October 15, 2008 VOLUME 53
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
With the current focus on global financial crisis and US presidential elections, the US media seems to have no bandwidth to cover other pressing news. One of the major news item missed in New York is the daily protest of Iranian-American families who are concerned about the safety and security of their loved ones in Camp Ashraf, Iraq. The looming humanitarian crisis in Iraq, which has endanger more than 3500 Iranian refugees, has brought these families in front of the U.N. Headquarters in New York for the past 35 days. Their demand is for continuation of security protection by multi-national forces (MNF) in Iraq. "We fear we will end up with a situation like Srebrenica," said an Iranian-American woman whose brother and a number of family members reside in Camp Ashraf. Given Tehran's heavy influence in Iraqi affairs, protesters are worried that if the security of the camp is transferred from American forces to Iraqi forces, their loved ones will face imminent threat of extradition, torture and execution. Another protester point out “We are worried about the infiltrations of the Iranian regime in the government of the Iraq and we demand that the United States continue to protect the camp.” Protesters also made an appeal to UN High Commissioner for Refugees to support the Ashraf-based Iranians because they are in danger. They have gathered every day for more than a month, placing banners on the sidewalk in front of the building of the secretariat of the UN in New York, to ask the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to also intervene. They have avowed to continue their daily protect until their demands are met.
Last month, Women's Forum
Against Fundamentalism in Iran (WFAFI) joined Amnesty International
and urged the United States to meet its obligations and uphold the
protection of Ashraf residents. On July 2, 2004, the United States formally
recognized the residents of Camp Ashraf as “protected persons” under the
Fourth Geneva Convention. Both the U.S. and Iraq are parties to all four
1949 Geneva Conventions. Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention
specifies that: “Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to
respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their
religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs […]”.
Article 45 of the Fourth Geneva Convention specifies that: “In no
circumstances shall a protected person be transferred to a country where he
or she may have reason to fear persecution for his or her political opinions
or religious beliefs.“
Under the present circumstances in Iraq, the U.S. is the only party qualified and capable of ensuring Camp Ashraf residents’ safety and security under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The U.S. forces must continue to protect Ashraf residents and prevent a humanitarian crisis in Iraq.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
Australia News.com - September 16, 2008
"A Tehran appeals court confirmed a one-year jail term and 35 lashes for Massoumeh Zia. The sentence will be suspended for five years," Farideh Gheyrat was quoted by the Kargozaran newspaper. "The appeals court also upheld the six month jail term and 10 lashes, which will be suspended for two years, for Marzieh Mortazi Langrudi," she added. Zia, 31, was arrested with 70 other people in a June 2006 demonstration in a Tehran square which was broken up amid reported police brutality. The protesters were demanding equal rights for women in divorce, inheritance and child custody. Mortazi Langrudi, 55, and 32 other women were detained in March 2007 outside a Tehran revolutionary court where five fellow feminists were standing trial for organising the 2006 protest.
Reuters News Agency - September 18, 2008
Under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, basic human rights protection in Iran has deteriorated to new lows, Human Rights Watch and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a briefing paper released today. The report also notes the skyrocketing number of total executions under Ahmadinejad. In July 2008, 29 men were hanged on a single day, but the authorities announced the names of only 10 of them. The number of executions has nearly quadrupled under Ahmadinejad's presidency, rising from 86 cases in 2005 to 317 cases in 2007, almost a 300-percent increase.Prosecution of dissidents for their peaceful beliefs and opinions has also intensified in recent years. Human rights defenders are routinely harassed and imprisoned for reporting and documenting rights violations. Iranian authorities have systematically thwarted peaceful and legal civil society efforts to advocate for women's rights. Women's rights advocates have been beaten, harassed, persecuted, and prosecuted.
Agence France Presse - September 18, 2008
An Iranian woman whose asylum request was rejected by Sweden said Thursday she feared for her life if she were to be deported to Iran because of her criticism of its government. "I'm afraid of going back to Iran. I have to stay. There is no other possibility," said Rana Karimzadeh, 46, who came to Sweden in 2005 after fleeing Iran in 2001."I fear for my life," she told AFP. A Swedish immigration court rejected her asylum request on August 19 after judging that she was not at risk of persecution if she returned to Iran, a court official said. "We didn't think that her activism was intense enough for the Iranian regime to be interested in her or to hold anything against her," a court official, Ulrika Sandell, told AFP. But Karimzadeh said: "I have three blogs in which I criticise the Iranian regime and I'm active in several associations that campaign for women's rights and against radical Islam." Karimzadeh said that after fleeing Iran she had first stayed in the Netherlands where a first asylum request was rejected. Her two daughters, aged 10 and 15, were ordered to leave Sweden with her. A support group has been set up in Sweden to push for their right to stay and on Wednesday about 100 people demonstrated outside the Swedish parliament. Karimzadeh has appealed the immigration court's ruling and a verdict is expected in late October.
The Christian Post - September 22, 2008
Anti-U.S. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should expect some hostility from Americans this week when he visits the U.N. headquarters in New York. Pro-democracy Iranian-Americans and other citizens will unite in a protest rally outside theU.N. headquarters on Tuesday – the same day Ahmadinejad is due to speak in front of the U.N. General Assembly. The rally aims to show the Iranians’ support for democratic change in Iran. During the event, exhibits will be displayed that show the dismal situation in Iran under Ahmadinejad and his radical Islamic regime. “The Iranians will rally outside the UNGA to denounce Ahmadinejad's record and advocate a very different Iran: a democratic, secular, peaceful, and nuclear-free Iran." Organizers of the rally highlighted that on one day alone in late July, 29 people were executed in Iran. The regime has also conspired to massacre nearly 3,500 Iranian dissident refugees at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, according to the group.
Newsday - September 23, 2008
Protesters against Ahmadinejad shouted: "Ahmadinejad
out of UN…Ahmadinejad out of UN…" Iranian-Americans protested against Ahmaidnajd
presence and announced: We are here to denounce Ahmadinejad’s presence at the UN
and announce that he does not represent Iranian people. Ahmadinejad represents
the religious dictatorship ruling Iran. He is here to exploit the United Nation
General Assembly and promote the radical and hatemongering policies of the
radical regime in the name of religion. We are here to say Ahmadinejad “hand off
Reuters News Agency - September 24, 2008
Iran has doubled the number of police assigned to
its more than year-long crackdown against women flouting Islamic dress codes,
Kargozaran newspaper said on Wednesday. The daily gave no figures but the
report, as well as remarks made by a police official to Reuters on Wednesday,
indicate the authorities' determination to press ahead with the longest
clampdown against "immoral behaviour" in recent years. The latest campaign began
in mid-2007. Such strict codes were tightly enforced in the early years after
the 1979 Islamic revolution but in more recent years campaigns have tended to
last just weeks or months at most. "The crackdown on non-Islamic hijab (Muslim
veil) will continue until the society is clean of any immoralities," Kargozaran
quoted a police statement as saying.Violators can receive lashes, fines or
imprisonment, although most usually receive a stern warning by street patrols
looking for women with veils that are pushed back to show too much hair or coats
which are not long enough or too tight. Kargozaran quoted the head of Iran's
airports police as saying 128 women had been prevented from taking their flights
because of "bad hijab". It did not give dates and said the figure for those
stopped had been published previously.Dissent has been swiftly stamped on --
whether by students, women activists or labour union officials -- for fear that
opposition could gain momentum, the analysts say.
WFAFI News - October 5, 2008
Iran is facing an increase in the number of breast
caner rate among women of all ages. According to government's officials breast
cancer is most common cancer among Iranian women, and “one out of four female
cancer patients in the country suffer from breast cancer.” Breast cancer is the
second of all cancer deaths in Iran, after the chest cancer. “And despite
treatment developments, rate of breast cancer is high in the country,” secretary
of the 4th congress of Iran Cancer Association Paiam Azadeh said.
NCRI Website - October 6, 2008
Female students were threatened with disciplinary actions should they not comply with the imposed dress code at the registration in Shiraz University, southern Iran, on Saturday. "Here is a university, you should be extremely careful with what you wear to school," said a woman faculty member in charge of registration in Shiraz University. She added, "Try not to get into trouble with the school's security office by obeying the rules." Not long ago, in a meeting between students and Dean of Student's Affairs and head of the university's disciplinary committee which was convened to investigate the problems female students were facing at the school he said, "Do not forget that I am the head of students' disciplinary committee too." He threatened the students with action if they do not strictly abide by the dress code. Harassment of university students has been a common practice by the mullahs' regime in Iran.
The Guardian - October 7, 2008
Iran's biggest motor manufacturer is to take the
country's gender sensitivity to new levels by producing a car specially for
women.It will be fitted with features common on the international market but
seen as female-specific in Iran's male-dominated culture. These include an
automatic gearbox, electronic parking aids, a navigation system and a jack
designed to make it easier to change a wheel, suggesting that women drivers lack
the mechanical competence of their male counterparts. Alarms may also be
installed to warn of flat tyres. The vehicle will be painted in soft "feminine"
colours and include interior designs tailored to women's tastes.
Kurdish Media - October 7, 2008
A Kurdish women activist has been arrested in Iran, according to the Iranian Human Rights Organisation. Nigin Shekhul-Islami was arrested by the Iranian Ettelaat, i.e. the intelligence services, in the capital Tehran and her whereabouts is unknown. The reason for her arrest is not made public. Shekhul-Islami was the coordinator of the women council for the cultural and social affairs of Nazermiri in Kurdistan. Shekhul-Islami has written a number of high profile articles about the situation of Iranian and Kurdish women. Nigin Shekhul-Islami arrest comes about while the Kurdish prisoners of conscious are on hanger strike in Iranian prisons and Iran is under pressure internationally to improve its human rights record. Shekhul-Islami is a prominent and influential religious and social Kurdish clan of Sunni faith.
Agence France Presse - October 14, 2008
The number of people in Iran who have been infected
with the AIDS virus has reached 18,320 people, a 30 percent increase on the 2007
figure, health ministry statistics showed on Tuesday. "So far 1,592 of the
infected people have developed AIDS... and 2,800 have died," said the ministry
report quoted by the state television website. Intravenous drug use is still the
main cause of infection at 80.8 percent. Sexual contact accounted for 11.9
percent of cases. A full 93.7 percent of those infected were men. Iranian
officials have warned of the dangers of a rise in infections with the Human
Immune-Deficiency Virus amid a surge in intravenous drug usage.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Activists Face Obstacles Online in Winning Women's Rights in Iran
By Lucie Morillon
September 16, 2008
Women in Iran have learned to unleash the Internet's potential to promote
freedom. In the country that has, according to the OpenNet Initiative,
experienced the most explosive online growth in the Middle East, the Internet
has become a battleground between a repressive regime and the increasingly
active feminists demanding the end of legal discrimination against women.
Women activists, who in the 1990s relied on public demonstrations, in-person contacts and door-to-door advocacy, have now taken their initiatives to cyberspace. The feminist Campaign for Equality launched an online petition called One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws in August 2006; it has already garnered more than 10,000 signatures. Radio podcasts dealing with women's issues are accessible on the activists' websites, and women also circulate information through expanding email lists.
For the first time, the women's movement is not restricted to a certain elite, but includes women of all ages and backgrounds, from big cities to small villages. All these women are united in support of this cause -- women who now share the same dream of no longer being second-class citizens.
After a wave of repression in the '80s, Iranian mothers were reticent to let their daughters contest the new order. In contrast, today many support their daughters fighting for equal rights and some older women even get involved themselves. The power of the Internet, accessible to everyone, has removed the class barrier, allowing all woman to receive and exchange information. The movement has no centralized leadership: The Campaign for Equality is spearheaded by acting or former journalists or novelists barred from writing about their aspirations in the government-monitored mainstream media.
Background on Women's Rights in Iran
The Iranian legal system is based on the Sharia, the Islamic law, and denies women many rights, including the rights to file for divorce or to claim custody of their children. Women are treated as second-class citizens in other ways, too:
> A woman's court testimony is afforded less value than that of a man.
> In cases of wrongful injury or death, a woman's punitive damages are limited to half those of a man.
> In cases of adultery, both partners can be sentenced to stoning, but a woman is stoned while buried up to her neck while a man's arms are left free.
> The legal age of judicial responsibility is 15 for boys, but only 9 for girls -- meaning that girls as young as 9 can be executed as adults.
The repressive Iranian regime does not tolerate criticism. It fears the women's movement not only because it could elevate the status of women but also for its potential to fuel a broader trend demanding democratic reform in the country.
The government dismisses any accusations that it discriminates against women, but, according to Amnesty International, "women in Iran face far-reaching discrimination under the law." Even so, Amnesty found that "with the increase of women's literacy in the last 30 years, women are increasingly empowered to challenge discrimination."
Several activists have been imprisoned for speaking out. Two "cyber-feminists" were held for more than a month at the infamous Evin prison in December after writing articles calling for equal rights with men. Jail was the one place they reported receiving equal treatment with men: Both men and women are made to endure very bad prison conditions and multiple interrogation sessions. When journalist Jila Baniyaghoob was released, she spoke of being locked away in a filthy cell, awakened several times each night and led, blindfolded, to yet another interrogation. She spent over a week in the notorious section 209, a detention center where Iranian secret services can hold political prisoners in solitary confinement and conduct torture with complete impunity.
Jila runs an association of Iranian women who have been active in spreading the word about women's untold ordeals. She has published on her website stories ignored by the mainstream media for lack of interest or fear of official retribution. One such story was that of medical student Dr. Zahra Bani Yaghoob, who was arrested while walking with her fiance in a park in Hamedan province. The two were unable to show a legal marriage certificate when confronted by the local militia. Later that day, the police called her family to pick her up.
But when relatives arrived, they were told Yaghoob had committed suicide, a story disputed by her family and friends. Jila and others helped publicize the case, especially after a local judge acquitted the men suspected of killing Yaghoob. Thanks to pressure brought by these feminists, the case has now been moved to Tehran.
Speaking out is still dangerous for women in Iran. Jila has received many death threats because of her involvement in the Yaghoob case. In March 2007, 33 female journalists and activists were arrested while demonstrating for their rights. Four received prison sentences ranging from six months to a year.
Several days ago, cyber-feminists Parvin Ardalan, Jelveh Javaheri, Maryam Hosseinkhah, and Nahid Keshavarz, were sentenced to six months in prison after writing about women's rights for online newspapers like Zanestan. They are still free pending the outcome of their appeals, but a sword of Damocles clearly hangs over their heads. Their sentences were intended to send a strong warning to force other female activists into self-censorship.
These four cyber-feminists, however, can count on domestic and international support: Ardalan was awarded Sweden's Olof Palme Prize this year. Famous Nobel Prize recipient, women's rights activist and lawyer Shirin Ebadi has agreed to represent all four. She told Reporters Without Borders earlier this month: "These four journalists have been convicted just for writing articles and criticizing laws that are unfair to Iranian women."
Internet No Longer a Safe Haven
The Internet is no longer a safe heaven for free expression in Iran. A draft law passed by Parliament on first reading last July would extend the death penalty to crimes committed online, including bloggers and website editors who "promote corruption, prostitution or apostasy." Shirin Ebadi told Reporters Without Borders that she was "worried because I see the situation getting worse. If Parliament ratifies the new law increasing sentences for crimes against society's moral security, bloggers could get prison sentences."
The backlash is not limited to judicial persecution. Authorities have also used technology to stop the activists. Iran is on Reporters Without Borders' list of Internet enemies and has one of the world's most extensive and sophisticated systems for censoring and filtering Internet content.
In recent years. women's rights have become one of the top subjects targeted by government web censors, along with sites advocating political reform or hosting pornography. The online newspaper Tagir Bary Barbary ("Change for Equality") was forced to change its URL after it was blocked several times. To get around official censorship, several "One Million Signatures" campaign websites are now hosted in various Iranian cities as well as in other countries, including the United States, Germany and Kuwait.
With the "One Million Signatures" campaign, the women's movement in Iran has reached a new dimension beyond gender-only issues. The Men's Committee of the One Million Signatures Campaign has also been collecting signatures. One of it members, Amir Yaghoub Ali, was arrested in July 2007 and spent 29 days in the Evin Prison. In an interview, he told Mahboubeh Hosseinzadeh that men's involvement proves that "unequal laws do not only affect women, but harm all of society --- as they affect family and human relations more broadly." But there are still many conservative forces within the Islamic republic who disapprove of the campaign.
Now the question is: What will happen once the one million signatures have been collected?
Activists believe the government will not be able to ignore them once they have collected such a huge number of signatures. The movement has become stronger than ever. Earlier this month, it scored a real success. The Parliament was debating a government-sponsored "protection of the family" bill that included two articles that would have allowed a man to take a second wife without his first wife's permission and submitted the women's dowry to taxes respectively. Lawmakers removed the articles after women activists threatened to hold peaceful demonstrations in front of the Parliament.
The authorities should think twice before rejecting the women's demands or the One Million Signatures campaign could very well become a "One Million Person Demonstration."
Iran's Women's Rights Activists Are Being Smeared
By Nayereh Tohidi
September 17, 2008
Women ENews (WeNews)
(WOMENSENEWS)--In Iran, the government of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently proposed a bill and, in Orwellian fashion, named it the "Family Protection Law."
If passed it would have threatened the stability, equilibrium, and mental health of families by reinforcing and facilitating polygamy, temporary marriage, and men's privileged position with regard to divorce.
The good news: A diverse coalition of women's rights activists and even some moderate clerics and politicians persuaded a judicial commission to drop some of the most contested articles and Majles, the Parliament, passed an amended version on Sept. 9. This version makes second marriage contingent upon the first wife's consent and does not attach any tax on the amount of dowry to be paid to wife in case of divorce.
The bad news: The amended family law and many other laws pertaining to personal status are still very male biased. Temporary marriage (muta), for example, remains a prerogative for married and unmarried men without even requiring its registration. Activists campaigning to change that those laws are still under attack, with five women recently sentenced to prison terms of between six months and four years.
A major sign of the negative climate is a wave of smear campaigns recently waged against those activists, chief among them Shirin Ebadi, the leading human rights lawyer. Similar campaigns in the 1990s were harbingers of homicides.
A series of articles published in early August by the official Islamic Republic News Agency made dangerous allegations against Ebadi, her family, and the Center for the Defense of Human Rights that she founded and chairs.
The articles charged Ebadi, a Women's eNews 21 Leader, with supporting sexual license, promiscuity, and prostitution. They called her a Zionist agent and alleged that the international Zionist Lobby was behind her winning the 2003 Nobel Prize.
The articles also claimed that Ebadi's daughter has converted to the Bahai faith, a dangerous accusation because Iran does not recognize Bahaism as a religion and its followers have faced severe discrimination and persecution.
Several human rights groups, including the Nobel Women Initiative (founded by six female Nobel Peace Prize winners) have compared the accusations to trumped-up charges brought up by the same media against dissident intellectuals in the 1990s that led to several mysterious assassinations now known as "the serial killings."
Women's status in Iran is paradoxical and complex. Many rural women and those living in small towns suffer from old restrictions and practices such as domestic violence and "honor killing."
As for urban women: While economic necessity compels many to work outside the home, their employment opportunities are limited and often face discrimination and harassment. According to official records, in the course of the past year alone, more than 20,000 women have been attacked by "moral squads" and put under temporary police arrest for breaking Islamic dress code.
At the same time, Iranian women have made remarkable strides. Literacy rates among younger generations have risen above 90 percent, and a drastic decline in the fertility rate (now less than two children per woman) and improvements in health and life expectancy have paralleled strides in higher education and income generation. Women are now more than 60 percent of university students and are active in many non-traditional occupations such as medicine, law, engineering and architecture.
Women played a significant role in the reform movement of the late 1990s by massive participation in presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. But since then, women's participating in formal politics has waned along with the reform movement.
Laws Lagging Behind New Realities
Women's legal rights within marriage and the family--so-called personal status--have remained backward and at odds with their proven capacities. While women in Iran have produced best-selling novels and internationally award-winning films, barbaric practices such as stoning to death for adultery are still legal.
Two years ago, in August 2006, 200 women (and also some men) began a grassroots effort known as the "One Million Signatures Campaign" to change discriminatory laws. It was modelled after a similar 1992 campaign by Moroccan women, which produced progressive changes in the family law in that country. In Iran, the plan was to present one million signatures to the Majles and press legislators to enact equal-rights legislation. But continuous attacks and arrest of those collecting signatures have slowed the process and caused organizers to extend the two-year target.
Despite intimidation and arrests, this campaign has grown into a network of thousands of activists in more than 30 cities. It has also mobilized support among Iranians abroad and gained increasing recognition and solidarity among transnational networks of feminists and women's rights activists.
Appealing to Anxieties
To thwart such efforts from fuelling a counter cultural movement in the Iranian population--70 percent of whom are now younger than 30--the radical Islamists are appealing to traditionalists' anxieties about changing sexual mores and gender views. One recent article published in August in the state-run newspaper Keyhan called for "courageous and gutsy revolutionaries who can do the job" (i.e., continue to carry out attacks on the women's rights activists).
U.S. policy toward Iran and the continuous threat of military attack have further complicated the situation. In 2003 the allocation of $75 million in U.S. aid to Iranian civil rights organizations spurred the government to repress all voices of dissent. Any civil society organizations or individuals doing effective work toward democracy and human-women's rights were accused of being agents in a U.S. plan for regime change.
While the hard-liners and radical Islamists cast peaceful and transparent campaigns as national security threats, that charge is better applied to them. Their belligerent foreign policies have brought sanctions and economic hardship and created the danger of military attacks on Iran.
And while they blast off allegations of sexual license and prostitution against women seeking equal rights and egalitarian family relations they promote polygamy and temporary marriage, both frowned upon by the majority of Iranians. Many Sunni and even many Shii Muslims view temporary marriage as little more than legalized prostitution.
Iranian women's rights activists are contributing to a slow, persistent process of building a civil society grounded on egalitarian and democratic values that would nourish national security and peace with justice. Their efforts are not tied to any national security interest. They are part of a universal quest by civilized people for a peaceful and humane society.
The Hypocrisy of Ahmadinejad's Iftar
By Ana K. Sami
September 28, 2008
the people to be outraged over the display of an iftar, or the breaking of fast
with Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York,
it should be Muslims. While this event has sparked protest from a wide array of
people from all religious groups, politicians, activists, and citizens, Muslims
in particular are dealt the heaviest blow. A mockery of their religion and every
last principle it stands for is trampled upon, all in the name of rapprochement.
It is ironic, that the host committee of this iftar held on September 25, amongst the many that have accompanied Ahmadinejad's trip to the U.S., includes the World Council of Churches, Religions for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee. All being religious organizations, they claim a desire for world peace and civility. Ahmadinejad is the furthest thing from the promotion of these values, let alone those virtues specifically belonging to Islam. The month of Ramadan is most known for emphasizing values such as self-restraint, and distancing oneself from hatred and insincerity. In addition, the fast is known to encourage sympathy, humility, general regard, and kindness for fellow human beings. One glimpse at Ahmadinejad's record leaves one perplexed, just what is the reason this event is being held in his honor? The message promoted is that this tyrant speaks for and represents Islam and Muslims, after all, one must have some regard for someone who is treated with such pomp and circumstance.
Perhaps the 130 minors who are on death row in Iran might like to speak about Ahmadinejad's virtues, and joining them will be the restless youth of Iran, who can only dream about any sense of normalcy, let alone having the freedom of choice to comply with the Iranian Regime's distorted Islam. Undoubtedly, Seyyed Mostafa might have had the words to describe the kindness and humility Iran's state security forces showed him during Ramadan in 2005—were he not shot nine times by them on the streets of Tehran for not observing the fast. And what is the public to make of the scores of women forced into prostitution, the starving children wandering about Iran, and the heart-stopping public beatings that are inflicted on Iran's youth? Images and videos leaked out of Iran with evidence showing blood soaked faces and clothing as these youths who are being mercilessly yanked, pushed, and dragged through Rezaii square and several other public streets by state supported forces are a daily reality. These incidents go without speaking of Iran's painful past of over 100,000 documented executions—this includes the mass executions of 1988 of which the anniversary has just passed and recognized as well by Amnesty International.
Of the several meetings in Iran between the host groups for the iftar and Iranian regime officials, it is clear, that none of the individuals were disturbed enough by Iran's track record to ask about the regime's innocent victims. Muslims the world over have come to realize the brutality of the Iranian regime, and abhor the spectacle that only serves to ridicule Islamic ideals. If it is dialogue that they seek, these Christian groups have more than enough freedom loving Iranian and Arab Muslims to choose from. These religiopolitical sources include Ayatollah Ayad Jamaleddin, Deputy Chairman of the Iraqi Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Ayatollah Jalal Ganjei, Chairman of the Committee on Religious Freedom at the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and Mrs. Narreman al-Roussan, Member of the Jordanian Parliament. It is these voices, and that of their colleagues, that should have been elevated in New York during the symbolic iftar, not that of Ahmadinejad's. These religious and political personalities made a joint statement at an iftar in Paris on September 9, 2008 denouncing the abuse of Islam in order to further the Iranian regime's agenda of state sponsored suppression and the spread of extremist thought.
These lessons are things the host organizations as well as those politically involved will learn to their own detriment if the Iran issue is not addressed properly. The relationship nurtured by the host organizations of the iftar and the Iranian regime are highly superficial. These types of relationships supposedly based on "dialogue," "negotiation," and "friendship," especially through religious communities bolster the legitimacy of tyrannical regimes like Iran's through recognition and blatantly through tributes such as the honorary iftar. Values held dear to all faiths are ignored, and the reality of people's lives are concealed, all to fulfill the agenda of a destructive dominating force. The proverbial "there are none so blind as those who will not see" aptly applies to such groups who deny what the international community, and especially Iranians in exile have bellowed for the past 30 years with regard to Iran's destructive nature.
It would behoove the world's Muslims, in tandem with numerous other voices, to stand in solidarity against such oppressive forces that operate under the guise of Islam. The peace and future of Iran and their neighborhood depends on the ability of their citizens living internal to or external to the region, to define clear boundaries with those who would use Islam as a tool of force. Only when a strict denunciation is made, and a strong stance taken against hypocrisy in the name of religion, can Muslims reclaim the values that are so fundamental to their faith. When such boundaries are established, and perversions excised, the true meaning of Ramadan and iftar celebrations can take shape. Lo and behold—the genuine qualities sought during Ramdan are brought to the forefront, the host organizations for Ahmadinejad's iftar might fare well to take note, and redirect their energies towards more justifiable causes.
Iran: Europe must say no to the bomb and to terrorism
By Maryam Rajavi (President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran)
October 10, 2008
The latest IAEA report on Tehran's nuclear program is alarming. Mohammad El Baradei and Javier Solana wanted to avoid this outcome by exercising flexibility and flattery with Tehran. Are they now convinced that the more the mullahs are cajoled the more their appetite increases for a nuclear bomb?
Since 2002, when the Iranian Resistance first revealed the regime's main clandestine nuclear sites, Western governments have carried out six years of fruitless negotiations coupled with incentives.
These governments squandered the international community's time, all the while granting more time to the mullahs. Moreover, the 18 percent rise in European Union exports to Iran simply discredits the UN sanctions against the regime. Are these developments unrelated?
The nuclear issue displays the failure of Western policy vis-à-vis the religious dictatorship ruling Iran. In our view, the last six years have provided the mullahs in Tehran with precious time to reach the final phases of building a nuclear bomb: They are now in the process of developing nuclear warheads.
These six years have also resulted in an extensive and surreptitious occupation of Iraq by the Iranian regime, which works to hold hostage Iraqi democracy and security. The mullahs have also stymied the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, split Palestine in half, pushed Lebanon to the brink of civil war and expanded fundamentalism and terrorism throughout the world.
In short, the policy of appeasement towards the mullahs has damaged global peace and security. Its continuation would result in more catastrophic outcomes for the world.
Such a policy is analogous to a famous poem by the well-known eighth-century Iranian poet, Obide Zakani, which describes how a group of mice seeking to coax the hungry cat continually nurtured it by giving it more and more gifts.
Recently, Ali Khamenei, the mullahs' Supreme Leader, spoke of the necessity for a second presidential term for the mullahs' President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. What else is needed to prove the fiasco caused by the appeasement and goodwill gestures towards this regime?
Such an approach is now at an impasse. There are four underlying policy blunders committed by the West.
The first is that the West bought into the mullahs' hollow show of force. It discounted the fact that the mullahs conceal their true vulnerability, which results from their severe domestic weaknesses, behind a veil of cruel acts and terrorist tactics.
The second is to ignore the profundity of the Iranian people's contempt and hatred for the Iranian regime. The regime's lobbyists try to propagate the utterly false notion that if the international community were to adopt a firm policy towards the regime, such as a boycott, the people would begin to back the mullahs. They pretend to be unaware of the misery and torturous circumstances experienced by the Iranian people under the mullahs' rule.
One can discover the real extent to which the mullahs embody a "people's power" by remembering that, according to official figures, their parliamentary deputies in ten major cities could only muster 2% to 14% of the votes. In fact, the regime's entire social base amounts to roughly 3% of the total population, and is comprised of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the paramilitary Bassij Force, and intelligence services.
The mullahs have repeatedly rejected the Iranian Resistance's calls for truly free elections in Iran under the auspices of the United Nations. This is because they know perfectly well that to stop their hangings and torture even for a single day would expose them to a massive and popular upheaval.
The West's third blunder is that it has failed to acknowledge the explosive nature of the Iranian society. The country's economy is devastated, and the inflation and unemployment rates are increasing day by day. The price of bread has doubled and that of rice, a staple Iranian food, has tripled in the past year alone. All this happens at a time when oil revenues have steadily increased. But, not even a fragment of the budget now totaling nearly 100 billion dollars has made it to the Iranian people's pockets.
Finally, the West has not taken into account the real solution to the Iranian crisis. The regime and its allies claim that there is no credible, legitimate, and deeply rooted alternative for the mullahs. In the absence of a force for change, the mullahs' eternal and absolute rule is deemed inevitable and people are viewed as unwilling to be involved in bringing about change. But, there does exist a capable and dynamic force at the heart of Iranian society and history, which is heir to one of the greatest civilizations of mankind, and which is passionately working towards obtaining freedom.
Resistance against fundamentalism in Iran presents the real solution to the crisis since it has been set in motion by social and popular movements. The Iranian Resistance, whose central axis is the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), a democratic and tolerant Muslim organization, presents the antithesis to religious fascism under the guise of Islam.
Our Resistance rejects any form of foreign intervention and instead advocates democratic change through the Iranian people. This Resistance is committed to fundamental freedoms and the establishment of a pluralistic and secular republic in Iran, which would ban censorship and inquisition and would respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
But, currently this option has been hampered. The inclusion of PMOI, the main opposition to the mullahs, on the European list of terrorist organizations, is a logical consequence of the West's series of policy blunders. Fearful of losing lucrative economic deals, such as oil contracts, the EU has refused to follow Britain's lead and remove the PMOI from its list. Kneeling in front of the mullahs is demonstrative of an enormous disgrace. The terror label has helped the regime to physically eliminate its opponents and impose pressure on the 3,500 PMOI members currently residing in Camp Ashraf in Iraq.
As long as the EU continues to label the principal Iranian opposition as "terrorist" and block the path of change in Iran, it would keep on playing into the mullahs' hands. We demand nothing more from the EU than to remain neutral when it comes to the Iranian people's struggle for freedom and democracy. France, which now holds the EU's rotating presidency, shoulders a monumental task in this regard.
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Volume 53, October 15, 2008
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