April 15, 2007 VOLUME 35


To our readers,

Last month the world witnessed the 13-days-standoff between Britain and Tehran's regime. The fundamentalists in Iran began their political game, first by showcasing the female sailor, Faye Turney, one of the 15 detainees, as a "repentant" in various television interviews. Subsequently, interviews by her male colleagues were televised to create a political atmosphere on a non-issue. On the day of their release, Ahmadinejad offered his "forgiveness" to the British forces and criticized Britain for deploying Faye Turney in the Gulf, pointing out that she is a woman with a child. "How can you justify seeing a mother away from her home, her children? Why don't they respect family values in the West?" he asked of the British government. The fundamentalist Ahmadinejad fails to see that British women can chose freely to serve their country. And if indeed he is all of the sudden compassionate about women, one needs to remind him of all the women who are currently in prison and facing torture because they rallied for equality and freedom in recent weeks. Or the thousands who have been executed or stoned to death. Not to mention  those who are forced to prostitution and trafficking because of his regime's corruption and mullah-controlled networks.

The truth is the very active presence of free women threatens the system of Islamic fundamentalism. For Ahmadinejad, women's public expression of choice is limited to serving their family, and if they step out of their private sphere, they can server their religious duty as suicide bombers in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. For this reason, his regime has invested in millions to ensure training camps and transportation is available for those ready to die for his ideology of Islamic fundamentalism.

Clearly, there is no limit or boundary to misogynous policies and practices of Tehran's regime, Faye Turney can certainly testify to that. Let us not forget that Iranian and Iraqi women are on the frontline of confronting this phenomenon.  The time has come to establish a transnational advocacy network to confront the spread of Islamic Fundamentalism. The international community must recognize the pivotal role of women in the battle against the nuclear-crazed fundamentalists in Iran.

E-Zan Featured Headlines

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - March 15, 2007

Two prominent Iranian women's rights activists who were arrested at a peaceful protest on March 4 have been ordered detained for a month.Their lawyer, Farideh Gheyrat has said that she has protested over the court order. Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh were arrested along with some 30 other women after they gathered outside a court to show support for activists on trial in connection with last June's protest against discriminatory laws. All the women arrested on March 4 were subsequently released, with the exception of Sadr and Abbasgholizadeh, who remain in Tehran's Evin prison. Charges against Sadr and Abbasgholizadeh include disturbing public order. Both activists have been involved in efforts to change laws that discriminate against women.Several human rights organizations have called on Iran to end the persecution of women's rights activists.

Green Left Online - March 16, 2007

The Campaign to Free Women’s Rights Defenders in Iran reported on March 12 that Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh were charged on March 11 with being a “threat to national security”. They are the only two women remaining in custody after the arrests of more than 30 women on March 4. Sadr, a lawyer, was arrested while defending the women activists arrested at a demonstration that day. Sadr and Abasgholizadeh have been denied access to their lawyers and have been interrogated without their lawyers being present. Abasgholizadeh has been held in isolation and the families of the two have been denied visitation rights. Both the women have medical conditions for which they are being denied treatment. Other women recently released on bail described the cells as cold, damp and without toilets. Mahnaz Mohammadi, one of those arrested on March 4, continues to suffer from pneumonia since her release. Detainees have also reportedly been interrogated blindfolded during the night. Sadr and Abasgholizadeh are organisers of the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign, which is demanding an end to stoning as a state-sanctioned punishment for adultery.


Middle East Times, March 19, 2007

Two prominent Iranian women's rights activists detained for demonstrating outside a Tehran court were released Monday on bail of more than $200,000, their lawyers said.  "Shadi Sadr and Mahboubeh Abbas Gholizadeh were released today on bail," Farideh Gheyrat said of the two, who were arrested with 31 other activists March 4 for demonstrating outside a revolutionary court. Sadr and Abbas Gholizadeh were released on 2-billion-Iranian-riyal ($215,000) and 2.5 billion riyal bails, respectively, Gheyrat said. The two were given a one-month temporary detention order for charges undisclosed to their lawyer, in addition to the accusations of disturbing public order faced by all those detained.]

The Associated Press - March 19, 2007

An Iranian refugee who had been living with her two children at Moscow's international airport for nine months was free in Canada on Friday.Zahra Kamalfar, a human-rights activist who says she was jailed in Iran for demonstrating against the government, arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Thursday after a flight from Europe. She burst into tears, then fainted, after being reunited with her brother, Nader Kamalfar, whom she hadn't seen in nearly 14 years. Zahra Kamalfar, 47, with Anna, 17, and Davood, 12, had been living in the transit lounge of the Sheremetyevo International Airport since Russia denied them entry in May, said her Canadian lawyer, Negar Azmudeh. Canada agreed to accept Kamalfar and her children after she was granted refugee status by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "I don't know how to thank the Canada government. I say thank you, thank you, thank you so much," she told CBC Television. Kamalfar's plight began in July 2004, when she and her husband participated in a demonstration against the Iranian government in Tehran, Azmudeh said. They were both jailed, and Kamalfar says she was beaten in prison. Her chance for escape came when she was given a two-day pass from jail to visit her family in April 2005. When she got home, Kamalfar was told that her husband had been executed. She then fled Iran with her children with the intention of coming to Canada, where her brother lives. The fate of her husband is uncertain, Davood Ghavami of the Iranian Canadian Congress told The Toronto Star. Kamalfar declined to discuss her ordeal in Iran.

Voice of American - March 27, 2007

Nowruz marks the new year in Iran, but the Iranian people are facing all-too-familiar repressive tactics by the Iranian government. Recently, baton-wielding security forces in Tehran broke up yet another peaceful demonstration -- this time of teachers protesting low pay and poor working conditions. According to news reports, more than one thousand people were hauled to detention centers, and some ended up in Evin prison. Earlier this month, more than thirty women's rights demonstrators in Tehran suffered a similar fate. Moreover, a group promoting human rights for Iran's Kurdish minority has sounded an alarm over the sentence of death imposed on five Kurdish Iranian women. One of the women, Mohabbat Mahmoudi, was condemned to death by hanging for allegedly murdering a man who tried to rape her. Another, Malek Shamameh Ghorbani, a mother of two young children, has been sentenced to death by stoning because she allegedly had an extra- marital affair. According to the Association for Human Rights in Iranian Kurdistan, the three other Kurdish Iranian women were also sentenced to death in problematic cases.

Amnesty International - March 29, 2007

Delara Darabi's death sentence, handed down at a retrial in June 2006, was reportedly upheld by Branch 33 of the Supreme Court on 16 January 2007. Her lawyer reportedly lodged an appeal at the beginning of March. Concerns have been raised about Delara Darabi's physical and mental health in detention. It is not known whether she is receiving any medical treatment.  Delara Darabi was initially sentenced to death by Branch 10 of the General Court in the northern city of Rasht. The Supreme Court later found "deficiencies" in her case and sent it for retrial. However, following two trial sessions in January and June 2006, Delara Darabi was sentenced to death for a second time. When the Supreme Court upheld this sentence, Delara Darabi's lawyer was not immediately informed of their verdict, leading to a delay in his lodging an appeal. Delara Darabi therefore continues to face the death penalty for a murder which took place when she was 17 years old, and which she denies committing. In January 2007, Delara Darabi reportedly tried to commit suicide in Rasht Prison after her request to be moved to less harsh conditions in another prison failed. Her life was saved by her cellmates, who alerted the prison authorities. Delara Darabi's family was allowed to visit her in mid-March and were reportedly concerned about her health, as she also suffers from a pre-existing kidney complaint, which has apparently worsened in detention.  According to reports, Delara Darabi, then aged 17, and a 19-year-old man named Amir Hossein broke into the house of Delara Darabi's elderly female relative to commit a burglary. Amir Hossein allegedly killed the woman during the burglary. Delara Darabi initially confessed to the murder, but subsequently retracted her confession. She claims that Amir Hossein asked her to admit responsibility for the murder to protect him from execution, believing that as she was under the age of 18, she could not be sentenced to death. Iran is a state party to international treaties that expressly prohibit the use of the death penalty for crimes committed by those under the age of 18.

Reuters News Agency - April 3, 2007
Four women's rights activists were arrested for collecting signatures for a campaign demanding equal legal rights for women in Iran, an Iranian news agency reported. The ILNA news agency said the women were collecting names for a so-called "one million signature campaign" demanding changes in what activists say are discriminatory laws against women in the Islamic Republic. "Four women activists were arrested in Tehran's Laleh Park this afternoon (Monday)," ILNA reported.

Barnet & Potters Bar Times - April 4, 2007

Laila Jazayeri, director of the Association of Anglo-Iranian Women, said: "The Iranian government has taken British hostages, and still Britain is playing softly, softly'. What message does that send to them? The only language they understand is the language of bullies, and I'm sorry to say that we will see more of such action. The fate of these 15 sailors depends on the action that Britain will take." Ms Jazayeri, 44, specifically criticised the British government for opposing the removal of the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) from the EU's list of terrorist organisations. She said: "On December 12 the European Court of Justice ruled that PMOI should be removed from the list. Britain is spearheading a campaign to keep them on the list to try to appease Tehran, in the belief that they will then stop their enrichment of uranium. By doing that Britain is effectively backing the regime." The Association of Anglo-Iranian Women works closely with the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a broad coalition of groups in favour of secular government, whose supporters have been demonstrating outside Downing Street and the Foreign Office since March 19. They are calling for the label of terrorism to be removed from PMOI, and for an end to the British government's policy of appeasement. Ms Jazayeri said that even according to official figures' within Iran, 95 per cent of Iranians are against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime, adding: "What the Iranian people want to happen is democratic change."

Deutsche Presse-Agentur - April 9, 2007

Tehran's police chief on Monday warned women and men in Iran to observe the Islamic dress code or face consequences, the news network Khabar reported. General Ahmad-Reza Radan told Khabar that the vice-squad will confront women dressed 'contrary to Islamic norms' such as wearing Bermuda-style pants, tight coats, loose scarves and no socks.In the second phase of the operation men with 'unsuitable outfits' and bizarre hair-cuts are to be confronted by the vice squad.  All women in Iran, including foreigners, are expected to respect the Islamic dress code of contour-hiding gowns or long coats and scarves hiding the hair, but many women in Tehran and other big cities have been ignoring strict observation of the rules. Strict observation of women's dress code has always been a controversial issue in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. All plans by the administration to force women fully to respect the code having so far turned out to be futile.

NCRI Website - April 9, 2007

Commander of Greater Tehran's State Security Forces (SSF), Brigadier General Ahmad Reza Radan said, "In next few days, we will embark on solving the mal-veiling problem?wearing short-legged pants, using small scarves which do not cover hair completely, wearing tight garments or the ones which make body transparent are forbidden for ladies and the SSF units will prevent such clothing [in public]." He brazenly added, "The public opinion polls in Tehran show that 93 percent of the citizens demand that the SSF reports such mal-veiling [among women]." NCRI's Women's Committee Chair Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz said, "The term "mal-veiling" has been invented by the mullahs' regime as a pretext for suppressing and discriminating against women. The majority of women want a regime change and establishment of a democratic system in Iran." She added, "The desperate Iranian regime is unable to combat the popular uprisings and demonstrations which women have a special role in them. With such excuses as mal-veiling, the regime is trying to extent the suppression of women in the society."  Ms. Chitsaz mentioned that the most ludicrous claim Radan made, however is that he stated that 93 percent of citizens in Tehran ask for mal-veiling of women to be reported publicly. She reiterated that Radan and other leaders of the regime by advertising such bogus statistics are attempting to cover the official figure that 94 percent of Iranian people want a regime change. In fact people in Iran want regime change. Such undertaking will have an important role for women in its course.

Iran Focus - April 10, 2007

The following statement was issued on Thursday, 5 April, by Yakin Ert Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Human Rights Council on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and Hina Jilani, the Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders:"We express our deep concern about reports that Iranian security agents arrested four women and one man on 3 April 2007 in Laleh Park in Tehran, where the five had been collecting signatures for a campaign to change Iranian laws that discriminate against women. According to the latest information we have received, the man and two of the women have been released on bail, whereas the other two women, Nahid Keshavarz and Mahboubeh Hoseinzadeh, remained in detention at Evin Prison. We call on the responsible Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the two women. We note that the arrest of the five persons acting as human rights defenders is not a singular incident, but forms part of an ongoing, worrying trend. Iranian women and men who have peacefully demonstrated or otherwise stood up for gender equality and women's rights have been arrested or attacked on several occasions, including on International Women's Day 2006 and on 4 March 2007, when at least 31 women activists were arrested during a peaceful gathering in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Some factions within the Government of Iran seem determined to deny women's rights defenders their human rights to freedom of expression, to peaceful assembly, and to liberty and security of the person. We recall that the Government must abide by its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a State Party."

WFAFI News - April 11, 2007

In 2006-2007 thousands of newly admitted individuals to Badr-9 organization were sent to Iran for military, ideological and political training. The Quds (Jerusalem) force of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp is in charge of the trainings. One main requirement for hiring these people by the Quds force is their Shia and Iranian ancestry. Either their father or their grandfather must be of Iranian origin. The fact that Iran and Iraq are basically one nation is repeatedly stressed for them during trainings. In 2006, the Quds force started arranging training in Iran for Iraqi women belonging to the Badr-9 and SCIRI organizations. These women, for the most part in the age group of 30-40 years old, travel to Iran on regular basis to get trained by the Iranians. In the city of Kazemain in Iraq, they have established an Islamic Seminary named Dar-Albatoul. The Seminary is financed by Iran and run by women trained there. A man named Abu-Hossein Ameri supervises Dar-Albatoul. One of the responsibilities of the Dar-Albatoul Seminary is to recruit women for training in Iran. The Seminary works closely with the Quds Force to arrange the trips to Iran in a way to conceal the training intentions.  Another pre-condition to recruit and train these women is their Iranian and Shia roots. They must have an Iranian father or grand-father. These women are trained in the Iranian cities of Tehran, Qum, Mashad and Kermanshah. On their return, they get recruited by different Iraqi governmental and administrative offices in accordance with the recommendations from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds force.

The MERI - April 11, 2007

Iranian women civil rights activists are refusing to respond to a summons to court for interrogation, claiming that the summons is illegal because it was issued over the phone.  The activists have said that they and their family members have been threatened with arrest should they fail to report for questioning.

The AKI Italian News Agency - April 12, 2007

The Ansar Hezbollah, an extremist organisation that includes supporters of the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for a protests on Friday against "the shameless hussies who do not wear a hijab." The latest issue of the Iranian regime-aligned newspaper, Ya Lesarat, organ for the Iranian Hezbollah, published an appeal for the demonstration at the end of Friday prayers to "support the decision by the head of police in Tehran, which has declared war against the women who do not respect the Islamic dress code." On Monday, Tehran's police chief, General Ahmad-Reza Radan announced that from the start of the next Iranian month, which begins on 21 April, "dressing and behaving in a way that does not conform to the dictates of Sharia and the laws enforced in the Islamic Republic will not longer be tolerated." Radan said that the transgressors would be arrested and handed over to the judicial authorities.

The Times - April 13, 2007

As a child in Iran, Mandana Alijani saw her family persistently harassed by the Shah's agents, and later by the Revolutionary Guards of the succeeding Islamic regime. Three family members were executed and her father died of a heart attack. When she was 12, she fled with her mother to the UK. Alijani graduated from King's College London Medical School. She quickly discovered a love and talent for surgery, and was appointed surgical registrar at King's College Hospital, London, at 26. Her work later focused on cancer, in particular lung and colon cancers.
Childhood experience had introduced Alijani to the issues of human rights, and she became an active member of the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) which has a long record of opposition to both the Shah and the present regime. She was also director of the Anglo-Iranian Community in Greater London. She continually denounced the lack of rights for women in Iran, and only four weeks before her death was helping to organise an International Women's Day event in Paris to highlight their situation. Lord Slynn of Hadley said at her funeral: "I was always touched by the her kindness, her grace, her determination to achieve her goals and her smile."

Iranian Women Activists: In It To Win It

By Majid Mohammadi

The Washington Post

March 15, 2007

In March 2007, in an unusual political act for Tehran, nearly a hundred women gathered without the Interior Ministry’s permission in front of a court building to protest the trial of five women activists who had participated in a rally in June 2006. Police and security agents beat and detained the protesters and sent 33 people to Evin Prison. Like other activists taking action against the government’s discriminatory and oppressive policies, the women were charged with threatening national security, agitating against the government and taking part in illegal actions.

The attendees of the March 2007 rally decried the oppressive policies of the Islamic government that punish women activists for speaking out about their views. Most of the detainees are the authors and original signatories of the “One Million Signatures Campaign,” which seeks to change discriminatory laws against Iranian women. This campaign hopes to break the impasse in legal reform through popular appeal to a government that claims to be the representative of the people, and give hope to women that together they can accomplish anything. No other Islamic nation in the male-dominated Middle East region has witnessed a movement solely pursued and lead by women to achieve women’s rights.

Iranian women played a central role in the reform movement of 1997-2000, the goal of which was to liberate Iranian society from the rigid lifestyle and monolithic thinking inflicted upon it by ruling clerics. Women in this movement, as opposed to the Islamic Revolution of 1979, played their role as women, not merely as part of an unshaped mass that could be manipulated by charismatic leaders.

Opposed to Islam as an ideology, as a set of canonical laws, as a critical component of identity, and as a set of myths, Iranian reformist women look at Islam as a source of spirituality and mysticism that has nothing to do with political authority, discrimination against different social groups and conflicts of civilizations. They have tried to present an alternative reading of Islam that is consistent with democracy, the rule of law and human rights.

By arresting peaceful advocates of women’s rights, the government demonstrated its intolerance for any civil action. Authorities commonly deny permission to dissident groups for any street event, and participants are routinely harassed by militia. Given the current thinking in the security-centered government of Ahmadinejad, the heavy-handedness of Khamenei against any dissidence and the threat of attack by foreign powers, especially the U.S., the government has enough motivation, and justification, to suppress and deny any alternative voices. The state media usually call dissidents mercenaries of the CIA and Western governments. Women are no exception.

Iranian women activist groups mainly consist of writers, editors, bloggers, poets, journalists, publishers and university students. As opposed to women who participated in the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the new generation of activist women are careful where they put their efforts, and their hearts. Instead of the policies of “wait and hope” and “blame other reformists for defeats” adopted by most male reformists, Iranian reformist women have decided to take action against tyranny and discrimination. They know what they want and are beginning to think about how they can achieve their goals.


Iran: Women’s Movements and the Thousand Mile Journey

By Jamila Kadivar

Asharq Alawsat

March 22. 2007

If you ask me what the most important political issue in Iran is, my answer would be: women. This is because the issue of women has become increasingly complicated, since it is related to other matters such as religious and political issues.
Half of Iran’s population is made up of women, whereas the other half who manage their families in accordance with laws are still associated with the issue of women. During the past few years, demands from women have increased significantly in various general fields. Moreover and for the time being, their demands are attended to in a number of private realms. At present, different movements have emerged to improve the status of women in Iran. These movements were founded by women, for women. The financers of these movements are non-governmental organizations, and are not political or governmental parties. These women have founded these movements for the sake of achieving certain objectives, such as the abolition of stoning, supporting peace, opposing war and calling other organizations to adopt equality to avoid discrimination. There are other movements that provide new interpretations of Islam, as well as others that work to educate people via different means such as through the publication of books, the issuance of magazines and the launching of websites.
One of these movements is a campaign to gather one million signatures. The objective of this campaign is to change laws that discriminate against women. This movement believes that laws such as determining the age of marriage, the need for the father's consent to marriage, the absence of some women’s rights after marriage, divorce, custody of children and the age of criminal responsibility, citizenship, blood money, inheritance, testimony and similar issues are all not free of discrimination against women. It is for that reason that these movements call for changing such laws and achieving equality between genders.
The beginning of this campaign officially began in September 2006, and was then called the ‘one million signatures campaign’. With its inauguration, the campaign began its purposeful activities that aim to change unfair discriminatory laws.
Out of its belief in enlightenment, the campaign began its activities by presenting face-to-face discussions and establishing relationships with people and different groups of women, thus obtaining the assistance of educated volunteers.
This movement aims to lead people, demand change and not acknowledge any borders or limits as they are mobilized in homes, restaurants, streets and schools. Leaders of the movement are convinced that they do not conflict with Islam in any way, but rather that they aim to provide a new interpretation of Islam which supports and believes in the rights of women. After collecting one million signatures, this campaign will move onto the next stage which will privilege and respect the signatories and the concerned organizations.
Along this line, we should refer to similar successful movements from all over the world just as we should refer to the fact that social movements continued to depend on the culture of inauguration and launching campaigns in the same manner as other countries in past decades. The established truth is that these campaigns have yielded substantial positive results. It can be said that these movements were not founded in Western states only; rather many have been established in developing countries and Islamic countries as well.
The idea of collecting signatures was adopted from the women of Morocco, as they had succeeded in reforming laws through campaigns. Also India, Tunisia and Turkey had provided examples of other successful movements in this realm.
Recently, Bahraini women's movements have succeeded to impose some changes to citizenship law.
On the other hand, we must refer to some problems that could hinder the performance of this campaign. Here we must admit that the following problems and obstacles with regards to the Iranian situation could stand in the way of the campaign. For example, I must state that authorities will probably clash with the campaign, cause problems for the campaigners and will resort to arresting them to limit their activities.
But we must say that collective action is essentially difficult to implement, especially when it rallies for a sensitive issue such as women's issues and when the group is composed of women who have different ways of thinking, are from different religious groups, or are secularists.
And finally, the following question has always been posed; is it possible to reform laws relating to the status of women, bearing in mind that the Board of Trustees of the Constitution made it impossible to change any laws?
I believe that such campaign could be deemed a success even if it fails to achieve its objectives since it succeeded to attract several groups of women from different levels of society of different political and ideological affiliations. This is in addition to the fact that this campaign is an experience that was carried out by women without any assistance from men. The campaign has also increased awareness amongst women and has helped them exchange experiences and ideas with one another. There is an effective and practical admission of the campaign into homes yet in a calm manner and this in itself will lead to a change sooner or later.


A Year of Suppression of Women in Iran

Complied and Published by NCRI 

March 30, 2007

The NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran) Women's Committee drafted an assessment of the repression of women in Iran for the past year. Results of its studies show 88 % of women are victims of psychological violence. They are subjected to harassment, ill-treatment and suppression because of the shape or colour of their clothes. The word "mal-veiling" in the mullahs' jargon, is not only related to the head scarf but to behaviour and all garments covering a woman's body, considered to be the source of temptation and sin.
Last year, (21 March 2006 to 21 March 2007) 317,000 women received a warning in the street about their attire. This took the form of more repressive regulations in offices and Universities.
The Minister of Sciences declared that students' indecent clothes gave a shocking image of Universities: "The university environment is not free of any constraint. Students do not have to come to University with odd clothes and make-up causing disturbance. On the contrary, they have to get dressed in a strict way and respect the seriousness of the University. Students who do not respect University frame by the way they dressed, must be sent back home." (Kargozaran Newspaper, January 21 2007).
Some officials also declared "women in black chador draw less attention" (Iran Press News, January 29 2007)
A regime MP considers "women do not have to wear frivolous and different clothes from each other that make them an object of desire, since religion forbids wearing provocative clothes". (Kargozaran Newspaper, January 21 2007)
Sexual violence accounts for the second largest number of cases of violence, with 76% of cases of violence. This is harder and more frequent than the psychological violence. As sexual problems are in the private domain, women refuse to speak about it. It can therefore be concluded that figures on sexual violence are more important as women's silence on this issue leads to a rise of sexually transmitted diseases and psychic trauma.
Girls consider that the only way of escaping sexual, family and social violence is higher education. They see in University an exit to avoid forced marriages and an opportunity to live in an independent way throughout their course, even if violence at University takes other forms. Therefore we can conclude violence against women has risen dramatically since Ahmadinejad became the mullahs' President.
During the Iranian year 1385 (21 March 2006 to 21 March 2007) women protested throughout the country. On 12 June, 3000 women took to the streets, on March 8, 1000 women demonstrated in Tehran, as well as several thousands more in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj. These movements have been harshly suppressed, leading to hundreds of arrests.
The year 1385 can be summarized in using official figures, raising the veil on a dreadful reality:
Executions and stoning to death: 8
Death sentences and to stoning to death: 52
Number of female prisoners: 5413
Arrested women: 5978
Warnings for mal-veiling: 317,193
Repressive operations against women: 100
Summons in the court and condemnations: 558
Divorces: 2786
Run away girls: 302,399
Women sold daily abroad: 54 women from 16 to 25 years old (19,710 a year)
Unemployed women: 1,300,012
Women in poverty: 8,002,500

What must Iran make of this free woman?

By Janice Turner

The Times

March 31, 2007

They insisted that she conceal her fatigues with a white abaya, cover her hair with a hijab. It was with her soft voice and in her round, girlish handwriting that the apology for her country’s actions had to be made.
This war has a workaday military guise, but as the treatment of Leading Seaman Faye Turney shows, it is a collision between two irreconcilable civilisations. Its spoils are more than oil reserves, disputed waters or regional influence, but, at its very core, the right of dominion over women.
What a perplexing and alien creature Seaman Turney must appear to this Iranian regime. A young woman working close-knit with men, proud to perform her dangerous task of piloting speedboats as well as any one of them. A wife and mother, moreover, away from her small daughter, who has put military career before marital and maternal duties.
The Iranians were satisfied to have her 14 male comrades surrender as sailors or Marines: Seaman Turney had to surrender also as a woman. While the men were free to eat their pitta bread and lamb stew with weary resignation, she had to work out how best to appear adequately humble, grateful and submissive. She must submit not just to Iran’s military authority but its patriarchal might.
After all, here she stood, the end-product of 100 years of bitterly fought — and now mostly unacknowledged — Western female emancipation. In Britain our own reactionaries may finger-wag at the unnatural spectacle of a mother in a warzone, distracting our male warrior caste. One strain of feminism can question why womankind — Nature’s peacemakers, oh Mother Gaia! — would want to fight men’s wars, particularly this one.
While another might point out the sham of Seaman Turney’s equality: the sexual harassment endured by almost all women military personnel and their ban from the front line.
And the tiresome buzz of these debates can distract us from the wholly magnificent truth: the freedom of Seaman Turney and of all of us, our right to make choices — and mistakes — to fight, to study, to work, to stay home, to have children, to remain childless, to wear what the hell we like — whether basque or burka — to live unenslaved by our fertility, our fathers, our husbands, to have equal rights before the law. So languid are we in this warm bath of freedom, that International Women’s Day — March 9 — doesn’t even figure on our calendar. It is some vestigial Seventies feminist joke. We’d be marching for what, exactly? Is there really anything left? Er, more women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies?
In Iran, however, International Women’s Day is as perilous as patrolling any Iraqi foxhole. A week before, to forestall protest on the day itself, police rounded up and arrested 33 women involved in the Campaign for Equality, which aims to get a million signatures on a petition calling for the end of discrimination in Iranian penal and family codes.
In Iran a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man, her murder requires only half the punishment, girls as young as 9 may be stoned for adultery and mothers after divorce only have custody rights over their children until they reach 7 years old.
On March 9, the few women who dared to gather peacefully outside the parliament building were dispersed or arrested. Any prominent woman lawyer, journalist or politician speaks out at grave personal risk. Five feminist leaders are currently on trial for “propaganda against the system” and “acting against national security.” Compared with their subjugated Saudi sisters, Iranian women have comparative liberty, being permitted to drive, vote and stand for office. Indeed more than half of university graduates in Iran are women. And it is this weight of numbers, a growing confidence and sense of entitlement among these educated women, that threatens the male leadership and has precipitated a recent crackdown.
It is no longer enough, say the mullahs, for women to sit in separate rows from male students in lecture theatres or classrooms. Liberal academics have been purged, there are calls for separate teaching and for CCTV cameras on campuses to monitor “gender-mingling”.
Meanwhile the Islamic dress code is being imposed with renewed zeal. Girls have pushed the rules — as girls eternally will — wearing tight fitting abayas or the sheerest scarves far back on their dark hair, flashing painted toenails in open sandals.
But last year, the police chose the broiling heat of August to caution women deemed “badly veiled” and instructed them to wear the heavy, sweltering full-length chador. In Tehran, in a single month, 63,963 women were given a warning, with some making a written pledge to dress properly. Then, in a move which would be comical if it weren’t so despotic, the police organised a fashion show, displaying examples of outfits considered properly Islamic. Obviously no live models were used.
To think, we live in a parallel universe where “diktats of fashion” mean feeling obliged to succumb to the smock, where “fashion crime” means Christina Aguilera overdoing the sequins and the “fashion police” are a bunch of effete stylists, not zealots wielding night-sticks.
There are, of course, those who have taken up the veil voluntarily in Britain, who fight secularism so bitterly, who would have it that no British Muslim school girl strode to school bareheaded or even barefaced. What would they make of these women who risk a spell in Iran’s notorious Evin prison for supporting a form of political protest as meek as a petition? They might say that these women were infected with Western values — although the richest Iranian women are apparently unwilling to dirty their shoes on this campaign, having the money and connections to skip off abroad at will. And in any case the groundswell of revolt against clerical tyranny comes from the less affluent or educated, who stand to lose most: their children, homes, liberty, lives. Let the women of Beeston in their chadors flick V-signs at us. Let them wear their slave garb and tell us their invisibility is the will of God rather than the rule of man. Let them do so while reaping all the benefits — education, equality — of Western feminism. As long as they acknowledge that thanks to the values they disdain and too often wish to destroy, and unlike the women of Iran and currently Leading Seaman Turney, they do so because they have a choice.

The End of the Dispensable Iranian

By Roya Hakakian
The New York Times

April 10, 2007

Dawn had always arrived in Berlin's Turm Strasse with the bustling of shopkeepers and the drowsy hiss of buses pulling into their stops. Always, except on the morning of April 10, 1997. On that day, the street had been cleared of traffic and blocked to anyone but pedestrians. On the rooftop of every building leading to Nos. 91-92, snipers had been stationed.
Turm Strasse 91-92 is the address of Berlin's highest criminal court. It is also the site of one of the least known, yet most momentous events in the contemporary history of Germany and Iran. The 1992 assassinations of four Iranian Kurdish leaders at a restaurant called Mykonos led to a trial that took nearly four years and culminated in a verdict, 10 years ago today, that implicated the Iranian leadership ? the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei; the president at the time, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and the foreign minister, Ali Velayati ? as the masterminds of the crime. An arrest warrant had already been issued for the minister of intelligence, Ali Fallahian.
Nostalgia has a way of augmenting reality, which may be why those who were there remember droves of thousands along the street. The crowds were ready for mayhem ? armed with bullhorns, boom-boxes and loudspeakers ? if the verdict were lenient toward the assassins, who had been members of the Hezbollah, or if it failed to address the role of the Iranian leadership in the murders, the latest in a chain of assassinations of Iranian dissidents throughout the world.
Suspense had everyone in its jittery grip. A few with mobile phones anxiously awaited calls from a handful of spectators who had managed to get inside the court. At nearly 9:30 a.m., Parviz Dastmalchi, one of the survivors of the Mykonos shootings, finally heard from a friend. "They named them all," the voice whispered at the other end. A perennial skeptic, Mr. Dastmalchi chalked the statement up to the Iranian penchant for hyperbole. But when the silent throngs on the street broke into cheers, he knew it was true.
Suddenly, the Iranian opposition was united. From one end of Turm Strasse, members of the People's Mujahedeen crossed the street to embrace monarchist sympathizers on the other side. Former enemies linked their arms as a decadent Persian dance tune called "Baba Karam" blared on the loudspeakers. Mr. Dastmalchi and other political activists who had observed the trial with stoicism began to weep. The widows and children of the victims, who had wept for years, were jubilant.
The verdict resulted in almost all the European Union's members recalling their ambassadors from Tehran for several weeks.
The diplomatic blackout is one reason Mohammad Khatami, who was lagging behind the incumbent, Mr. Rafsanjani, in the last weeks of the presidential campaign, pulled ahead. However dead the reform movement now seems ? though many insiders consider it only dormant ? it began with the election of Mr. Khatami and reached its pinnacle in 2000. That is when the investigative journalist Akbar Ganji published his series of books on the assassinations of political leaders and writers within the country. These books, which set off a debate about civil society and the rule of law among Iranian intellectuals, may have never existed without that verdict, the indefatigable German prosecutor, Bruno Jost, and the extensive volumes of testimonies and records that were released.
Through tens of hours of interviews, I have often wondered why I, the supremely squeamish, the one who reaches for the remote when an actor reaches for his revolver, should be interested in the story of so gruesome a murder. The answer came to me as I sat packed among strangers in the coach class of a Berlin-bound Continental flight: Tyrannies strip nations of dignity, as do exile and war. And I have experienced that unholy trinity. I am an exile who has lived through the Iranian regime's tyranny and the early years of the Iran-Iraq war.
The verdict in the Mykonos trial was a victory for every displaced or oppressed Iranian. Through this trial, the German judiciary restored dignity to Iranians by insisting that we were not dispensable beings. If there is one community of Muslim immigrants about whose assimilation Europe needs not worry, it is the Iranian community in Germany. By extending its laws to these immigrants, by giving them justice, the German judiciary gave Iranians a taste of what they could never have in their own country.
More than any assimilation program possibly could, this event turned ordinary Iranian immigrants into loyal German patriots. Former political prisoners, whether under the shah or the current regime, saw how a real court operates. Democracy, many of them believed, was a superior system, the right way to run a society. In this particular case, it was also highly therapeutic.
For once, Iranians had the pleasure of proving to Westerners, who are perpetually consumed by atrocities committed against their own, that the first victims of the Iranian regime and Hezbollah were Muslim Iranians, and that their war with the Western world began much later than their war against Iranians. Had Europe, had the world, spoken against those earlier crimes, the beast of terrorism may not have grown into the multiheaded monster that it is today.
What the Mykonos trial did for the cause of democracy and rule of law in Iran cannot be accomplished by military might. The 1992 case is still open, as are the cases of several other murders throughout Europe. Solving these murders and bringing justice to their victims are among the most effective steps the international community can take to strengthen the hands of the democratic forces in Iran.

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Volume 35, April 15, 2007

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