January 15, 2007 VOLUME 32
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi is an Iranian teenager who was sentenced to be hanged for murder by an Iranian court. Just a few hours ago, according to various Newswires, an international campaign to save Nazanin’s life forced the Iranian court to drop the charges against her. The Associated Press reports: “An Iranian court convicted and sentenced Nazanin to death more than a year ago after she admitted stabbing to death one of three men who allegedly tried to rape her and a 16-year-old niece. Fatehi was 17 years old at the time. Fatehi and her niece were in a park outside Tehran with their boyfriends when they were approached by the three men. The boys fled after the men pushed the girls to the ground. Fatehi drew a knife and stabbed one man in the arm and another in the chest, killing him, according to the court records. In June, a court ordered her death sentence stayed and a new trial ordered. In the second trial, which began Wednesday, the court decided the killing was not premeditated and did not warrant the death penalty.” Nazanin’s lawyer expects the court would sentence her in accordance with Islamic law to pay blood money to the family of the man.
WFAFI congratulates all those who worked tirelessly in defense of Nazanin and urges the world community to continue its focus on the status of those women still facing stoning and execution in Iran.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
State-run site Ayandeh Roshan – December 18, 2006
Grand Ayatollah Safi Golpaygani had meeting with members of Islamic education publication declared a few point regarding Moslem women and their seat in City Councils. He said, “Deception and propaganda encourages women to participate in non-traditional arena. Women need to be conscious of such schemes.” He emphasized that women should not participate in council. He said, “it is senseless for a woman to associate with a man for 4 years and also to compete with him to get this position.” He said a few words about the men that they too should serve on these councils as servants of God otherwise there is no honor in it. He added, for women, housekeeping and raising pious children is the best way to serve God. He also added, woman’s immethodical participation in the society will corrupt the social order.
State-run News Agency IVNA – December 28, 2006
Women are banned from sitting in the front seats of the busses. According to the head of Iran’s Highway Police, Ahmadi Ibrahim, women are no longer allowed to take the front seat in the busses. He said, “All public transportation and travel agencies have been informed about this new law. This is particularly important, because women seating behind the driver will be very distracting to the driver. Therefore, we have decided to ban women’s seating in the front of all busses traveling in or outside of the city.”
RFE/RL – December 29, 2006
A member of the website staff who did not want to be named told RFE/RL that the two, Meysam Zamanabadi and Mohammad Zomorodian, were detained late on December 28 in connection with the release of video footage that shows Iranian Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaee taking part in a ceremony in Turkey where unveiled women were dancing. Under Iran's Islamic laws men are not allowed to watch women dance and sing.
NCRI Website – January 4, 2007
The mullahs’ Majlis “revised” the Fashion and Clothing Plan to gain the approval of the Guardian Council, the state-run news agency Fars reported on January 2. According to the report, “A committee has been formed which is comprised of a representative with full power from the ministries of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Higher Education, Industry and Commerce as well as the state radio and television, the Directorate of State Planning, and three representatives from related industries (fashion designers) and a representative from the Majlis Culture Committee as the inspector. The committee will supervise the implementation of the plan and the persuasion of the general public to refrain from making use of foreign fashions not customary to the Iranian culture and identity. This plan will be operational once it gains the signature of the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance.” The regime's Majlis first introduced the plan on May 18, 2006. It was completed in September 2006. NCRI Women’s Committee Chair, Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, reiterated that suppression and discrimination against women form the basis of the ideology, laws and conduct of this medieval regime. "This plan sets the stage for greater suppression of women," she said. Ms. Chitsaz described such repressive plans and measures as a desperate attempt by the regime to thwart the active presence of women in antigovernment protests.
MedIndia Website – January 5, 2007
Tehran is in the news for the wrong reasons, witnessing an upsurge in AIDS cases. The reason for this, according to AIDS workers is that many women, just barely twenty years old are offering sex in return for discounted clothes, available at shopping malls. There is an apparent lack of awareness in Iran regarding the infection and the manner of its spread. A country thronged by almost 300,000 prostitutes, most of them barely in their twenties, it is estimated that 11,000 of them in the least are carriers of the AIDS virus. Official data records show that there are 13,074 AIDS patients in Iran, but World Health Organization and the Iranian Ministry of Health believe this is only the tip of the ice berg. The realistic numbers could be between 70,000 and 120,000.
Iran Focus – January 9, 2007
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is involved in an extensive campaign to recruit Iraqi female spies with the help of local Iraqi parties backed by Iran, a prominent Arab-language website reported. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) is sending Iraqi women between the ages of 30 and 40 to neighboring Iran to receive training in the art of intelligence gathering, al-Malaf quoted "informed Iraqi sources" as saying on Monday. The report said some 2,000 Iraqi women had been sent to Tehran so far. It added that the women were traveling in smaller groups, though it did not specify how large each group was. Once in Tehran, they undergo a one-month-long training course jointly organized by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and the IRGC's elite Qods Force. They are then dispatched to their areas of duty in Iraq. Al-Malaf said most the female recruits had strong ties to Iraq's Shiite groups. SCIRI's ties to Iran date back to 1982, when it was founded in Tehran on the orders of then-Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran's current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was tasked with writing the council's manifesto and the group's primary goal was to spread Iran's Islamic revolution to Iraq. Iran's current Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi was the group's chairman for several years after its founding while Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim was appointed as the group's spokesman. Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim, the elder brother of current SCIRI chief Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, died in a deadly bomb blast in August 2003 in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
The Independent – January 14, 2007
Hopes have risen for an Iranian teenager sentenced to death for stabbing a would-be rapist, after a panel of Islamic judges declared on the first day of her retrial that she had not committed intentional murder. The case of Nazanin Fatehi, highlighted in The Independent on Sunday last week, has caused an international outcry. She was sentenced to be hanged a year ago, but a retrial was ordered by Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, head of Iran's religious judiciary, after an Iranian-born singer and former Miss Canada, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, gained more than 300,000 signatories to a petition. Nazanin Fatehi was 17 when she and her niece, 15, were attacked by three men in a park in Karaj, a town an hour's drive west of Tehran. She stabbed one of the men in the hand and another, who died, in the chest. A third man escaped unharmed. "I wanted to defend myself and my niece," she said at her first trial, when she appeared in court crying, wearing a prison-issue floral chador. "I did not want to kill that boy ... I did not know what to do, because no one came to help us." The case came back to court on Wednesday, when Ms Fatehi, now 19, was told by the judges that they did not consider the killing to be deliberate. Defence lawyers are confident she will be spared the death penalty, and expect a sentence within 10 days. Ms Fatehi's defence team, led by the human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr, will make its case this week. Ms Sadr last year helped save Ashraf Kalhori, convicted of murdering her husband, from death by stoning. She also represented the family of Atefeh Rajabi, a 16-year-old girl hanged for "crimes against chastity" in 2004.
E-Zan Featured Reports
December 20, 2006
By Tina Ehrami (Master of International Public Policy), poet and human rights activist
Submitted to WFAFI
There is no saviour
From the soil,
That swallowed you like quicksand.
Don't blame Mother Earth,
She damns humanity tonight.
There is no saviour
When your hands are tied,
And your body suffocates, cold and dark,
While your head is left out to bleed.
There is no saviour
From the sharp stones that hit your face
Until your crimson blood enrages the madman,
So he can empty his bucket of guilt over your virgin veil
There is no saviour
When the stars and the moon turn their backs
To hide away from this orgy of insanity
Don't blame the sky,
She cries for all you, your sisters and mothers.
There is no saviour
When your face is gone and your scream
Reaches only as far as the valley of the deaf
And the only thing that remains,
Are the seconds of your sobs echoing in our ears.
Iran police move into fashion business
January 2, 2007
By Frances Harrison
Women in high-heeled shoes and plenty of make-up strut down the catwalk amid clouds of artificial smoke.
It is the first time live models have been allowed to appear in a fashion show in post-revolutionary Iran. The only unusual aspect is that they are all wearing Islamic dress; including some draped from head to toe in the all enveloping chador. It's part of a new drive to give women more attractive choices of Islamic dress that allow them to express their individuality, while remaining within the letter of the law. Not everyone in the all female audience was happy.
"I don't think ordinary people will like this show because everything comes from Arab culture," complains Faranak who says she wants something more Iranian and indigenous.
Her friend agrees: "Here we didn't see anything interesting - in terms of colours and designs we have much better stuff; just look on the streets of Tehran they're wearing much better clothes".
Many of the women on the streets of Tehran do indeed look more like Western fashion models than the models on the catwalk.
“ We want to guide designers to meet the needs of society, not to get ideas about fashion from satellite television” Sardar Ansari, Iranian police force
In skimpy tight overcoats and high heeled shoes and token headscarves perched on the back of their dyed hair, they are what the authorities call "western dolls". Many young women born after the revolution do not seem to have accepted the official idea of Islamic dress. Conservative MP Rafat Bayat, who always wears a black chador, believes the problem is the state never educated young people properly. "The generation born after the revolution has grown up in families that do not believe in these principles and they are estranged from these laws," she says. "We thought there would be no problem because we had an Islamic Republic and we thought everyone knew the constitution," says Mrs Bayat with regret. According to the law, a woman who does not cover her hair and body in public can be fined or imprisoned for up to two months. But there are hundreds of shops throughout North Tehran selling glamorous strapless dresses and low-cut, beaded tops for women to wear at parties.
During the reformist period, restrictions were relaxed to allow women to wear bright colours for the first time since the revolution. But right-wing conservatives are outraged by what they see as western permissiveness now creeping into Islamic dress. There is also a growing awareness that heavy-handed police action like raids, arrests and closure of fashion boutiques simply do not work. And interestingly, though he is an ultra conservative, President Ahmadinejad did not bring about the crackdown on un-Islamic dress that many feared. "Observance of hijab has got worse since the new government because Mr Ahmadinejad is not that strict on this issue," complains Mrs Bayat. "Mr Ahmadinejad thinks we should not use force when acting on this issue so as a result hijab has become weaker" she says.
Aware that imposing Islamic dress by force hasn't worked, Iran's police decided to hold their own fashion exhibition recently to educate women about what they should be wearing - though there were no live models. "We want to guide our designers to meet the needs of our society," explained Sardar Ansari of the Iranian police force. "We don't want them to get their ideas about fashion from satellite television." The police exhibition included displays about what is considered un-Islamic dress and an attempt to convert young women to wearing the chador. For many older women it's a symbol of their commitment to the revolution. But young women are increasingly turning away from the chador - it's expensive, hot and difficult to wear. So chador designers have come up with new models to make them more stylish and practical, for example a chador with sleeves. "The traditional chador is a semi circle of cloth, and keeping it on your head is really hard and you absolutely have to wear something underneath - an overcoat and headscarf - to complete your Islamic dress. “But by wearing this new type of chador it's not necessary to wear an overcoat underneath," says designer Fahimeh Mahoutchi. Increasingly there is recognition that women - rather than men - should be the ones who decide what kind of Islamic dress they wear. "Clothing is not something you can impose from outside; it is something you should accept willingly and instinctively," says Mrs Ghandforoush from the provincial governor's office. "Each person has his own particular background and attitude to dress."
In other words, the establishment realizes that the children of the revolution are rebelling against drab, uniform-style clothing, and it wants to keep them in line by offering a little glamour.
Sex and Shopping Brings HIV Crisis in Iran
January 03, 2007
Robert Tait in Tehran
In a smart boutique displaying an array of miniskirts and skimpy tops, the shopkeeper was too busy attending to his female customers to listen to a sermon on HIV/Aids. "I don't know anything about it at all. Come back after I've finished with my customers," he told the volunteer health education worker. The volunteer, Amir Fattahi, was unsurprised. Observation and experience told him he had interrupted no ordinary business transaction. The four young women, he surmised, were prostitutes striking a deal with the shopkeeper offering sex in exchange for free or cheap clothes, an increasingly common arrangement in Tehran's fashion shops. Health education workers say the practice undermines efforts to combat HIV/Aids in Iran, where the disease is increasingly spread through sexual contact. Along with health officials they believe Iran's strict sexual mores are loosening among its predominantly young population. An official drive has been launched to raise HIV/Aids awareness, which lags behind that in the west.
However, experts say the fight to stop the disease spreading is being hampered by a lack of hard facts. While the latest figures show 13,704 registered HIV cases, World Health Organisation and Iranian health ministry estimates put the true figure at between 70,000 and 120,000. Experts believe many infected young people do not seek blood tests because they are too ill-informed or are afraid of their parents finding out. In the Qaem mall in north Tehran's affluent Tajrish district, where two floors are dedicated to women's fashion, several shopkeepers admitted to first-hand experience of receiving offers of sex. Arash, 23, said he had been propositioned 40 or 50 times in his store. "I reckon that 50% of shopkeepers have accepted sex in return for clothes," he said.
Ahmed Reza, 23, admitted having accepted such offers. "I was sitting outside the shop when two women came and said they wanted to try various manteaus [overcoats]," he said. "They asked for a bargain and I offered them the standard discount. But they said, 'We cannot pay that - if you give us a good discount and your mobile number, we will serve you'. So I gave them more discount and got their mobile numbers.
"I can tell a prostitute by their attitudes and body language. When she asks the price of something, I say it's much more than it really is. Then I reduce it when she asks for discount, so she think she's getting a great bargain and offers sex." Iran's Islamic authorities attempted a clampdown on the trade by deploying policemen and plainclothes security guards inside shopping malls. "I don't think [the prostitutes] are HIV/Aids-aware," said Mr Fattahi, a team leader with Iran Positive Life, a volunteer group part-funded by Unicef. "If they are infected and have sex with three or four shopkeepers a day, you can imagine the danger. I think most of the shopkeepers know the risk but they can't resist the temptation. Most times, the opportunity arises too quickly to take precautions." Iran Positive Life is trying to raise shopkeepers' awareness in the hope that it will rub off on the prostitutes. Every evening, teams of volunteers tour boutiques asking shop assistants about their level of HIV/Aids knowledge. On one tour, joined by the Guardian, most of those canvassed knew it could be contracted from unsafe sex and that using condoms could provide protection. However, experts say this awareness often does not translate into personal practice and is not passed on to prostitutes. "We have found that while people know about HIV, their information is not necessarily enough for them to use precautionary methods when engaging in sex," said the group's managing director, Amir Reza Moradi, who became HIV positive after receiving an infected blood transfusion.
"At the same time, it's hard for us to reach sex workers, so our education workers go to malls and speak to shopkeepers ... If the shopkeepers become educated and change their attitudes, hopefully the sex workers will notice and change their own ways."
Iran Positive Life's volunteers have spoken to an estimated 5,000 young Iranians in shopping centres, parks and coffee shops since the group launched its "peer education" programme three months ago. It has opened counselling services at health centres in an effort to estimate how many cases result from sexual transmission, rather than from drug addicts' infected needles.
Official resistance to a more explicitly sexual message is strong. While the government has a five-year plan to tackle HIV/Aids, its information campaigns have been criticised as inadequate. Yet the religious hierarchy apparently needs no convincing. A recent survey of 17 senior ayatollahs produced a near-unanimous response condoning condom use and in favour of educating the young on sexually transmitted diseases.
In numbers: 300,000 Estimated number of Iranian women who work as prostitutes.
20 Average age of prostitutes in Iran. Many are girls who have run away from home.
120,000 Estimated number of HIV cases is 70,000-120,000.
Estimated number of infected women aged 15-49:
11,000. Number of Iranian deaths from Aids: 1,600 (2005 figures).
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Volume 32, January 15, 2007
The E-Zan © 2007