October 15, 2005 VOLUME 17


To our readers,

People of Iraq went to the polling stations to vote on the new constitution today. While progress and democratic governance is critical for Iraqis, many have expressed grave concerns over the specific language pertaining women’s rights and their future role. Outspoken critics have described the constitution as flawed for not doing enough for women’s' rights or to insure the separation of church and state.

Iranian women are particularly watchful of the developing situation in Iraq given Tehran’s strategic goals to export Islamic fundamentalism. Rightfully so, the world is concerned about the increasing meddling of Tehran in Iraqi’s affair. Some have suggested and provided extensive evidence on how the language of the Iraqi constitution was influenced by the  Iranian regime.  

Tehran is politically and socially  bankrupt at home and will benefit greatly by having a proxy regime in Baghdad. Women are the prime target of Islamic fundamentalism, so there is a pressing need to be vigilant about the future of Iraqi women. However, women of Iraq will have no better ally than women of Iran and Afghanistan in defeating Islamic Fundamentalism. Currently, Tehran is the sole empowered model of Islamic fundamentalism in the world. Global women’s movement must unite to prevent Tehran’s meddling in Iraqi’s affairs. There should be a global political voice against Islamic fundamentalism.

As the leaders of the world, particularly in Washington, are becoming more and more conscious of the political and ideological danger of Islamic Fundamentalism, they must look to Muslim women to lead the path in defeating this threat. No one, except the Muslim women of Iran, can challenge Tehran’s regime in its entirety. Only Muslim women can disarm those who justify terrorism and violence in the name of Islam.

 Let us listen to political voice of Muslim women of Iran and Iraq before it is too late.

E-Zan Featured Headlines

The Wallstreet JournalSeptember 19, 2005

…As the Bush administration's Iraq strategy enters a crucial period that is meant to culminate in two elections and set the stage for a military withdrawal, the White House's public-relations push is being complicated by the surprising anger the constitution is sparking among Republicans and others normally supportive of President Bush. The critics have expressed alarm about the provisions concerning women's rights, the role of Islam in Iraqi daily life and the deference accorded to Shiite clerics with close religious and cultural ties to neighboring Iran. In a letter late last month to President Bush, meanwhile, Republican Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, joined by Democratic Rep. Ellen Tauscher of California, expressed "deep concern" that the draft constitution "holds the potential for codifying discrimination against women as well as limiting fundamental human rights for all Iraqis in a manner that may threaten the growth of democracy and freedom in Iraq.” The lawmakers said they are especially concerned by provisions mandating that "no laws may contradict the fixed principles of Islam" and creating a supreme court composed of experts in Islamic law that will have the power to strike laws down as unconstitutional…


State-run News Agency, IRNA – September 25, 2005

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a decree issued on Sunday appointed Nasrin Soltankhah as his advisor for women's affairs and head of the Center for Women's Participation (CWP). According to a report released by the Presidential Office Media Department, in his decree the president referred to women's crucial role in uplifting the Islamic community in the post-revolutionary era and attributed their active participation in various fields to the founder of the Islamic Revolution, the late Imam Khomeini. "Under the present atmosphere, the Iranian women symbolize freedom and chastity…”


Agence France Presse – September 26, 2005

Women's rights activists in Iraq say rising extremism is restricting their freedom, even as the country prepares to vote on a constitution that is touted as one of the Arab world's most progressive regarding women. "Women cannot walk freely out in the street," said activist Ban Jamil, who directs the Rasafa Branch of the Assyrian Women's Union, a local non-governmental organization in Baghdad. "Women face a lack of respect when they walk uncovered," said Jamil, a Christian, who said women are insulted if they show too much skin or walk in public without wearing the Islamic veil, or hijab, to cover their hair. She blamed "imported extremist doctrines, which were never experienced in the past" for the new restrictions. The tide of Islamization has risen in Iraq as fundamentalist Shiite parties have come to power following the ouster of former dictator Saddam Hussein. Although not enforced by the newly established laws, which were written under U.S. patronage, a conservative dress code is widely observed in much of the war-torn country. But conservative dress in Iraq is not as universally strict as in neighboring Shiite Iran, or ultra-conservative Sunni Saudi Arabia, where women have to cover from head-to-toe in public.


Al Sharg Al Awsat – September 28, 2005

Iraqi women do not hide their worries regarding the imposed restrictions against their freedom, with the acceleration of the Islamic fundamentalist trends in the Iraqi community. Ban Jameel, director of a local branch of the Assyrian Women Federation in Baghdad, said, "Women in the street do not move freely." This Christian woman said, "The problem is that women face lack of respect just for being unveiled." She confirmed that women are insulted unless their clothes are long and are veiled. Jameel attributed this phenomenon to "the extremist sectarian ideas imported from abroad, which we have not witnessed before.” It is worth motioning that the Iraqi community is witnessing continuous acceleration of Islamic fundamentalism. Nevertheless, Iraqi women are still far from the very conservative clothes worn by women in Iran, who are forced to cover their heads up to the bottom of their feet. In Iraq, a girl can wear trousers, a long-sleeved shirt and a scarf on the head, while older women ten to wear more conservative clothes such as black cloaks that only disclose the face and hands. Nevertheless, it became almost impossible for women to wear short-sleeved shirts or skirts, despite the fact that these outfits were greatly spread in Baghdad a few yeas ago.

Iran Focus – October 2, 2005

Iran’s State Supreme Court sentenced a woman to death, a state-run daily reported on Sunday. The woman, only identified by her first name Shahla, was accused of murdering the wife of a famous Iranian football star in Tehran in October 2002. Shahla had proclaimed her innocence throughout the trial, the daily Sharq wrote. The State Supreme Court upheld the original court’s ruling, which blamed Shahla for the murder of the wife of Nasser Mohammad-Khani. She faces imminent execution


AKI – Italian News Gateway – October 5, 2005

The Iranian journalist and activist for the rights of the minority Azera community in Iran, Masoumeh Babapour, has been found almost dead on a bridge in the south of Tabriz, the provincial capital of Iranian Azerbaijan, in the northwest of Iran. Babapour was kidnapped by four unidentified people on Monday morning while on her way to work. Her disappearance was reported by her husband, Bagher Hassanzadeh. The journalist was found with nine stab wounds on Wednesday morning lying under a bridge and in a critical condition.
"In the last few weeks, my wife received various threats over the telephone, and a letter in which she was accused of being an atheist," Hassanzadeh told independent website, Tabriz News.
"In the same letter, it was written that the religious authorities had already decided to pass a death sentence on Masoumeh," he added. She is currently in hospital in a coma and is still in a critical condition.


Iran Focus – October 10, 2005

A Majlis (Parliament) deputy from the central city of Isfahan told reporters that there was an urgent need to act against “corruption and mal-veiling” by women in society, state media reported on Monday.
“In recent years we have seen a great number of violations [of the dress code]. How longer do we have to witness such behavior?” Hojjatoleslam Mohammad-Taghi Rahbar said. “In recent years much of the Islamic customs in offices, hospitals, organizations, universities, and air schools have not been adhered to”, the mid-ranking cleric added.  Rahbar said authorities should immediately deal with violators of the dress-code starting in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan which began last Tuesday.


Iran Focus – October 10, 2005

A senior Iranian cleric in the city of Qom called for death sentences to be handed down to prostitutes, a semi-official daily reported on Monday. “Those who try to spread prostitution, corruption, and sins in society must be dealt with”, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, one of the highest-ranking clerics in the holy city, said. Shirazi said that drug dealers were among those who were spreading corruption in society, according to the hard-line daily Jomhouri Islami. “These people are Mofsid Fi-Alarz and must be dealt with under Islamic law”, the senior Ayatollah said. Mofsid Fi-Alarz literally means “corruptors on earth” and under Iran’s Sharia law is punishable by death. “If everyone feels responsibility for the orders of Islam, no one will dare to spread prostitution”, he said. “Anyone who stays silent in the face of social disorder and centres of corruption and prostitution has actually betrayed Islam”.

E-Zan Featured Reports


Female Gentile Mutilation in Iran: 70% of Women in Province of Hormozgan are victims of FGM

Translated and compiled by WFAFI Research Committee

October 9, 2005

In Kang Port, genital mutilations are performed entirely under unsanitary conditions by midwives with razors.  Girls undergo this very routine procedure after the 40th day of their life.  The women who criticize this procedure, or what has been referred to as “The Razer of Culture and Tradition” are accused of being rebellious. 

Kang Port, a small city of 13,000 in the province of Hormozgan within 5 kilometers of Port Langeh, has very strict laws against women, which are rooted in their tradition.  Genital mutilation is one of the hallmarks of aggression against women, as 70% of the females undergo this procedure.

One women activist gave this report but wanted to remain anonymous because such topics are taboo.  However, she distributed the report widely.  According to this woman, some of the girls in the city undergo genital mutilation at the age of 4 or 5.  This procedure is carried out under unsanitary conditions by the midwives.  Needless to say, it is torture for girls, because they see the mutilation being done on them typically, the edge of the clitoris is cut by a razor. 

The woman activist said, “Any objections to this procedure is considered rebellious, and it has gotten to the point where girls have accepted genital mutilation”.  Some of the girls they think it is legitimate, since their mothers/grandmothers have also done this procedure. 

Most of the people of Kang Port are Sunni Muslims.  It has been said that genital mutilation is practiced in Jask Port as well.  Gender hierarchy, polygamy, prohibition of girls to continue their education or even leave the home, and lack of respect for women’s decisions are some of the other issues that continue to exist in Kang Port. 

Genital mutilation has been performed on 130 million women and girls, and each year, at least 2 million girls become prospects for the procedure “that’s 6,000 per day.”  According to Vardes Deery, author of Flower of the Prairie, who has herself been a victim of genital mutilation, this procedure has generally been done by midwives or village women.  No anesthesia or medicine is used, and it is done with anything that is available, including razors, knives, broken glass, sharp stones, or even teeth.  

The woman activist who originally gave this report said, “When I was reading the book Flower of the Prairie, I could not believe that women in my country were going through this.  Today, I am very depressed and sad from hearing about what our people are going through, just as when I was reading Vardes Deery’s story about her mutilation.  Today, I was talking with a woman in Kang Port, this beautiful, bashful southern woman told me about their problems.”  She said, just recently, her and her friends have established a non-governmental organization for women in Port Kang.  According to her, the goal for establishing this organization is for women to start becoming active in society.  She said that the only way that women can leave their homes to discuss these issues is for them to claim that they are going to an alterations class or a class for florists.  When this woman was speaking, she paused for what seemed like years.  When out of curiosity, I asked the reason of her pause, I encouraged her to speak, I asked her to give me more information about her city and the problems, with a shaking voice, she replied, “I am very shy to tell you about this.” Again, she paused. “You know, the main problem of our women is not hierarchy, abuse by males, or banning women from continuing education.  The women of my city have a bigger problem:  They all have to undergo genital mutilation.  I and the other women of my city will never be able to solve this problem.  We could open schools and have poetry clubs for women, but there is no point, because we cannot do anything about this horrible procedure.”

Genital mutilation has been done in other countries, as well.  For example, in Somalia, they believe that in between the legs of a woman is filthy and must be removed, leaving only a scar from that.  After their 40th day, girls have to do this.  If a family could not do this at that time, they must do it at age 4 or 5, which makes it much harder, because the girls are forced to watch the procedure.  This causes emotional disturbances in the future.  I asked the village woman if she has ever taken any steps to change get rid of this practice, and she said “The people of my city call this the “Razer of Culture and Tradition”, and if this razor wont touch the women’s bodies, the women will be dirty and filthy; even talking about this is a sin.” 

In Kang Port, the midwives do this procedure in very unsanitary situations, and consider this action to be very practical and useful.  They don’t like to abolish it.  It seems that this tradition came to Hormozgon by the men who had returned from some of the cities in India, such as Calcutta and Somali.  “One of my friends told me, there are still some old men in the city that have wives and kids in Somali and Calcutta, and sometimes they go visit them.  Perhaps this tradition came from there.”

The public opinion in Kang Port is that women are sensual creatures and with genital mutilation, you can take away this sensuality.  The women who have not done this procedure are considered as filthy.  “Vardes and other African girls are not the only ones who have been mutilated.  The many flowers of the prairie that exist in our country have had this action done to them, but their voice will not reach anywhere.  So this is my job and your job to battle with this wrong, cruelty.”


Mullahs defenders deny cover-up for Women’s Games

Agence France Presse

September 23, 2005

Supporters of Iran’s Islamic Women’s Games have dismissed arguments the event is a sideshow to gag women competitors denied access to the Olympic Games. 

“We are seeking to empower and encourage Muslim women, who are absent from the international sports grounds due to their beliefs,” said Faezeh Hashemi, daughter of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who started the games in 1993. French basketball umpire Chantal Julien, who officiated at the 2001 Games, added: “It’s clear some of them would like to compete abroad. However, they do not believe they’re prisoners.”
Since the Islamic revolution Iranian women have been mostly banned from international sporting events due to the obligatory head scarf and long coat they must wear in front of men. Under the previous reformist government of the last eight years,
Iran started sending women athletes to competitions abroad in the events where women are able to compete and wear the veil, such as shooting, taekwondo, fencing, canoeing, chess and horse riding. 

In the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Iran had a sole female representative – Nassim Hassanpour – in pistol shooting. An American Muslim runner is to be the first woman to represent the US in Iran, although photographers will not be allowed to record the event which runs from September 22 to 28.
Saira Kureshi, 26, will race in the 800 and 1500 metres in the fourth all-women games. Male coaches, referees and spectators are banned from the Games except for golf, shooting and archery, where participants are modestly dressed and veiled.

Only these three competitions are open to male spectators and can be photographed or filmed, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies since the women appear in Islamic wear. In order to attract more athletes, this year non-Muslim women have been allowed to participate as long as they are on the national teams of their countries and agree to compete under the stipulated conditions. 

Sportswomen from 48 countries, many of them Islamic, will compete in 18 sports. Iran’s Christian northern neighbour, Armenia, is sending 17 teams. Athletics, shooting, table tennis and taekwondo have attracted the most participants. The week-long event has few sponsors and has been allocated a budget of 10 billion rials ($1.1 million), which according to Hashemi “is barely enough” to cover costs.

“The games do not satisfy sponsors as there are no television cameras to show their advertisements,” she explained. Although Iran has been approached by other Muslim countries such as Pakistan and Qatar wanting to host the games, Hashemi sees little chance of them leaving Iran. “Other countries have different interpretations of Islam. I am not sure they would be able to hold the games like us with such observance of Islamic rules,” she said.


Get home by Dusk, Iran Tells Female Civil Servants

Reuters News Agency

October 11, 2005

Female civil servants at Iran's Culture Ministry and female journalists at the state newspaper and news agency must be out of the office by dusk to be with their families, a directive said on Tuesday.
The directive was issued by Culture Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi, one of a batch of hardline cabinet ministers brought in by President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad. "Owing to the sensitive role of women in the family and in raising children, women employees are banned from staying at the office after
6 p.m.," the Tosea newspaper quoted the directive as saying.

The order to get home early also covers the official IRNA news agency and the state-run Iran daily newspaper.
The directive did not specify what punishments women would face if they disobeyed the decree.
Shirin Ebadi, Iran's 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, said the decree was blatantly discriminatory.
"Women should be free to adjust their working hours based on their pace of life," the human rights lawyer told Reuters.

One woman reporter believed it was part of a plan by Ahmadinejad's government to turn the clock back on the tentative progress made under moderate former President Mohammad Khatami.

Under eight years of Khatami's presidency, enforcement of social restrictions such as Islamic dress codes for women were relaxed. Women entered previously male-only domains such as taxi driving and the police.

"It is just a start. They will put more limitations on women. They do not want us to be socially active," said a female journalist, who asked not to be named. She works night shifts at the Iran newspaper. "What about me? I start working at 3 p.m. This decree means that I will be jobless soon."


Iran sentences woman to death by stoning for adultery

Agence France Presse

October 15, 2005

Tehran - An Iranian woman found guilty of having an extra-marital affair with an Afghan and being an accomplice in the murder of her husband has been sentenced to death by stoning, a press report said Saturday.

The Shargh newspaper identified the woman by her first name of Soghra, and said the killing took place in the Varamin district south of Tehran.

The woman's lover, only identified as Ali Reza, was sentenced to death for committing the murder.

Executions by stoning have been suspended by the head of the judiciary since late 2002, when the European Union opened long-term trade talks with Iran and made human rights issues a key condition to negotiations.

The judiciary has acknowledged that stoning sentences may have been issued by certain courts, but asserts that they are invariably quashed on appeal or by the Supreme Court -- which has to approve all executions.

Human rights activists and diplomats have said that while Iran appears to have respected a moratorium on stoning, there have been cases of minors being executed.

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Volume 17, October 15, 2005

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