E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
Thousands of Iranians
came together on September 14th in New York City to denounce the presence
of Iran's new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the United Nations. The vast
majority, ranged from 15000 to 20,000, of demonstrators were supporters of the
National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), whose president
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi lives in exile in France.
record represents a regime that stands on 26 years of state-sponsor of
violence against women. His inauguration followed by severe crackdown on
Iranian Kurds, arrests and 53 public hanging and execution of individuals,
among them three women and minors. Ahmadinejad is well known for his terrorist
activities at home and abroad.
One can only wonder how could the United
Nations host such a criminal individual, while upholding the ideals of Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms
of Discrimination against Women!
Nearly 170 world leaders
came together, yet no word was said about the on-going violence against women
in Iran. No mention of
Ahmadinejad’s record for killing political prisoners! As the diplomats chose
silence, the civil society outside of the UN building chose a vociferous rally,
united in saying: “Ahamdinejad is a terrorist, Down with Ahmadinejad”. The crowd also
declared “United we stand, Against Mullah’s terror mind”.
This issue of E-Zan is
dedicated to the conscious voices who chose to speak and break the silence
against the tyrants of Iran. While women of Iran continue to defy the
misogyny by Ahmadinjad and alike, they urge more unity among the civil
societies, especially women’s NGO’s, in defeating Islamic fundamentalism in Iran.Ahmadinejad presidency
represents the will of fundamentalist regime in Tehran and not the Iranian people. His
presidency was manufactured by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and
holds no popular legitimacy. Until Iranian people have free and fair elections,
United Nations should not recognize Ahmadinejad as the head of Iranian state.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
RFE/RL – August 25, 2005
In Iran, most children drop out
of school after completing primary school or after completing the first three
years of secondary school.
Shirzad Abdollahi, an education expert in Tehran, says the drop-out rate
among girls in rural areas is high.
”After completing elementary school, usually most of these pupils have to go to
other regions or provinces to be able to continue their education. Because of
cultural reasons, families prefer to send their boys to school, and keep their
daughters,” Abdollahi says.
Abdollahi says most boys leave schools because they don’t find the school
curriculum attractive and don’t have a hope that their studies will guarantee
them a good future.”…there are limited possibilities for sports and few
laboratories. Furthermore, the students do not see any prospect for finding a
good job after completing secondary school or gaining money or respect in the
society,” Abdollahi says. The diploma that students receive in Iran after completing
secondary school does not guarantee them a good job. Unemployment is a major
issue in Iran.
AftabState News Agency – September 3, 2005
In a gathering of the
high ranking members of the public health administration, one of Ahmadinejad’s cabinet
ministers stated that the sexual intercourse between couples should happen at
specific times of day so that according to sharia law the chances of inception
of a retarded baby is minimized. A correspondent reporting from that meeting
states that: In his speech he gave priority to prevention of diseases and said
if all the verses of Quran were observed, these handicaps would be
prevented.In this meeting where some
participants were women, he specified at what times during the day the sexual
intercourse should happen so that healthy babies are produced. The report
specifies that some of those in attendance felt very uncomfortable and some
were blushing. This minister has a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a
Master’s degree in System Engineering.
Iran Focus – September 6, 2005
Women who violate Iran’s strict Islamic dress
code will be flogged immediately, prosecutor’s offices in provincial centers
announced on Tuesday. In the central Iranian city of Shahin-Shahr, the prosecutor’s
office posted huge notices on billboards and shop windows warning women that
dress code violators will appear before an Islamic judge immediately after
arrest to receive a sentence, usually 100 lashes in public. The prosecutor will
be demanding maximum penalties, the notice warned. ”Individuals whose state of
attire and make-up is against religious laws in public will be prosecuted
without having to first wait in a queue and will be sentenced to flogging and
fines”, the statement said. ”Scarves which do not cover the hair and neck”,
“tight overcoats or coats that which finish above the knees and whose sleeves
cover to a point higher than the wrist”, “tight trousers which do not cover the
calf of the leg”, and “women’s make-up” are all forbidden, according to the
statement, which added that failure to adhere to the dress code would be dealt
with accordingly. Women whose scarves do not properly cover up their hair will
face between 10 days to 10 months in prison, the statement added.
JomhouriIslami State-Run News Paper – September 6, 2005
The regime's ruling newspaper,
belonging to Mullah Khamenei, blamed Iranian women and girls, in an article
entitled "The main reason for social corruption and ills," and called
upon the disciplinary forces to exert all the necessary force in confronting
This newspaper wrote: "Families are not only troubled by hoodlums and
misfits. The actions of these hoodlums and misfits are as a result of other
people's influences upon which the commander of the disciplinary forces did not
expound. The main problem of our society today stems from sloppy women and
girls whose veiling problems are a constant concern and of course there's the
prostitutes who are the source of trouble on the streets. Those hoodlums
and misfits who harass women and girls would never think of bothering proper
and sophisticated women who are veiled according to the Islamic rules and
maintain decent and respectable standards. Women who are not properly veiled
and dress in a common and garish way are looking to be harassed and attacked.
Therefore these women and girls are the real reason for the actions of these
hoodlums to begin with."
Hambstegi Meli Website – September 8 2005
In accordance with the laws of the
security forces governing public places, women should have a male executive
assistant in order to run a restaurant. This law is concerned with all the
women who apply for restaurant management permission.
According to the president of the
restaurant owner’s association, “Mohammad Hossein Armin”, in addition to producing
all the necessary documents and successfully passing all the steps, women need
to have a male executive assistant in order to apply for restaurant ownership.
Armin who was interviewed in the “Cultural Inheritance” magazine said that this
law applies to all the women who submit an application.
Iran Focus – September 9, 2005
Female restaurant managers in Iran will be required to name a man as
the person who will carry out the management on their behalf, or else their
businesses will be shut down, the country’s police force announced on Friday.
According to the Public Places Inspection Office of the para-military
police, Iranian restaurants must be managed by men to prevent “social
corruption”. The new announcement was confirmed by the head of Union of Restaurant
Owners, who claimed that apart from the regular licence
required, if a man was not appointed as manager, the restaurant would not be
given a government approval permit and would face closure.
Peike Iran Website – September 9, 2005
(State-run source: Fars News) According to the United Nations
Human Development Report the Islamic Republic of Iran ranks 155 among 165
nations of the world in Women’s Economic Activities and empowerment.
[WFAFI: Other studies (source Iran Focus 9/11/05) indicate that over the past four
decades, despite the fact that women constitute half of the population in Iran, the men-women employment ratio
reached 90-10 respectively. Strikingly, while women have made up more than 60
percent of university entrants in the past five years, the recent survey showed
that women represent only 12 percent of the country’s economically active
Focus - September 12, 2005
A young Iranian mother was sentenced
to execution in the town of Langaroud, northern Iran, the semi-official daily JomhouriIslami reported on
Monday. The young woman was identified as 19-year-old HajarVafi from the nearby town of Lahijan. She has a two-year-old infant.
She was sentenced to execution after an Islamic court in Langaroud
convicted her of murdering her aunt earlier this year following a dispute over
E-Zan Featured Reports
Justice Minister vows harsher crackdown on women
Iran Focus August 20, 2005
Tehran - The man designated by
Iran’s hard-line President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as his Minister of Justice vowed on Saturday that
“improperly-veiled women” will be treated as if they had no Islamic veil at
all. Jamal Karimi-Rad told the local press, “Being improperly veiled and not
wearing a veil are no different. When it is clear from the appearance of a
woman that she has violated the law, then the crime is obvious and law
enforcement agents can take legal measures against her”. ”Crimes such as
mal-veiling or other prohibited acts, which happen before the eyes of a law
enforcement agent, are evident crimes and must be dealt with in accordance with
the law”, Karimi-Rad said. Karimi-Rad also made it clear that members of the
para-military Bassij and the notorious Ansar-e Hizbollah, government-organized
gangs of hooligans, are regarded as law enforcement agents in clergy-ruled Iran. Women have been facing
a harsher crackdown since the June elections that led to Ahmadinejad’s
presidency.In July, Iran deployed squads of
women-only vice police to clamp down on “un-Islamic” dress. The semi-official
Jomhouri Islami recently reported that women have been arrested in Iran for “disrespecting
Islamic virtues and for having repulsive and immoral attire”. With the arrival
of a top commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards
as the country’s new police chief, a new summer-long crackdown on “social vice”
in Tehran was launched targeting young women. State-run
news agencies reported 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. The police would also embark on a
systematic clampdown on “shops and public places where public chastity and
Islamic values are ignored”.
A woman came to me
weeping. "You have to tell our story. You have to tell our story!
Special to the SF
Chronicle, Sean Penn
August 25, 2005
…During his visit to Iran in June, Sean Penn had
the chance to witness a rare demonstration in support of women's rights. The
demonstration was to begin at I wanted to refresh a
bit, so I took a shower at the hotel and began to dress when, at about , my companions Reese Erlich, Norman Solomon and
Babak knocked on my door. They'd gotten an update. What had been anticipated as
likely violence the evening before was now considered certain…We headed down to
the demonstration. As we approached TehranUniversity, traffic slowed to a
stop. It was hot in the car. And sweaty. I could see people on overlooking apartment
balconies, pointing in the direction of the demonstration and then retreating
inside. The closer we got, the louder the volume of the couple of thousand
people before us. The singing of the demonstrators, the honking of horns, the
heckling of the crowd were rising. I was taping through the windshield as we
approached. A traffic light came into my viewfinder and turned to red.
At this point, rather than stay car-bound, I
suggested we walk into the demonstration on foot. People were being pushed,
tempers were rising, but for the moment, we could see that the demonstrators
had not yet been dispersed. There were uniformed police, yelling in threatening
tones, and I was taping as I walked. I zoomed through the crowd catching
several close images of some of the 100 female demonstrators. Women were
prepared to take a baton across the head or more as the cost of speaking out.
As we walked through the crowd, I led the way, being jostled about, moving
closer and closer to the center of the demonstration. A demonstration like this
is quite rare in today's Iran and was probably
planned to correspond with the election-week presence of international press.
Of course, I knew that either the camera or my Western face could promote any
number of responses in this kind of situation, and on my video screen, there he
was: one of many who were considered to be plainclothes intelligence officers
infiltrating the crowd. (This would later be confirmed by several sources.) I
didn't understand what he was yelling at me, but I knew he was displeased with
my presence and my camera. I said to him, "American journalist!" He
yelled, "No camera! No camera!"…
This was the muscle of
the oppressor I was looking at, perhaps of the Baseej, one of the violent
volunteer militias in Tehran. Or, as it turned out
to be, an officer of the intelligence ministry. We struggled briefly over the
camera. I didn't know what the limits were exactly. I struggled with my left
hand to retrieve my journalist's credential from my pocket…The longer I held on
to the camera, the more likely I'd get hit in the back of the head by one of
his cronies. So I let the camera go as he held onto my wrist and pulled me
through the crowd. In all the chaos, I was separated from Norman and Reese. We
had planned that if anything like this happened, whoever could stay and get the
story would. We prearranged a meeting place should we be separated, but those
would turn out to be the best-laid plans of mice, and the snakes had something
else in mind. I couldn't see Maryam, our translator, at this point, but I knew
she was close behind me. As I forcefully presented my journalist's credential,
the bastard snatched that from my grasp as well. Now I had a hand pushing my
hip forward behind me. It's hard to imagine that guys like this have friends,
but evidently he did. And then Maryam appeared at my left shoulder, urgently
explaining to the officer that I was an accredited American journalist. He
released his grasp on my wrist…he did return my camera and credential, forcing
me to put the camera into my pocket, which it barely fit into, and giving us a
shove into traffic to cross the street and away from the demonstration. It was
a dance of thousands of people, many of them men, and most supported the
demonstrators. Others just observed with curiosity, pouring through the street
onto the crowded sidewalk opposite the university. For a moment, looking back
at the demonstration, I caught a glimpse of Norman. He was within feet of
the demonstrators, seemingly invisible while he recorded and took notes. I was
envious because I was suddenly recognized by a lot of people. "What are
you doing here?" "Be careful. They'll beat you or arrest you."
My video camera was closed in my pocket, but it was not turned off. It was
still running. And I recorded all that followed on audio. Several people warned
me that interspersed in the crowd were a large number of anti-reformist
vigilantes and intelligence officers. "They'll approach as friends;
they'll stand by and listen to your conversations." Some people were less
concerned with being overheard.
A woman came to me
weeping. "You have to tell our story. You have to tell our story! They've
just beaten two of the women." The demonstration had turned somewhat
violent, but it was more a series of whirlpools within the sea of people than a
tidal wave throughout. I was told that one of the women who was beaten had her
hijab ripped from her head. These hijabs are tied tight and don't come off
easily. She defied her assailant's order to put her hijab back on. She said,
"You took it off." And with enormous courage, she went on with her
protest. As the story was told to me, her assailant impotently went back to his
duties of crowd control. A telling example of the power in courage.
As Maryam went back to
the crowd to try to find Reese and Norman, the police began to arrest
journalists. By day's end, approximately 30 journalists were jailed. I ran into
one well-known, and I will confess, left-leaning Western journalist who
suggested I make an effort to get arrested, that it would "make a great
story." So that's the way they play it, huh? Maryam returned dazed and
alone, unable to find Reese and Norman. She then tried Reese on a cell phone
that he'd acquired, but the intelligence ministry had initiated the use of
jamming devices, shutting down all cellular phone signals in the area of the
demonstration. With no intention, beyond a desire to make another attempt to
get some pictures, I said, "We'll find them later. I want to try to get
back into the demonstration." We pushed our way across the street. Two
older women in chadors passed. They whispered to me, "We don't want the
mullahs, we just have to pretend we do." They disappeared into the crowd.
With car fenders pressing against our legs, Maryam and I serpentined through
the crowd and automobiles until we were shoulder to shoulder among the throngs,
within about 40 feet of the center of the demonstration. And then everything
got loud. Really loud.
A line of uniform
policemen began batoning the mass of which we were a part. There was screaming
and panic. And our bodies were four-walling each other -- you could barely
move. It certainly seemed as if some could have been trampled, though as far as
I know, that did not occur. But the following describes the irony of
oppression: There was a woman among the panicking crowd. She reached her hand
toward mine and I took it. Between us, we'd support each other out of this
chaos. \All of this couldn't have lasted more than 40 seconds, but at the end
of it, the force of the police had only forced an illegal touch between a man
and a woman. We parted instantly as the police stepped back from the line they
had been assaulting. The crowd dispersed somewhat. I crossed back to the
opposite sidewalk, rendezvousing finally with Reese and Norman, who by now had
been forced away from the demonstration as well. I was getting too much
attention on the street as a movie face, and I felt inappropriately engaged by
it. So, while Reese and Norman continued interviews on the sidewalk, I jumped
in a car with Babak and his wife. They dropped me off at the hotel, where I
waited for Norman and Reese's return.
That evening, we dined
at a pan-Asian restaurant called Monsoon in the trendy section of town.
Evidently, some journalists had witnessed the confiscation of my camera and
press credential, and there had been reports that I had been beaten. I worried
that my family would hear this distorted news, so I borrowed a local cell phone
and called home. Next, we got a call from someone within the police department
apologizing for what had occurred. But, while they were apologizing to me on
the telephone, an Iranian journalist arrested at the scene reportedly was
beaten in their jail that same evening for protesting the verbal abuse of him
and the other detained journalists.Within hours of these reports and the embarrassment of my treatment (I
was unharmed), all 30 journalists were released. We had just asked for the
dinner bill when Maryam got an urgent call on her cell phone. She stepped
outside for a clearer connection and then rushed back into the restaurant with
the news. "There's just been a bombing in Tehran."…
'My sister Soma set
herself on fire rather than wear the hijab'
The Star, Sheffield, UK
30 August 2005
It is a little known fact
that there are more Iranian asylum seekers in Sheffield than any other
nationality. Richard Heath talks to one refugee about his experiences and finds
out why so many choose to leave their homeland.
IN a school in western Iran, a 14-year-old Kurdish
girl died after setting herself on fire in protest over her right not to wear
the hijab headdress.
The story nearly brings Iranian Kurd Kawa Kohnaposhe to tears. He escaped Kurdistan in 2000 after twice
being arrested and tortured for supporting the Democratic Party of Kurdistan.
He fled to Turkey, obtained false
documents and eventually arrived in Sheffield via London and Coventry. Meanwhile, the girl
began to question certain details of Islam and refused to wear the hijab.She was detained after school and after
months of torment she decided to end her life. Kawa never had the chance to say
goodbye to the 14-year-old girl, his sister, Soma.
"I only had one sister. She was only 14 when she died. I never said
goodbye to her and that has left me with a pain in my heart that won't go away.
It will be with me forever," said Kawa, speaking at his Burngreave flat.
Kawa, aged 26, had little choice but to leave behind the oppression of Kurdistan after his every move
became tracked by the Iranian intelligence service. After leaving high school
in the town of Mariwan, the then 19-year-old
began teaching at a local school. It was there where he began secretly teaching
the pupils about the Democratic Party of Kurdistan. This act caught the
attention of the Iranian government. No Kurdish resident can have a Kurdish
name. They cannot study their own language, celebrate their own festivals or
even display their own flag. Those who do are captured and tortured.
Kawa was 20 when he was arrested, taken to the local jail and subjected to two
weeks of mental and physical abuse.
He said: "They put me under pressure to tell them about my political work
but I didn't say anything. They had no evidence against me.
"So they began playing tapes of women and children screaming because they
were being beaten. Some were being abused sexually.
"Then they beat me. They tied my legs together and hung me from the
ceiling and hit me with guns and sticks." Kawa spent two weeks inside the
jail, living in a cell so small he couldn't lie down. He still suffers pain
from the beatings and during an English course at SheffieldCollege had to leave class
early so he could exercise his neck and shoulder. Council figures show that
Iranians have taken over Somalis as the largest ethnic group claiming asylum in
Sheffield. There are 149 Iranian
asylum seekers in 109 households in Sheffield. There are 129 Somalis
in 60 households. Kawa said: "Life is difficult in Kurdistan. There is always
someone watching you and you are constantly denied celebrating your culture.
"Most people don't
even know what the Kurdish flag looks like because no-one is allowed to have
one."Two months after he was
released from jail, and having been constantly monitored by the Iranian government,
Kawa was rearrested, locked up and again tortured. "They did the same
thing again but I wouldn't say anything to them.”Those 21 days were horrible
for me and for every single prisoner. They didn't treat us like humans. "I
got into politics for a reason – to change things. So, why would I tell them
anything? If I did, they would have killed me." Kawa left Kurdistan and claimed asylum in Sheffield after relatives warned
him that people captured for a third time are either detained for life or
killed. One man who was seen with a Kurdish flag was arrested and allegedly
splashed with boiling water before having his fingers chopped off. He was then
beaten, shot, cut open and his body was dumped outside his family's home as a
warning to other Kurds. "They would cut your body; they would take body parts
from you. I had to leave because I thought they would kill me. If I went back
there now I would be killed, it is as simple as that." Kawa was granted
leave to remain in the UK about four years after
arriving here. This spring he spent eight weeks shadowing teachers at St
Patrick's School in FirthPark. He told the children
stories about life in Kurdistan and helped improve his
language and teaching skills. Now Kawa plans to take a teacher training course
in London. He will temporarily have to move out of his Sheffield flat, and take with him
the Kurdish flag, which is hanging in his living room.
Iran’s Supreme Leader
insisted on gender apartheid
Women's Committee of the
National Council of Resistance of Iran
September 3, 2005
Iran-Women: Women cannot
enter any field, including financial and economic arenas - Khamenei
In an appalling and
misogynistic comment, mullahs' Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei tried to justify
gender apartheid and denying women the right to political and social activity
under the medieval theocracy ruling Iran. In remarks carried by
the state-controlled news agency, IRNA, last Sunday, Khamenei said, "Men
are suited to enter economic and financial arenas “Women, however, have
preoccupations. They must give birth and feed the child, and they are
physically, psychologically and emotionally soft. They cannot enter into every
field. They cannot tolerate every interaction. These create restrictions for
women in financial and economic fields and related activities. Men do not have
these restrictions. In this respect, privilege must be given to men because
they are strong."
As such, Khamenei again
justified systematic discrimination in law and practice against women as well as
their increasing deprivation from participating in society's social and
political affairs. In doing so, he put aside the clerical regime's pretenses of
supporting women's rights in the past eight years, particularly during the
recent sham Presidential elections, that were merely designed for foreign
To this end, a woman
Parliament deputy, Fatemeh Ajarlou, responding to the question as to why there
were no women in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet, told semi-official news agency,
ILNA, on August 29, "Not choosing a woman as a cabinet member or in the
parliament leadership is an exercise in democracy."
Another woman, Seddiqeh
Kiani, from the ultra-conservative pro-Khamenei grouping Allied Association
(Mo'talefeh) told the same news agency, "The more women are kept away from
interacting with strangers is better for them. We have no objections to the
absence of women in the cabinet." In trying to justify the mullahs'
medieval mindset, she said, "One must not insist on the presence women in
areas where men could be used. That they say a woman should not become a judge
is because women are flexible and it would not be proper for them to witness
disputes and arguments every day or issue death sentences for any one."
Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chairwoman of
NCRI's Women's Committee, said, "The mullahs' misogynous remarks are
before anything else a reflection of their fear over the increasing role women
are playing in the struggle against this misogynist regime and their pivotal
role in toppling the ruling theocracy."
Free Roya Tolouie
Kurdish Women's Rights Watch
September 6, 2005
Following the murder of
a young Kurdish citizen in the city of Mahabad on 9th July, 2005, there have been large-scale anti-governmental
demonstrations over the past six weeks in different cities and towns of Iranian
Kurdistan. The security forces have responded to these peaceful protest marches
by opening fire on both demonstrators and ordinary people on the street. Dozens
of civilians have been killed and injured, and according to official reports
more than five hundred people have been arrested. The efforts of the families
of these prisoners to get their loved ones freed have so far been unsuccessful.
Recently it has been reported that a couple of hundred prisoners have been
transferred to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. Two independent
Kurdish magazines have been banned.
Among those arrested are
a number of human rights activists, including Ms. Roya Tolouie, an activist in
the women’s movement, and a member of the Association for the Defence of Women
in Kurdistan. Roya Tolouie is a doctor in laboratory
science, a writer and the editor of a monthly magazine, Rasan. She was arrested
on August 1 along with several others, following a peaceful sit-in to demand
the release of prisoners following the recent events in Mahabad, the trial of
those who ordered and those who opened fire on peaceful demonstrations in the
cities of Kurdistan, and respect for the human and national rights
of the Kurdish people. Her husband visited her in prison on 18th August (when
she was transferred to the general detention centre, where many other prisoners
are held), but her children have not been allowed to do so.
We are deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of these and other Kurdish
political prisoners in Iran. Specifically we wish
to draw attention to the situation of Roya Tolouie and her colleagues in the
different human rights organizations, including Edjlal Ghavami, Said Saedi,
Madeh Ahmadi and Azad Zamani, arrested on the same occasion. We condemn
unreservedly the behavior of the Iranian judicial authorities in relation to
We demand that the
United Nations and the International Red Crescent should be given access to the
notorious prisons of the Islamic Republic to ascertain the health of all
political prisoners there. We also call for the release of Roya Tolouie along
with other human rights activists imprisoned on political grounds.
us your comments or op-ed on relevant topics for future issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org