaafari who said, “Violence against women is not just a domestic issue, but it’s a global issue, something that also exists in our country, because it’s a humanity issue, and is due to culture and education. Article 7 of the ICC Statute mentions rape, slavery and abuse against women which is conducted in an organized manner, as crimes against humanity, and calls upon the signing member states to find solutions to these issues in their own countries.”

Jaafari split abuse into three groups and said, “Within the family, abuse can be put into three categories, physical, economic and emotional. The most endurable of these abuses is mental abuses, which does not leave any outward scars. In our Koran culture we have it that women should be kept in best of conditions, and we should let them go in the best of conditions also. But right now we don’t keep them in the best of either conditions. The woman is kept under such pressure that she either gives in or mentally she gets exhausted, which is the worst kind of treatment she can receive. In Iran they don’t divorce the women or treat them properly. In fact the woman becomes lost, and if a woman goes to court, she must prove violence is committed against her, something that is not easy to do. In view of these issues, we are facing a serious cultural and educational problem, and most of the statistics is to do with abuse against women.

With regards to physical abuse, fortunately the law has foreseen the necessary measures. In Article 1130 of the Civil Code, the matter of hardship, one of the five paragraphs states that if the wife is assaulted and battered, or treated in any intolerable way, she is deemed to be in hardship and may file for divorce. This is also the same in child custody cases.”

Stating that the Islamic religious culture treats women gently, but our social culture is wrong Jaafari said, “Economic abuse means that the husband misuses the legal privileges of delegation of work within the law, to an extent that women are left helpless and become vulnerable. In fact the abuse that is inflicted on women in the case of maintenance is not any less than physical abuse. Maintenance has a complex religious basics, which has been linked to patronization, and because of lack of knowledge of laws women become hurt and vulnerable. Therefore our laws need to be reviewed and amended, so that men stop denying women work opportunities.

Sometimes it is observed that some courts forbid women to work, although this is not an abuse, but it is distressing nonetheless. We need groups to come to the assistance of the judicial machinery. Of course we accept that in some cases mistakes are made within the judiciary, but we need to work in education and culture, and we state that our men have learnt abuse in an inceptive way.

In all its forms, abuse inflicts the most significant damages to society, but through education we can draft protective laws. Our religion is a religion of respect, compassion and gentleness, and unfortunately none of these virtues are observed enough. We have good teachings in our religion, but there is no one to teach these teachings. We are ready to draw the cooperation of NGOs in the matter of hardship.

Men don’t divorce women because of the divorce laws. If women want a divorce, their claim must fall in one of the five paragraphs of Article 1130, and must prove their case. And due to enough legal awareness and not being able to afford a legal council, women suffer greatly in this regard.”

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Volume 14, July 15, 2005

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