September 15, 2006 VOLUME 28


To our readers,

For too long the Islamic Fundamentalists have exploited the disunity among women’s movement around the world. While the barbaric practices such as stoning, public executions and systemic violations of women’s rights in Iran continue, many activists are at loss on mobilizing and organization globally. Given the horrific news coming from Iraq or other parts of the Middle East, women’s global movement must recognize the foot prints of the Islamic Fundamentalism. We should no longer be at loss on how to counter this threat. A united front in defense of basic human rights is needed to confront the expansionist ideology of Islamic Fundamentalism. Ahmadinejad, Iran’s current president who is scheduled to address the United Nations in New York next week, is clearly on mission to escalate the gender apartheid policies in coming months. There is no doubt that Ahmadinejad will use his UN visit to further advance his nuclear agenda and defend his misogynous regime.   Yet, no condemnation or protests have been directed at him or his visits to the UN next week. The women’s global movement should be on the forefront to established women's rights as key to international relations. As a poem by Ayesha Imam reads:

"If you've come to help me,

You are wasting your time -- and mine.

If you come because your liberation is linked to mine, then let's join hands and start working together."

Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan are too fresh in all of our minds to look the other way. In short, where terrorist or fundamentalist regimes take over, women's rights are sacrificed first – then the world's. The time to act is now; let us unite against the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism before it is too late. To start with, we can speak out against Ahmadinejad’s presence at the UN on Tuesday, September 19, 2006.

E-Zan Featured Headlines

AKI Italian News Site – August 18, 2006

Some 100,000 Iranian women have signed a petition sent to world football's governing body FIFA to pressure the Iranian government to scrap a law which bans women from going to stadiums to watch matches. "We've been trying for over a decade to convince the Islamic Republic's leaders that it is our right to enter stadiums to watch games," Nasrin Afzali, one of the organizers of the petition campaign told Adnkronos International (AKI) in a telephone interview from Tehran. "The ban in unacceptable, it is an apartheid measure which must disappear. We demand that FIFA put pressure on the Iranian authorities and that sanctions be considered," Alzali said.


World Daily Net site – August 19, 2006

Human rights groups and concerned individuals worldwide are demanding an end to stoning executions in Iran – and right now are pressuring the head of the Islamic nation's judiciary to lift the death sentence against a 34-year-old mother of two young children. Malak Ghorbany was sentenced to death June 28 by a court in the Iranian city of Urmia after being found guilty of committing "adultery." Under Iran's strict Sharia law, women sentenced to execution by stoning have their hands bound behind their back. They are wrapped from head to toe in sheets before being seated in a pit. The ditch is filled up to their breasts with dirt, and the soil is packed tightly before people assemble to execute the woman by pitching rocks at her head and upper body.


State Run Baztab Site – August 21, 2006

According to IRNA (state-run news agency), Iran’s Deputy Health Ministry announced that “between 20 to 24 percent of Iranian women are suffering from one or more kinds of depression. [WFAFI: While the rate of depression among Iranian women is much higher than was announced by the Iranian regime’s Health Ministry, they still claim “this is an average rate with compare to other countries and it is not bad at all”.]


NCRI Website – August 22, 2006

The commander of the State Security Forces (SSF) in Tehran province, Brig. Gen. Reza Zari, unveiled a plan to "deport 200,000 illegal aliens" and added that "the marriage of these people to Iranian women and their children with no identification papers" were a problem for the regime. He reiterated that "65,000 people in Tehran province alone have to be deported from the country in a short period of time."  Zari was referring to Afghan and Iraqi refugees who had married Iranian women. For more than a quarter of a century, the mullahs' regime had taken advantage of Afghan and Iraqi refugees to export fundamentalism and terrorism. Their children are presently deprived of citizenship, education, and health insurance. The refugees are currently being forced to leave Iran with their families.


Radio Free EuropeAugust 28, 2006

Activists in Iran have started a petition drive calling for changes to laws that discriminate against women. Organizers hope to attract the signature of 1 million Iranians -- a challenge that they say public officials could not ignore. Authorities blocked the gathering at which the launch was supposed to take place on August 27 on a technicality. But women's rights defenders are collecting signatures and vowing to broaden their campaign nevertheless.  This campaign is just the latest move by women's rights activists who argue that Iran can be Islamic and nondiscriminatory at the same time. Police violently dispersed a public protest two months ago aimed at raising awareness of gender discrimination. One of the demonstrators involved in that event -- former reformist lawmaker and student rights activist, Ali-Akbar Moussavi Khoeni -- remains in custody.


NCRI Website – August 22, 2006

The state-run news agency ISNA reported that on Sunday the commander of State Security Forces' Internal Security Division in Greater Tehran Brig. Gen. Mohammad Alipour announced that in the past month, 64,000 "mal-veiled" women were reprimanded. Alipour said, "In one month, 63,963 mal-veiled women were either warned or reprimanded, and 1,149 vehicles whose occupants were either mal-veiled or creating noise pollution were confiscated." The NCRI's Women's Committee Chair Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz described these vulgar remarks and the aggression by the regime's suppressive forces against the country's women under the pretext of mal-veiling as yet another form of suppression by the regime and an excuse to create fear in society and take control in order to prevent an increase in social protests in which women play a very active role."


United Press International – August 29, 2006

Police in Tehran have been ordering Iranian women to cover up, stopping those they perceive as "badly veiled." The crackdown followed the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "We are certainly seeing a return to behavior we haven't seen for 10 years," Hadi Ghaemi of Human Rights Watch told The Telegraph. "Generally, the imposition of strict Islamic codes has been increasing under Ahmadinejad." Ghaemi said that the penalty for violating a code that requires the complete covering of women's heads and bodies in public depends on the officers involved and the women's political connections. "The person could end up in jail depending on their relationship with the authorities," he said. "Generally, the imposition of strict Islamic codes has been increasing under Ahmadinejad." Just as women in recent years had pushed the boundaries by wearing head scarves that revealed more than they hid, many Iranians had flouted the law banning them from owning satellite dishes, the report said. The government has been cracking down on them as well.


Roozna Website —September 6, 2006

Seyed Nezam Mola-Hoveizeh member of Parliament from Dashte-Azadegan, Sattar Hedayatkhah member of Parliament from Boyer Ahamad, Hamid Zangeneh MP from Ahvaz, Seyed Hadi Tabatabaei the MP from Ezeh, Abasali Akhtari the MP from Tehran, Kamal Daneshyar the MP from Mahshahr, Mohammad Taghi Kavianipour the MP from Nahavand and Ghodratollah Imani the MP from Khoramabad sent a written warning to the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance about women singing in choirs. They cautioned about allowing women sing in choirs. In another warning to the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Sattar Hedayatkhah the MP from Boyerahmad and Dena, Seyed Reza Ebadi the MP from Birjand and Seyed Nezam Mola-Hoveizeh the MP from Dashte-Azadegan requested movies that are anti-Islamic, immoral and against sacred defense be banned in the country.


NCRI Website – September 15, 2006

Deputy Commander of State Security Forces in Khorassan Province, Brig. Gen. Satar Bozorgmehar announced a new suppressive plan called "National Security" under which 4,518 mal-veiled women had already been arrested, the state-run news agency Mehr reported on September 11. He added that the plan would be implemented through new patrols called "Anti-Vice Patrols" which are comprised of both stationary and mobile units. Simultaneously, the government-run media reported that the death sentences for two young women identified as Shahla Jahed and Kobra Rahman-pour were upheld by the mullahs' judiciary. One of the regime's female Majlis deputies, Eshrat Sha'egh, expressed amazement at the media for paying any attention to the upholding of their sentences.  The two women have spent several years in prison. Despite various attempts by women's groups to win their freedom, the misogynistic regime has upheld their execution. Regarding the increase in suppression of women, the NCRI's Women's Committee Chair Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz said, "The attitude of the mullahs' regime in response to increasing turmoil on the domestic and international scene is to step up suppression inside the country especially against women and youths. The regime is intensifying suppressive measures and intimidation of the Iranian people in a bid to cap popular opposition to its rule and control the volatile state of Iranian society."  Ms. Chitsaz called on international human rights organizations and women's rights groups to condemn the suppression and execution of Iranian women.   

E-Zan Featured Reports

Muslim Sisters need our help

By Pamela Bone

The Australian
August 25, 2006

In Tehran in June, several thousand people held a peaceful demonstration calling for legal changes that would give a woman's testimony in court equal value to a man's. The demonstrators, most of them women, were attacked with tear gas and beaten with batons by men and women from Iran's State Security Forces, according to Amnesty International. Iranian women may not travel without their husband's permission but they are allowed to wield a truncheon against other women.

Do you think women in Western countries marched in solidarity with the Iranian women demonstrators? Of course not. Do you think there are posters and graffiti at universities condemning the Iranian President? Of course not. You know, without needing to go there, that any graffiti at universities will be condemning George W. Bush, not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (I concede Bush is easier to spell.)

You know, before you get there, that at the Melbourne Writers Festival starting this weekend the principal hate figures are going to be Bush and John Howard. You know there will be many sympathetic references to David Hicks but probably none to Ashraf Kolhari, an Iranian mother of four who has been in jail for five years for allegedly having sex outside marriage and, until last week, who was under sentence of death by stoning.

Thank goddess, as they used to say: a few Western feminists have begun to wonder why women who once marched for women's rights are marching alongside people who would take away even the most basic of those rights. The latest is Sarah Baxter, a former Greenham Common protester, who in Britain's The Sunday Times had this to say about a recent demonstration in London calling for a ceasefire in Lebanon: "Women pushing their children in buggies bearing the familiar symbol of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament marched alongside banners proclaiming 'We are all Hezbollah now', and Muslim extremists chanting, 'Oh Jew, the army of Mohammed will return'.”I could never have imagined that many of the same crowd I hung out with then would today be standing shoulder to shoulder with militantly anti-feminist Islamic fundamentalist groups whose views on women make Western patriarchy look like a Greenham peace picnic." Another old feminist, Phyllis Chesler (she is my age, so I may call her old), is the author of The Death of Feminism, published last year. In her book, Chesler, who lived in Afghanistan for a time before she managed to flee the country and her Afghan husband, wrote: "I fear that the 'peace and love' crowd in the West refuses to understand how Islamism endangers our values and our lives, beginning with our commitment to women's rights and human rights."

Feminism is not quite dead, however. The execution of Kolhari was stopped after a petition gathered thousands of signatures from human rights activists in Iran and across the world, including more than 5000 from the Feminist Majority Foundation in the US.

Yet in Canada it took an Iranian exile, Homa Arjomand, to lead the fight to stop sharia courts being established there; she did so with almost zero support from Anglo-Canadian feminists and academics. Named Canadian Humanist of the Year, she's now running a campaign to stop honor killings. In Canada? "In Canada we are not witnessing honor killing much simply because in Canada women and young girls who are not submissive are taken to their home countries such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan or Nigeria, and there they are being murdered by the male member of the family or a hit man," Arjomand said in a speech earlier this year. "And the (Canadian) state is not obligated to protect the individual citizens who were forced to leave Canada by the head of the family." The question is why so many Western feminists do not speak out about the cruelty that blights the lives of millions of women in Islamic countries and would do the same to women everywhere else should the Islamists succeed in their stated aim of creating a worldwide caliphate. "On the defining issue of our times, the rise of Islamic extremism, what is left of the sisterhood has almost nothing to say," Baxter writes. Says Chesler: "Women's studies programs should have been the first to sound the alarm. They did not." The reason, as writer Fay Weldon has said, is that these days racism is a much worse sin than sexism: a consequence, perhaps, of the success of the women's movement in the West. Women who would speak out don't because of a (justified) fear that they will be branded racists. Chesler has been ostracized by many of her old friends in the women's movement. It has been said she has become paranoid or gone mad or, worse, turned right-wing.

Well, maybe poor Sarah has turned right-wing, too. And Fay, and Homa, and me. We've all become paranoid and right-wing. To say Bush is not the wise statesman the world needs is a large understatement. Of course women are entitled to oppose US foreign policy or to consider Israel's response to Hezbollah attacks disproportionate. Yes, the prolonged detention of Hicks without trial goes against standards of democracy. Yes, we must be vigilant, in fighting the war on terrorism, that we do not lose sight of the values we are supposedly protecting. Of course we must criticize our own.

But when we criticize only our own, when we talk only about the present and past crimes of Western societies, doesn't this give com-fort and encouragement to the suicide bombers?

Neither US foreign policy nor colonialism or imperialism is to blame for a legal system that stipulates women guilty of adultery are to be buried up to their chests and stoned to death, as in Iran. It is their culture, or at least the culture as defined by the old men running the place, that is to blame. Hate Bush if you want, but please understand that your enemy's enemies are not necessarily your friends.

It seems inconceivable that we could lose this war against terrorism. But if we do, the consequences will be awful. And they will be worse for women, for the women in the generations that will follow us. We have to fight not against Muslims but against Islamic extremism. Don't expect left-wing men to help. They're full of "I'm not scared" bravado. Don't expect all Muslim women to want to be in the fight. There have always been women who oppose rights for women. (Remember the petition, from women, against Australian women getting the vote?) But the least we can do is let the brave Muslim women who are pushing for reforms know they have our support when they want it.

Most of us 1970s feminists are grandmothers now. Lifelong socialist and humanist that I am, if fighting to prevent the possibility that my granddaughters - our granddaughters - will one day be forced to wear a burqa makes me right-wing, then right-wing is the label I'll have to wear.


United Behind Human Rights

By Kathryn Jean Lopez

The Town Hall

August 26, 2006

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Irish statesman Edmund Burke's words still hold true three centuries later. Right now, good men and women are doing something crucial: raising their voices in outrage, trying to save the lives of Nazanin Fateh, Malak Ghorbany and many other women just like them. Fateh, as of this writing, awaits retrial for murder in Iran. Young Nazanin killed a man in self-defense as a group of men attacked and tried to rape her and her niece. During her first trial, she reportedly said: "I wanted to defend myself and my niece. I did not want to kill that boy. At the heat of the moment I did not know what to do because no one came to our help." (Presumably, because this is Iran, where Islamic sharia law rules, had she allowed the men to rape her and/or her niece -- the victims -- could both be facing possible execution as adulterers anyway – in the name of a perverse conception of honor.) When I first heard about Nazanin's horrific case, though, I knew that her execution could be thwarted. In 2003, a Nigerian woman named Amina Lawal faced a death sentence after a court convicted her of adultery, but an international coalition fought for her life -- and succeeded. And in this new case, too, good people have stepped up. Iranian-born Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a Canadian model and pop singer (and former Miss World runner-up), refuses to let the issue die and has the attention of celebrities and diplomats. When she heard about her namesake's case, she had the flash that it could have been her, had her own family not fled Iran after her father's torture there at the hands of the same regime. (He was tortured, she tells me, because -- as general manager of a Sheraton -- he allowed "music and mingling between men and women": "He almost died due to his injuries but thank God he is with us today.")

A coalition of folks spanning from my conservative National Review to liberal human-rights groups like Amnesty International have spoken out about Nazanin Fateh's case of self-defense. Most recently, her devoted advocate, Afshin-Jam, has been honored by a group called Artists for Human Rights, with an award presented by actresses Anne Archer and Jenna Elfman.

In May, Afshin-Jam interviewed her namesake by phone. Said Fateh: "Don't just help me, help all 'Nazanins' and help us to go back to a normal life." There is no shortage of Nazanins. In yet another case out of Iran -- another travesty of justice under sharia law -- Malak Ghorbany, mother of two convicted of adultery, has been sentenced to death by stoning. In Ghorbany's case, too, Left and Right are united. There are many disagreements on Iran-related issues -- the country's nuclear program, its involvement in terrorism, its Mike Wallace interviews -- but Legal Rights Institute president Lily Mazahery, who has set up a Web site on behalf of Ghorbany, says: "If there is one thing that I have learned from my human-rights work, particularly on behalf of women and girls in Iran, it is that everyone agrees and forms a united front against these atrocities, regardless of his/her political affiliation ... For a Washingtonian, such as myself, such a concept is a virtual miracle." But the consensus must, in the end, go beyond advocacy for individual women's lives. Michael Rubin, editor of The Middle East Quarterly, is emphatic: "Incidents such as these should underscore just how antithetical it is to U.S. interests to legitimize the regime." But he charges that in Condoleezza Rice's State Department, while "there has been much talk of bribing Iran with incentives ... human-rights preconditions have been taken off the table."

In a piece in the upcoming issue of Rubin's journal, Islamic-studies scholar Denis MacEoin implores us to link human-rights issues more firmly to trade and other agreements: "Islamic countries and ordinary Muslims must be given incentives to observe human-rights norms within their borders and disincentives to apply the sharia in harsh and unjust ways."

He adds that "original Islamic jurisprudence ... does not necessarily mandate such severe punishments." That when Muslims violate human rights, they are not obeying Allah -- they are perpetrating an evil. And good people must continue to protest.


Iran’s Hard Line Begins at Home

By Azadeh Moaveni

The Time Magazine

August 27, 2006

When Behnaz Mohsenian, 29, started English lessons at Tehran's Najdad Institute this spring, the 15 men and women in her class studied grammar sitting in mixed circles. Last month the language school split the group by gender, with men and women meeting on different days. Now plans are under way to move the women's classes to a separate building, to eliminate altogether the possibility of illicit mingling. "It feels," says Mohsenian, "as if we're all incapable of behaving like normal people and need to be regulated at all times." When President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office last summer, everyone nervously watched to see whether Islamic dogma would shape domestic policy. To much delight, nothing changed: Western films were sold everywhere, women wore skimpy veils, and couples held hands in the street. But the long, libertine honeymoon is over. The hard line now seems to begin at home for the Ahmadinejad regime (which last week inaugurated a new reactor project, defying a U.N. demand to end its uranium-enrichment work by Aug. 31, and gave only a tepid response to the West's offer of incentives).

Over the past few months, various branches of the government have stealthily rolled back freedoms with moves like the reinstatement of gender segregation in public institutions. Because the Iranian system comprises ministries with overlapping mandates and security apparatuses that operate independently, it's hard to say whether this is a government-wide crackdown or whether some officials are just feeling emboldened by Ahmadinejad's conservatism. Nonetheless, the tone is being set on high--and the impact is being felt throughout society.

The new hypermorality isn't exactly a return to the days of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Today the tactics are subtler than in the past, when morality police were dispatched onto the streets of Tehran to harass youth. Instead, regular Iranians are being cowed into the role of enforcer. A month ago, I met a few girlfriends for coffee at a popular café. One of my friends lit a cigarette and was informed by the embarrassed owner that smoking is now illegal for women in cafés. Such small but significant restrictions are a discouragement. Half the women I know don't go out for coffee anymore. So without a single police raid, the authorities have stifled Tehran's bustling café scene. The restrictions are multiplying daily, with dress codes imposed on women's-clothing retailers and limits on women performing music in public.

Last week trucks laden with satellite dishes rolled through my Tehran neighborhood; police have been confiscating the illegal devices all around town. It isn't clear how long these strict measures will last. So far, the government seems undaunted by the lack of public enthusiasm for its causes. For instance, on the eve of the Lebanon cease-fire, it celebrated Hizballah's non-defeat as if it were an Iranian victory. It cooked what was billed as the world's largest kebab--more than 21-ft. long. And Iranians were "asked" via the state-run media to go up to their rooftops at an appointed hour and shout "Allahu akbar" (God is great). The tradition, from the early days of the Islamic Revolution, used to draw people out en masse. The city reverberated with their cries. Last week, across most of Tehran, one heard only silence.

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Volume 27, August 15, 2006

The E-Zan © 2006



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