March 15, 2010 VOLUME 70


To our readers,

Marking the International Women’s Day in 2010 has a different message for the Iranian women because of Neda Agah-Soltan and the way she was brutally killed her. As her fiancé, Caspian Makan said in the Geneva Conference, Neda exposed the “dark face” of the regime to the world. Indeed, Neda symbolizes the uprising against the fundamentalist regime in Tehran. Indeed, her death, shames those who continue to deal with the Iranian regime. Indeed, she raises the question on international systems of human rights protection. The violence against women in Iran did not start or end with Neda’s death. The rising number of executions, arrests and brutal targeting of women and mourning mothers are indications of how the regime in Tehran is fearful of the brave Iranian nation.

As we honor the 2010 International Women’s Day we must do all that we can to honor Neda’s life. She exposed the regime with her blood, we must expose this regime with our efforts and support for Iranian people. Defending human rights must be the corner stone of any solidarity campaign with the Iranian people. We must not forget the systematic and blatant abuse of human rights in Iran. Allowing the regime to abuse the international systems and protocols and take a seat on the UN Human Rights Council is utterly disrespectful for all defenders of human rights. More importantly, allowing the regime to have a woman representing Iran on the UN Human Rights Council is dishonoring Neda and all advocates of women’s rights around the world. The United Nations General Assembly must assert its relevancy and reject Iran’s candidacy for the Council otherwise the fundamentalist regime in Tehran will be even more emboldened than before. 

E-Zan Featured Headlines

The Associated Press – February 17, 2010

Iran has backtracked on a pledge to invite a U.N. torture investigator to visit the country. Iranian officials in Geneva say they rescinded the invitation because Western countries used "poisonous language" at a U.N. debate Monday on the Islamic Republic's human-rights record. Iran on Wednesday rejected 43 other recommendations made during the Human Rights Council's first review of its rights record. They included ending discrimination against women, releasing political prisoners and stopping harassment of journalists and bloggers. Chief Iranian delegate Mohammad Javad Larijani said the proposals were made by an "organized clique" of countries and that they are "very dangerous to the atmosphere" of the Human Rights Council.


Agence France Presse - February 23, 2010

Iranian authorities have cancelled a traditional music concert in the western city of Tabriz because two members of the band are women, the ISNA news agency reports. The cancellation of well-known traditional Iranian singer Homayoun Shajarian's concert, due to take place later this week, appears to contradict government policy, with women officially permitted to play musical instruments in public concerts. Under Iranian law, women who form part of a group are allowed to perform in concert, and only when they sing solo are their performances limited to women audiences. "The concert was banned because of the presence of the women musicians and also because it was sold out, which could have been a safety hazard," Ahmad Ahmadi, the director for East Azerbaijan province's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, was quoted on Monday as saying. Shajarian, son of famed Iranian traditional singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian, has performed several concerts in and outside Iran. Iranians regularly organise traditional music concerts, while state-run television channels and radio stations dedicate ample air time for these cultural events.


Statement by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee – February 28, 2010

“In no case is the Iraqi government’s treatment of minorities more troubling than their treatment of the residents of Camp Ashraf…Late last year, three months after U.S. forces turned over control of Camp Ashraf, Iraqi Security Forces violated the human rights of the People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI[MEK]). Camp Ashraf detains over 3,400 exiled Iranian political dissidents, who are members of the PMOI, including over 1,000 women. The PMOI opposes the current Iranian regime, and for their political beliefs they have been exiled from Iran and sequester in Camp Ashraf. Several women detained at Camp Ashraf have reported acts of intimidation and threats of physical and sexual violence by members of the Iraqi security forces.”


NCRI Website – March 1, 2010

In the run-up to the International Women’s Day a meeting on women in Iran and their leading role in the nationwide uprising was held at the European Parliament on February 23. The meeting entitled; “Iranian Women At The Forefront Of Change For Democracy And Equality” was chaired and co-chaired by Euro MPs Eva-Britt Svensson, President of the EP Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, and Edith Bauer, from the same committee. The meeting was attended by dozens of MEPs from various parliamentary groups and Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), was the special guest speaker. MEPs addressing the meeting included Roberta Angelilli, Italian Vice President of the European Parliament; Romana Jordan Cizeli, from Slovenia; Sari Essayah, from Finland; Norica Nicolai, Romanian Vice President of Subcommittee on Security and Defence; two Vice Presidents of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality Barbara Matera from Italy and Edite Estrela from Portugal and Mariya Nedelcheva, from Bulgaria. Dr. Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Spanish Vice President of the European Parliament and President of the International Committee in Search of Justice, and Struan Stevenson, Chair of Friends of a Free Iran intergroup also joined their female colleagues to laud women in Iran leading the movement for democratic change. Speakers condemned the clerical regime’s crimes against demonstrators, particularly women, who are subjected to the cruelest tortures such as sexual harassment. They called on the European Union to support Iranian people’s uprising to establish democracy, human rights and women’s rights. They also called for pressures to be exerted on the Iranian regime to stop political executions and free all those detained during the uprising. In her remarks, Mrs. Rajavi underlined the fact that women’s participation in the leadership has provided the dynamism for persistence and progress in the resistance. Women’s active presence - as a force rejecting any compromise with the clerical dictatorship - plays a formative role to bring down the regime, she stressed.


Radio Free Europe-March 2, 2010

Iranian women rights activists have produced a video montage to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8.Iranian women rights activists have produced a video montage to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. They use pictures of legendary German fighter for women’s rights, Clara Zetkin, and have her chant “Allahu Akbar” from the rooftops. In the clip, Zetkin says that she and other women’s rights activists will chant “Allahu Akbar” on March 8 and they will also gather in front of Tehran’s Evin Prison to call for the release of women who have been jailed in the postelection crackdown. Over 20 women’s rights activists and female journalists have been arrested in recent months in Iran. At least 10 remain in prison, including Shiva Nazar Ahari and student leader Bahareh Hedayat.


UN Watch – March 2010

One day after Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told the UN in Geneva that President Ahmadinejad's June election was "an exemplary exhibition of democracy and freedom," Caspian Makan, the fiancé of slain Iranian icon Neda Agha Soltan, announced that he will join other world-famous dissidents as a speaker at next Monday's Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy, co-organized by UN Watch, Freedom House, Ibuka and more than 20 other human rights NGOs. Images of Neda’s bloody killing in June at the hand of the Basij paramilitary force turned an international spotlight on the brutality of the Iranian government crackdown against peaceful protesters. The Tehran regime banned prayers for Neda in the country's mosques, arresting anyone who held a vigil for her. Mr. Makan was then arrested and detained at Evin Prison in Tehran. He was beaten and pressured to sign a false confession. Since his release, Mr. Makan has been an outspoken dissident for freedom in Iran, spreading Neda’s story and message around the world. Ahead of his scheduled appearance at the Geneva Summit, he was interviewed on Swiss TV News.


The Associated Press – March 4, 2010

U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay has singled out Iran for its crackdown on protestors after last year's election in an address at the U.N. Human Rights Council. Pillay said human rights are "deteriorating" in Iran and that she is deeply concerned. She also criticized Sri Lanka for failing to examine abuses committed during the government's war last year with Tamil Tiger rebels. Pillay presented her 2009 report to the U.N. body Thursday.


WFAFI News Services – March 6, 2010

Argentinean mothers, whose children disappeared while struggling for freedom during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina, have declared their commiseration and solidarity with the mothers of those who were killed in the recent Iranian uprising. The Association of the Mothers of the Plaza Mayo, who are internationally recognized for their activities, mentioning the martyrs of the people’s uprising in Iran and more than 4,000 prisoners of Ahmadinejad’s administration, writes: Iranian mothers who have gathered for the first time on August 26th, wear black dresses every Saturday, and hold protests demanding the release of all political prisoners and trial of those who are responsible for their suppression. On the night of February 8, 2010, armed forces entered the homes of the Mothers and arrested them. ” We, The Mothers of Plaza Mayo, demand the immediate release of these Mothers and all other political prisoners, and the trial and conviction of the perpetrators. “


Agance France Presse – March 8, 2010

Iran's most celebrated living poetess Simin Behbahani faced a travel ban on Monday after being prevented from leaving for France for International Women's Day ceremonies, an opposition website said.French authorities slammed the ban as an "unacceptable new violation of human rights", while hailing Behbahani's bravery and saying it had been looking forward to seeing her.The 82-year-old poet is also a feminist advocating better rights for Iranian women who face several inequalities under the Sharia-based law in place in the Islamic republic since its 1979 revolution.Officials confiscated Behbahani's passport at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport Monday as she was set to leave and told her to follow up the matter through the revolutionary court,Keleme.com said."Paris municipality had invited me for March 8 and I had prepared a text about feminism and a poem about women which I was going to read at the ceremony and return on Wednesday," Behbahani was quoted as saying. "After I crossed customs and my passport was stamped, two officials called me, took my passport away, kept me till 5:00 am (0130 GMT) and asked questions," she said.


Reuters-March 9, 2010

A third of the world's jailed journalists are imprisoned in Iran, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Tuesday after the number of reporters held in the Islamic Republic rose to at least 52 in February. China was next after Iran with 24 jailed journalists and then Cuba with 22. The number of journalists held in Iran was the highest recorded by the New York-based CPJ in a single country since 78 cases were documented in Turkey in 1996.Several publications in Iran have been banned and many journalists detained since street protests broke out in the aftermath of presidential elections last year. The CPJ said the number of journalists jailed in Iran rose by five in February from January after 12 members of the media were imprisoned and then seven of them were released. Of the 52 journalists in jail, five had been held since before the crackdown began last year, the CPJ said. Another 50 journalists have been imprisoned and released on bail during the past several months.


Voice of America-March 11, 2010

The United States says Iran's record on human rights is bad and getting worse. The State Department's '2009 Human Rights Report' said Tehran's human rights record was poor and, in the words of the report, "degenerated during the year, especially after disputed presidential elections in June.” Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets of Tehran to protest the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The report criticized Iran for violently suppressing those demonstrations. It said Iranian security forces were responsible for the deaths of at least 37 people and that security forces also participated in other politically motivated violence, including torture, beatings and rape.Some human rights groups have said as many as 200 people died in a crackdown on protesters. The report also accused Iran of intensifying pressure against women's rights reformers, students, and ethnic and religious minorities. The State Department report noted additional concerns, including human trafficking and child labor.


Agance France Presse – March 12, 2010

Internet giant Google on Thursday joined a top journalists' rights group in rewarding a collective of Iranian women bloggers for their reporting on last year's post-election unrest. The online journalists of women's rights blog we-change.org were given the "Net Citizen" award, a new prize by Google and French media rights watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to defend freedom of expression online. Dozens of the Iranian site's contributors have been detained for reporting online on huge anti-government demonstrations that broke out amid claims of fraud in Iran's election, RSF said. "The Iranian women's movement has always shown resistance... Now the movement is bringing its experience and methods of working democratically into cyberspace," said one of its members, Parvin Adalan, accepting the award at Google's Paris offices. Google and RSF said in a statement that the site, formed in 2006, "has become a point of reference for information on women's rights in Iranian society," and "Iranian cyber-feminists have created new spaces for expression." "Female online journalists show the world the abuses of power suffered in recent months by demonstrators and the population in general" in Iran, they said


E-Zan Featured Reports

Rapists in Iran's regime

Sexual assault against men and women is being systematically used in Iran in an attempt to stifle opposition

By Mahmood Delkhasteh

The UK Guardian

February 16, 2010

Early one morning in 1981, I arrived at the middle school where I taught in Tehran and was informed by two guards from the notorious Evin prison that one of our students had been arrested and would not be returning to school.

I knew that his father was a drug dealer, and supposed that he had been arrested on similar charges. It was the height of the post-revolutionary struggle between Iran's revolutionary democratic front led by then-president Abolhassan Banisadr, and the dictatorial front led by the Islamic Republican party and its allies. A few months later, Banisadr was ousted in a coup and I was fired from my teaching post.

Later on I learnt that on the same day my former student had been released and recruited as a guard in the same prison. I also learnt from his grandmother that he had not been involved with drugs, but had raped his sister and made her pregnant. At the time, stories of women and girls being raped in prison became so rife that Ayatollah Montazeri sent a team to investigate. They only verified the rumours. Male prison officers – many of them psychotic like my former student – were tasked to rape women, and extensively; one was even nicknamed "hamishe daamaad" (the forever groom).

In other words, rape is nothing new to this regime, which even now tries in vain to hide itself behind Islam. However, after last June's uprising, we are observing the emergence of a more widespread form of rape, and one that is also extended to men. This is not to say that it did not exist before, but now we are observing its systematic use. There is little public information about this to date.

Abuses at Kahrizak prison, which came to be known as Iran's Abu Ghraib, were exposed only because Mohsen Rooh-al-Amini, the son of a well-established conservative figure, was killed under torture. The regime was forced to close the prison and, later in August 2009, Ayatollah Karubi issued a statement saying, among other things, that some prisoners had been raped. After such exposure, one might have thought the regime would stop this brutal form of torture against its opponents. But victims and witnesses have continued to report its continuation. A few weeks ago, for example, revolutionary guards arrested a group of women that has gathered every Friday night in Laleh Park to protest the detention of their children.

While in prison herself, one mother revealed that she saw a teenage boy begging a judge not to sent him back to solitary confinement. When the judge asked why, the boy replied, "because they keep raping me". Two months ago, my friend's son was arrested in a demonstration, and had to wage the fight of his life to prevent being raped by the guards in the car. And on 12 February, Fatemeh Karubi, wife of Ayatollah Karubi, wrote an open letter to Khamenei detailing the arrest of her 38-year-old son when his father's car was attacked at a demonstration on the 31st anniversary of the 1979 revolution. She described how her son was viciously abused, both physically and verbally, in a mosque. The guards threatened to rape him.

Why, despite its public exposure, does this regime continue to use rape and the threat of rape as weapons against its opponents, women and men alike? The question has to be understood within its cultural context. The regime knows that killing an opponent will make a martyr of her or him, and may even encourage others to join the struggle. Rape, however, can have devastating effects not only on an individual but on political morale as well. The regime believes that society believes that no one can become a hero for being raped. Within this context it is easier to risk one's life for what one believes in, but difficult to join a protest knowing one might be raped. Also, even this regime finds it difficult to hide the murders of its opponents, but it can often neutralise a dissenter with rape, as most victims are too traumatised and ashamed to make this public.

However, it is not at all clear that this threat of shame will remain powerful. Throughout this revolutionary struggle, we are observing astonishing shifts in cultural norms and values, especially in gender relations and in opposition to elements of patriarchy. We saw how the regime's efforts to humiliate a student by publishing a photograph of him dressed in woman's clothes fell flat; in just hours, thousands of other men snapped pictures of themselves in female dress, and published them on the internet to express solidarity. Of course, centuries of patriarchal values and relationships will not vanish overnight. But Iranian society is learning fast that whoever suffers as a result of their struggle against the country's most barbaric regime in the last two centuries has to be seen as a hero.

This regime is now fighting for survival, and has no red line left to cross. Since Ahmadinejad's appointment to president and the encroachment of the Revolutionary Guard's generals into the state and the economy, it can safely be considered a military-financial mafia. And like any other form of totalitarian state, it has sought and trained the most dehumanised individuals to become decisive, efficient and effective weapons in this struggle.

They are, of course, culpable. But others must be brought to account. Khamenei, as the supreme leader with absolute power over – according to his ideologues like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi – every Iranian person's life, property and honour, and as the person who openly declared war on protestors after the election, bears ultimate responsibility for these crimes. He has already been accused of murdering his opponents into submission by a German court in the Mykonos trial, and has received numerous letters calling him to account for other crimes and abuses.

Fatemeh Karubi's letter is only the latest public example. Human rights organisations also have ample evidence of all sorts of crimes committed against the Iranian people by this regime, and we expect them to soon begin a process of establishing an international court in which Khamenei can be indicted for committing crimes against humanity.


Iranians Protest Bill on Rights of Women


The New York Times

February 17, 2010

In what appeared to be the first burst of activism in months not related to the disputed presidential election, about 1,200 Iranians signed a statement against a bill that would further curb women’s rights, the feminist Web site Change for Gender Equality reported.

The statement, issued Wednesday, calls for other groups to protest the bill, which would give men the right to take additional wives without having to tell the current wives under certain conditions and would impose restrictions on alimony for women. The bill was approved last month by Parliament’s legal committee.

In Iran, men can have several wives, but they are generally supposed to get permission from their current ones.

“We issued the statement because we are worried that various groups, including women, can lose civil rights under tense political times like now,” said Asieh Amini, a lawyer and women’s rights advocate living in Oslo. “We have no doubt that democracy will not be implemented without taking women’s rights into consideration.”

Women have played a major role in the protests since the election in June, which the opposition claims the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole. Many women have been jailed and at least several were killed in the government crackdown on street protests that followed the vote.

Women’s rights in Iran have been curtailed since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, but in recent years, women have been displaying an increasing determination to achieve equal status in this conservative Muslim theocracy. Women are forced to cover their hair and they have consistently been subjected to intimidation in public over what they wear.

A group of advocates for women, including Ms. Amini and the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, met with members of the legal committee of Parliament in late 2008 to try to persuade them not to pass the bill. Some advocates thought until last month that they had won the battle, but now they fear conservatives may be using political unrest to push for new restrictions on women.

Articles in the new bill allow a man to marry a new wife without the permission of a current one if she is absent for more than six months, including time served in prison, or has an incurable disease. The bill would also subject a woman’s alimony to a reassessment, although it is vague on what that means. Alimony would, however, be taxed.

Also on Wednesday, an appeals court increased the punishment for Ghader Mohammadzadeh, a Kurdish activist, to death instead of 23 years in prison, a human rights Web site, Reporters and Human Rights Activists News Agency, reported. This is the second time an appeals court has increased the punishment from a prison term to death in recent months, and it appears to be part of a larger crackdown on dissent.

Another court sentenced Amir Reza Arefi, 21, to death on Monday on charges of waging war against God, the Web site reported. He was accused of being linked to royalist groups in exile.

Reporters and Human Rights Activists News Agency also reported Wednesday that Mahdieh Golroo, a student activist arrested in September, was in severe condition at the notorious Evin prison, where she was said to be have an intestinal infection.


Iran Continues Crackdown on Women’s-Rights Advocates

By Elham Gheytanchi

Ms Magazine

February 19, 2010

Despite a February 15th United Nations review of its human-rights practices, Iran’s government has not curbed its censorship and repression of women’s rights activists. The morning after the review was held, Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian feminist lawyer, was detained by the Iranian government. Her alleged crime is “to have spoken with foreign media” about human rights violations in Iran. Meanwhile, women activists report to Ms. that threats against them are ongoing and they believe their cell phones are tapped by the state.

During the U.N. session, delegates from most countries—with the exception of Cuba, Venezuela, China, Russia and a few others—condemned the Iranian government’s treatment of dissenters, especially violence against women and religious minorities. Simultaneously, Iran censored portions of women’s rights websites and blogs reporting on the session.

These latest cases of detention, intimidation and censorship come on the heels of a government crackdown on dissidence on February 11th, the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution. To thwart a planned demonstration by Iran’s pro-democracy “green movement,” the government shut down the Internet in parts of Tehran and other major cities. Meanwhile, state-backed, pro-government demonstrations were accompanied with utmost security measures enforced by the Basij (paramilitary forces) and Sepah (the Revolutionary Guard). Even so, shouts of “Death to Dictator!” could be heard during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech, although few protestors were visible.

Some 4,000 activists, journalists, social scientists, students and ordinary citizens have been detained in Iranian prisons since the unrest over contested election results erupted in June 2009. The families of those imprisoned were repeatedly told to stay silent before the February 11th anniversary, avoid coming out in the streets and refrain from spreading news about potential protests. Many of these families still remember the threats they received from the government of the Shah of Iran before the 1979 revolution that led to the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Women’s rights activists have not identified themselves with the green movement, in order to stay independent, but that has not protected them from being the target of state violence since the June 2009 election. The growing list of women’s rights activists in detention centers and prisons—such as the notorious Evin prison, first used by the Shah to suppress dissent—consist of secular as well as religious women, first-generation activists who fought against the Shah’s rule as well as young activists who have only known the current Islamic republic. Peaceful protests were a contributing factor in the Iranian revolution of 1979, and the right to peaceful protest is enshrined in the Iranian constitution. Yet 31 years later, peaceful protests are violently crushed.

During these difficult times, Iranian feminists have drafted a letter calling upon women’s rights groups around the world to announce their solidarity with women in Iran. This is especially crucial now, when the right-wing Iranian parliament is preparing a bill that would severely set back gender equality. It would allow men a universal right to divorce, the right to have multiple wives, and right to set Mehrieh (the dowry a groom gives his wife in case of divorce). At a time when women’s rights activists are in prisons or threatened to stay silent, an international show of solidarity is crucial.


President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran Addresses the EU

The Editors

Family Security Matters

March 1, 2010

Editor’s note: As FSM readers know, there is a huge grassroots democratic movement in Iran. The people are struggling to overthrow the theocracy of the mullahs and its front man, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It has not been easy, as the mullahs’ hired thugs have been doing their best to quell the popular uprising by using violence against the protesters (see here and here).

 Not only are dissidents within the nation being targeted, but those outside of it as well. Residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq have been under siege with the assistance of its host nation (see here and here). Thus far, little notice has been taken by the other nations of the world, including the U.S.

On February 23rd, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, made an impassioned plea to the European Union’s parliament in Brussels in honor of International Women’s Day. The text of her speech is below. Will the EU (and the U.S.) continue to sit on the sidelines as millions of people are denied their right to democratic freedom, as brave individuals like Mrs. Maryam risk their own safety to speak out on behalf of the people?

 Madam Chairman,

 Dear Friends,

It is indeed a great pleasure to take part in this session and speak about International Women's Day on the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, particularly since this year’s Women’s Day is identified with Iran's courageous women.

These women are the forerunners in the uprising to topple the most barbaric dictatorship in the world today. They are mothers who gather in different parts of Tehran and urge the citizens to continue the uprising for freedom. They are young girls who have been imprisoned in recent months and are waging a resistance against the henchmen's tortures, insults and assaults. They are women who are leading the people in the course of the uprising.

It is no coincidence that Neda [Agha Soltan] became a symbol of the Iranian people’s uprising and that her image inspired respect for and solidarity with the Iranian people around the world.

Iran observers have been so impressed with the role of Iranian women since the beginning of the uprising that some have called it a women's revolution. This situation was not created overnight; it is rooted in the 150 year old struggle and sacrifices of Iranian women on the one hand and the nature of the ruling regime on the other.

After the fall of the Shah's dictatorship, women faced a reactionary regime whose principal attribute is misogyny.

The tragic suppression of women by the regime, the brilliant resistance waged by women in torture chambers and execution grounds, and their presence in the organized resistance movement have all had a profound impact on the developments in Iran over the past three decades.

The struggle of Iranian women against religious dictatorship has matured in an organized resistance movement, such that the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), which is the principal movement in our resistance, is led entirely by women. Moreover, women comprise half the membership in the Resistance's parliament.

Similarly, Camp Ashraf, located in Iraq, where thousands of PMOI members are based, is led by pioneering women, despite facing tremendous pressure and conspiracies instigated by the regime. The perseverance of Ashraf, and particularly the leadership of women, has been an inspiration for women and youth inside the country.

Recalling these experiences, I would like to impress upon several important facts.

The first concerns with women’s participation in leadership positions which supplies the dynamism and vitality for this resistance's perseverance and progress.

Second is the impact of women's active presence in rejecting any capitulation to the dictatorship.

Third is the influence that women's presence has on creating a new humane culture and set of relations as well as on growing solidarity.

The fourth reality concerns the decisive role of women in bringing down the ruling regime

And finally, the role of women as a guarantor for lasting democracy and development in tomorrow's Iran.

Allow me to repeat what I said years ago in a major gathering of Iranians in London when addressing the mullahs ruling Iran: "You have done your utmost to humiliate, suppress, torture and slaughter Iranian women. But rest assured that …. your system of oppression will be eradicated everywhere by the same enlightened, liberated and emancipated women."

Dear Friends,

As the uprising continues, it is necessary for me to point out the attitude of the Iranian Resistance toward the defeated faction of the regime, which was declared from the outset of the protests. We have consistently condemned all assaults against them by the ruling faction. Moreover, the Resistance's leader, Massoud Rajavi, has stressed, "We welcome any attempts by the defeated faction to distance itself from velayat-e faqih [absolute clerical rule].. This is not merely a desire but a patriotic duty to prove our sincerity and commitment to the overthrow of the regime."

The leaders of the defeated faction are siding with part of this movement. Nonetheless, they diverge with us on many different areas. At the start of the uprising, they only called for re-election. They want to see the nuclear program continue and they defend the constitution of the velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule). This constitution is misogynous and violates popular sovereignty.

As far as women's issues are concerned, they have distanced themselves greatly from the demands of Iranian women.

Iranian women, of course, seek the overthrow of the religious dictatorship. But, I can raise a very simple yardstick: abolishing of forced veiling, which was ratified by the National Council of Resistance of Iran in 1987. As far the regime is concerned, due to its inability to reform, it can never accept this demand.

But, if anyone is truly seeking freedom for Iran, they must at least defend the minimum freedoms, including the minimum freedom for women to choose their own clothing.

Thirty-one years ago, the mullahs instituted their dictatorship by imposing forced veiling on women under the pretext of Islam.

Inspired by the genuine Islam, we emphasize freedom, including women's freedom in choosing their clothing and attire and we reject any compulsion or obligation in this respect. This is what the Koran means by stating "there is no compulsion in religion."

Let any woman to be free in choosing what to wear or not to wear.

This is the minimum freedom for Iranian women as human beings.

For how long must women be persecuted and tortured because of the type and color of what they wear? Or be subject to sexual assault?

Interrogating women because of the color and type of clothing and make-up and even the manner in which they walk or talk as well as the guidelines on veiling represents a blatant breach of Iranian women's right to freedom and security.

Sentencing women to imprisonment or 74 lashes because of the type of their clothing is a barbaric law.

These cruel laws and insults against Iranian women must be dispensed with forever.

Therefore, we say to the defeated faction that if you are sincere in your demands for people’s freedom, then the first step would be to agree with the abolishment of forced veiling.

Any government, too, that comes to power after the mullahs must respect the principle that women’s choice of clothing lies with themselves and not the state.

We seek the establishment of a republic based on the separation of church and state, pluralism and respect for human rights. We are committed to the abolishment of the death penalty in Iran after the fall of the clerical regime and want a non-nuclear Iran.

Gender equality occupies a significant place in our viewpoints and programs for tomorrow's Iran. Details of these viewpoints are at your disposal. In tomorrow's Iran, all individual freedoms for women must be recognized, including freedom in choosing one's clothing, freedom of belief and religion, and freedom to marry and divorce, as well as freedom of choosing an occupation and travel. We believe in complete equality in social, political, cultural and economic rights between women and men. We particularly emphasize that women must have equal participation in the country's political leadership.

Dear Friends,

The clerical dictatorship has stepped up its policies of suppression and terrorism in all arenas in an attempt to forestall its overthrow.

Inside Iran, it has resorted to widespread arrests and increasing pressure and torture on political prisoners. Simultaneously, it has dispatched teams of agents from the Intelligence Ministry and the terrorist Qods Force agents to the gate of Camp Ashraf, embarking on an abhorrent psychological warfare to set the stage for carrying out another round of massacre against the residents of Ashraf.

In Iraq, it has attempted to highjack the upcoming parliamentary elections in March. It has also accelerated its nuclear weapons program and extended the range of its missiles to Europe.

The truth is that today, the sweeping aside of the main obstacle to democracy and freedom in Iran and the elimination of the grave danger to global peace and security have both merged into a single issue.

In the face of this danger, we all know that the European Troika talks in recent years, the policy of offering packages of incentives by the P5+1, and the U.S. attempts at rapprochement over the past year, have all failed to produce any results other than emboldening the regime. They also failed to prevent the mullahs from getting closer to the nuclear bomb.

We have declared since long ago that in order to contain this danger there is one and only one option: the option of regime change, which implies democratic change by the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance.

We have for many years emphasized the need to impose oil, trade, arms and technological sanctions against the regime.

Regrettably, owing to their passing short-term interests, Western governments have ignored this ominous threat. Even worse, they appeased the evil of absolute clerical rule and in a bid to mollify it; they even participated in the suppression of the resistance.

Fortunately, there are now growing calls being heard for imposing sanctions on the regime and blocking of the Revolutionary Guards.

But, these calls will only be taken seriously if the European Union and the U.S. undertake specific and serious measures. These measures do not even rely on Security Council approval. They can be launched from right here in Europe.

Therefore, on behalf of all the arisen people of Iran, especially Iranian women, I call on the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union to:

1. Undertake effective and practical measures to confront the wave of suppression, arrests, show trials, sentencing of opponents on the charge of Moharebeh [“waging war against God”] and executions of political prisoners.

To this end, I propose that the European Parliament form a special committee to address the flagrant and systematic violations of human rights in Iran, including the conditions of prisons, political prisoners, the families of prisoners and political activists and the families of the residents of Ashraf.

2. Conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of female political prisoners in Iran, especially the systematic and premeditated crime of rape against the prisoners.

3. In order to counterbalance the suppression of the Iranian people by the Revolutionary Guards, shut down its extensive and active back-up institutions operating right here in Europe. The Guards has numerous front companies in Europe, which are active in France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Italy and are involved in procurement of equipment and material for the suppression of the Iranian people as well as for the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. We expect the Council of Ministers to shut down all these companies.

4. Prevent the growth of the influence of the Revolutionary Guards in Iraq is an imperative in every respect. It is common knowledge that after occupying Iraq, the United States committed an even greater blunder by giving a share of Iraq's leadership to the mullahs' proxies and a part of the Qods Force.

Today, the most senior U.S. commander in the region admits that the committee which eliminated the leaders of Iraq's nationalist parties from the list of election candidates is affiliated with the Qods Force. Nevertheless, the US continues to engage the very same Qods Force elements in Iraq.

5. Shut down the intelligence network of the mullahs' regime operating in various EU countries. They are actively engaged in espionage against the opposition and limiting of the Iranian society's breathing room. Western services are profoundly aware of the details of their activities. The religious dictatorship's spies are sleeper cells for terrorism against the people of Europe. The time has come to uproot them.

In order to implement the April 24, 2009 resolution of the European Parliament, I call on the Council of the European Union to urge the United Nations to take over the protection of the residents of Camp Ashraf so as to thwart the intensive campaign by the Iranian regime and its Iraqi proxies to destroy Ashraf. It should also guarantee such protection and provide the UN with the necessary means to so implement it.

Thank you all very much.


Iran Women Rights Defenders Continue Undeterred by Prison Detention

Elahe Amani

Women News Network

March 3, 2010

Today on a daily basis, personal memoirs of ongoing encounters of government crackdown and resistance in Iran are being written in print and in cyberspace by countless Iranian civil rights activists, scholars and women human rights defenders.

In the process of finding a new transitional global identity, Iran state authorities have steadily continued in the use of legislative delays, reversal of legal means and arrests of dissidents, activists and journalists.

Younger, as well as older, women human rights defenders, are now finding themselves victim to increasing intelligence policies of non-disclosure, intimidation and repression.

The IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) state detention policies act as only a surrogate solution to many of the social problems now growing inside the country. Human rights groups and international rescue teams watch as the list of detainees grows longer, as women have become targets in a shifting Iranian system of legal sanctions.

“According to Iranian officials,” said Amnesty International in a February 10, 2010 release, “over 40 people have died in demonstrations since the election, which were violently repressed by the security forces. Amnesty International said it believes the number to be at least 80 and possibly many more. More than 5,000 people have been arrested, many of whom were tortured or otherwise ill-treated.”

A clear crisis in the prison system inside Iran is growing.

“Reportedly prisons have become over capacity and fail to provide adequate conditions for prisoners.”

Iranian news agency, Payvand, February 19, 2010

As sports stadiums closed the doors to women attending sports events; as family courtrooms denied the rights of women to custody in divorce; as “proper” women’s dress became part of a hidden discourse of Iranian social criticism calling dress code enforcement officers “Chastity Guards” and “Morality Police;” women working in the field of speaking publicly on the issues of gender equality have been placed in ever increasing danger.

“The women’s rights movement has borne the brunt of this repression, in particular since the launch of the ‘One Million Signatures’ Campaign, in August 2006. This campaign seeks to provide education on women’s rights at the grassroots level and to obtain a repeal of discriminatory laws against women. To this end, the Campaign collects signatures that it plans to submit to the Parliament,” said the International Federation for Human Rights in an August 2007 appeal to the IRI.

The IRI is “in full compliance with the relevant international commitments it has taken on in a genuine and long-term approach to safeguard human rights,” said Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Larijani, at a recent United Nations review of human rights violations at the February 2010 UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva.

If a woman collects signatures on a petition to change discriminatory laws in Iran, she is currently likely to be detained and sentenced to prison terms. Upon release, if it has been decided that she could leave incarceration, bails are set at a high and publicly punitive amount. Access to family, to legal council and to dignity in these cases have been largely undermined.

Almost exactly one year ago, Hana Abdi, a psychology student from Payam Noor University and human rights activist living in Kurdistan, the Kurdish region of Northern Iran, was released from prison after serving a commuted sentence and a one and a half year prison term. She was charged by the Second Branch of the Islamic court of Sanandaj with “gatherings and conspiracies to endanger national security.”

Teaching human rights and legal rights education to women in Kurdistan, Hana Abdi had gathered, before her arrest, signatures in a nationwide effort to remove discrimination against women in Iran.

After two months in the Central Prison of Sanandaj, Abdi was sentenced to five years of exile to a prison in the town of Gami in western Azerbaijan. The sentence of exile, later dropped, came after Hana Abdi was charged by the Fourth Branch of the Islamic court of Sanandaj with an additional crime of “propaganda against the system.”

Abdi’s sentence of exile was pressed forward after she communicated with the outside world about conditions during her imprisonment.

“Based on the testimony of Abdi’s family, she was tortured while in solitary confinement,” said an October 2008 report by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

“No judicial system can consider as valid a confession obtained as a result of harsh interrogations or under torture.”

Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment

Attempts by IRI government agents to censure speech that outlines human rights causes and discussions inside the country, and globally via the internet, has caused the website for the Campaign for One Million Signatures (also known as Change for Equality) to be filtered from appearing online 23 times.

Using ongoing policies to work through peaceful means and assembly the Change for Equality Campaign was recently referenced by intelligence officials as a threat to “National Security.”

Recently, on January 2, 2010, months after a May 7, 2009 – 12 day incarceration, the 10th Branch of the Revolutionary Court (in Qom, Iran) charged two members of the One Million Signatures Campaign with conducting what the court called, “activity against the national security.” Fatemeh Masjedi and Maryam Bidgoli were, according to their attorney Mina Jahfra, also charged with “attempting to overthrow the state, the publication of lies and propaganda against the state through membership in the One Million Signatures Campaign.”

Iran’s Corruptions Perception Index 2009, reported by Transparency International, in an expert study which monitors democracy and freedom of the press worldwide and its affects on world poverty, has showed a lowered ranking of press freedom in Iran since 2006, as IRI ranking lowered from 2.8 in 2006 to 1.8 in 2009. Out of 180 nations, the IRI ranks near the lowest sector of countries for press freedom at 168.

“Corruption traps millions in poverty,” said Transparency International Chair Huguette Labelle. “Despite a decade of progress in establishing anti-corruption laws and regulations, today’s results indicate that much remains to be done before we see meaningful improvements in the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.”

Although Iranian women currently hold seats in parliament, they do not enjoy the same political rights as men. Women are barred from serving as judges and are routinely excluded from running for office. Women also face systematic discrimination in legal and social matters. A woman cannot obtain a passport without permission of a male relative or her husband, and women do not enjoy equal rights under Sharia law statutes governing divorce, inheritance and child custody. A woman’s testimony in court is given only half the weight of a man’s.

The public call by human rights organizations and world government bodies for the freedom of prisoners of conscience in Iran, both men and women, asks for culpability and transparency. Names of state and non-state officials who have perpetuated violence against IRI state prisoners have yet to be released.

Even as limited news reaches the public about the incarceration and imprisonment of women in Iran, a distinct public outcry has risen globally.

On January 13, 2010, after days of incarceration at the Vozara Detention Center, following a January 9 arraignment in the Revolutionary Court, the remaining members of thirty-two arrested Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park, were released. The Mourning Mothers are mothers who have come together once each week in Tehran’s Laleh Park, walking with candles in silent night protest, after the death, arrest and/or disappearance of their grown children.

“Sixteen (of the) Mothers who were taken to Evin prison, though released, have an open judicial file against them and can be prosecuted in the future.” [WLUML – Women Living Under Muslim Laws]

Existing as a clear future warning to women who have been incarcerated, open files on other women rights defenders are also being kept by the office of the IRI judiciary.

The Mothers, who have demanded accountability from the IRI state to investigate the death of their loved ones, have been treated harshly and unfairly. In the process they have been harassed, beaten, arrested and detained, denied medical attention and the right to legal defense.

Five Mourning Mothers are still under detention, and have been there for almost one month. They are Ms. Omobeyne Ebrahimi, Ms. Elham Ahsani, Ms. Fatemeh Rastegari, Ms. Laila Seifalahi and Ms. Jila Karam Zadeh Makvandi. One of the Mothers, Ms. Zinayee, has not been heard from since January 8.

Despite these conditions the Mourning Mothers are continuing their petitions for transparency.

The 2009 World Press Freedom Index for the IRI ranks near the bottom. At a ranking of 172 Iran barely tops the worst country freedom of press ranking of 175, by the African nation of Eritrea. Continued Iran government policies include “censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment,” as well as the existence of a state owned news media.

While women experience unjustified detention in Evin, and other prisons in Iran, many women also live in the shadow of an Iranian social system of “patriarchy.” Events, such as stoning, honor killing, domestic violence and harassment at home and in public, reflect the extent in the limits of rights for women inside the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Conditions in prisons located in numerous regions in Iran are questionable.

“The official capacity of prisons in Iran is 80,000 but the actual number of prisoners in the country is double the capacity,” said Payvand News in 2005.

While Section 3, Article 20 (“The Rights of People”) of the IRI Constitution states, “All citizens of the country, both men and women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria,” Iran’s official constitutional commitment on issues of human rights has appeared flawed and on the years, yet to be proven.

The concept of women’s imprisonment transcends prison walls.

Trauma and cruelty inflicted on women political prisoners, and all other prisoners, inside the notorious prison walls at Evin, reflect how Iran also embraces human rights and human dignity outside its prisons.

But as the Iranian narrative of nail and hammer represses and violates the rights of women, women work harder to demand their rights, to ask for their fair share of Iran’s public space, to attain higher education, to be a more active agent of change in their life, in the lives of their children and the improvement of Iran’s larger society.

To bring focus to the situation of women prisoners of conscience in detention in Iran, The Campaign in Defense of the Iranian Women’s Rights Activists began its work on January 23, 2010. This transnational campaign has been initiated by a group of women and men in Iran and other countries who believe in equal rights and are determined to do all they can to help free women’s rights activists imprisoned inside Iran.

Of particular concern is the safety and wellbeing of those detainees about whose whereabouts no information is available.

The Campaign is carried out in honor of many imprisoned women’s rights activists, such as Mansoureh Shojaee, Samiyeh Rashidi, Mahin Fahimi, Zohreh Tonkaboni, Parisa Kakaee, Aliyeh Eqdamdoust, Bahareh Hedayat, Mahdiyeh Golroo, Shabnam Madadzad, Maryam Zia, Parvaneh Rad, and tens of others who are in jail “only because of their quest for equal rights and democracy,” says the Campaign.

“According to prison officials, there are 2,575 men and 375 women in Evin jail,” said the BBC News in a June 2006 report. It is certain that these numbers are have grown as crowded conditions rise since the June 2009 IRI elections.



Women Living Under Muslim Law

March 9, 2010

Sadr dedicates her Award to imprisoned women’s rights activist Shiva Nazar Ahari

Your Excellency Mrs. Clinton, Respected Members of the Jury, Ladies and Gentlemen, (cont...)

I am honored to be selected as one of the ten recipients of the International Women of Courage Award, which I consider as yet another opportunity for me, and other human rights activists, to bring to the international community’s attention the efforts of Iranian women on a global level. This award also enables me to publicize the systematic human rights abuses in Iran, particularly the crackdown on civil society activists in the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections.

This Award, as is evident by its title, is given every year to women all across the globe that have illustrated exceptional courage in defense of women’s rights, social justice and human rights. For this exact reason I would like to dedicate my award to Shiva Nazar Ahari, a young activist that is currently imprisoned in Iran for her women’s rights and human rights activism. I dedicate this award to her since I believe her courage has been exceptional and deserving of worldwide recognition.

Shiva, who since her youth has been an influential activist, founded the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, a university student group that provides important and objective reports concerning human rights abuses in Iran. She has also been actively involved in the women’s rights movement, never for a moment ceasing her efforts on behalf of human rights and democracy.

Unfortunately, shortly after the elections, Shiva was arrested and kept for months in solitary confinement and subjected to extreme interrogations. After spending more than 100 days in prison, Shiva was released on a $200,000 bail for only three, brief months. Shiva, who had re-started her activism immediately upon her release from prison, was arrested once more in December 2009 along with other members of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters. Since her arrest, the authorities have placed her under extreme pressure in order to make her confess to the crime of ‘acting as an enemy of God’, which carries the death penalty under state law. They kept her for a long period in a cage-like cell so small that she could barely move her limbs. Despite such extreme torture, Shiva has not, even today, accepted that her peaceful activism in promotion of Women’s rights and democracy are acts of terrorism, and consequently has faced even more abusive treatments.

Shiva, one of the world’s most courageous women, who herself worked tirelessly in defense of the rights of political prisoners, is herself in a small prison cell, and deprived of having even a pen and paper or meeting with a lawyer, and is kept blind-folded.

To be honest, since the Iranian regime declares that all human rights activists and civil activists are spies and puppets for the West, particularly the United States, I initially worried that to dedicate this award to Shiva alone might increase the pressure and hostility of her interrogators and the judicial forces and make matters worse for her.

However, I eventually arrived at the conclusion that the Iranian government will still accuse all activists of being spies, similar to the way they accused me of selling myself to America for receiving this award (calling me a “servant of the United States”), so that it really makes little difference. As Shiva is not with us and cannot attend this award ceremony, I will also refrain from attending with the hope that my absence will turn the attention of the international community to her dire situation. I would like to request that you all take any measures available to you to help to free Shiva along with other human rights activists and journalists in Iranian prisons.



Boyfriend of killed Iran protest icon talks

By Alix Rijckaert

Agance France Presse

March 9, 2010

GENEVA — The boyfriend of an Iranian woman, who became an opposition icon after images of her death at a Tehran protest spread across the Internet, says the event has turned him into a staunch activist.

A year ago, "I wouldn't have thought that I would be here," Caspian Makan told AFP on the sidelines of a human rights conference in Geneva.

"It changed my life, I'm very active right now I'm going to be more of an activist," said the writer and documentary maker after he fled Iran and found refuge in Canada.

"I lost my love, I lost my country, I miss everybody, my family, my job," added Makan, speaking through an interpreter.

The killing of Neda Agha-Soltan on June 20, 2009 came to symbolise the public uprising against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's victory earlier that month in presidential elections the opposition says were rigged.

A graphic mobile phone video of her bleeding to death on the ground was seen around the world, triggering an outcry over the sometimes brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

Makan appeared at the Geneva conference alongside dissidents from China, Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

"The whole world was witness to the acts of this regime. It was a painful, inhuman act that revealed the dark face of the Iranian dictatorship," he told delegates.

His 26 year-old partner's killing was a "murder" carried out by "mercenaries of the regime," he claimed.

"Her conscience and her courage became symbols for freedom, symbols that gave hope to thousands of Iranians."

After her death, Makan was interviewed by foreign media, including the BBC and Al-Jazeera. This is what he believes marked him out: six days later, he was arrested at home.

"I wanted to tell the world the truth and what happened to Neda," the dapper 38 year-old sighed.

Freed with the help of her family from Evin prison after 65 days of questioning, Makan decided to flee.

He managed to reach another Middle Eastern country, which he preferred not to name, and early this year he was granted political asylum in Canada.

Makan now flies around attending campaign and lobbying events: in the coming weeks, he is due to meet parliamentarians in Rome, Stockholm and perhaps Tel-Aviv.

"I feel I have to try my best, to work hard for democracy in Iran and show the people in the world what was happening and what is happening, to show the face of the government to the world."

Makan and Agha-Soltan met in April 2009 during an organised trip to Turkey, a country they could travel to without a visa.

He said they wanted to get married.

"She was convincing me how we should go... we have to stand up, we have to raise our head against the regime," Makan said.

And yet she had refused to vote in the election, dismissing it as a "show."

Fearing mass arrests and shootings by the Revolutionary Guard, which he says he had witnessed, Makan tried to convince her not to take part in the protests.

"I was in love with her, I didn't want her to be injured," he added.

The "Geneva Summit for Human Rights, Tolerance and Democracy" was organised by campaign groups including US-based Freedom House and UN Watch, a pro-Israel group that monitors the United Nations, and the French based International league against racism and anti semitism (LICRA).


Iranian Women Rally Against Polygamy

Sahar Sepehri

Pakistan Christian Post

March 10, 2010

Iranian women's groups and other organisations are fighting a much discussed proposed law which they say would encourage polygamy by allowing a man to take a second wife without the permission of the first under certain circumstances. The proposal comes at a time when the country has been rocked by protests, in which women have played a major part, following the disputed re-election last June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Although Islamic law permits a man to marry up to four wives (with strict restrictions), polygamy is not widely practiced in Iran. At present, an Iranian man needs his wife's permission to take a second wife.

A so-called Family Protection Law, proposed by the government in 2008, said a man could marry a second wife on the condition that he could afford both wives financially. The Parliament dropped that clause following a wave of opposition from women, but is now reconsidering a different version of the provision.

The spokesman for the Parliament's Judicial and Legal Commission, Amir Hussein Rahimi, announced recently that the commission has now approved Article 23 of the proposed Family Protection Law that states, "A man can marry a second wife under ten conditions."

The new version still requires the first wife to give her husband permission, though controversially this permission would not be required under certain conditions, such as if she is mentally ill, suffers from infertility, does not cooperate sexually or has a chronic medical condition or drug addiction.

Iranian women still oppose the legalisation of polygamy, saying it weakens their role and status at home and in society.

The original plan was dropped after a group of intellectuals, religious, social and human rights activists created a movement to voice their opposition to the law. In September 2008, a group of 50 well-known women, including poet Simin Behbahani, politician Azam Taleghani and lawyer and Noble laureate Shirin Ebadi, met representatives from the parliament to express their concerns about what they called "an anti-family protection law".

Islamic organisations such as the Zeinab Association and the Women's Organisation of the Islamic Revolution also supported the movement. And the One Million Signatures campaign, which opposes discrimination against women, played a significant role in mobilising public opinion.

The law was also controversial among government officials. Several reformists protested against it openly. Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, called it "persecution". And a leading cleric, Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei, stated, "If the first wife does not permit her husband to take another wife, the marriage will not be legitimate, even if a man can support both wives financially."

Nevertheless, the Speaker of the Parliament, Ali Larijani, has declared that it will consider a slightly amended version of the controversial article.

To which a young member of the Centre for Iranian Women, Taraneh Bani Yaghoub, replied, "The women's movement will not remain quiet."

Iran's first law recognising polygamy was passed when Reza Shah, who ruled between 1925 and 1941, was in power. In 1970, female activists demanded the secular government of Mohammad Reza Shah outlaw polygamy, but despite the government's positive reaction to their demand, clerics prevented it. In 1975, an alternative law was adopted, stating that polygamy was permitted under certain conditions, such as obtaining the first wife's permission.

Much has changed in Iran since 1976, when only 36 per cent of women were literate. Now, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran, 80 per cent of women are educated, and almost 1.6 million are university graduates – compared to 46,000 in 1976.

Despite government restrictions on women, the number of female professionals has increased to around six per cent a year, or 2.5 million women in 2006, according to official statistics. A large group of educated women has shaped today's Iranian society. For years, these women have demanded legal and social rights and equal treatment with men. They have resisted any law that weakens their rights or degrades their position in society.

Women are angry with the proposed law, and they have been disappointed by the reaction of key figures of the opposition movement. A recent statement signed by a group of women activists accused defeated presidential contenders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi of ignoring women's rights and even their existence in their political manifestos, claiming that "women's issues are a major part of the current crisis and no solution will be achieved unless this issue is included."


U.N. must stand up for rights of Iranians

By Hadi Ghaemi and Aaron Rhodes

Special to CNN

March 13, 2010

Iranian citizens who support peaceful change that will allow them to enjoy their human rights expect the international community, and in particular the United Nations, to hold the Islamic Republic to account.

The new session of the U.N. Human Rights Council began on March 1. A failure of the world's most influential human rights body to deal with the abuse of human rights in Iran will be interpreted by Tehran as a green light for the government's brutal policies that could result in more executions of political prisoners.

Scores of peaceful demonstrators have been killed on the streets or in prison since the disputed June 2009 presidential elections.

Four political prisoners have been executed and others, including 20-year-old Mohammad Amin Valian, who has been convicted of "enmity against God" for throwing rocks at a demonstration, face death penalties. More than 1,000 Iranians are behind bars for expressing their political views. Leading politicians and clerics are calling for the harshest sentences for more of these prisoners.

In February, Iran's human rights record was examined under the Universal Periodic Review procedure. A number of U.N. members expressed deep concern about post-election abuses and chronic problems such as torture, the execution of juvenile offenders and discrimination against women. Other countries praised Iran's progress in improving social welfare.

At the end of the exercise, Iran rejected outright recommendations to end juvenile executions, end torture, release illegally detained persons, and prosecute officials guilty of rape, torture and murder in prisons. They rejected recommendations to end legal discrimination against women. They rejected the idea of inviting U.N. special rapporteurs -- none of whom as has been allowed to visit Iran since 2005 -- to examine the allegations.

While atrocities since June have horrified people around the world, leading to demonstrations by more than 50,000 people in 110 cities last summer, Iran seems, astonishingly, to be strengthening its standing in the Human Rights Council.

The 47 member states have shown no willingness to hold a special session, as many international human rights experts have recommended, nor have they supported the idea of a special U.N. envoy to look into the situation, and to press Iran to abide by its commitments.

One reason seems to be that the international community is preoccupied with persuading Iran to keep its nuclear development program from creating an atomic weapon. Even without a bomb, Iran already seems to have achieved a form of nuclear deterrence: The nuclear issue creates conflict that justifies police state methods to keep the population under control, while reducing international pressure to end such abuses, which other states fear will spoil delicate negotiations.

The strategy is working for the Iranian government. Now they have their sights set on gaining a place on the Human Rights Council itself in elections by the U.N. General Assembly that will take place in May.

The failure of the Human Rights Council to take serious action to condemn Iran's human rights abuses, and the election of Iran to the Human Rights Council itself, will be deeply disillusioning for the reform and human rights movement in Iran. It could destroy their faith in the international human rights system, for which many have sacrificed their freedom and security, and for which many have died. It will give legitimacy to hanging political prisoners, and more will be hanged.

But this issue is not just about Iran. It is about the capacity of the U.N. system to protect human rights. If Iran's grave abuses are ignored and if Iran assumes a place on the council, the council will be further weakened. Other dictatorial regimes will be emboldened to repress their citizens.

That is why it is crucial that members of the U.N. Human Rights Council make it clear to Iran, in a resolution that cannot be brushed off, that torturing and executing political prisoners is not acceptable. And that is why the U.N. General Assembly must reject Iran's candidacy.


Maryam Rajavi: Time for Europe to stand with Iranian people

NCRI Website

March 15, 2010

Mrs. Rajavi was the keynote speaker in a meeting held at the Parliament of Finland during her visit to that country. At the session organized by the Human Rights group of the Finnish Parliament, a declaration of support by the majority of the country’s lawmakers for the Iranian people’s uprising and the rights of Camp Ashraf residents was unveiled.  Below is the text of Mrs. Rajavi's speech at the session:

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and gentleman,

It is a pleasure to be in the House of Democracy and among the elected representatives of the people of Finland today.

First of all, allow me to thank the Parliamentary Human Rights Group for holding this meeting.

I also wish to express gratitude, on behalf of combatants of freedom, human rights activists, political prisoners and all victims of the religious dictatorship in Iran, for your attention to the situation of human rights in my country.

The Iranian people value your support for their struggle for Democracy. Your efforts will, no doubt, be recorded in the Iranian history.

I am speaking on behalf of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a broad coalition of personalities and parties who seek democratic change in Iran. The Council represents different beliefs, religions and political tendencies and ethnic backgrounds across Iran. It seeks a Republic based on the separation of church and state, pluralism and complete gender equality. It is committed to abolish the death penalty and believes in a nuclear-free Iran.

Its pivotal force, the People's Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK), which believes in a tolerant interpretation of Islam, has played a decisive role in exposing the mullahs' fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

Under the mullahs, 120,000 of its members have been murdered during the struggle for freedom. This book contains the names of 20,000 of them.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to now draw your attention to two urgent issues concerning the Iranian Resistance and the people's uprising for freedom.

The first deals with the prospects of change in Iran and the need for the European Union to change its policy vis-à-vis Iran.

The second is the dangerous situation at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, home to members of the opposition, and the need to support it.

Since last June, uprisings have been sweeping Iran. Iranians are openly demanding a complete overthrow of the regime and the establishment of Democracy. The regime, on the other hand, has failed to contain the uprising.

The events of the past nine months have proven that:

- The situation cannot be reversed;

- The mullahs' regime is suffering from a fatal crack within itself;

- The explosive society cannot be contained; and

- The regime is getting closer to its downfall.

To confront the uprisings, the regime has murdered hundreds so far, injured thousands and imprisoned and tortured thousands more.

Rape is used systematically as a form of torture against prisoners, especially women.

Following the December 27 uprising, the mullahs arrested a large number of PMOI supporters because of the role they played in the protests. In staged trials, the regime sentenced many of them to death under the label Moharebeh (which means waging war on God). In one such staged trial, a young girl, who had been arrested because her family was in Ashraf, revealed that her nails had been pulled out. She and many like her, only demand Democracy and respect for Human Rights.

Despite such brutalities, the uprisings have continued in Iran leaving the mullahs with extraordinary crisis.

- To maintain their balance in the face of the uprisings, the mullahs are trying to generate new crises;

- They have stepped-up efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

- They have increased the number of centrifuges and are enriching their uranium to 20 percent purity.

- The mullahs need nuclear weapons to survive.

Tehran has also increased its support for fundamentalist groups in the region to create more crises. US officials in Iraq recently warned about the Iranian regime's intensified meddling and destructive role in Iraq.

Dear friends,

For many years, the West exercised a flexible approach to the regime. But it has now recognized that the regime cannot reform or be contained. Therefore, changing this regime is as necessary and urgent for establishing freedom in Iran as for safeguarding global peace and security.

Terrorism and fundamentalism are not only our enemy; this Phenomenon is the enemy of humanity and the source of crisis in many parts of the world.

As I have said before; change will only come through the Iranian people and their organized resistance. Unfortunately, by engaging and appeasing Tehran, Western governments have been on the side of the Iranian regime.

Time has now come for Europe to stand with the Iranian people.

The second issue, as I said, deals with Ashraf, home to 3,400 members of the main Iranian Resistance movement, the PMOI.

Although Ashraf is located inside Iraq and 50 miles from the Iranian border, the mullahs do not see it as a separate issue from the uprisings inside the country. Ashraf is an inspiration to the struggle of Iranian women and youth for Freedom and Equality.

For this reason, the mullahs see the destruction of Ashraf necessary for curbing the uprising.

Last February, the regime's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, demanded from the Iraqi President and Prime Minister to implement the bilateral agreement to destroy Camp Ashraf as quickly as possible.

Last July, the Iraqi government, at the request of the mullahs, attacked Camp Ashraf, killing 11 and wounding 500.

In the past months, the pressures on Ashraf have continued in the form of an inhumane blockade.

In addition, following the demands made by the mullahs, the Iraqi Prime Minister announced that it intends to send the residents of Ashraf to a location near the Saudi border.

This relocation is clearly preparing the grounds for the massacre of Ashraf residents.

Since one month ago, the mullahs have taken new measures, sending teams from the terrorist Qods Force from Iran to Ashraf, where they have been stationed and publicly threaten that the next bloody attack is close.

I must recall that since July, Amnesty International and its offices worldwide have issued 67 statements about the situation of Ashraf.

On March 1, Amnesty warned, "Iraqi security forces continue to make life difficult for the residents."

In the past two years, we repeatedly warned that a catastrophe is in the making. If those warnings had been heeded, the killings of July 28 and 29 could have been averted.

If the international community does not act quickly, a humanitarian catastrophe, larger than the one in July, is about to happen. The United Nations must take on a more active role to guarantee the security of Ashraf residents and the non-use of force against them.

Therefore, I have come here, to urge the Government and Parliament of Finland to work to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Ashraf.

I ask you and, through you, the Finnish government, to take initiative to encourage the UN in order to assume responsibility for the protection of Ashraf residents.

The independence of action and neutral position of Finland in the years past and its legacy as a defender of human rights have placed it in a very special position; to take this humanitarian initiative and support the Iranian people's uprising without regards to economic and political considerations.

Indeed, the people of Finland understand the depth of our pain and the scale of our Resistance movement, because they have waged a glorious resistance against occupation.  The name of Marshal Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim still arouses respect.

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Volume 70, March 15, 2010

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