July 15, 2005 VOLUME 14
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
age of abuse victims is between 28 and 34 for women, and 30 to 35 for men.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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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