March 15, 2008 VOLUME 46
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
In recent weeks, there has been more arrests and death sentences against women. Tehran's fundamentalist regime is so fearful of women, that it even barred a women's rights activist's travel to participate in the Swedish award ceremony. The regime took extra steps to prevent any gatherings or public events on March 8 commemorating the International Women's Day. There is no doubt that defending women's rights is a threat to the fundamentalist regime in Tehran.
For years, the "moral" police in the streets used women to set the bar for suppression and crackdown. While Ahmadinejad and his thugs claim to be defending Islam, their un-Islamic and misogynous practices now faces an interesting challenge: In recent days, Ahmadinejad's "moral enforcer", Brigadier General Ali Reza Zarei, who led the sever crackdown on women failing to adhere to Iran's strict Islamic dress codes, has been arrested in a Tehran brothel. Zarei, 53, the Tehran police chief and a close confidant to Ahmadinejad, was caught with six prostitutes performing nude "Islamic" prayers. There has been no mention of the case in the official Iranian media but a spokesman for the justice ministry admitted last week that an unnamed senior official had been arrested. While it is clear what will happen to the six women arrested with Zarei, there is no word on what will happen to the vanished police chief.
This is yet another clear example on how this regime is inherently un-Islamic and deeply misogynous in nature. Zarei's case clearly demonstrates how Tehran's fundamentalist regime, by targeting women first and foremost, uses Islam as weapon against its people. So, the question for a fair and objective observer is there a room for reform in this regime? or do the Iranian people deserve to change this regime in its entirety? Iranian women and men believe in the latter.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
WFAFI News Service - February 18, 2008
Although the Iranian regime claims that it halted
the practice of stoning, the stoning verdict of a 14 year old girl was approved
and carried out by her father in city of Zahedan in Sistan-Baluchistan province.
The security forces took no action to stop the killing of the young girl despite
the desperate plea by her mother. The father admitted to the head of Zahedan
police that he killed his daughter for her "illicit relation with a man,
indecency and lack of morality". According to the father, he stoned his own
daughter first and then killed her by four bullet because "he had no other
choice but to defend his honor." According to Article 220 of Iran's Penal code,
the father will not face any punishment for taking matters in to his own hands.
NCRI Website - February 19, 2008
In the latest plan introduced by the Iranian regime to deepen gender segregation in the society, telephone booths are targeted, the state-run website Farda reported on Monday. Following such previous plans as buses, taxies, schools, public service offices, and text books segregations, now telephone booths are divided between males and females in the holy city of Qom, in central Iran for the first time according to Farda. Imposing strict gender segregation in all social activities involving women has been the practice since the early days of the mullahs' regime in Iran. However, going as far as segregating the phone booths is a new measure to deepen the gender discrimination in Iran.
NCRI Website - February 21, 2008
The State Security Forces (SSF) arrested a woman for not wearing socks. When her sister attempted to get her detained sister released by taking a pair of socks to the SSF local station where the woman was held, both women were beaten up by male agents and imprisoned until next morning. The two were referred to a judge for arraignment the next day. Compliance with the so-called Islamic dress codes by Iranian women is a must and the violators will be punished accordingly. Thousands of women have been warned for wearing tight outfits, short coats and skimpy headscarves and for flouting the Islamic dress code, which requires every post-pubescent woman to cover their hair and body contours. Wearing boots with short pants, hats or scarves which do not fully cover hair and neck instead of the proper head veil and putting on unusual make-up that contradicts public chastity is forbidden. The mullahs' regime has in recent months stepped up execution of youths in a clear warning to those deemed to be a threat to the society.
Malaysia Sun - February 25, 2008
A video has emerged which shows crowds rioting against the Iranian regime. The riot broke out in Tehran on the weekend when the Iranian Chastity Police attempted to arrest a young woman they said was inappropriately dressed. Witnesses say the young woman resisted arrest, which caused the police to push and beat her. The sight of the woman being beaten prompted a bystander to come to her aid, but he was also roughed-up by the security forces. Dozens of Iranians who were present at the scene began rioting and setting rubbish on fire. The riot was captured on numerous cell-phone cameras and shows people shouting slogans against the police and government. The crowed reportedly called out against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Efforts by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Chastity Police to enforce the Islamic dress code on Iranian women has caused thousands of women to be detained for failing to uphold the dress code.
BBC News - February 25, 2008
Homosexual relationships are banned in Iran, but the
country allows sex change operations and hundreds of men have elected for
surgery to change their lives. Ali Askar had a sex change operation and is
now called Negar "He wants to kill me. He keeps telling me to come home so he
can kill me. He had put rat poison in my tea." For Ali Askar, at age 24, the
decision to become a woman came at a heavy cost. His father threatened to kill
him if he went ahead with surgery. Now renamed Negar, she says she would not
have had the operation if she did not live in Iran. Today, Iran carries out more
sex change operations than any other nation in the world except for Thailand.
Agance France Presse - February 25, 2008
Iran is to impose a quota that men and women form a minimum of 30 percent in university courses, partly in a bid to prevent women dominating the medical profession, a newspaper reported on Monday. Women currently outnumber men at universities in Iran and the imbalance has become especially acute in medicine, creating fears that the vast majority of medical professionals could be women in the future. ‘There will be a minimum 30 percent admission for men and women each and the rest will be chosen competitively,’ Etemad newspaper quoted the head of Iran’s Academic Testing Organisation, Abdolrasool Pour Abbas, as saying. ‘The law will guarantee the entrance of both genders in medical, engineering and humanities fields,’ he said. He argued that the measure was not discriminating against women, pointing out that they would benefit in disciplines where they are still outnumbered by men. But some hardline MPs-not always men-have branded women’s increased numbers a dangerous phenomenon, arguing that men as traditional bread winners had to have a guaranteed place in higher education and the workforce.
WFAFI News Service - February 28, 2008
Two women have been handed their death sentence in Evin prison. Shahbanoo Nedam, after being in prison for 11 years, is now condemned to death by execution. Another woman, Tayebeh Hojjati, has also been sentenced to death after 8 years of being in prison. They are both in in the section 3 of Evin prison, and have been convicted of murder. Currently there are more than 57 women who are facing execution in Iran. Among those, there are 11 women facing death by stoning. Iran holds the highest number of female execution in the world.
Voice of America - February 28, 2008
Iranian women are getting more vocal in their demands for equality before the law. The Amnesty International report says dozens of activists and supporters have been arrested in connection with their activities for the Campaign for Equality, founded in 2006. As of January 2008, the Campaign's website had been blocked by the authorities at least seven times, the report says.
Agance France Presse - February 28, 2008
Iranian security forces arrested 10 people who clashed with police in Teheran after they arrested a woman deemed to be badly veiled as part of a moral crackdown, a deputy police chief said on Friday. “A sister was warned over her dress but she resisted. She refused to cooperate while being transferred to the patrol car and made a scene,” the ISNA news agency quoted Commander Hossein Zolfaghari as saying. “Some people were affected by the noise and clashed with the police and were eventually arrested,” he said. Nine people as well as the woman in question had been detained, he said, without giving further details.“Even if the police’s actions had been not merited that girl should not have resisted,” he said. “If an official warns a driver about going through a red light should he get out and grab the official by the neck?” Thousands of women have been warned over insufficient covering of hair and bodily contours in Iran, which launched a nationwide moral crackdown in April 2007 in a drive to “elevate security in society.”
The New York Times - March 2, 2008
American officials charge Iran with meddling in Iraq by facilitating the importing of powerful weapons into the country and training Iraqis to set the armor-piercing roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators...In Diyala Province, still one of the most violent areas, American forces were detaining a man believed to be in charge of a cell that recruited women to carry out suicide-vest bombings, the military said Saturday in a statement...Women have carried out six attacks or attempted attacks so far this year, according to the United States military. The bombers of the Baghdad pet markets were two women with a history of psychiatric treatment.
Reuters - March 3, 2008
An Iranian women's rights campaigner said police
prevented her from flying out of Tehran on Monday to pick up a $75,000 human
rights award in Sweden. Parvin Ardalan, who was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for
2007, said she had boarded the Air France plane at Tehran's international
airport when aircraft crew told her that police had informed them she could not
International Herald Tribune - March 6, 2008
An Iranian-American radio journalist who is facing a yearlong prison term for her broadcasts to Iran through Radio Free Europe said yesterday that Iran had threatened to seize her 95-year-old mother's home in Tehran if she did not return to serve a sentence for propaganda. The journalist, Parnaz Azima, 59, who works for the Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague, said her lawyer in Iran was appealing her conviction Saturday by Tehran's 13th Revolutionary Court for spreading propaganda and working for the "anti-revolutionary" Radio Farda, the Persian-language station of Radio Free Europe. "The interrogation was about everything, about my own life," she said. "What was I doing before leaving Iran 25 years ago. What I was doing in my life before coming to Radio Free Europe. And then about what was I doing in Radio Free Europe. And they were always insisting that if I cooperated with them, everything would be closed." She noted that officials particularly urged her to avoid covering sensitive issues like human rights.
IPS News - March 11, 2008
Suppression of women’s movements and refusal to
allow women to rally in public places by Iran’s hard line rulers kept
celebrations of this year’s International Women’s Day confined to small
gatherings in private residences. The fear of harassment or arrest was
real. Memories are fresh of the arrests of 10 women at a Mar. 8 rally in front
of the Iranian Parliament, last year. Four days prior to that, 33 women’s rights
advocates, who had rallied in front of a revolutionary court to protest the
trial of five women’s rights activists, were arrested on charges of
‘jeopardising national security’. Since then, tens of more rights activists have
been arrested, summoned by courts or security bodies, imprisoned, tried by
revolutionary courts or prevented from leaving the country.
The Tronto Star - March 12, 2008
Soroya Malekzadeh wanted to test Iran's claim to being an open democracy, so she submitted her nomination papers to be a candidate for this month's parliamentary elections. The reply came from the Interior Ministry, formally disqualifying her for failing to meet Iran's strict Islamic requirements. Now, exhausted by state harassment and imprisonment, she has submitted another set of papers, this time to the Canadian embassy in Tehran in hope of obtaining refugee status. From a small, one-bedroom apartment in central Tehran, Malekzadeh trembles and blinks nervously as she describes her failed bid to run in Iran's elections. Visibly exhausted from years of run-ins with the authorities, Malekzadeh, 38, says her vocal stance on women's issues in Iran has left her with little option but to leave. "I have lost almost everything," she says. "My job, my future, everything," the medical nurse adds. "Women can't do anything in this country. The government tells us how to dress, whether we can see boys and what we can say ... I want to go to Canada where I can have freedom." The former lecturer and author with a Masters degree in medicine now spends her days reading and pleading her case for asylum. "I am not a criminal," she says, sipping tea.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Hear the Cry of the People of Iran for Freedom
By Baroness May Blood - Member of UK House of Lords
February 19, 2008
On January 31, the European Parliament (EP) adopted a resolution expressing its "deep concern over the deterioration of the human rights situation in Iran." The EP strongly condemned the death sentences and executions in Iran, in particular those imposed and/or carried out on minors.
The resolution came not a moment too soon. The EP in particular protested vehemently the execution of Zamal Bawi, who was executed just hours before the vote. Twenty-four hours earlier, five men were summarily hanged by Iranian authorities in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison. Fearful of a population increasingly discontent over the tremulous state of the economy and lack of basic rights, in January alone the regime executed at least 31 people, including a mother-of-two.
Currently state security forces roam the streets of Iranian cities in an effort to fend off the slightest potential for anti-government protests. Women have suffered the most during the ongoing crackdown which the regime has billed as the “plan to root out corruption in society”. Those caught not wearing the mandatory veil or using make-up are often taken to police stations and can receive fines and even lashes and prison terms. In October, a state-run daily reported 122,000 people, mostly women, had received warnings about their attire and some 7,000 such people had been ordered to attend classes on respecting the Islamic Republic’s dress regulations.
Actually, the regime has reason to be anxious of even small signs of public dissatisfaction. Iranian youths, and women in particular, have become ever-more vocal in their condemnation of the regime’s misogynistic policies. Last year, more than 5,000 anti-government protests took place across the country by all sectors of society. Remarkably, Iranian women have been playing the lead role in publicly defying the ayatollahs. In fact, for the past 15 years the Iranian Resistance has been led by a charismatic woman, Maryam Rajavi.
Mrs. Rajavi, who has been nominated by the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as interim president for the transitional period following the demise of the current regime, was recently a guest of honour at both the European Parliament and the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe, where she outlined her vision of a future free and democratic Iran which would live in peace with its neighbours and offer its citizens equal opportunities and freedom of thought and speech. The NCRI’s political platform prohibits use of the death penalty and thankfully for us in the West rules out the need for nuclear development.
At the centre of Rajavi’s coalition is the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran which has lost more than 120,000 of its members to the regime’s gallows.
Yet, rather than supporting the brave men and women of Iran to bring about democratic change in Iran, the West has disgracefully sided with their oppressors. In an unfortunate act of appeasement, the UK government and the European Union blacklisted the PMOI in the first half of the decade.
This act is a direct challenge to the people of Iran and has angered European Parliamentarians. In the resolution it adopted last week on rights violations in Iran, the European Parliament also pointed out that two separate courts in the UK and EU had ruled that the PMOI was not terrorist. The resolution recalled the "decision of the European Court of First Instance of 12 December 2006" that annulled the inclusion of the PMOI in the EU terror list. It also took note of the “decision of the British Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission of 30 November 2007, calling on the British Home Secretary to remove the PMOI from the list of proscribed organisations immediately."
Similarly, on 23 January, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe also called on the UK government and EU Council of Ministers to implement the court orders.
Given that both Europe’s judicial and the legislative branches have declared unequivocally that the terror label on the PMOI is unlawful, the government’s determination to maintain the proscription is a mockery of the rule of law and disregard for public opinion. As such it also counters efforts to combat terrorism, in the hope of appeasing the religious fascism ruling Iran.
Finally, the UK should abandon its fruitless efforts to placate the mullahs and as a first step end its injustice towards the Iranian opposition. This would send a message to the brave people of Iran that the free world is on their side.
Iran Cracks Down on Student Protesters
By Anuj Chopra
February 21, 2008
US News and World Report
Zamanian, a lanky 23-year-old student of mining engineering, vividly remembers
the last time he bellowed slogans denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"Death to the dictator!" he chanted vociferously on a freezing winter day in
December 2006, leading a crowd of Iranian students as the Iranian leader
delivered a speech at Amirkabir University of Technology, a hotbed of student
protests in Tehran.
A few weeks later, Zamanian was blindfolded by authorities and tossed into Section 209, the notorious solitary confinement block in Evin Prison run by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security. And that began a four-month ordeal of physical and psychological abuse by interrogators determined to have him confess on camera to collaborating with the cia. When he refused, he says, they tied his hands behind his back and beat him black and blue. "They harbor a 'teach them a lesson' vindictiveness," he says. "They are very, very brutal."
Zamanian is among thousands of political activists and journalists free on bail but banned from leaving the country. Yet, he may count himself lucky; a young man and woman recently were reported to have died in custody, claimed by authorities as suicides.
Zamanian recounts the litany of abuse and torture during a recent rendezvous in a downtown Tehran cafe, visibly nervous that he might have been followed. He lives with the uncertainty of being tossed back into prison at any time. His life is in limbo. He faces a never-ending series of court dates and interrogations. His phone is tapped, his movements probably watched. (During the course of this interview, he disconnected his cellphone battery, worried his location might be tracked or conversation overheard by Intelligence Ministry spies).
In the year since Zamanian took part in protests, student movements in some Iranian universities have been gathering steam. On Dec. 7, 2007, Students Day in Iran, hundreds of leftist university students marched at university campuses with portraits of Che Guevara. Smaller groups of Marxist students held similar protests in several other cities. Other groups soon joined, including students from Islamic schools.
About 50 students have been arrested since then, according to estimates by defense lawyers. The security officials have reportedly called them "rebel students," and family members have been told that their children "had acted against national security." Security officials in the past year have hit out at groups like the labor movement, women's rights advocates, and students, labeling them centers of conspiracy. The universities similarly have been targeted within the past year. Nonconformist lecturers have been dismissed, student associations closed, publications banned, and a range of other actions taken to muzzle student leaders.
According to the Office for Fostering Unity, a leading reformist student organization, 43 student organizations critical of the government have been closed down, at least 130 student publications banned, and hundreds of students detained since the Ahmadinejad government came to power. During this time, they say around 550 students have been summoned to disciplinary hearings, and more than 100 prominent lecturers have been dismissed or forced to retire.
Last year, the Iranian minister of intelligence, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi, reiterated the official view that Iran's enemies were planning to use the students' and women's movements as the vehicle for a "soft coup."
Iranian dissident students and human-rights observers expressed shock at the news last month of the death in detention of two young Iranians, Ebrahim Lotfallahi, 27, a prominent student activist from Sanandaj, and Zahra Bani-Ameri, a 27-year-old female physician.
While the Iranian authorities are eager to dismiss these deaths as suicides, human-rights observers blame the Intelligence Ministry, which reportedly conducts interrogations of political detainees and is said to use violence to obtain confessions. "The sudden death in detention of two apparently healthy young people is extremely alarming," said Joe Stork, Middle East deputy director at Human Rights Watch. "The government only heightens our concern by quickly passing them off as suicides."
Local student and human-rights activists are concerned about the safety of many other young Iranian students in prison, recently arrested for antigovernment protests.
A leading dissident, a former professor in the University of Tehran who asked that his name not be used, actively supports the student movement. Often, at great personal risk, he shelters politically active students, on the run from the Basij, or the state-sponsored militia, in his apartment in northern Tehran.
He is deeply concerned about one of his students, Saeed Habibi, the former head of a student group called the Daftar-e Tahkim Vahdat, or the Union of Islamic Associations. Habibi was arrested nearly two months ago and is rumored to have tried to commit suicide in prison. Details about his condition have been sketchy, and the former professor is concerned Habibi might meet the same fate as Lotfallahi and Bani-Ameri. Habibi was arrested with others on students' day last year.
"We're not fighting to make a country where there's freedom of speech," the aging professor says, sipping from a cup of green tea in his apartment, "but, in fact, a country where there's freedom after speech."
Since 70 percent of the population is under 32 and society is strongly influenced by the young, he says, muzzling young student voices will backfire badly on the government in the future.
Naser Zarafshan, a prominent defense lawyer who represents several imprisoned students, says there are three kinds of cases he's dealing with in an atmosphere of intimidation: the few students who have been granted bail but are still in detention; those who are still under interrogation and have not been allowed out on bail; and those for whom information is still quite nebulous even weeks after their arrest.
"The judiciary has set bail amounts of 300, 500, and 1,000 million Iranian rials [the equivalent of $33,000, $54,000, and $108,000 respectively]—an amount many of these students just cannot afford to pay," Zarafshan says.
Most of the students are being kept in Evin prison's notorious Section 209, where detainees are held in solitary confinement. Section 209 is solely controlled by Iran's Intelligence Ministry, and even Evin authorities don't have access to this section. Some others are being detained in tiny lockups of the intelligence agency in central Tehran called Daftar-e-Peygiri, or Tracking Office.
Clashes between student groups and the authorities came to a head at the beginning of May 2007 during anti-Ahmedinejad protests. And three fellow students of Zamanian's—Ahmad Ghasaban, Majid Tavakkoli, and Ehsan Mansouri—are currently in prison, accused of writing incendiary articles insulting both Islam and Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in student publications at Amirkabir University last year.
"That's absolutely false," Zamanian says, convinced that the offending articles were planted to remove alleged ringleaders of the anti-Ahmadinejad protests at Amirkabir. "My friends were tortured to make false confessions."
He's convinced the recent crackdown on students is to muzzle any defiance in the run-up to the March presidential elections, in which Ahmadinejad is seeking a second term in office.
"Hijab problem" sparks police standoff in Tehran
By Fredrik Dahl
February 24, 2008
Wearing a brightly colored headscarf and high-heeled boots, the woman refused to be bundled into the police van without a fight.
Protesting loudly and even trying to escape, her standoff with Iranian police cracking down on women violating the Islamic dress code lasted several minutes. But the outcome of the drama shortly after dusk on a cold winter's day on Tehran's most famous boulevard was never in doubt.
Two female police officers in head-to-toe black chadors pushed her into the white vehicle which then drove off into the bustle of tree-lined Vali-ye Asr Avenue.
"Hijab problem," one male onlooker said, referring to the clothes women must wear in Iran to cover their hair and disguise the shape of their bodies to conform with Iran's Islamic laws. Based in Tehran for the past year, I have often written about police detaining women who challenge the dress codes that have been more strictly enforced under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But this was the first time I saw it happening.
To judge by the passers-by who stopped in the lamplight on the snowy pavement, or the people peeping out through the windows of the neighborhood grocery store where I was buying milk, my curiosity was shared.
The dark-haired woman, who appeared to be in her 30s, argued in a high-pitched voice with a burly, bearded male police officer towering over her in his green uniform. When his female colleague put a hand on the woman's shoulder to lead her into the van, she angrily pushed it away and shouted. Then suddenly she turned and tried to run away. She did not get far. The two female officers grabbed her and shoved her into the police vehicle. The door was slammed shut and the van disappeared into Tehran's evening rush hour.
"Not good," a fellow shopper told me in halting English, shaking his head in disapproval at the police action.
Thousands of women have been hauled in or warned by police in the 10 months since the authorities launched one of the strictest campaigns in recent years.
In addition to the annual summer crackdown, when sweltering heat prompts some women to shed clothing, police in December announced a drive against winter fashions seen as immodest, such as tight trousers tucked into long boots.
Iran's clerical leaders say Islamic attire helps protect women against the sex symbol status they have in the West.
But young women in wealthier urban areas often defy the restrictions by wearing tight clothing and colourful headscarves that barely cover their hair. The codes are less commonly flouted in poor suburbs and rural regions.
Even men with spiked haircuts deemed too "Western" are being targeted by the authorities in the latest clampdown.
One Iranian woman in her early 40s told me later the campaign had persuaded her to dress more conservatively, but younger women "are not scared anymore".
Those found dressing inappropriately may be warned or, if they are repeat offenders, can spend the night in a police station and may also be fined. The authorities say they are "fighting morally corrupt people". An opinion poll published by the semi-official Fars News Agency last year said most Iranians polled supported the way police were dealing with women wearing "bad hijab".
But there was little obvious sign of approval from the small audience who watched the incident in Elahiyeh, a relatively well-off suburb in north Tehran. Then after a few sighs and a bit of muttered discussion, the customers shrugged off the commotion and returned to their shopping, as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.
I stepped out into streets blanketed in snow during Iran's coldest winter in decades, wondering about the woman.
Iranian Women, the force for change
By Maryam Rajavi
March 8, 2008
salute brave women who are suffering but struggling for the ideal of equality.
And we commend those pioneering women, each of whom took giant leaps toward
advancing this ideal in their own era. From Olympe de Gouges, Louise Michel and
Bertie Albrecht in France, to Dolores Ibarruri (Pasionaria) in Spain, Clara
Zetkin in Germany, and Susan Anthony in the United States.
And also, such pioneering women in Iran as Fatemeh Amini, Marzieh Ahmadi Skouii, Ashraf Rajavi, and thousands of martyred Mojahedin women as well as Sedigheh Mojaveri and Neda Hassani.
Today, despite the many advances made by women's equality movement, forces and institutions that are founded on exploitation around the world continue to fight against the ideal of equality and have challenged women's rights and freedoms.
Religious fascism distinguished by its misogyny and export of terrorism, threatens to destroy global achievements, including equality for women.
To this end, on the International Women's Day, we are looking towards, and fighting for, hope, bright horizons and the prospect of change and emancipation.
Through destruction, intimidation and terror, fundamentalism is raging everywhere. Its message: Forget about equality.
Appeasers who sacrifice human rights, peace and democracy by supporting the mullahs ask mockingly, "When there are business deals to be made, who needs equality?"
The love and faith of women, who believe in the ideal of equality around the world;
The courage of women and girls who partake in protests against religious dictatorship;
The perseverance of women who say no to the regime and are subsequently transferred to Evin prison;
And the steadfastness of Iran's vanguard women who are leading the focal point of resistance against fundamentalism, namely Ashraf City;
Indeed, all of these tell us that a world devoid of oppression and inequality is possible.
I hear the cries of my daughters and sisters in various Iranian cities like Tabriz, Rasht, Tehran, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Ahwaz, Isfahan, Kerman, Mashad, Zahedan and Bandar Abbas, who pledge to rise up to attain equality, freedom and democracy.
Today, the issue of women and the need for their active participation in all political, social and economic spheres has become the most urgent necessity for progress, democracy and peace.
Without women's leadership role, the fight for freedom will not go forward.
Without the active and equal presence of women in leadership levels, democracy would be deficient and hollow.
And without women's genuine participation, instead of economic development, the trend of poverty, inequality and squandering of material and human resources will continue.
Thus, it is essential to think about the subject of equality, figure out ways of removing its obstacles and a strategy for its advancement, while looking at some success stories and exemplary cases.
With this in mind, I would like to talk about an example which is rather novel in the history of Iran and Islam. I am referring to the three decades of women's struggle within the ranks of the Iranian Resistance, which at its core witnessed the perseverance of the women-led Ashraf City.
Located in neighboring Iraq, about fifty kilometers from Iran's border, Ashraf City is home to thousands of women and men who have spent 22 years of their lives struggling to establish democracy in their homeland. The one thousand women who currently reside in Ashraf City, in reality represent the world's largest concentration of vanguards of the equality movement.
In the past 30 years, our movement has engaged in an all-out war with a religious fascism, which is based on gender apartheid. Although fundamentally reactionary and backwards, this monster employs the most modern technologies to suppress, control, intimidate, and terrorize people, essentially by exploiting religion. Such exploitation characterizes it as a new phenomenon in history.
Confronting this source of darkness and evil would have been an impossible undertaking, unless the essential building blocks of the resistance movement against it sheltered the most fundamental human values: Equality, liberty, freedom of choice and democracy.
Khomeini and the clique of mullahs supporting him deluded the Iranian people and usurped the leadership of the 1979 revolution with slogans and claims about Islam. Since the first day of their rule, they began to suppress the population, especially women, because they were terrified of freedom and democracy. Their intention was to erect a theocratic empire under the banner of Islam through the export of terrorism and war.
However, owing to the presence of a popular and organized opposition, which defended a tolerant and democratic Islam, the mullahs were quickly isolated. Now, more than ninety percent of the Iranian people are demanding regime change. The mullahs' brutal suppression of the people and their current efforts to build nuclear weapons and dominate Iraq, far from being from a position of strength, are therefore designed to forestall the overthrow of a regime, which has reached the end of the line.
From the outset, the religious fundamentalists' voracious single-mindedness could not tolerate a drop of ideological diversity, let alone the thought of a democratic Islam, the antithesis to fundamentalism, represented by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), the main component of the resistance to the regime.
Meanwhile, Mojahedin women took on an impressive role in confronting the mullahs since the very first days of the mullahs' rule. Although they wore scarves themselves, Mojahedin women bravely withstood the repugnant mantra of "either the veil or a hit on the head."
For a regime which ruled under the name of Islam, it was extremely difficult to tolerate that the Muslim Mojahedin, especially women and girls in their ranks, would be at the forefront of the opposition.
Mojahedin women paid a heavy price in the face-off with the mullahs. Tens of thousands of them endured dreadful imprisonment, horrific tortures and were executed.
Nonetheless, the struggle continued.
In a traditional society, subjugated by religious dictatorship, women had to overcome formidable obstacles in their struggle against this monster. In most cases, the first obstacle was women's families and their parents. Women also had to forgo their education, husbands and children to join the ranks of the Resistance. There was no room for family life amid the struggle against a barbaric regime which does not even refrain from hanging children.
Moreover, contrary to men, women had to tolerate an assortment of innuendo, assaults and humiliation and gain the power to get over them.
Let me recount some of allegations levied against women at the time:
- "These women have left their parents and their brothers and sisters because they have no emotions or affection."
- "Who says women can play any role or have any impact in the struggle against this regime?"
- "It would be better if women were to take care of their families and children. Otherwise who would look after a family in the woman's absence?"
- "When women are arrested, imprisoned, and tortured, their families lose their dignity."
However, despite all this, women's widespread participation in the struggle against religious dictatorship brought with it a new culture in Iranian society. There were many parents and their sons and daughters who rushed to join the struggle against the mullahs and lost their lives in the process. This extensive participation in the Resistance is an indicator of definitive victory against religious fascism.
In the midst of all this, the mullahs' propaganda machine, which surpassed even Goebbels in terms of its lies and deceptions, engaged in a sophisticated and demagogic campaign of slandering Mojahedin and politically active women to prevent them from joining or continuing the struggle. But their efforts failed in the face of women's burning desire for equality and freedom. Mojahedin women stood their ground and proudly overcame difficult tests.
This was a glimpse of the story of how a long line of pioneering women was formed. A line that extends from Ashraf City, where a large number of these women currently reside, to Tehran, and from Evin prison to Gohardasht and Dizel-Abad prisons, to every corner of Iran.
In the three-decade-old struggle, the post-2003 period has been unprecedented in terms of its difficulty and complexity.
In the course of the US invasion of Iraq, the coalition forces heavily bombed PMOI centers in Iraq in order to appease the mullahs. This was despite the fact that the PMOI did not play any role in the war, did not fire a single bullet and had formally announced their neutrality.
Subsequently, the mullahs embarked on an extensive conspiracy to destroy the PMOI's organizational structure. By taking advantage of an exceptional opportunity, the regime spared no ruse or assault to destroy the Resistance. Regrettably, ten other governments, including those of the UK and France, joined the mullahs in this endeavor.
At the time, everyone believed that the end for the PMOI and Ashraf City had come.
In the past five years, the mullahs have spared no effort in trying to breakdown Ashraf. Some of these actions include:
The deafening propaganda aimed at dismantling the Resistance; disseminating misinformation through dozens of television and radio stations as well as hundreds of newspapers, magazines and websites; a wave of terrorist attacks, including the abduction of PMOI members in Iraq, bombing buses carrying Iraqi workers to Ashraf City, assassinating Iraqis who support the PMOI, blowing up water pipelines and water pumping stations of Ashraf City, planning to launch missile attacks on Ashraf City, cutting off food, fuel and medicine to the City?s residents, and dispatching teams from the Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the terrorist Qods Force, which was stepped up in recent days as several such agents have gone to Baghdad from Iran and abroad.
All this is part of an unbridled campaign on the part of the religious fascism to hinder and pressure the Resistance movement. However, the perseverance of the Mojahedin in Ashraf City and the growth of the Resistance inside Iran as well as the efforts of members and sympathizers of the Resistance worldwide along with your support, have foiled the mullahs' plots and conspiracies.
The Elberz Mountain symbolizes Iran's beauty and pride. In Ashraf City, qualities such as fortitude, piety, selflessness, humanity, progressive and compassionate relationships, and a burning faith and love for freedom and equality, have been elevated to new heights and adorn Iranian history, society and the conscience of its people.
The perseverance of Ashraf City did not allow that the towering flames of the struggle for democracy and equality, inspirations for the struggle of Iranian women and men, to be extinguished.
I salute all of them, especially Mojgan Parsaii and Sedigheh Hosseini, and all the other women who are the symbols of liberation and determination.
This is how, beyond their perseverance, those in Ashraf succeeded in expanding the struggle against the mullahs and their fundamentalism.
Despite fatal errors committed by the West, which provided enormous opportunity to the mullah-inspired fundamentalism and terrorism, the Mojahedin in Ashraf City urged the world to confront the mullahs' threats, terrorism and fundamentalism. Ashraf City played a crucial role in advancing the political process in Iraq. It succeeded in drawing the attention of Iraqis, nationalist and democratic parties, tribes and its diverse political, ethnic and religious groupings to the Iranian regime's threats. In turn, Iraqis rose to support the Mojahedin and the residents of Ashraf. The support by 5.2 million Iraqis for the Mojahedin in 2006 and by 300,000 Shiites in southern Iraq in 2007 shaped a powerful social movement in solidarity with the Iranian Resistance. It helped form a vast democratic front against fundamentalism. 700,000 Iraqi women signed a petition in support of the PMOI and thus the organized campaign of women to challenge the Iranian regime's meddling in Iraq was formed.
As such, in the midst of the bloodiest and most sinister terrorist assaults by the mullahs and their agents, Ashraf became the land of peace, freedom and hope, both for the people of Iran and Iraq.
The five-year perseverance in Ashraf was also a triumphant test for the leadership of women.
I say to my sisters and daughters across Iran to look to the perseverance of women in Ashraf and break the spell of hopelessness, intimidation, humiliation and the impoverishing of women cast by the mullahs. Look to Ashraf and destroy misogyny and discrimination. Unite and rise up to bring down the mullahs.
And I say to my sisters all over the world to rise in support of the women in Ashraf and support them as they represent the blossoming of the epic historical struggle for women's equality.
On the occasion of the International Women's Day, I would like to explain in passing how Ashraf's perseverance came about under the leadership of women. What contributed to its making, and what is its origin?
I must say that this perseverance has come about in the course of an unrelenting struggle for equality. In other words, it is the outcome of a continuous demarcation between equality and inequality; a demarcation between a liberated and an enchained human being.
Resolving human kind's insolvable challenges is impossible without a commitment to equality. This finding was the outcome of years of struggle against the mullahs' misogynistic regime, and was matured into a profound cultural transformation in the ranks of the PMOI in the 1980s.
The Resistance's leader Massoud Rajavi described this transformation as one opposed to the world of the mullahs and reactionaries and stated that its aim was to "cast aside gender-based exploitation, symbolized by the mullahs and their Revolutionary Guards."
This thinking opened the path for women's struggle for equality as never before. The Mojahedin made the important discovery that if they were committed to standing up to religious dictatorship, they would have to struggle against all the ideological and cultural hallmarks of the fundamentalists.
In a nutshell, we realized that the eradication of gender-driven thinking releases tremendous energy within the ranks of the Resistance movement and generates an astounding dynamism for leaping forward, which is the source of its capabilities.
This transformation brought with it an invaluable set of human experiences. For brevity's sake, I will only refer to four important constitutive elements for this transformation.
The first was the active participation of women in the leadership of the Resistance and different levels of decision-making positions. Women's long-standing struggle formed the basis for this development, but the point of departure was the dire necessity to overthrow the mullahs. The martyrdom of thousands of Mojahedin women in the struggle against the ruling theocracy in the first half of the 1980s testified to the fact that these very women deserve to be the leaders and without them the Resistance movement would have no way forward.
Of course, around the world today we witness efforts aimed at increasing women's role in the management of political and economic affairs, which in its own right is a valuable development. But, the experience of the Iranian Resistance is that the final and definitive solution for breaking the spell of inequality is not possible without a leap. Women's hegemony in this movement, a development which caused foundational transformations, opened the way for women to accept responsibilities, gain expertise and improve their capabilities in all fields. The presence of women in leadership has been a factor for both the longevity and the dynamism of political and cultural blossoming in this movement.
When women assumed leadership positions, they created a real framework for a profound struggle against the remnants of the male-dominated culture in the thinking and relationships of the movement as a whole, men and women alike, and cleansed the ranks of the Resistance.
Another important development was that a large number of women and men in the ranks of the Resistance decided voluntarily two decades ago to forgo family life and terminated their marriages, concentrating their energy, power, affection and attention toward the struggle against religious fascism and attaining freedom and equality.
The requirement of a full-time struggle to realize the ideal of liberating one's homeland was to forsake the comfort and tranquility of family life and its attachments. Otherwise, women could not have obtained the opportunity to be present at the very heart of a formidable battle, let alone assuming any leadership responsibility.
I must also add that prior to this decision; members of the Resistance had families in different locations in Iraq. Their children studied in kindergartens and schools set up in Ashraf City. Family life was not an impediment to active participation in the Resistance. But, from early 1990s the security situation in Iraq deteriorated to the detriment of the PMOI's presence in that country. Iraq became a country afflicted with a war and the PMOI was the target of continuous bombing and terrorist plots. For this reason, it was impossible for the families to get together in Ashraf City and other PMOI centers in Iraq. The PMOI had two choices: Either abandoning full-time struggle and departing from the scene, or sacrificing everything to keep the flame of the Resistance burning.
In truth, members of the Resistance elevated the sacrifice to free their people to a new level, one that was higher than giving up their lives, namely, forsaking family attachments. And, this was an imperative for the continuation of the struggle.
The third transformation was a new level of democratic relationships in the ranks of the Resistance.
By virtue of the significant strides it has made in terms of equality, this movement has nurtured the appropriate foundational framework for the development and promotion of democratic values. This framework provides the conditions for honest and sincere bonds, constructive criticism, and introduction and assessment of various points of view. If people are drawn together for the attainment of the common goal of liberty, then their internal web of relations would necessarily have to be based upon principles of democracy and freedom of choice.
The establishment of such a framework in the midst of a thorny and adverse struggle with a formidable enemy is no easy task. However, the Resistance has remained committed to it in all circumstances. Moreover, for a movement experiencing the brunt of some of the most merciless forms of oppression, it would be a dire need to develop strong bonds within itself and among its members, so that each and every individual would choose to shoulder a part of the responsibilities. The prerequisite for this is the existence of internal freedom and democracy.
The Resistance has responded to these imperatives by forming new humanistic relations. These can be seen, for example, in the numerous and constant meetings generally held among members of a certain department or those who work closely together. In addition to the meetings and gatherings organized for coordination of activities or political discussions, there are also meetings in which reciprocal constructive criticisms can be voiced.
And, finally, the fourth transformation has been with regards to the education and development of men committed to the ideal of equality. Through a profoundly deep cultural transformation, these men rid their thoughts and behavior of a backward culture which views women as mere commodities.
By holding regular meetings, these men have tried, and continue to try, to wage a cultural and ideological battle against this corrupt attitude towards women. Instead, both in theory and also in experience they try to put into practice the view of considering men and women as equal human beings.
Free of a chauvinistic mindset, they attempt to see the positive attributes of every woman as their equal. They, therefore, strive to recognize and discover women as independent, equal, free, and liberated human beings.
Subsequent to this cultural struggle, these men step into a higher realm of belief in equality, the realm of activity and practically performing responsibilities. This means that the Resistance's male membership discovers that in the absence of equality, half of the energy and creativity would be eliminated. Therefore, in contexts where the exercise of expertise and practical skills predominates, they refuse to judge women by old yard sticks. This is because they know that in the realm of work and responsibility, these women engender new and modern methods and values, which if recognized and learnt well by men, would also cultivate a world of creativity, dynamism, capability, and commitment on the part of the men themselves. The Resistance's male members develop a novel attitude through which they can witness the women's strengths and capabilities.
Please allow me to talk about the effects that the advances of this Resistance movement has had on the suppressed society in Iran, and how the mullahs have reacted.
The women's steadfastness in the face of the reactionaries and the religious dictatorship as well as the courageous initiatives of the Resistance's members, especially women members, who let go of family life, profoundly resonated with a suppressed society where women have even been deprived of the right to divorce. More than ever before, this historic step placed women at the forefront of the movement against the mullahs? oppression.
As well, the rise of women to the Resistance's leadership transmitted positive and lively spirit and energy to the Iranian society, and completely falsified the mullahs? deceptions about women being second-class citizens.
It is also clear that in a situation where the mullahs? Supreme Leader allows his Revolutionary Guards to rape and violate women's rights, the sincerity and purity of this movement's men and their constant struggle to refrain from seeing women as commodities, has had a liberating effect in Iranian society.
This transformation frightened the mullahs. They screamed that the Quran and Islam had been trampled upon. They said that when a woman decides for herself to get a divorce, the heavens will tremble. And, truly, the chauvinistic structure of the mullahs? system does tremble, when it comes face-to-face with independent women, who choose not to put their destiny and will at the whims of the mullahs? regime.
In reality, this is how the antithesis to the religious fascism functions. It glimmers through the cultural conflict between the men and women of this Resistance on the one hand, and the corrupt forces of the regime on the other.
Thus, the mullahs resorted to a vilifying campaign. It would not be an exaggeration to say that during this period, the mullahs have published hundreds of books and tens of thousands of materials in different languages against this Resistance in media outlets. These publications levy false accusations against the activists of this movement. In fact, this is a leverage used by a religious fascism which has been brought to its knees by the Iranian Resistance. After more than 120,000 executions, after numerous Scud-B missile attacks, including 77 missiles which in one night targeted the PMOI's centers in Iraq, and after hundreds of terrorist operations in various countries around the world against members of this movement, the religious fascism has undertaken a demonizing campaign against this Resistance. It fuels this campaign with astronomical funding stimulated by Iran's oil revenues, and utilizes several of its ministries and buys foreign lobbyists for this purpose.
Two days ago, a court in Paris witnessed a scene of disgrace for one of the mullahs? intelligence operatives, whose assignment was to demonize the Iranian Resistance in France. In that court, documents were presented which showed that the mullahs? embassy in Paris and its Foreign and Intelligence ministries were the organizers and coordinators of this demonizing campaign. One of the witnesses who had come to support this operative inevitably confessed that the mullahs attribute their own execution, torture and terrorism to the PMOI.
Credible evidence presented in that court about a book which was published at the request of the mullahs against the Iranian Resistance, demonstrated that this book was full of lies and fabrications.
It is worth noting that in this campaign the mullahs levy allegations against the PMOI such as the following: Terrorism, being a sect, lack of democratic relations, taking advantage of women, lack of freedom to enter or exit the Resistance, etc. Of course, as I said, the mullahs take these steps to counter the cultural and humanitarian influences of the Resistance in Iran, as well as to counter the Resistance's actions internationally.
Meanwhile, these made-up allegations by the mullahs have unfortunately been utilized by Western governments to justify the continuation of the policy of appeasement vis-à-vis the mullahs.
But, to the misogynistic regime and its turbaned rulers who see women as the weak, we say that your era has come to an end. The triumphant steadfastness exhibited by Iranian women signals the inevitable overthrow of your decadent regime. The Iranian people, and especially the forty-million women in Iran, sense the message of this steadfastness in their hearts and souls. Women of Iran will defeat the ruling fundamentalist regime.
Now, you [the regime] can make false allegations and accusations about Iranian women. You can beat them and imprison them, torture and hang them, and harass them mentally and physically every day on the streets with the travesty of so-called ?fighting social vice.? But, you will be set aside and eliminated from the pages of history by these women.
Please also allow me to add that the mullahs? claims about women being incapable of making choices, slaves, without rights, and second-class citizens, have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. During the first years of Islam's introduction, Prophet Mohammad recognized and permitted women defying their masters, husbands, or fathers, in joining the movement. He encouraged them to emigrate and leave their tribes and families. He also permitted women to join wars against the enemies, without there being any need for the women to seek permission from their husbands or family members. He gave them the right to ownership, inheritance, and vote. He respected their independent political choices. All this was done 14 centuries ago, when girls were being buried alive.
Yes, against the mullahs, the PMOI is committed to following an Islam, which rejects discrimination on the basis of gender, and as the Quran has explicitly said, considers the liberation of human beings as the highest and most significant principle.
Verse 13 of Sura (Chapter) Hujorat (Apartments) in the Quran, states: "O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous."
Yes, the mullahs only exploit the name of Islam for the benefit of their fascist and evil regime. What place do stoning, rape, and discriminating against women occupy in Islam and Prophet Mohammad's path?
If Islam's true message is to be taken to heart, then it is gender apartheid, misogyny, and the aggressive chauvinistic attitude that are against Islam, are prohibited and impure, and not equality and women's independent character.
The PMOI members in Ashraf City are the historical, ideological, and political answer to the velayat-e faqih regime. They represent a democratic Islam, which bears the message of mercy and tolerance. And in the face of the reactionary mindset, violence, and misogyny which the fundamentalists champion in the name of Islam, they are the only answer.
The women of Ashraf City, are worthy of the most active and passionate support from their sisters around the world. Just as thousands of courageous men also remain steadfast on their side, and freedom-loving men committed to the ideal of equality from around the world have formed an extensive web of support around these men. We salute them all. Specifically, I want to here commend those respectable personalities who have opposed the policy of appeasement.
Please allow me to remind you that the Iranian people's struggle to obtain democracy, and the Iranian women's fight to eliminate gender apartheid, has faced a massive barrier on its path in the international arena, and that barrier is the policy of appeasement towards the mullahs. Since the religious fascism enjoys the vast oil wealth, and since it coerces everyone by its unbridled terrorism, Western governments prefer to deal with it. Of course, this is done at the expense of trampling upon the Iranian people's interests and the interests of their own people.
For this reason, they unjustly included the PMOI, the main component of the Iranian opposition in the list of terrorist groups. In December 2006, the Court of First Instance of the European Communities and in November 2007, a British Court handed down judgments which annulled the terrorist label against the PMOI. However, the EU Council of Ministers and the UK government infringed law and justice and refused to implement these verdicts. They continue to side with the mullahs? regime, which according to the latest revelation by the Iranian Resistance is rapidly working to complete nuclear warheads and has threatened the future of mankind.
If despotism, violation of human rights, discrimination, suppression of freedom of opinion, and exploitation are condemned in today's world as values that must be rejected, then tying the hands and legs of a legitimate resistance movement and preventing democratic change in Iran, must be loudly condemned, and the defenders of freedom and equality must rise up to struggle against it. The women movement for equality, which has always been a progressive movement and at the frontlines for liberating human societies, is today worthy of leading the conflict against religious fundamentalism.
We are committed to replace the religious fascism with a secular republic in Iran; a democratic and pluralistic government based on respect for human rights.
Accordingly, please allow me to briefly share with you the Resistance's platform with regards to women in a democratic Iran after the overthrow of the mullahs.
1. In tomorrow's Iran all individual freedoms for women must be recognized, including freedom of belief and religion, employment and travel;
2. Women and all citizens are free to choose their clothing;
3. We believe in completely equal social, political, cultural and economic rights between women and men. Women must have equal participation in society's political leadership;
4. Women are completely free in choosing their spouse and in marriage;
5. Women's equal rights to divorce will be recognized;
6. Polygamy in banned;
7. Physical, sexual and psychological violence against women in the workplace, in educational centers, in the family and everywhere else will be considered a crime. Women subject to such violence will have access to legal recourse;
8. Any sexual exploitation of women under whatever pretext is prohibited;
9. The Sharia laws and the mullahs' religious edicts will have no place in tomorrow's Iran. These reactionary laws, including inhuman punishments such as stoning, are contrary to the principles of pristine Islam and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed. As far as we are concerned, only those laws will have legal legitimacy that have been enacted by the people's elected representatives;
10. International covenants concerning the rights and freedom of women, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, will serve as the guidelines for enacting civil codes;
In the name of the equality movement, to save the women of my country who are ruthlessly flogged, hanged, and stoned, to confront the fundamentalist monster whose malevolence shadows over all the people of the Middle East region and specially women, and for a more just world which is possible through equality, I kindly appeal for your help, and invite you to stand against the policy of appeasement towards the mullahs and instead support the Iranian Resistance which struggles to overthrow the religious fascism in Iran.
And allow me to tell my sisters and daughters in Iran, the courageous women who at this very moment are imprisoned or undergoing torture, and the young girls whose hearts beat for freedom, that your resoluteness through difficult, tearful, and bloody times, your broken but unyielding hearts, would without a doubt herald a magnificent future for Iran. You will bring down the religious fascism and the future and destiny are in your hands. You will triumph.
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Volume 46, March 15, 2008
The E-Zan © 2008