November 15, 2008 VOLUME 54
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
Late last month, Europe's second highest court ruled that the European Union has wrongly blacklisted the women-led Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), adding fuel to accusations the bloc has abused its terrorist list to appease Iran. According to the New York Times (October 24, 2008) "The decision by the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg follows a ruling in May by the British Court of Appeal that the British government was wrong to include the group on its list of banned terrorist groups. The decision Thursday could increase pressure on the E.U. to relax its ban on the group. The E.U. first placed the group on a terror blacklist in 2002. But the court said Thursday the evidence presented was “manifestly insufficient to provide legal justification for continuing to freeze” the group’s funds." The paper added "The group is regarded as potentially the most important force in the Iranian resistance. Legalization could enable the group to raise money and organize resistance to the ruling ayatollahs in Iran."
With PMOI's legal victories in European courts, one hopes that US will follow suit and end a decade of unjust labeling of Iran's leading force for change. As the United States prepares for President-elect Obama, it is the hope of the Iranian women and their organized resistance that a new course of Iran policy will lead to meaningful change. Called by the New York Times as "a prominent Iranian opposition group", the PMOI is capable of bringing change by the people and for the people of Iran. As been said before, there is no need for arms, fund, further negotiation (conditional or unconditional) or military attacks to confront the escalating threat by the Islamic Fundamentalist regime in Tehran. All is needed is a courageous leadership is Washington who can detect an authentic voice of change in Iran.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
The Guardian - October 16, 2008
News is filtering out of Iran of mass arrests of Sunni Muslims living in the south-east of the country, in the annexed and occupied region of Balochistan. It signifies a coordinated crackdown against religious and ethnic dissidents who oppose Tehran's clerical sectarianism and its neo-colonial subjugation of the Baloch people. Iran's repression, which has intensified since August, is targeting expressions of Baloch identity and culture; in particular expressions of religious freedom and national self-determination.
UN News Center - October 20, 2008
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the rights of women and minorities in Iran, as well as over the death penalty, including juvenile executions and stoning, in a new report to the General Assembly on the country’s human rights situation. The report said there has been a sudden surge of executions in recent months, and the UN Human Rights Committee has sounded the alarm over the “extremely high number of death sentences, many resulting from trials in which the guarantees of due process of law had not been properly applied.” Despite a circular issued by the head of the judiciary in January 2002 prohibiting stoning as punishment, the practice has been reported to continue. In another non-binding circular, the judiciary has placed a moratorium on juvenile executions, but the sentences are still being applied, Mr. Ban said. Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, both of which obligate States parties to not impose the death penalty on those who commit crimes under the age of 18. “The age for criminal responsibility under Iranian law is set at 14 years and 7 months for boys and 8 years and 9 months for girls, which is not only discriminatory but also low by international standards,” the report said.
German News Agancy (DPA) - October 21, 2008
An Iranian woman who had been studying in California was arrested by Iranian police, reportedly for making unauthorised video interviews with women activists in Iran, the Tehran press reported Tuesday. The daily Kargozaran reported that Esha Momeni, member of the Change for Equality campaign, was transferred to the notorious Evin prison after her arrest last week. Momeni reportedly planned to make a film about women in Iran in general and woman activist Parvin Ardalan in particular. Ardalan, 41, last year initiated a plan to collect one million signatures in Iran to amend the prevailing law on women's rights, which are not equal to those of men. She won the 2007 Palme Prize but was prevented by local authorities from leaving for Sweden to receive it in person. According to legal experts in Tehran, women activists such as Ardalan have, however, succeeded in pushing family courts to be more favourable toward women, but without changing the laws. Another concern of women activists in Iran is the Siqeh - or temporary marriage - which women consider as degrading, and activists are trying to abolish.
CNN - October 22, 2008
Officials in the United States are looking into the
recent arrest of an Iranian-American student in Tehran who was working on a
research project on women's rights in Iran. Esha Momeni was arrested October 15
in Tehran, Iran, officials said. Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California
State University-Northridge, was arrested October 15 in Tehran for unlawfully
passing another vehicle while driving, according to Change For Equality, an
Iranian women's movement. "We're seeking additional information about this
case," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Wednesday. "We stand with all
those in Iran who are working for universal human rights and justice in their
countries." Momeni, who was born in Los Angeles, California, is a member of
Change for Equality's California chapter. She arrived in Tehran two months ago
to work on her masters thesis project on the Iranian women's movement, according
to the group, which is in touch with Momeni's family in Iran. Momeni is being
held in a section of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison that is managed by the
Intelligence Ministry, the group said. Evin Prison houses many Iranian
dissidents and political prisoners, and it is where four Iranian-Americans were
held for several months last year. All have been released.
Iranian officials had promised Momeni's family that she would be immediately released if the news of her arrest was not published, the organization said.
AKI Italian News Agency - October 23, 2008
A prominent Iranian dissident leader, Maryam Rajavi, was in the Italian capital Rome on Thursday to appeal for support for her resistance movement. Rajavi's visit coincided with a crucial legal victory that could see her resistance group the People's Mujahadeen Organization of Iran legitimised. Rajavi is the the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the PMOI, which is banned in Iran. A European Union court ruled in Brussels on Thursday that European governments illegally froze the funds of the Iranian opposition group with which she is affiliated.While the money belonging to the People's Mujahadeen Organization of Iran will remain frozen, the decision by the EU's second highest court, the Court of First Instance, could eventually see it removed from a terrorist blacklist. After a visit to the Italian Chamber of Deputies or lower house of Parliament, she received a warm welcome from supporters who greeted her on the streets outside. She visited France and Italy in July in a bid to generate support for her cause from European MPs.
Reuters - October 23, 2008
Iranian women shout their support for Maryam Rajavi, head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, as she arrives at the Italian parliament in Rome, October 23, 2008. A European Union court on Thursday annulled a 2007 move to freeze the assets of an exiled Iranian opposition group in the latest legal setback for an EU blacklist of suspected terrorist groups.
The Associated Press - October 25, 2008
The Iranian government has no legal basis for
detaining a female Iranian-American student doing research in Iran, her lawyer
said Saturday. Mohammad Ali Dadkhah said no formal charges have been brought
against Esha Momeni but officials at the Revolutionary Court privately told her
parents her detention was related to her involvement in the "Change for
Equality" campaign launched by Iranian women activists in September 2006. "There
is no legal basis for Momeni's detention. She has to be released now ... an
opponent or a dissident can't be jailed as long as he or she doesn't take up
arms against the ruling establishment," Dadkhah told The Associated Press.
Human Rights Watch - October 28, 2008
The Iranian government is escalating its attacks against women activists, subjecting them to arbitrary detention, travel bans, and harassment, Human Rights Watch said today. On October 26, 2008, security agents blocked Sussan Tahmasebi, a leader of the One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality, from boarding a plane and confiscated her passport, without charging her with any crime. At her home, they confiscated her computer and demanded that she report to court for interrogation. The government has prevented Tahmasebi from leaving the country for the past two years, but has never brought charges against her or provided a reason for her travel ban.
Voice of America - November 7, 2008
The suffering of the Iranian people because of the regime's lack of respect for human rights deserves recognition. As President George Bush says, those who suffer for liberty have a claim that should not be ignored. In a recent press briefing, U.S. State Department Deputy spokesman Robert Wood spoke out on behalf of human rights defenders in Iran. The U.S., he said, "stand[s] with the all those in Iran who are working for universal human rights and justice in their country."
Agence France Presse - November 7, 2008
The father of Iranian-US student Esha Momeni, in detention in Tehran facing security charges, said Friday he disapproved of his daughter's "illegal activities" but pleaded with the authorities to show mercy. "I had no idea about the activities of my daughter but now I have realised that her work was illegal," Gholam Reza Momeni was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency. "Because of our anger over our daughter's illegal activities... her mother and I did not want to visit her," Momeni said. According to the Iranian judiciary, Momeni is accused of security offences and her case is currently under preliminary investigation. She is being held at Tehran's notorious Evin prison. He said she was arrested on October 15 for her involvement with a women's rights equality campaign.
Reuters News Agency - November 11, 2008
An Iranian-American female student held on
security-related charges in Tehran has been freed on bail after almost four
weeks in detention, a relative said Tuesday. The relative, who declined to be
named, said Esha Momeni was released Monday but did not give further details.
She was detained while visiting Iran from the United States to see family and to
research the women's movement.The judiciary last week said she was accused of
acting against national security, a common charge against dissenting voices in
Iran. The campaign's website quoted another official as saying the charge was
"propaganda against the state."
E-Zan Featured Reports
Iran: Headscarves as civil disobedience
By Dave McGuire
October 19, 2008
By law in Iran, women are required to wear the hijab - a covering of the head that is intended to promote modesty. But the dress requirements are not popular with everyone, and some women choose to bend or break the rules to display their opposition to the government.
There are as many different styles of hijab as there are Iranian women. Some opt for the long, black chador. While others go for stylish colours and designs. You can tell a lot about a woman by how she's dressed, according to Farnaz Seifi, an Iranian human rights activist and blogger. Women who wear red or brightly coloured scarves tend to oppose the Iranian regime, she says.
Feeling more secure
Of course, there are many women in Iran who appreciate the hijab. One woman is Mehrnoosh, who told our correspondent:
"I always wear a black chador. It's my personal decision and preference to wear black chador. Considering the current social situation of Iran, it's better to have a kind of tighter hijab than what it said in Islam. I feel more secure by wearing chador in society."
Other women, like Giti, don't like the hijab:
"I live in Iran, so I am obliged to wear headscarf. But I don't like to wear any kind of scarf. I would prefer to go out with a simple pair of trousers, T shirt and comfortable sneakers."
Going out in Iran, though, with an ‘inappropriate' headscarf could mean unwanted attention from men, barred access to government buildings, and even harassment from the so-called fashion police.
A real social protest
Women who deny the accepted forms of hijab are engaging in serious civil disobedience, according to Fataneh Farahani of the department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies at Stockholm University:
"When it comes to a social movement, I think it comes to how people show their resistance in daily practices. And that's what women have done through the last 30 years. And this has been combined with the other things Iranian women have done - just for example, 60 percent of Iranian university students are female now. The government wanted to put women back to their homes, and now women have tried to push the boundaries on a daily basis."
For women engaging in civil disobedience through their dress, the scarf and the classroom may be just the beginning of social protest
EU Wrongly Blacklisted Iranian Group, Court Says
By Marc Champion
October 23, 2008
The Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal- Europe's second highest court ruled Thursday that the European Union has wrongly blacklisted an Iranian opposition group, adding fuel to accusations the bloc has abused its terrorist list to appease Iran.
The ruling by the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg was the second the court has issued since 2006 ordering the EU to unfreeze the People's Mujahedin Organization of Iran's assets and remove it from the EU list of terrorist groups. The U.S. also designates the PMOI as a terrorist organization. The PMOI's repeated victories in court cases that challenge its terrorist designation and the EU's avoidance of those rulings has become an embarrassment for the bloc. A group of prominent European lawyers attacked the EU over the issue last month, accusing it of abusing the rule of law. "If the [European Union] continue to defy this verdict, it will clearly show that from the very first this listing was the result of a deal with the mullahs' regime, and not based on fact," said Maryam Rajavi, who heads the Paris-based National Council for Resistance in Iran, the PMOI's political wing, in a phone interview.
EU spokesmen have said repeatedly that they have sufficient evidence to justify the listing and deny abusing due process. The EU's next review of its terrorist list is due by the end of the year. The PMOI is a group with Marxist roots formed in 1965 to depose the Shah of Iran. After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the PMOI turned against the clerical regime, carrying out numerous attacks.
However, the PMOI renounced violence in 2001 and no attack has been tied to it since. The EU added the group to its terrorist blacklist in 2002.
Iran has made the PMOI's international terrorist designation a key diplomatic priority. Europe has been leading negotiations with Iran to persuade it to give up its nuclear fuel program, which could be used for making weapons, since 2003. Delisting the PMOI could make Iran still more intransigent in those talks, analysts say.
Thursday's ruling found that the EU was wrong to keep the PMOI listed as terrorist in a December 2007 decision, despite a top English court ruling that the British government's listing of PMOI was "perverse."
The EU's terrorist listing of the PMOI was based on evidence provided by the U.K.
Since then, the UK lost a final appeal and was forced to take the group off its terrorist list. It also withdrew its sponsorship of the EU listing. France, however, took the U.K.'s place in July claiming new evidence, allowing the EU to keep the group on the list with a fresh decision. The PMOI has filed a new case in the Court of First Instance, which is still pending, to challenge that July decision.
By Rebecca Black and Farnaz Seifi
October 24, 2008
More women are attending university in Iran. In the past five years, rates have risen dramatically. Of all new university entrants, 60 percent were women. This is changing society in Iran and causing turmoil within the Iranian government. The increase in female participation in university is rippling through all aspects of Iranian society. More women are entering the workforce, the average marriage age has gone up, and the birthrate has gone down. Some see the move towards education as a move towards more freedom for women. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government is trying to block these trends.
University structure regulated
The government has implemented a quota system. Acceptance into certain University programs is now determined by gender. Universities must now admit an equal number of men and women into programs like medicine, and consider grades secondary. Maryam (not her real name) is a student in Iran who dreamed of being a doctor. She studied hard and got good grades. She thought her admittance into medical school was guaranteed. Maryam completed her national entrance exams the same year the gender quotas were implemented and her university applications were denied. What was even more shocking was who was accepted: "I saw many male participants with lower scores than mine get accepted to these same universities... After 13 years of studying hard, I got good scores and was eligible to enter a medical university and study in my favourite major. I was denied my right to study just because I am a girl."
Maryam persisted by studying harder and rewriting the exams the following year. Her efforts paid off in an grade that was even higher. Unfortunately the results were the same. She wasn't admitted, but her male peers who had received lower scores were. Maryam decided that she was being treated unfairly, and took the Iranian government to court.
Dissecting Iran: What the People Want
By Gary Lane
CBN News International Correspondent
October 25, 2008
the outside this cornerstone of President Bush's axis of evil the nation does
seem evil - and bent on developing nuclear weapons, destroying Israel, American
culture and the West.
But those who visit the country experience something completely different: friendly and hospitable people - a people who love and admire America and western culture.In the 17th century people would come to Imam Square in the city of Isfahan, Iran to watch polo matches.
Later it was transformed into a center of commerce. And it's commerce and the economy that's on the minds of most people here today.
Iranians have suffered with an inflation rate of more than 24 percent. Within the past year, the government says unemployment stands at about 11 percent, but many economists believe it's really 16 percent or higher. The unemployment rate among young people, those between the ages of 15 and 24, is slightly above 25 percent.
Despite the nation's great oil wealth, many Iranians are financially strapped. Some young adults told CBN News that even though they've earned college degrees, they can't find jobs in their area of specialty.
They've been forced to take manual labor jobs that pay only $150-$200 per month. Low pay and financial pressures have caused many young men to delay marriage and starting families.
Longing for a Better Life
Most want to see a better standard of living inside Iran. Uri Lurbani was Israeli ambassador to Iran prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"They want a good life, they want an open society and they hate being told what to do," Lurbani said. One group of women longingly gazed upon beautiful evening gowns on display in a store window. A passerby told CBN the women would be arrested if they were seen wearing one of these dresses in public. And two young girls were careful to tuck their hair under their head scarves. Often women and girls are reprimanded and even slapped by plain clothes police for exposing their hair while out in public. Anything deemed anti-government or against the Islamic Revolution would lead to arrested. These are just a few examples of the way the government has imposed its oppressive ideology on the people.
A Strange Paradox
Although they would not speak on camera for fear of government retribution CBN News found many people opposed to the regime. Many want better relations with America and the West. Yet if America or Israel bombed Iran's nuclear facilities their anti-government sentiments may likely change. "I believe the Iranian people are very proud people, they will rally around any kind of regime if they are being attacked," Lubrani said.
So if an attack would possibly lead them to support the same regime many currently despise, then what is the solution to help the Iranian people change their government?
Lubrani says tougher economic sanctions should be imposed against the regime and the people should be told that the time is right for them to take action. Lubrani explained, "Under the surface in Iran as it is today, you've got people who are quite prepared to take the lead but they have to know that they are going to be supported. Even amongst the mullahs because not all the mullahs are happy with the kind of ideology which is being sold by Ahmadinejad."
Running Out of Time
The people of Georgia discovered America was not prepared to take military action to defend them against the Russians.
So just how far is the United States willing to go against Iran? And are the Iranian people ready to take matters into their own hands?
Israel Knesset member Yuval Steinitz suggests time may be running out. "This clash of civilizations between fundamentalist Islam and the West will gain nuclear dimension," Steinitz explained. "And if the Iranians get nuclear, it's going to be much worse. Not just for the future of Israel in the Middle East, but for the future of the entire world." "And it's up to the United States of America - the only true leader of the western free world - to lead in this case as well to resolve it," he said.
An intellectual makeover for Iranian women
In an impoverished Tehran district, a hairdresser-turned-activist helps girls and women help themselves through books, health workshops and civic action.
By Borzou Daragahi
Los Angeles Times
November 14, 2008
Reporting from Tehran — In her eyes, they are all daughters and sisters. The waifish 18-year-old, already married and a mother, but with a hunger to learn. The pair of shy high school students, nervous at first, but soon browsing eagerly through the bookshelves. The matronly homemaker, unsure and uneducated, but discovering the world beyond the slums of southern Tehran by reading Feodor Dostoevski and Jean-Paul Sartre. For the women in her neighborhood, Nazanin Gohari has become a savior of minds. A few years back, the part-time hairdresser-turned-community activist transformed her shabby apartment into a library for women, collecting secondhand books to fill the makeshift shelves in her living room.
First she stocked them with trashy novels, poetry and how-to and self-help titles. But the demand for cookbooks and sewing patterns eventually gave way to requests for college-preparation books and literature. The girls leafing through illustrated children's books bloomed into strong-willed women eager to pursue higher education.
Gohari remembers one girl, a 17-year-old named Sedigheh, who came to her crying, distraught that her parents couldn't afford the study materials for college entrance exams. Scoring high would place the bright teenager on the fast track to a potentially glorious future, maybe even including medical school. Not taking the test would mean a life more ordinary, perhaps married to a man twice her age, tending to babies and home.
For Gohari, helping the teen became a mission, one of many. She scoured the city for the study books, relatively cheap by Western standards but a fortune for Iran's poor. "She was ashamed because she couldn't afford the books," Gohari said. The older woman put her hand out to the girl. "I said, 'Study here.' " And then Gohari handed her the books.
A plump, bespectacled woman now in her late 50s, Gohari delights in the women in her impoverished district, recounting the details of their triumphs and ordeals. She sprinkles her sentences with folksy praises of God as she speaks excitedly about her adventures as a grass-roots activist, filling a social and even political vacuum created by Iran's rapid transition from a largely rural nation where people tended to neighbors' needs to today's impersonal urban society where most fend for themselves.
Obscured from public view, Iran's women have quietly navigated restrictions of politics, religion and tradition over the last three decades to bolster their status and advance into positions of power.
Although the conservative clerics who took over the country after the 1979 ouster of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi hoped to ossify women's traditional roles, they set in place dynamics that liberated them. As the clerics launched literacy drives and built hundreds of colleges around the country, Iran's literacy rate rose from less than 50% in the 1970s to as high as 85% today.
Instead of creating a powerful new Islamic generation, they pushed the country into the modern age, raising the ambitions and savvy of young Iranians, half of them women, who began to question society's rules and strictures.
"It's one of the ironies of the revolution that women's sense of self has become much stronger," said Pardis Mahdavi, an Iranian American anthropologist who teaches at Pomona College and wrote the 2008 book "Passionate Uprisings," about the evolution of sex and gender in Iran. "The revolution has given birth to a stronger women's movement."
Gohari, a mother of two and the wife of a civil servant, began embracing community activism in the early 1990s, shortly after the Iran-Iraq war and the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Wartime restrictions loosened and the revolutionary leader's charismatic spell was broken. The country began to focus on practical matters such as rebuilding a ravaged infrastructure and promoting better health. A social worker dispatched to Gohari's neighborhood, the ancient district of Rey, charmed her into attending a breast cancer awareness workshop.
She didn't want to go at first. But from the beginning of the initial session, on breast self-examinations, it was a revelation. One of her best friends had died of breast cancer. "It was eye-opening," she said. "Those 10 minutes changed my life."
The reluctant student became a cheerleader for women's health, encouraging her neighbors, many of them poor recent arrivals from the countryside, to come to workshops on prenatal care, child development, breast cancer awareness, nutrition, sex education and mental health.
"I would offer women discounts on hairdos if they would come to the courses," Gohari said. She began organizing the women to demand better municipal services, better-lighted streets clear of drug addicts and criminals, and parks where mothers could take their children without fear of being accosted by panhandlers or stumbling over used needles. Gohari was elected head of a women's council that she and her neighbors created. They began demanding meetings with municipal leaders. One top official for the Ministry of Electricity resisted. His excuse: He didn't like dealing with women. "I told him, 'I promise I'll come alone,' " she recalled. " 'If you perform your duties, I won't bother you anymore. If you don't, I'll bring busloads of women pouring into your office.' " The meeting was on. Within a few weeks, the streetlights were fixed.
fearful of incurring the wrath of authorities, always tries to play things
carefully, never invoking political rhetoric or overstepping lines in a country
where Iranian American student Esha Momeni was recently detained after
interviewing women's rights activists. Self-help became her mantra. She urges
her friends and neighbors to figure out the system for themselves and work it,
and, above all, to be discreet. Gohari accepts no help from outside the country,
or even outside the city. "She knows very well until what point she can be
active and useful without bringing the hostility of the traditional society,"
said Masserat Amir-Ebrahimi, a Tehran social scientist. Gohari's eyes glisten
when she discusses her successes. One of them, Nahid Shirzad, 18, walks in. She
was married at 14 and dropped out of high school when she gave birth to a son
about two years ago. But she's developed a voracious appetite for books. Anton
"Chekhov keeps me company at home," Shirzad said as she scoured the shelves for
new titles. "I've read just about every book in here. Some of them I've read
twice." Thanks to Gohari's help, Sedigheh, the promising student who couldn't
afford college study guides, was accepted at Tehran's Payame Noor University,
among the 60% of college students in Iran who are women. In 2007, she finished
her studies in psychology and was hired as a social worker. "When I see this
girl," Gohari said, "I get strength."
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Volume 54, November 15, 2008
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