July 15, 2008 VOLUME 50
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
Given the nuclear conflict with Iran, the war drums are getting louder and louder in Washington and Tehran. The politically bankrupt regime in Tehran offers no other option but a military confrontation. The politically exhausted administration in Washington sees no other option but a war. The Sunday Times reported on July 13, 2008: "President George W Bush has told the Israeli government that he may be prepared to approve a future military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities if negotiations with Tehran break down, according to a senior Pentagon official." The next day, a senior officials in Tehran says "Israel and at least 32 US bases in the region would be targeted in the event of war with Iran." Office of Ali Khamenie, Iran's supreme leader, went on the record saying if even one bullet is fired at Iran, the country would not hesitate to "strike at the heart of Israel" and dozens of US military facilities in the Gulf.
The two sides are locking the world in a war option, while the Iranian people are calling democracy. To be clear, continued negotiations and war are two sides of the same coin. The same coin that buys Tehran's regime more killings and terror at home and abroad. According to regime's own media, 6 people were hanged publicly in northeaster Iran on July 14, 2008.
As far as Iranian people are concerned, more talks or "negotiations" with the illegitimate regime in Tehran is nothing but appeasement. In a Paris gathering of 70,000, Iranians called for a reframing of the conflict where the indigenous call for democracy is taken in to account as a resolution. War or continued talks is not a resolution to the Iran-conflict. The resolution is in the hands of Iranian people, women, labor and student movements who have offered an option of a democratic Iran with their daily protests and resistance at home. The women-led resistance movement must be recognized by those who are genuinely concerned about preventing another war in the region. This means correcting the past mistakes.Ten years ago, Washington decided to politically isolate the women-led opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MeK), as a favor to Tehran. This move placed the group on the State Department's foreign terrorist organization list. UK and EU followed suite in subsequent years in return for economic relations with the fundamentalist regime in Tehran. Meanwhile Tehran's hidden nuclear activities funded by the very same economic relations offered by the West surged.
The unlawful listing of the PMOI have led us to the current quagmire.To date, the group have won every substantive legal challenge against this designation. In fact, last month UK removed the PMOI from its black list based on legal review of both classified and unclassified material. It is time for Washington to do the same.
Let us not forget that the voice of the Iranian people manifested in an unprecedented gathering on June 28, 2008. According to Agence France-Presse report "More than 70,000 supporters of Iran's opposition protested near Paris on Saturday, urging the international community to remove bans" on the group. Removal of the PMOI will empower the Iranians, particularly women and students, and lead to the collapse of the fundamentalist regime in Tehran. This is the only meaningful preventive measure in dealing with warmongering Tehran.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
Reuters - June 16, 2008
Thousands of Iranian students staged a sit-in
protest after seizing a senior university official they accused of sexual
harassment and demanding he be punished, the Etemad newspaper said on Monday.The
newspaper said the students in the north-western city of Zanjan broke into the
office of the vice-chancellor they said had molested a woman when she visited
him to resolve a problem with the university's disciplinary body.
"Angry students...handed the vice-chancellor over to the university's security officers after they found he had sought to harass the student," the daily said, quoting a student. Three thousand of them then staged a sit-in on Saturday night, demanding he be punished and the board of directors resign.Higher Education Ministry officials were not immediately available to comment on the incident, a rare episode of student protest in the conservative Islamic Republic.In 2006, students at Tehran's Amir Kabir University burned pictures of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and threw firecrackers in an apparent effort to disrupt a speech he was making.In April, university students in the northwestern city of Tabriz went on a hunger strike to protest against what they called strict rules imposed on universities.
Reuters - June 16, 2008
Iranian police have launched a more extensive crackdown on "social corruption" such as women flouting Islamic dress codes, the Farhang-e Ashti newspaper reported. "In its wider crackdown which has started from Saturday, police will confront those who appear in public in an indecent way and will also seal off shops selling un-Islamic dress," the newspaper quoted an unnamed police official as saying. The dress code imposed after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution requires women to cover all their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise the shape of their bodies.Violators can receive lashes, fines or imprisonment.The authorities usually launch crackdowns before the hot summer months when women like to wear lighter clothing such as calf-length pants and brightly coloured scarves pushed back to expose plenty of hair.But enforcement of strict moral codes governing women's dress became more strict since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swept to power in 2005 with the backing of conservative clerics and the Basij religious forces who condemn such "un-Islamic" practices."Police will seize women with tight coats and cropped trousers and also men with Western-style hair cut will be arrested," the newspaper said. Especially in the urban areas, many women ignore traditional head-to-toe black chadors. The Islamic dress code is less commonly challenged in poor suburbs and rural regions. "Men with Western-style haircuts were confronted by police and also barber shops that gave them such haircuts were sealed off on Sunday," said the daily. Some women, testing the boundaries of the law by wearing tight clothes were also confronted by morality police, located mainly at the affluent northern Tehran squares."Police also swept through popular shopping centres, where such outfits are sold and some of those shops were sealed off," the daily said.
Associated Press - June 16, 2008
Police closed dozens of clothing stores and
hairdressers and stopped cars and pedestrians in a crackdown on women who do not
abide by Iran's strict Islamic dress code and men wearing fashions seen as too
Western, Iranian media reported Monday.Police spokesman Mehdi Ahmadi said 32
clothing shops and hairdressers in Tehran were shut down so far, according to
the semi-official Fars news agency. He also said 21 vehicles had been stopped
because passengers were breaking dress rules. There was no word on whether
anyone had been arrested. Police official Nader Sarkari defended the actions,
saying "people in inappropriate clothes and those who sell these clothes are
aware of their violations since they have often been given warning." "Why should
some individuals take it upon themselves to commit an act society has deemed a
violation?" he told the official news agency IRNA. It was not clear how long the
shops were ordered closed.
WFAFI News - June 17, 2008
Representative of Tehran's supreme leader in Masshad, northeastern city in Iran, calls women's "un-Islamic" practices as "betrayal to Islamic Republic." He also called women as "agents of America and Israel" who deserved to be "dealt with in harshest possible way." Beyond the daily harassment in public for brightly colored scarves or exposed bangs, the fundamentalist mullah calls for harsher punishment and death sentence against women.
NCRI Website - June 19, 2008
The gathering of Iraqi women took place in the
framework of The Solidarity Congress of Iraqi People. The women’s special
session was held in Ashraf City in which well over 42 Iraqi women associations
and organizations took part. A number of prominent Iraqi women spoke in the
gathering. Ms. Sediqeh Hosseini, Secretary General of the People’s Mojahedin
Organization of Iran (PMOI) was the speaker in this occasion. Ms. Hosseini said:
Today is a historic and delightful day for me, because I see that Iraqi women
play their historic role. This unity, solidarity, jubilance and enthusiasm for
freedom and equality deserve congratulations. This unity is a significant step
toward victory over religious fascism. Mrs. Faeza al-Ubaidi, chairwoman of
the women's branch of the Iraqi National Accord headed by Dr. Ayad Allawi,
stressed on solidarity of all patriotic women and said: First, I want to pray to
God for the well being of the PMOI brothers and sisters in Ashraf City after the
missile attack by the clerical regime; this attack was a sign of Iranian
regime’s weakness and your strength and a sign of your support for salvation of
both nations Iraq and Iran. We have to be united in order to achieve our desires
in both countries and establish a government free of Iranian regime. It wants to
separate our nations from each other, but we have to become united with all
patriotic individuals and don’t let the Iranian regime achieve its sectarian
policy in Iraq.
Associated Press - June 21, 2008
The lawyer of an Iranian women's rights activist
says his client was convicted on security-related charges and sentenced to five
years in prison.
Mohammad Sharif described the verdict for his client, 22-year-old women's rights activist Hana Abdi, as harsh. He told The Associated Press Saturday that her prison was also very remote. Abdi has been in detention since November for advocating for greater freedoms for Iran's women. In Iran women need a male guardian's permission to work or travel. However they can drive, vote and run for office. In the past three years, Iranian authorities have detained many women who fought for equal rights with men on similar charges.
NCRI Website - June 22, 2008
Two students took their own lives when severely
pressured by the security forces in northern city of Lahijan and southeastern
city of Zahedan. A female student whose identity was not disclosed commit
suicide when she was called to the security office in Lahijan University. The
student apparently jumped off the 4th floor suite where the office is located.
She pronounced dead immediately after the fall. In a separate but related
incident another student took his life by taking an overdose of prescription
drugs in the southeastern city of Zahedan in the troubled Sistan and Baluchistan
Province.The Lahijan student had been called for questioning to the school's
security office once before according to her classmates, the state-run daily
Etemaad reported on Saturday. "The female student had been called in for
questioning once before. On the day of the incident a few minutes into the
questioning she took a free fall from the 4th floor," added Etemaad. It is the
second incident in the Sistan and Baluchistan University of a student taking his
own life. In April a female student committed suicide by taking sulfuric acid.
According to her family she had been called to the school's disciplinary
committee repeatedly.It is becoming a pattern among many Iranian students, in
particular females, to commit suicide as a last resort to continuous harassment
by the university officials. Most of such incidents take place over the
unethical demands by the schools' administrators from female students. Zanjan
University was a famous case in the past week upon which the vice-president of
the school tried to take advantage of a female student in his office. Other
classmates came to her aide. However, the mullahs' judiciary has arrested the
Agence France Presse - July 3, 2008
More married women are involved in sex-work in
Tehran than single females, while the age of those working has come down and now
ranges from 15 upwards, Iran's Sarmayeh newspaper said on Wednesday quoting
academic research. "According to recent research carried out in Tehran, the
phenomenon of prostitution is being seen in married people more than single
individuals," Kazem Rasoulzadeh Tabatabai, a specialist in women's studies, was
quoted as saying. The academic, who the newspaper said was presenting the result
of studies on sex-work at a conference in Tehran, said that younger people have
now become involved. "The age of prostitution was over 30 in the 1980s and 1990s
but now the age has fallen to 15 and above." Rasoulzadeh Tabatabai, who heads
the study group of "harmed women and girls" as well as the psychology group of
Tehran's respected Tarbiat Modares university, said motivations have also
changed. "If prostitutes were only looking for the covering their basic needs in
the past, now they are concerned about their secondary demands," he said.
Sex-work is strictly illegal in Iran and punishable by prison sentences, stoning
and lashes. However, officials have long openly acknowledged the capital has a
problem. Typically, sex-worker in Tehran used to be young women who had moved
from the provinces to the capital in search of a job or to study and entered the
sex trade in order to make ends meet. But Rasoulzadeh Tabatabai said that even
this was changing. "The phenomenon of prostitution was previously more common in
migrants but now this has been spreading more among the local Tehranis. We
cannot relate it to the issue of migration anymore." The lecturer also said that
more educated people have become involved in prostitution. Another participant
in the conference, titled Islam and Social Harms, underlined the importance of
poverty in pushing women into sex-work. "Some 11 percent of prostitutes in
Tehran are involved in the business while their spouses are aware of it," said
Hossein Ali Zahedipour, a member of the study group. "These statistics show that
there should be more attention paid to the issue of the unemployment of men as
much as of women," he added.
NCRI Website - July 5, 2008
Deputy Chief, Colonel Mohsen Khancherli for the State Security Forces (SSF) – mullahs' suppressive police – in Tehran said in an interview with the state-run news agency Fars on Saturday, "We have expanded our operations to increase security in the parks during the summer season." Khancherli said, "With summer on its way, security in the parks takes precedence for the police. The Police stations have been instructed to man all the parks." "Presently there are 40 major parks which we have stationed our SSF officers. However, local stations have the responsibility of stationing their own forces in the parks as well." Regarding the women only parks, he said, "We will have at least 10 women only units stationed in the parks in addition to two men police units stationed outside of the parks." Since the enforcement of the so-called boosting "public security plan" in April of 2007, hundreds of thousands of women have been stopped on the streets across Iran for receiving warnings for what they wore. Out of that, many have been arrested and sent to jails for being second time offenders.
WFAFI News - July 8, 2008
Self-emulation of a working class girl and suicide
of a woman in Iran is on the rise. A 15 year old girl named “Mahtab Ahmadzadeh”
who worked along with her family in a poultry house in Piranshahr, set herself
on fire after being raped by her supervisor. She died of the severe injuries
resulting from self-emulation. A while ago, a 19 year old girl named Golavizh
Soltannia set herself on fire in Hamedan due to the pain and suffering resulting
from her supervisor raping her. In other news, 33 year-old Farkhonded Azizi (Arezou)
from Saghez committed suicide due to poverty and inability to support her 2
young children. She lost her life despite a 3-day attempt by the medical team to
save her. It is worth mentioning that she had set herself on fire a while ago
but doctors saved her at the time. She had expressed disappointment on the
inability of those in charge to assist her solve her numerous problems.
NCRI Website- July 8, 2008
Head of the moral security police of the State
Security Forces of the Iranian regime, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Roozbehani, announced on
Monday "more security forces will be deployed in parks." He added that 65 to 70
thousands would be used in the new plan against women. "In big public
parks police force will be stationed permanently and in smaller ones security
patrols will be active," Roozbehani told state-run media reporters. On Sunday
the prosecutor general of northern province of Golestan stressed on "harsh
measures against improper veiled women in streets and public places" and said "a
judge in the presence disciplinary forces will file judicial cases and issue
sentences against violators," semi-official Fars news agency reported. The
mullahs' regime faced with growing internal and external crisis is more than
ever turning to suppression of Iranian people specially the young and women.On
Sunday, in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison ten illegally detained women activists
went on hunger strike. A 70-year-old mother and a 17 years old girl who have
been in prison for the past three weeks without any justification are among
AKI News - July 9, 2008
Ten Iranian women activists imprisoned in the notorious Evin Prison have begun a hunger strike to protest against what they consider harsh treatment. The women are aged from 17 to 70 and were arrested in the Iranian capital, Tehran, only a fortnight ago. "These women, the youngest 17 years old and the oldest 70 years old, were arrested two weeks ago in one of Tehran's parks, Mellat Park, while they were collecting signatures calling for a revision of the laws that discriminate against women," women's rights' activist Mahboubeh Akrami told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Wednesday. About 200 people were arrested at Mellat Park, and many of them were later released. But many others remain in prison.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Interview With Soona Samsami on Iran and NCRI
By Dan Rabkin
June 19, 2008
Soona Samsami, a leading Iranian women's rights and pro-democracy activist, joins me for an interview. She is the Executive Director of Women's Freedom Forum and was the U.S. Representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) until its U.S. offices were closed by the State Department in 2003.It was during Ms. Samsami's tenure that the NCRI was the first to expose to the world the true intentions and purposes of Iran's nuclear program by revealing the existence of a secret uranium enrichment facility in Natanz and a heavy water facility in Arak. Her work has appeared in numerous media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Fox News, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the National Journal, C-SPAN, and the Boston Globe. Additionally, her advocacies have led to numerous actionable items for the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons and violence against women in Iran. Daniel Rabkin interviewed her for the Global Politician.
Rabkin: Can you start off by telling us a bit about your background and your role in the Iranian opposition?
Samsami: I was born in the city of Isfahan, Iran and am a graduate of Michigan State University. Currently, I serve as the executive director of Women's Freedom Forum. WFF is an organization that has networks with women in Iran and Iraq that confront fundamentalism and champion women's rights. In line with that objective, I represented 15 exiled Iranian women's organizations in the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China. In 1998, I was also appointed the U.S. representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The NCRI is an assembly that works to establish a secular and democratic government in Iran.
Rabkin: Could you please comment on the plight of women inside of Iran today? Why do you think so many Western women's organizations stay silent on this crucial matter?
Samsami: First of all, I think the most important factor in the silence is the West's policy of appeasement towards the Iranian regime. This appeasement has prepared a climate where brutality is ignored and oppressors are legitimized. Secondly, the Iranian regime has exhausted enormous capital, in terms of both money and propaganda, to cover its tracks. Thirdly, the Islamic Republic has tried to frame the mistreatment of women within the context of Sharia law and by perverting cultural norms. Collectively, this has led to a misinformed international psyche on the true plight of Iran's women. The daily discrimination against women and the suffering of these women is, therefore, not heard in its totality within the Western women's movement. Islamic fundamentalism is a medieval phenomenon with monopolistic, suppressive, dogmatic, misogynous, and terrorist characteristics which works to preserve and expand the velayat-e-faqih (absolute rule of the clergy). A significant pillar of this school of thought is gender distinction and discrimination against women. Iran is a unique country because it is the first country where fundamentalists managed to attain absolute power and were able to institutionalize their perverted worldview in all social, political, and cultural spheres.
Rabkin: In your mind, what is the best way to bring real change to Iran?
Samsami: It is important to mention here that for 30 years the Iranian people have been protesting and demonstrating to do just that. In 2007 alone, there were some 5,000 demonstrations in Iran by students, workers, teachers, bus drivers, women, and others. All of this signifies enormous potential for democratic change within Iran. Presently, the least costly and most effective way to bring about change in Iran is to rely on the strength of the Iranian people and their organized resistance. Over 60% of university students in Iran are women. The Iranian resistance is also led by women and is capable of galvanizing the enormous potential of the Iranian people. This is the only way to ensure democratic change in Iran. In the past 100 years, there have been 3 popular uprisings against tyranny in Iran: We had the constitutional movement in 1906, and then the rise of the nationalist movement led by Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq who became Prime Minister in 1951, and finally the 1979 revolution which ousted the Shah and his secret police, SAVAK, but was unfortunately hijacked by Khomeini. Therefore, the Iranian people have experience and are capable of bringing about a democratic government today. Presently, and against all odds, over 3,400 members of the Iranian resistance live under the protection of coalition forces in Ashraf City, Iraq. They have been instrumental in exposing Tehran's destructive influence across the border. Ashraf residents continue to play a significant role in promoting reconciliation in Iraq and they continue to help in the formation of a front against Iranian extremism. I must mention that nearly 1,000 of these Ashraf residents are women. Their triumph against Iranian led terrorism continues to inspire the students in Iran that are rising against the regime. Sadly, misconceptions and erroneous analysis of the relevant circumstances by Western policy makers have led to a tendency towards either appeasement or war. The fact is that appeasement policies have facilitated Iran's nuclear weapons program. Others, on the other hand, think that they can bring about change in Iran by relying on foreign intervention. Both are wrong. In a speech delivered at the European Parliament, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the NCRI, said that neither war nor appeasement of the regime in Iran is the answer. She called for a "third option" of "democratic change in Iran by the Iranian people and their organized resistance." As I just mentioned, appeasing the dictators essentially whitewashes their crimes and, indeed, even empowers them. Western nations' policies towards Iran have failed because they are centered on placating the regime. In 1997, when the State Department designated the main Iranian opposition group, the Mujahedin-e Khaq (MEK), as terrorist, it was done, as conceded by a senior Clinton Administration official, "as a goodwill gesture to the Iranian regime and its newly elected moderate president Mohammad Khatami." That misguided policy did not moderate Tehran's behavior. Instead, it heightened Tehran's drive to acquire nuclear weapons and eventually led to the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president. If such a policy continues the outcome will further embolden Tehran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons and exporting Islamic extremism to the wider Middle East.
Rabkin: Why do you think the U.S. and Europe continue to keep the NCRI and MEK on the terror list? (In Europe the MEK is designated, while the NCRI is not; in the U.S. both are.)
Samsami: To answer your question, Dan, I need to point out a few facts.First, two competent European courts, the U.K.'s Proscribed Organisations Appeals Commission (POAC) and the E.U.'s Court of First Instance, have ruled that the terror listing of the MEK has no legal justification and should be annulled. Their findings have confirmed that the terror listing of Iran's largest opposition group has no legal or factual basis. Second, since 2003 Iranian opposition members living in Ashraf have been protected by coalition forces. A detailed 16-month investigation by several U.S. government agencies found no MEK member, living in Ashraf, to be in violation of American law. All Ashraf residents were granted protected persons status under the Fourth Geneva Convention. As I stated earlier, MEK members in Ashraf played a significant and constructive role in the battle against Iranian fundamentalist influence in Iraq. In addition to exposing Iran's nuclear weapons program, the MEK has made public valuable information on the violent activities of the Qods Force in Iraq as well. Many members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, argue that if the 1997 designation of the MEK was meant to appease Khatami - to no avail - then the continued designation of the MEK is politically counterproductive because the appeasement policy has been a failure. These members of Congress believe that the State Department has yet to give up hope on this policy of appeasement and, due to that, continues to keep the MEK on the terror list, in addition to renewing its packages of incentives for the Iranian regime. History has provided plenty of guidance on the topic of appeasement. Before World War II, and as Churchill cautioned against appeasement of Hitler's regime, many, including Neville Chamberlain, advocated engagement with Germany. Britain ultimately signed an agreement with Hitler. This agreement allowed Hitler's expansionist machine to prepare before he violated the agreement and launched his aggression on Europe. The principal problem is still the incorrect and naive understanding of Tehran's malign intentions by the West, as well as its gravitation towards maintaining the status quo. This is happening despite proof of Tehran's unreformable and expansionist ideology as seen in the streets of Baghdad and Basra. In Iraq, and with regards to its nuclear weapons program, Iran has exploited the West's inability to adopt a decisive policy. Having said that, the limitations placed on the Iranian resistance, as a result of the terrorist designation, have acted as the main obstacle in facilitating democratic regime change in Iran. To correct this mistake, the State Department should adopt a neutral attitude towards the Iranian resistance.
Rabkin: I have spoken to many of your colleagues from the various organizations that make up the Iranian opposition. A few of them have said that while the Iranian people are vastly young, freedom-seeking, and pro-American, the NCRI and MEK are unpopular inside of Iran. Due to that, I was told that supporting the NCRI and MEK could end up backfiring. What are your thoughts on that argument?
Samsami: In November 2003, NCRI President-elect Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, who by the way has lost two sisters to the last two dictatorships in Iran, called for a referendum on regime change in Iran. Her proposition is the best way for changing the current regime of religious dictatorship.
The ballot box is the only criterion for legitimacy and would solve the multitude of issues that have arisen as a result of the mullahs' illegitimate rule. Unfortunately, the regime does not have the legitimacy or capacity to allow a referendum to take place. Otherwise, the people of Iran would have already answered your question. Mrs. Rajavi has repeatedly stated that the Iranian resistance only asks that the West take a neutral stance towards it and stay out of the people's path to democratic change in Iran. Neither the NCRI nor the MEK have asked for explicit U.S. backing. The central point is not support but interference. Current U.S. policy actively inhibits their activities against the mullahs via the terror listing - this is wrong. As your War with Iran II article correctly pointed out, hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress have called the NCRI a "legitimate resistance" working to overthrow the regime in Iran. The European Parliament has also echoed this sentiment.
When Ahmadinejad came to New York in 2006, some 20,000 NCRI supporters gathered in front of the U.N. to protest his presence on American soil. Over 50 media outlets covered this event. In June 2007, according to several media reports, as many as 50,000 Iranians gathered in Paris to express support for Mrs. Rajavi and the NCRI. This all shows that Iran has a viable, organized, and self sufficient resistance which has had 120,000 of its members executed. Thousands more are also imprisoned in the mullahs' prisons. The people of Iran have already attested to their popularity with blood and tears.
Rabkin: Realistically speaking, if the MEK and NCRI do get delisted from the terror record and are free to pursue their agenda against the mullahs, how would they bring about regime change?
Samsami: Excellent question Dan. Let's first look at this question from reverse. Blacklisting an organization is meant to demolish its structure, destroy or limit its activity, freeze its assets, and restrain its members from travel. In other words, the purpose of the designation of the PMOI/MEK, by the West, was to assure Tehran that its main legitimate opposition would be restrained from threatening its theocratic rule and establishing a secular democratic system in that country. Let me remind everyone that in October 1997, the Los Angeles Times quoted a senior Clinton administration official who said that the designation of the PMOI/MEK was done as a "good will gesture" to the Iranian regime. This blacklisting legitimized the arrest and execution of hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy youth activists for their association with the PMOI/MEK within Iran. Additionally, millions of dollars of the resistance's assets were confiscated by governments curtailing the resistance's activities abroad. Even the NCRI's US assets were frozen. In other words, in designating the PMOI/MEK, the West essentially sided with the regime against its democratic opponents. But, despite the repression inside Iran and all of the restrictions imposed on it abroad, the resistance has never lost touch with the Iranian people. To this day, it serves as a counterforce to the regime's brute force. The movement has maintained its structure, its supporters inside Iran and abroad, and its networks in Iran, enabling it, for example, to expose the regime's secret nuclear program with intelligence from sources inside Iran. If it was able to accomplish all of this in shackles, imagine what it is capable of achieving unobstructed. And if you have any doubts about the resistance's ability to change this regime, just ask the ayatollahs! At any negotiation abroad, at any forum, in any circumstance, the first and foremost demand of Tehran's rulers is for harsh restrictions against the PMOI/MEK.
Delisting the MEK would send a strong message to the Iranian regime: Its bullying of the global community will no longer be tolerated. Delisting the MEK, the main engine for change in Iran over the past 3 decades, will also send a strong signal to Iranian youth, and the rest of the defiant population there, that their efforts to affect change are welcomed. Delisting the MEK will significantly empower that group and increase its potential which, already at this point, has created immense fear amongst the mullahs. Let me add a few additional points here:
As the international community's psyche increasingly finds Iran's rulers illegitimate, it must also recognize the legitimacy of its democratic alternative. Doing so will demoralize and weaken an important pillar of the regime's stability: The Revolutionary Guards.
Delisting the MEK and NCRI will also foretell the final end of the West's appeasement policies. The Iranian regime will also no longer be able to execute MEK members with impunity under the pretext of fighting "terrorism," when it is the world's top sponsor of real terrorism.
One must honestly ask this question: How can any opposition group, be it inside or outside of a democratic system, mount a nationwide campaign? Is it not true that it requires resources in terms of both money and people? Is it not true that it requires legitimacy and credibility in the eyes of the international community?
As I have noted earlier, the NCRI and MEK have both credibility and legitimacy with the Iranian people. Recognition of that legitimacy by the United States and Europe is what is needed now because that will enable the NCRI and MEK to intensify their efforts to bring change within and outside of Iran. Earlier, I also mentioned that there were 5,000 protests within Iran in 2007. In addition to the regime's brutality, a lack of adequate organization can be blamed for the lack of an even more cohesive protest against the regime within Iran. The MEK, by all accounts, has this desperately needed organization. Despite all of the limitations placed upon it, the MEK has been able to inform the international community about Iran's nuclear program. At the same time, the MEK works politically to inform Western policy makers about all of the problems the mullahs are causing around the world. The ability to know about Iran's most secret nuclear projects is a vivid example of the MEK's capabilities within Iran. The international response to that secret information, and the three U.N. Security Council resolutions because of it, all attest to the worldwide credibility the MEK has.
Rabkin: I understand that the MEK received some very good news recently. Could you please comment on the U.K. Court of Appeal's recent ruling in favor of the MEK?
Samsami: On May 7th, Britain's Court of Appeal affirmed a lower court ruling that ruled that the PMOI/MEK should not be listed as a terrorist organization. The three judges that make up the C.O.A. rejected an appeal by the government to that lower court ruling from last November. This ends a seven-year long legal battle and is an indication of the legitimacy of the resistance, and its activities that have been waged against the regime in Iran. After the ruling, Mrs. Rajavi said, "The ruling proves the terror label against the PMOI was unjust" and that "Western governments and the UK owe the Iranian people and the resistance an apology for this disgraceful labeling." On May 8th, the New York Times wrote: "To the extent that the PMOI has retained networks and supporters inside Iran since, at the latest, 2002," the judges said, using the abbreviation for the group's full name, "they have been directed to social protest, finance and intelligence gathering activities which would not fall within the definition of terrorism for the purposes of the 2000 Act." After all of that, a spokeswoman for the U.K. Home Office said, "the government would delist the MEK." The C.O.A. had seen all of the classified materials with respect to the MEK and ruled that there was no evidence that they had been involved in terrorism, and that the PMOI no longer satisfied any of the criteria for appearing on the blacklist.
It is important to note here that the petition to delist the MEK/PMOI was brought forward by 35 distinguished British politicians. With their support of the Iranian resistance, they have acted as the aware conscience of the people of Britain. This ruling will hopefully have an effect on future U.S. policy as well. On May 7th, the Wall Street Journal quoted a U.S. official who said, "The MEK's listing will have to be reassessed during the current calendar year, as under State Department guidelines, the designations have five-year life spans." The official also added, "It's something we'll have to deal with." I believe that the United States should take into account the findings of the U.K. high court and indeed remove the MEK and NCRI from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Encouraged by the ruling in the U.K., numerous members of Congress, who have on a number of occasions called for the removal of the MEK from the terror list, renewed their efforts to finally overturn the terror tag. Congressman Bob Filner said, "I support the decision of the British Court to recognize the legitimate nature of the MEK." Congressman Tom Tancredo also noted, "I am confident that if the U.S. State Department looks objectively at these same facts, they will come to the same conclusion." Such a delistment is the best way America can promote democracy in Iran and avoid the necessity of a military conflict.
Rabkin: As someone who is very familiar with the intricacies of Iran's nuclear weapons program, what kind of a timeline do you put on Iran going nuclear? What will be the consequences of an Iran with nuclear weapons?
Samsami: Following the release of the latest (November 2007) National Intelligence Estimate (claiming Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003), the NCRI issued a statement warning the international community about the regime's deceptions and concealment. The statement also noted that the regime "probably would use covert facilities - rather than its declared nuclear sites - for the production of highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon." Remarkably, in February 2008, relying on intelligence from MEK sources in Iran, the NCRI revealed that Iran was in fact engaged in covert "uranium conversion and uranium enrichment activity." The information suggested that Iran was actively pursuing the production of nuclear warhead in an area called Khojir. Additionally, the NCRI report identified previously undeclared nuclear command and control sites. Collectively, these revelations point to an expedited Iranian nuclear project. Clearly, as long as this regime is in power, the threat of it obtaining nuclear weapons will be constant and imminent for the Iranian people and the world.
To answer your second question Dan, as the world's number one state-sponsor of terrorism, a nuclear armed Iran would be a disaster for mankind. Currently, Iran actively uses terrorism as leverage in conducting foreign policy. Armed with a nuclear arsenal, Iranian mullahs will waste no time in bullying their way to regional and international hegemony. Moreover, the Iranian people will have to continue to suffer under the ayatollahs' brutal rule for years to come. Increased international pressure on Iran is a positive development and should continue. However, as I have previously noted, the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is to empower the Iranian people and their most organized resistance movement, in parallel with stepping up international pressure against the regime. Iranians know the mullahs best and are the only ones capable of uprooting this barbaric, extremist, and medieval regime.
Rabkin: You have said that neither appeasement nor war are good policies with respect to the Iranian regime. However, if there is actionable intelligence indicating that Iran is on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons what should be done?
Samsami: As I have noted earlier, Iran's nuclear threat is imminent. We are already in the very critical time horizon you are referring to. This regime is an entrenched regime and can only be brought down by people who have roots within the fabric of Iranian society and have the capability to organize the people against the regime. The clock is ticking Dan. The United States and Europe cannot waste time. A policy of decisiveness and firmness towards the mullahs must be adopted. Additionally, they must reach out to the Iranian people and their leading opposition groups who are already calling for regime change.
Rabkin: Hopefully, the Iranian people and their opposition groups get the support they need to finally overturn their regime and send the mullahs to the bone yards of history. Ms. Samsami, thank you again for joining me.
Samsami: I hope so too Dan. It was my pleasure to join you today.
Dan Rabkin is a Middle Eastern affairs and national security analyst based in Toronto. He was awarded Canada's Governor General's Medal in 2005. He was also a short-listed national finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship. Dan's expertise lies in Middle Eastern and security affairs, but he is also knowledgeable about the situation in the former Soviet Union and speaks fluent Russian.
'Harassed' Iran student arrested
By Frances Harrison
June 20, 2008
A female student in the Iranian city of Zanjan who alleged she was sexually harassed by a senior male lecturer - triggering a massive demonstration by her fellow students - has herself been arrested.
The nature of the charge against the woman - who said she was molested by the vice-chancellor of the university - is unclear, but the local prosecutor is reported to have said that publicising certain crimes is worse than the crimes themselves.
Thousands of students took control of the campus after the allegation came to light, staging a sit-in and catching hold of the official and handing him to authorities.
The situation has since been calmed after the authorities promised to suspend the accused official from his post and take action.
The woman alleges that the vice-chancellor of the university, in the north-west of the country, harassed her after she went to discuss a problem with him. Her fellow students have said they have an audio recording of the lecturer sexually propositioning the girl. They have demanded that he be punished and that the university's board of directors resign.
Video of their seizing the vice-chancellor has since been posted on the YouTube website. Pictures of a sit-in to demand action have also been posted online.
But the situation calmed once the university authorities suspended the man and agreed to form a joint committee with students to look into the issue. The Fars news agency has reported that what they call "both accused" are in custody - by which they mean the alleged victim and perpetrator. Reporters have quoted the prosecutor saying people should be aware that if they go ahead and publicise crime there will be no more security in society.
In previous years there has been unrest in the universities spearheaded by reformist students, but so far the protests in Zanjan do not seem to have been overtly political.
This in a strictly segregated society where men and women are not supposed even to shake hands and women must hide their bodies from men they are not related to.
On June 12, the third anniversary of National Day of Solidarity of Iranian Women, nine women’s rights activists were arrested outside the Rahe Abrisham ( Silk Road ) Gallery just before the start of a small, peaceful assembly planned to commemorate the day.
Aida Saadat, Nahid Mirhaj, Nafiseh Azad, Nasrin Sotoodeh, Jelve Javaheri, Jila Baniyagoub, Sarah Loghmani and Farideh Ghaeb were arrested by Tehran security police, along with photographer and reporter Aliyeh Mohtalebzadeh. Of these nine women, five were journalists. All nine were released the following day in the early morning hours.
No Dignity, no Justice: New crackdown on women activists in Iran
By Elahe Amani
June 24, 2008
Women News Network
same day, a small group of women decided to go hiking on a local trail to
commemorate the day. They were threatened, harassed and stopped by police
forces. On the following day, Mahbobeh Karami, a member of the One Million
Signatures Campaign demanding changes to Tehran’s discriminatory laws, was
arrested. Her family has not heard from her since and can’t even find out to
which detention center she was taken. June 12 is an important day in the history
of Iranian women and the struggle for equality and human rights. It was on this
day in 2005 that thousands of women gathered in front of Tehran University and
demanded changes to the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not since
March 8, 1979, when 20,000 women gathered to object to a compulsory hijab, had
women organized a large demonstration. In 2005, the failure of reformist
policies, along with a historical opportunity, laid the groundwork for various
women’s groups, networks and organizations within the movement to come together
and protest violation of their rights.
June 12 has been chosen by Iranian women’s rights activists as the National Day of Solidarity in the struggle to change discriminatory laws against women and girls, and to change the societal structures that have denied full and equal citizenship to women. Many consider this day to be the day the women’s movement declared her independent existence and identity as a social movement, one which often has been marginalized by political parties.
In 2006, during a peaceful gathering on the first anniversary of the June 12 Day of Solidarity, 70 women activists were arrested, and many others were sentenced to up to six years in prison, all for demanding changes to discriminatory laws for divorce, polygamy, child custody, inheritance etc. The government of Iran claims that these activists are a threat to the country’s national security!
It has been reported that since June 12, 2006, women’s rights activist have been arrested 156 times, and collectively been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison, with a collective bail set at approximately $1.6 million. This is the price that Iranian women have to pay for demanding their rights.
Just in the last two months, during the crackdown on enforcing “Islamic Social Norms,” 1,098 women were arrested, accused of not fully observing the Islamic dress code. Women deemed inappropriately dressed are usually hauled to a moral detention center, where they must sign a written pledge not to repeat the offence, and are forced to await family members to bring them more modest clothing.
The Iranian people face many challenges in their daily life. Basic freedoms such as the right of assembly and freedom of speech and the press are shattered; there are more than 10 million people living under the poverty line; and the safety and security of women fighting for human rights is more fragile than ever: Women are being harassed and undignified in public for not observing the Islamic dress code; women’s rights activists are continually denied the right to freedom of association and assembly; and even meetings in private homes are often broken up by security forces.
Of course, this treatment is not limited to women’s activists only — other activists, be they labor, student, teachers, journalists or ordinary citizens who dare to demand their rights — are harassed, arrested and jailed regularly.
“The way the government is hounding them, and keeping some of them under surveillance, is an indication of its fear of the scale of this movement,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on June 13. It also reported that at least 14 websites that defend women’s rights were blocked by the authorities last month.
Iran is one of the world’s most repressive countries toward bloggers, and is on the Reporters Without Borders’ list of “Internet Enemies.” It was ranked 166th out of 169 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index. Many of the bloggers and cyber social justice activists are women.
Shirin Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, said in a recent interview with The Guardian newspaper: “Since the world started focusing on the nuclear program, the human rights situation in Iran has worsened every day. The morality police interfere more in people’s everyday lives. They recently announced they would carry out inspections in private homes and companies. In Tehran, there was also a plan to target hooligans on the streets, but it led to a lot of innocent young people and women being arrested.”
But the struggle goes on.
Despite the continuous prosecution of Iranian women activist and human rights defenders, the Iranian women’s movement is one of the most inspiring women’s movement in the world today. Iran’s women continue to challenge fanatic interpretations of Islam, demanding secularism and reforms to strict patriarchal social norms and discriminatory laws in the constitution and leading the way for women in other Muslim majority societies. Ancient Greek historian Thucydides once said, “Justice will not come to Athens until those who are not injured are as indignant as those who are injured.” The support of Iranian men like student Amir Yaghoub-Ali, who was arrested and jailed for working on behalf of the One Million Signature campaign, and the solidarity of other progressive-minded people and organizations around the world that have supported the cause, are statements of the strength of a movement that will just keep moving forward.
As U.S.-Iran relations remain a hot political issue, and the threat of a military strike continues to receive media attention, we must not allow the recent history of Afghan women to repeat itself here. We must remember that in the mainstream U.S. media, there is a short time span between reconstructing the image of brave Iranian women and collateral damage. Learning from their Afghan sisters, Iranian women will never allow the West to make them the poster child for women’s oppression and the justification for a military strike that would “rescue” them from the atrocities of religious extremists in Iran.
Iranian women are bold and brave, confident and hopeful. Their desire for democracy, dignity, justice and respect for human rights will be achieved through the building of a movement inclusive of all men and women who believe in eradicating discriminatory laws, together and with the support of international forces that are taking a stand against militarization, globalization and religious fundamentalism.
Jailed Women Activists Go on Hunger Strike in Tehran's Evin Prison
By Niusha Boghrati
July 11, 2008
Once again, Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, has drawn the attention of human rights activists; this time the notorious jail—infamous for housing political and social figures—is holding 10 women on hunger strike.
Almost one month has passed since the doors of ward 209 were shut on women's rights activist Mahboubeh Karami and nine other women; and the Iranian judiciary still has not presented the legal basis or accusations on which the detainees are being held.
"It has been weeks since I have officially accepted to defend the case of Ms. Karami, but I have not succeeded to visit my defendant yet. Nor am I aware of the charges against her," said Hooshang Poor Babaee, Karami's advocate lawyer.
On the fourth week of their detention, the 10 female inmates, exhausted by the grave conditions, began a hunger strike to protest the "illegal approach" of the judicial and prison officials.
In an interview with the United States-funded Persian-language Radio Farda, Sadigheh Masaebi, Mahboubeh's mother talked about the last conversation she had with her daughter: "'They are killing us here,' she [Karami] told me on phone. She said that her body is full of bruises, and the ten of them are crawling into each other in a tiny cell. She said that she and the nine other inmates are going on hunger strike from Sunday [July 6]."
Karami is 39. The ages of the other inmates range from 17 to 70, according to what Karami has told her mother.
The women were arrested during a protest against "economical corruption" in Tehran. But Karami has denied any involvement in the protest, and said her presence in the tumultuous area had been entirely coincidental. She said that she was passing through the area on a bus when the police and plainclothes officers stopped the vehicle and arrested them.
"'The police stopped the bus in front of the Mellat Park. Then they began hitting the windows with their batons and forced the driver to open the doors. They attacked a man in the bus. I could not keep silent and when I protested, they took me in too,'" Mahboubeh's mother quoted her daughter as saying.
Those demonstrating in Mellat Park were protesting the June 11 arrest of Abbas Palizdar, who had accused several senior Iranian officials of financial corruption in speeches he made at universities in Hamedan and Shiraz in May. He had been involved in a parliamentary Judicial Inquiry and Review Committee that had conducted an investigation into affairs of the judiciary. The protest had been organized by foreign-based opposition television channels that the Islamic Republic considers illegal and decadent.
Faced with intense pressure from the United States and its allies, which are pushing for political changes in the oil rich country, Iran said that such gatherings as well as the activities of those American-based stations are aimed at undermining the national security of the state; thus, it preserves for itself the right to confront them.
At a news conference on June 14, the head of the Tehran Judiciary, Ali Reza Avaie, confirmed that 200 people had been arrested during the protest. He said that those who were innocent or suspected of minor crimes would hear about the status of their cases within a week.
Mahboubeh Karami is a part of the One Million Signature Campaign, a women's rights movement in Iran that seeks to collect a million signatures to protest the discriminatory laws against women.
Although there has been a number of reforms in Iran's Islamic and judicial codes concerning women's rights, placing the country way ahead of other Muslim states, many political, social, and economic codes still in place, including the right of inheritance and marriage, are viewed as favoring men.
The Iranian authorities have never officially expressed opposition to the activities of this equal rights movement; nevertheless, tens of women's rights activists have been arrested on varying charges, such as undermining national security and promoting propaganda against the system.
According to one of Karami's fellow campaigners, who did not want to be identified, Karami's activities as a women's rights activist have led to complications because it's a case that could become a "golden" opportunity for the Islamic system: "Now they [the authorities] have found the chance to generalize this accidental arrest and try to link our independent movement to foreign sources. This is a good opportunity for them to intensify the crackdown."
The campaign said it refuses to accept any kind of foreign aid in their activities and believes that "change" is only possible through the forces inside Iran.
Women's rights is considered one of the many integral parts of the Islamic Shariah codes; thus, a major change to its religiously-drawn legal system will be viewed as a fundamental retreat on "holy moral values"—something that the ideological system of the Islamic Republic of Iran refuses to accept.
According to the Tehran-based Committee to Defend Human Rights in Iran, during the past year 31 women activists have been summoned to court, 41 activists have been detained, 9 have been sentenced to prison, ordered to pay fines, and given lashes (later suspended). Almost all of the Web sites promoting equal rights have been filtered and banned.
As for Karami, her case remains open even as the gates in the tall walls of the prison remain tightly closed on her and the nine other women, all of whom are now spending their days and nights going hungry in their plight.
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Volume 50, July 15, 2008
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