April 15, 2010 VOLUME 71
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
First day of the spring, March 21st, marks the Iranian New Year, an ancient festivity which has survived Tehran’s fundamentalists’ campaign to change its meaning and format. For years the ayatollahs tried to diminish this non-religious festivity and impose their own fundamentalist ideas on the celebration of the New Year. Given the ongoing protests and opposition in Iran, this year, marked a different type of celebration for Iranian people.
Some families celebrated in a private setting, others celebrated in a public setting to intentionally defying the regime. Families of political prisoners invited others to join a rally outside of prison while observing the New Year count down. Families of fallen victims observed the New Year by hosting a large gathering on the gravesite of their loved one. Such bold moves by these brave families should remind all of us that Iran is facing a year of change. Iranians are marking a new year with commitment to bring about democracy, freedom and equality. Lending political support, declaring solidarity and friendship with the Iranian people is the least we can do in this Iranian New Year.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
Agance France Presse – March 16, 2010
Iran deployed hundreds of policemen across Tehran on Tuesday to quell any possible opposition protests as the nation began celebrating the annual Persian fire festival, witnesses told AFP. Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had on Sunday urged Iranians to shun the festival after branding it un-Islamic and an event which causes "a lot of harm." But witnesses said people had already begun celebrating the ritual, setting off firecrackers to mark the ancient pagan festival of Charshanbe Soori, which is held on the eve of the last Wednesday of the Persian calendar year. They said police were deployed in Tehran's Haft-e Tir Square, Saadat Abad and Velanjak -- regular venues for opposition protests over last June's disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. For the past 10 months, opposition supporters have used public events to stage anti-government demonstrations, and security forces have warned they will crack down on any such outbursts staged on Tuesday.
CCHRR – March 16, 2010
Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR) reported on the recent arrest of a female activist. Writer and women's rights activist Laleh Hassanpour was arrested on Tuesday March 16, 2010, after a raid on her home by security agents. She has been taken to an undisclosed location.
Agance France Presse – March 16, 2010
The wife of top Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi told AFP on Tuesday that she has been unable to see her husband in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since his arrest earlier this month. Fifty Iranian filmmakers and artists, in a signed letter released on Tuesday, urged the authorities to release Panahi, a news agency reported. "Ever since he was apprehended, I have managed to talk to him twice. I went to Evin to meet him last Thursday, but was not allowed to meet," Tahereh Saeedi said of the Tehran jail where her husband is being held. Media reports have said Panahi was arrested for making a film about the unrest which rocked the Islamic republic after last year's disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But his wife denied these reports, saying "the film was being shot inside the house and had nothing to do with the regime." Saeedi also said that the authorities had still not filed any charges against her husband. "I spoke to (Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari) Dolatabadi yesterday, but he did not give me any precise answer. But I sensed that he has a positive approach to the case." According to opposition websites, Panahi was arrested along with 16 other people, including Saeedi and the couple's daughter and six human rights activists. Fourteen of those detained have been freed so far.
The Concordian – March 16, 2010
“Sometimes when I look back,” she said, “I feel that the Iranian revolution was a revolution carried out by men against women.” She went on to list some of the discriminatory laws that were passed. “According to one of these laws the value of the life of a woman is regarded half that of a man. In other words that means if a man or a woman were run over by a car, the money paid in compensation to a woman would be half that of a man.” Ebadi is very familiar with some of the regime’s discriminatory laws. She had been a judge from 1975 to 1979, but was dismissed after the Revolution because the new regime did not believe women should be able to serve as judges. She only managed to regain a lawyer’s license in 1992.
Global Voices – March 17, 2010
IReporters Without Borders (RSF) and Google honoured the online journalists of the women's rights website we-change on 12 March with the first “Netizen Prize”, a new annual award for those who defend freedom of expression online. RSF's report on “Internet Enemies” was released on the same day.Parvin Ardalan from we-change accepted the award at Google's Paris offices. The Iranian women's movement has always shown resistance… Now the movement is bringing its experience and methods of working democratically into cyberspace. The we-change website has been a supporter of a virtual campaign called One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws. The campaign calls for putting an end to discrimination against women in Iranian law.
Amnesty International UK- March 27, 2010
An Iranian protestor, prosecuted in a post-Ashura trials on charges of Moharebeh, or “enmity against God," is in danger of imminent execution, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. The identity of the protestor sentenced to death is not yet certain as the Iranian Judiciary is purposefully refusing to provide accurate information regarding ongoing prosecutions and sentencing. On 9 February 2010, the Iranian Judiciary announced that nine post-election protestors had been convicted: one sentenced to execution and the other eight protestors sentenced to prison. So far, at least 13 protestors have been sentenced to execution, of whom two have been already executed. The defendants have had no access to internationally recognized standards of justice and due process. They have been denied the right of access to their lawyers. In the cases of the two defendants already executed, Arash Rahmani and Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani, the men were executed in secret without their family or lawyers being notified. The courts are also handing out lengthy prison sentences, up to 15 years in prison, for students, activists, and journalists, following unfair trials.
World Radio – April 1, 2010
The United States says it’s very distressing that Iran could be a member of the Human Rights Council. This comes as the US just named its first ambassador ever to the council. Iran and the US have not had diplomatic relations for decades. The controversial Human Rights council is based in Geneva and will hold elections in May for new members. Iran is one of the candidates. Reporter Alex Helmick has more.
RFE/RL – April 5, 2010
RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported on April 1 that FIFA said in a letter to the Iranian Football Federation that the Iranian women’s team is not allowed to participate in the games in Singapore while wearing hijab, or head scarves.FIFA says on its website that “the player's equipment must not carry any political, religious, or personal statements,” and that “all items of clothing or equipment other than the basic must be inspected by the referee and determined not to be dangerous.” The ruling suggests that FIFA considers playing soccer while wearing the hijab to be potentially dangerous to the player.
E-Zan Featured Reports
Iranian women rally against a law to permit polygamy
By Sahar Sepehr
The Daily Star
March 16, 2010
Iranian women’s groups and other organizations 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, stated that 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. However, it is now reconsidering a different version of the same 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 10 conditions.” The new version still requires the first wife to give her husband permission, though, much more 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 legalization 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 organizations such as the Zeinab Association and the Women’s Organization of the Islamic Revolution also supported the movement. And the One Million Signatures campaign, which opposes discrimination against women, played a significant role in mobilizing 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 the legislature will consider a slightly amended version of the controversial article. To which a young member of the Center for Iranian Women, Taraneh Bani Yaghoub, replied, “The women’s movement will not remain quiet.”
Iran’s first law recognizing polygamy was passed when Reza Shah, who ruled between 1925 and 1941, was in power. In 1970, female activists demanded that the secular regime of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi 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 percent of women were literate. Now, according to the Statistical Center of Iran, 80 percent 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 6 percent 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. The women affirmed that “women’s issues are a major part of the current crisis and no solution will be achieved unless this issue is included.”
Iran Tries To Stifle Women's Voices
Poet Simin Behbahani was prevented from traveling to Paris to attend a Women's Day event.
March 16, 2010
Voice of America News
The Iranian regime marked International Women's Day on March 8 in telling fashion: it prevented Iran's most prominent female poet, Simin Behbahani, from traveling to Paris to attend a Women's Day event. Ms. Behbahani planned to read a poem and speak about feminism, but her passport was confiscated at Tehran's international airport.
The regime's action is the latest in a long series of attempts to stifle the voices of Iranian women, who have taken a leading role in urging the Iranian regime to respect the rights of the Iranian people.
And they have suffered for doing so. Neda Soltan, the young woman shot to death during anti-government protests in June, has become the symbol both for the Iranian people's disaffection with their leaders and for the terrible cost the regime is exacting on peaceful opponents.
In recent months, more than 20 Iranian women's rights activists and female journalists have been arrested. Many are members of the Campaign for Equality, a grass roots movement begun in 2006 whose members have often been jailed for trying to overturn Iran's discriminatory gender laws.
Those laws deny Iranian women equal treatment in matters relating to marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. In court, evidence given by an Iranian woman is worth half that of a man, and a man receives twice as much compensation for injury and death. In addition, ghastly punishments, such as stoning, are disproportionally meted out to women.
Iranian lawyer Shadi Sadr, recently recognized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her courageous work advocating for women's rights in Iran, said last month in testimony at the U.N., that at least 60 women's rights activists are in prison. "Some of them have never been able to call or see their families. In some cases, nobody knows in which prison they are detained," said Ms. Sadr. She said a new draft law which may soon pass the legislature will further erode legal protections for women.
Secretary of State Clinton has made it clear where the United States stands on an issue that cuts "across cultures and continents:"
"Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights."
"A society that denies and demeans women's roles and rights," said Secretary of State Clinton, "is a society that is more likely to engage in behavior that is negative, anti-democratic, and which often leads to violence and extremism."
“I was brutally tortured”.
By Sheereen Alam Hoolee,
Evin’s Women Prison, 02/02/2010
A Farsi letter from a Kurd Woman who is sentenced to death.
Translated by WFAFI on March 17, 2020
The details of sufferings imposed on me in detention.
I was arrested in May 2009 by the law enforcement officers and plain clothes agents in The City of Tehran, and was directly taken to the Headquarter base.
Upon arrival and before questioning, they started beating me up. I was in the Sepah for 25 days, out of which I spent 22 days in hunger strike, and for the entire time I endured all kinds of physical and psychological tortures.
The interrogators were all male, and I was handcuffed to the bed. They were beating me up with electric batons, cable, and kicking and punching all over my body. During that time, I couldn’t even understand or speak Farsi. Whenever their questions remained unanswered, they would have started beating me up until I passed out.
With the sound of Azan, they would have left for the prayer, and as they put it, they would have given me the opportunity to think everything through, and when they came back, it was again beating , passing out, and ice water…
When they realized that I am adamant to continue my hunger strike, they tried to end it by injecting and sending tubes to my stomach through my nose and mouth. I resisted and pulled out the tubes, causing severe pain and bleeding. The effects of those actions still bothering me after two years. One day, during interrogation they kicked my stomach so hard that I instantly started bleeding severely. One day one of the interrogators came to me. He was the only one I ever saw. In other times, I was blindfolded. He started asking me irrelevant questions. When he didn’t get any answers, he slapped me on face, and took out his gun from the holster, and aimed it on my head, and said: “Answer my questions. I know you are a member of “Pazak”, you are a terrorist. You know, it doesn’t matter whether or not you talk. We are happy that we have captured a member of “Pazk”.
In one of the occasions that the doctor came to treat my wounds, as a result of severe beatings, I was almost unconscious, I heard him asking the interrogator to send me to the prison hospital. Interrogator asked why he should have sent me to the hospital while doctor could have treated me right there. The doctor responded:’ It is not going to be for treatment. In the hospital I can do things that make this girl talk like a bird.” The day after, they took me to the hospital blindfolded and handcuffed. The doctor put me on a bed and injected something in my vein. I became a zombie, and answered all their questions as they wanted me to answer, and they recorded this session. When regain my consciousness, I asked them where I realized that I was still in the hospital. After that they took me back to my cell. But it didn’t seem they got enough, and they wanted me to suffer more. They kept me standing on my wounded feet until they swelled, and then they brought me ice.
Every night till dawn there was the sound of screaming and crying, and I became agitated hearing these voices, and then I learned they have been playing recording of screaming to make me suffer even more.
Sometimes, in the interrogation chamber, they let the ice drip on my head all day long, and then at night they took me back to my cell. One day I was being interrogated and the interrogator put out his cigar on my hand. Another day, he pressed my toes so hard and so long that my nails turned black and fell. Sometimes they kept me standing in the interrogation chamber on my feet without asking any questions while they worked on their word puzzle. They did all they had in power to make me suffer.
Following my return from the hospital, they decided to transfer me to the Ward 209.
Because of my poor physical condition that I couldn’t even walk, Ward 209 did not accept me, and they kept me there in those dire conditions all day until finally they send me to the clinic.
I couldn’t differentiate between day and night anymore. I don’t know how many days I stayed in Evin’s general clinic until my wounds healed a bit, and then I was transferred to Ward 209, and the interrogation started again.
The 209 Ward interrogators had their own special techniques, and as they put it, they were using hot/cold policy to move on. First an aggressive interrogator came in and put me under pressure, torture and threat, and would have said no law binds they and they can do to me anything they want,…and then the kind interrogator came in and would have asked him to stop doing cruel things, and offered me a cigar.
The questions were asked again, and this chain of actions repeated over and over again.
During the time I was in Ward 209, particularly when I wasn’t feeling well, or my nose was bleeding, they only injected me a tranquilizer in my cell. I was sleeping all day. They never let me out of my cell, or never took me to the clinic.
Roxana Saberi Book Describes Iranian-American’s Ordeal in Iran
Opinion by Amnesty International
Opposing View site
March 24, 2010
On January 31, 2009 Roxana Saberi suddenly found herself in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, unable to contact her family and friends and accused of espionage and threatening Iran’s national security. Ms Saberi, a 31-year-old U.S. citizen (and holding an Iranian passport because her father was born in Iran), had been living in Iran for six years, working as a journalist and writing a book about modern Iran based on interviews with a broad cross-section of society, when her nightmare began. The international outcry that ensued may well have contributed to her release that May, just weeks before the contested June 12 presidential election. Her four-month ordeal is vividly described in her powerful new book, Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran.
Even though we know the ultimate happy outcome, Between Two Worlds is suspenseful and riveting throughout. The author masterfully conveys the fear, confusion and uncertainty experienced by an innocent person trapped in a repressive system where human rights norms have no meaning. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is Ms Saberi’s account of her frequent interactions with her main interrogator, a young man whose name she never learns and whom she has dubbed “Javan” because he affected the clothing and coiffure of the youth of affluent North Tehran; he is maddeningly focused on extracting a confession that Ms Saberi was a spy for the U.S. government and the interrogation sessions become a battle of wills. At the core of the dilemma she faced were the impossibly difficult calculations and decisions she had to make about whether to provide her interrogators with the information they appeared to be seeking, which would have entailed falsely confessing to espionage. She had to make these difficult decisions in a complete vacuum, not knowing whether a false confession would guarantee her release, as her interrogators promised her, or whether stubbornly insisting on the truth could result in a long prison sentence, or something even worse.
Thankfully, Ms Saberi was not tortured or physically abused, but she had no way of knowing whether, at any moment, the verbal and psychological abuse would escalate into violence or sexual assault. The well-known fate of Zahra Kazemi was never far from her mind. Ms Kazemi, a Canadian-Iranian journalist, was arrested in 2003 while taking photographs outside of Evin Prison. She was raped, brutally tortured, and died of blunt trauma to the head while in custody. Ms Saberi was naturally afraid that she could be subjected to similar treatment, especially since she was being held incommunicado with her family and friends unaware of her location.
Her book is also an incisive account of the altered and disoriented consciousness experienced by a person used to living her life freely and suddenly thrown into a world where she is rendered utterly helpless. Ms Saberi poignantly conveys the efforts she makes to carve out a space—however small and precarious—where she can exercise some control over her circumstances. “Javan” however can determine when she can call her parents—and what she can say to them—whether she can read a newspaper, and even whether she can have dental floss. Ultimately she comes to the realization that she can only maintain autonomy of her own mind and spirit. She unflinchingly holds herself up to scrutiny, describing the additional torments she inflicted on herself for her perceived loss of nerve under intense pressure, and what she believed to be her failure to live up to her expectations of herself—expectations she later realizes were impossible to meet under the conditions imposed on her.
Among the many strengths of the book are the acutely observed descriptions of the people she encounters and of her own impressions of the puzzling and terrifying circumstances in which she found herself. Some of the situations are so absurd that they are indeed very humorous, including an amusing account of how she had to work with a “police artist” to come up with a sketch of a man who allegedly persuaded her to spy for the U.S. government. Although it must have been tempting for her to demonize her captors, she never does so, and even “Javan” is never depicted as a monster. The reader is forced to speculate on his motives; is he truly convinced that he is doing his patriotic duty by ferreting out agents trying to undermine society, using any means necessary? The female guards who work in the women’s section of Evin Prison are often officious but are never cruel to Ms Saberi, and sometimes even perform small acts of kindness. Ms Saberi insightfully observes that being a guard in a women’s prison is considered a very respectable job for the lower-middle class religious women who work there. Her account of the guards and interrogators reveals how the pervasively repressive system also victimizes its own agents, forcing them to subvert their own humanity to further the aims of the ruthless hard-liners in Iran’s government.
Not all of Ms Saberi’s experiences were negative however. She spent the first part of her detention in solitary confinement but was eventually allowed to share cells with other women jailed for political reasons, including a student activist, relatives of members of the Peoples Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI), and two Baha’i women, Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet, who are currently on trial accused of crimes which could result in the imposition of the death penalty. All of her cellmates are affectionately portrayed and provided Ms Saberi with the emotional support and often inspiration she needed to face every uncertain day. Ms Saberi is also gratified and moved by the enormous outpouring of support she received, both from people she knew and from total strangers around the world. Amnesty International activists stepped to the plate for Ms Saberi, sending thousands of appeals on her behalf. These appeals may well have contributed to her release; whether she would have been released after the game-changing June 12 presidential elections is an open question. Ms Saberi dedicates her book to the women she met in prison—some of whom still languish there, joined by many others arrested since. I hope that those who read this wonderful book will be inspired to join in Amnesty International’s efforts to help them.
Amnesty International USA will be co-sponsoring events where Roxana Saberi will speak about her book and her experiences in New York on April 5, in Chicago on April 12, and in Los Angeles on April 26.
April 1, 2010
After the Islamic Revolution in 1981, Shohreh Ghanbary spent six years in jail.
A young woman, she had protested with other university students but public outcry against religious fundamentalism was quickly and brutally staunched.
“Along with so many other young people like me, we stood for democracy, freedom for women . . . they (authorities) wanted everybody to wear the hijab.”
Ghanbary’s prison sentence was 10 years. Many of her friends weren’t so lucky. One night at Tehran’s Evin prison, the guards called out for her friend, a 19-year-old engineering student. Without explanation, they shot the woman that night.
“So many of us were executed or killed in prison.” She pauses for a moment. “This is very hard for me.”
Ghanbary says she felt like a pressure cooker, holding in her sorrow – and her hope.
She tore a strip of cloth from her robes and began to embroider with bits of thread she pulled from her towel.
Hiding in bathroom stalls or under sheets, she etched a prison wall heavy with flowers.
“That was, for me, something from my heart – to express my feelings . . . You will see, there are so many flowers coming out of the wall (in the needlework). For me, that (represents) the blood of my friends.”
Over six years in prison, she smuggled out small embroideries to her family.
While on parole, Ghanbary escaped the country, slipping through a mountain pass on foot in 1988, an experience she has referenced as a contributor to a North Vancouver art show on display at the Cafe for Contemporary Art.
Her painting, The Exiles, depicts silhouetted figures, the wind whipping at their clothes.
“That is, for me, the story of my people, my generation. We had to leave our country . . . whoever talked about democracy, equality, freedom, they had nowhere to stay in Iran.”
FORBIDDEN ARTS TO FERTILE GROUND
Many artists in the Iranian diaspora left or escaped like Ghanbary. But many stayed, and are leading what has been described as a prolific underground – in graphic novels, illustration, illicit rock music, nude paintings, protest art or creations – tackling forbidden social and political issues under the country’s theocratic regime.
In Iran, above board art shows abound, explains West Van’s Merdad Rahbar, but they all pass through state-sanctioned filters. “(Artists) get restrictions from the ministry of culture – they censor everything,” Rahbar says. “Films, music, rock groups.”
Last fall 12 Iranian-Canadians on the North Shore decided to show illicit art from Iran. They planned to exhibit it here in North Vancouver as part of a Persian New Year festival that celebrates the return of spring and the vernal equinox.
The show, called Norooz Art Festival: from forbidden arts to fertile ground, features over 30 artists, filmmakers, musicians and performers. Many are Iranian-Canadians. Four contributors reside in Iran – but can’t be named in the media, say organizers.
One artist smuggled his canvases of nudes through backpackers headed to Germany. One man disappeared for a few months – family members assured the North Van organizers that the man was “fine,” just under close surveillance.
“What is happening (in Iran) is not internal,” says Rahbar. “It is a global crisis.”
Rahbar and other organizers hope the show will help communicate to non-Iranians the human rights abuses still happening in Iran.
“Norooz, in Persian literally means ‘new day’ . . . our idea was to reach out to people through art and culture as opposed to militant messages,” he explains. “Art is the most peaceful and non-violent way to get your message through.”
Rahbar’s group is called the Neda for Freedom Society, after the late Neda Agha-Soltan. The young woman became a symbol of resistance when a cell phone camera captured her brutal death after she was shot during street protests following Iran’s June election.
“Neda means ‘voice’ or ‘calling’ in Persian,” Rahbar explains. “We call it (the society) Neda for Freedom, a voice of freedom.”
‘THE UPRISING HASN’T SUBSIDED’
One Iranian artist, whose oil paintings feature nudes entwined in eerie, moody motifs, reportedly hides hundreds of illicit images in his basement.
Officials condemn nudity as un-Islamic, explains Rahbar, but he thinks many artists use nudity to suggest “simplicity, purity, truth.”
Vancouver photographer Reza Nilli’s photos show a naked woman pushing through confining saran wrap. Nudes often figure in Rahbar’s art, as well, also on display in the gallery.
One artist treated the violent criminalization of gays and lesbians in Iran, depicting a rainbow spectrum in relief against spaces of torture and execution.
“You may be able to intimidate, imprison, kill people, but you cannot destroy a work of art,” says Rahbar, adding that the web and social networking have made it virtually impossible to stop the dispersion of subversive material.
“It’s pretty bold,” explains gallery owner Tyler Russell of the show. “If the (Iranian) authorities found this stuff . . . it could be dangerous.” He decided with Rahbar and the other organizers that the contraband art treats “an important conversation . . . I think it’s really meaningful going through that process.”
“The uprising hasn’t subsided,” says Rahbar, whose paintings depict women in resistance to religious leaders. One piece shows a group of women, their hair streaming free of scarves or hijab with their voices raised in protest.
Rahbar says he painted those women to represent the daughters, a new generation of activists following the women like Shohreh Ghanbary who faced jail, torture and execution when they spoke for equality.
“We believe this movement is led by women. They’ve suffered the most in the last 30 years.”
Ghanbary agrees. She cites YouTube videos of the street protests in Iran last June, women protesters staring down the militia. “They don’t even run . . . They don’t give up. They want equality.”
1000 Women in Camp Ashraf under Seige
The Women’s International Perspective (WIP)
April 2, 2010
Camp Ashraf, 50 miles north of Baghdad, is home to 3,400 Iranian dissidents, including 1,000 women, all members of the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization (PPO) of Iran, living as political refugees for nearly 3 decades and under the Fourth Geneva Convention after 2003. My name is Maryam Zoljalal, 28, and I am one of these women. Due to the oppression of my people in Iran by the ruling mullahs’ regime, I left my life and education in Sweden and relocated to camp Ashraf in Iraq. I have lived in Ashraf for the last 10 years for the freedom of my people, being the voice of the oppressed women of my country. Currently I spend part of my time as a nurse in the Camp Ashraf clinic.
Camp Ashraf is a small city in Iraq and its residents are mainly Iranian intellectuals - educated in various Iranian universities, as well as U.S. and European countries, all opposing the religious fascism ruling Iran. While cherishing life and family, they devoted themselves to bringing freedom and democracy to Iran, and by coming to Ashraf, joined a resistance for a better future and democracy for their country. Ashraf is a small democratic society where women have key leadership roles. They have become the mainstay for Iran’s new generation to resist and persevere and also confront the mullahs’ dictatorship and oppression.
The Iranian regime has used every opportunity to terrorize and oppress Ashraf residents, especially in the past two decades. My mother, Efat, was gunned down in an Iranian regime’s Quds Force terrorist attack in Baghdad on May 17, 1995. I loved her very much.
After the occupation of Iraq in 2003, residents of camp Ashraf were granted the status of protected persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, legally obligating the U.S. government to protect them. However, after 2009 when security of Camp Ashraf was handed over to the Iraqi government, an all-out and inhumane siege has been enforced on Camp Ashraf residents under Prime Minister Maliki’s orders, at the behest of Tehran’s mullahs. This siege is endangering and jeopardizing the simple daily needs of Ashraf residents, especially to medical care. Former Iraqi National Security Advisor Moaffaq al-Rubaii, shortly after the Iraqi government gained control of Ashraf, said they intend to make life for the residents of Camp Ashraf “intolerable.”
During the 15 month-long siege of Camp Ashraf, including blockade on everyday needs and fuel to be delivered to the camp, a severe limitation has been placed on access to medicine and urgent medical services, especially for women, causing a status of crisis in some cases. Among the 1,000 women in Camp Ashraf, at least 541 of them need medical specialists, although they have been deprived of this care for months. 90 of them have critical cases and finally, seven of them are in urgent need of special medical care. At the current status, none of the women patients in Ashraf receive appropriate medical services due to the limitations implemented by the Iraqi authorities. A number of these women are suffering from cancer and need imperative care. There are also patients suffering from cancer whose cases, due to the medical limitation placed on Ashraf, are recognized belatedly and are either no longer treatable or are cared for within very difficult conditions. Some of the patients are in danger of losing their vision.
The above mentioned are only a glance at the small portion of the difficulties for the women of Ashraf. These inhumane measures are all part of the Iranian regime’s suppressive conspiracies against its main opposition. The goal of Tehran’s mullahs and their allies in the Iraqi government is to suppress and annihilate the camp and its residents, especially the women.
Following the latest political developments in Iraq, and the Iranian regime and its proxy's severe setback in the recent elections, threats against Ashraf residents are on the rise. The Iranian regime is furiously trying to take back the momentum of establishing the next government, gained by democratic and nationalistic forces, and maintain its dominating influence in Iraq. Due to the Iraqi people’s wide ranging resistance to the Iranian regime’s interference in their country, odds of such a plan are very slim. Therefore, threats against Ashraf residents, before the formation of a new government by nationalists and anti-Iranian regime forces, have raised international concerns. Many human rights organizations around the world, European and N. American MPs have insisted on these worries regarding the residents of Ashraf. Along with the majority of parliamentarians in the UK, Norway and Finland, the majority of the US Congress, in Resolution 704, with 230 sponsored to this day, have called on President Obama and the UN to play a more effective role in protecting Ashraf residents. Any hesitation and wavering by the US administration and the UN, in acting more decisively regarding the protection of Ashraf residents, will result in a human catastrophe in this camp.
Dissident Iranians take refuge in Turkey
By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI
The Associated Press
April 3, 2010
Light snow was falling when the two young men set out on horseback for the border to flee Iran. By the time they were deep in the mountains, it had become a blinding blizzard, the temperature had dropped below freezing, and they were barely alive.
Hesam Misaghi and Sepehr Atefi were joining what has become an exodus of dissidents fleeing Iran's political turmoil. For them that meant a harrowing journey through the country's rugged northwest in the dead of winter, with the help of Kurdish smugglers.
At a river crossing, the ice broke beneath them and their horses stumbled in, soaking the two with freezing water.
"There was no feeling in my legs and hands," recalled Misaghi, a tall, wiry 21-year-old. "I felt drunk. I didn't know where I was. I was laughing from pain."
Atefi, 20, spotted a van from a distance, grabbed Misaghi's arm and dragged him toward it through the snow. "There was no life left in me to move forward, but we had to reach the highway," he said.
The men, both Iranian human rights reporters, reached the van, begged a ride and made it to safety in Turkey.
At least 4,200 Iranians have fled their homeland since disputed presidential elections in June, according to a list compiled by activist Aida Saadat, who herself slipped across the border into Turkey in December. These refugees have scattered to the United States, Europe and Gulf nations like the United Arab Emirates.
Most of all, they have come to Turkey — around 1,150 of them, according to the U.N. refugee agency — taking advantage of the porous border and Turkey's policy of not requiring a visa. Most of the new arrivals fled for political reasons, including those who took part in opposition protests after the vote. They bring the number of Iranians in Turkey to 4,440, as of February — including "undesirables" in the eyes of the clerical regime, such as homosexuals or members of the Bahai religion.
The danger these Iranians face back home is clear. A month after Atefi and Misaghi's January escape, police raided their homes in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Among the charges against them: "moharebeh," or "waging war against God," a crime punishable by death.
Police arrested their friend and colleague, Navid Khanjani, who was supposed to have fled with them but changed his mind at the last minute. With Khanjani's arrest, eight people in the independent Committee of Human Rights Reporters have been jailed, and three remain in prison and could face execution.
In Turkey, the refugees are safer, but they live in limbo. Almost all brought little money and cannot work because of Turkish restrictions, so they cram into small, coal-heated apartments with minimal furniture.
Many Iranian refugees hope the UNHCR will arrange resettlement for them in the United States or Europe — a wait that could take years, as the refugee agency is also dealing with thousands of Iraqis who have fled here from their own wartorn homeland in recent years.
Many of the Iranians have been put in the central town of Kayseri and nearby towns such as Nigde. Like other refugees in Turkey, they are required to live in particular towns designated by the Interior Ministry, must regularly report to police to confirm their location, and must get permission from authorities to move to other cities.
In addition to the rent and other expenses, each adult is required to pay the Turkish government about $200, along with $100 for each child, every six months to stay in the country. The interior minister last weekend (in March) signed an order to to lift the permit fees, but the order has not yet been enforced.
In the meantime, they watch the events back home — where hundreds have been arrested, and two have been executed out of 11 sentenced to death for taking part in opposition protests. From exile, some try to continue their activism — and some try to recover from their trauma.
Political activist Mahdis, 35, who once worked for a dissident cleric in the holy city of Qom, said she fled Iran more than a year ago after having been repeatedly raped in jail. Mahdis spoke on condition her last name not be used to avoid public embarassment.
When she arrived in Turkey she was again raped, this time by a fellow Iranian refugee. She said police would not allow her to transfer to Kayseri unless she paid $200, which she didn't have.
"I was sobbing, saying 'I swear to God' I don't have the money," recalled Mahdis. It took her 40 days to come up with the money that she borrowed from fellow refugees.
Another refugee, Mehrdad Eshghi, was the official singer for the state-run Iranian TV and Radio, known as Seda va Sima. Then authorities questioned his loyalty because he worked in the election campaign of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's top rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
After he refused to perform for Ahmadinejad's campaign, security forces began harassing him. He was detained and threatened with worse consequences.
"I was surprised by the way they treated me," said Eshghi, 40. "I was one of them. When I had the mike in my hand doing live programs, it meant they trusted me with their lives," he said in his apartment in Kayseri.
After security men began staking out his home around the clock, Eshghi went into hiding. He took a bus to Turkey six months ago, and his wife and daughter joined him a couple of months later.
"They could have done something terrible to me. You never know," Eshghi said of his pursuers. "The survival of the Islamic Republic is so important to them that they will not give up at any price."
Eshghi, a singer, calligrapher, painter and composer, mourns his former life in his homeland.
"I was at my best in Iran," he said. "Here, I'm just an ordinary person."
Like others, he said his attempts to keep up political activism from exile are prevented by Turkish authorities. Eshghi said authorities refused to allow him to put on an exhibition of his paintings or a concert for Iranian refugees. "They tell me no one must know of my whereabouts because it poses danger to my life."
Turkey, though a U.S. ally, also has close ties to Iran. Ankara has criticized Western efforts to impose further sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. Iran is a major supplier of natural gas to Turkey, and the two sides are working to increase trade, valued at $10 billion last year.
Kayseri's police chief said any restrictions on Iranians are for their own protection. "They are free here," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of police regulations. "But for their own personal safety, they cannot be interviewed by reporters."
Some refugees claim they have been harassed by Iranian intelligence agents while in Turkey, with threatening phone calls or even physical attacks. Human rights officials say Iranian intelligence agents have infiltrated the refugee community here, leading to widespread suspicion.
Hami Taghavi, a 40-year-old university professor who fled shortly after the post-election crackdown began, said he and his family try to avoid other Iranians.
"We don't trust other Iranians. We made sure to find an apartment where there are no Iranians around," he said.
Now he is just hoping to find rest, after repeated detentions in Iran for anti-government activities, including regular appearances on the Persian language stations of the BBC and Voice of America. He said he was tortured in custody, and now has trouble controlling movements in his limbs.
"I wake up regularly during the night as if someone is kicking me in the stomach," said Taghavi, who also headed an independent opposition teachers' association in Iran.
His wife, Mehrvash Dadashian, 35, ran a popular blog in Iran, since shut down. She intends to start a new one — but her main concern now is their life in Turkey, including the question of whether her 6-year-old daughter Yasna will be able to enter school in September.
"I live in the present. I don't brood over the past, nor am I worried about the future," she said. "It's peaceful here ... we used to have near heart attack 20 times a day in Iran, every time they came to our door to take us away."
Despite the obstacles, reform activist Saadat says she is determined to keep up her political work, campaigning for Iranian women's rights and writing for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters.
"I am not an immigrant. I've come here to continue my work," said Saadat.
After months of repression, Iran's reform activists are all in hiding, in jail or in exile, she said.
"When we leave our country, we leave behind all our past, our love, memories, the sum of our lives."
Women Online In Iran Brave Heavy Web Surveillance
By Dominique Soguel
April 9, 2010
Iranian women have pushed the battle for equal rights online even as security forces aggressively monitor the Internet and shut down pro-democracy Web sites that fall out of step with the regime.
"Every print magazine for women we had was closed," Parvin Ardalan said in a recent phone interview from Sweden. "So we created a new world for ourselves in cyberspace."
Ardalan is a founding member and editor of Change for Equality, launched in 2006 as the online presence for the One Million Signatures Campaign, a women-led grassroots movement calling for an end to discriminatory Iranian laws.
Change for Equality is now an authoritative women's rights news source, as well as a platform for activism. In 2008, for instance, it was instrumental in challenging a bill to liberalize polygamy laws.
In March the site posted a video address inviting women's rights activists worldwide to show solidarity with Iran's women's rights and pro-democracy movement. Some of the responding electronic signatures and support statements now sit at the top of one of the movement's Web pages.
"We use social media as a news tool," said Ardalan. "Women in Iran are calling for freedom and equality. We want to show the world that we are not alone."
Change for Equality routinely survives efforts to shut down or stymie its online operations. The Iran-based version of the site has been blocked 23 times since its launch, including on March 16, a few days after Ardalan received an award in Paris from Reporters Without Borders.
The Iranian government permanently revoked the operating license of Zanan, the country's leading women's rights monthly magazine, two years ago.
Ardalan, who began working on the Internet in the mid-1990s, started two Web sites for women: the Iranian Feminist Tribune and Zanast. Both were shut down.
Experience Guided Online Presence
The experience guided Ardalan's work as a founding member and editor of the One Million Signatures Campaign's multifaceted online presence. The site has versions operating abroad and locally.
The drawback to Web publication, says Ardalan, is that not everyone is an online news consumer.
But there are 70,000 active blogs in Iran, according to a 2009 study by the Berkman Center for the Internet and Society at Harvard University. Iran has a very young and literate population with only a small gap between male and female literacy. Sixty percent of college graduates are women, although this doesn't guarantee entry into the work force.
Ardalan has received several sentences for her activities in Iran and plans to live in exile in Sweden for the time being.
The Paris-based media watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders gave Ardalan its first "Netizen Prize" on March 12. The award--whose name represents an elision of "Net" and "citizen"--recognizes the efforts of a blogger, journalist or cyber-dissident to promote freedom of expression.
Ardalan accepted it on behalf of about 20 women, including herself, who launched Change for Equality in 2006 and have evaded censorship by operating multiple sites affiliated with the One Million Signatures Campaign.
Ardalan dedicated the award to all her colleagues in prison. More than 50 of the movement's activists have been summoned, arrested and jailed since the site's launch.
The arrest of Sousan M. Mohammadkhani Ghiasvand on March 11 marks the most recent detention of a female blogger. Ghiasvand writes about gender issues in her home province of Kurdistan. Shirin Alam Holi and Zeinab Jalilian, two Kurdish women's rights activists, are currently on death row, according to Human Rights Watch.
Global Record for Jailed Journalists
Iran, which holds this year's global record for jailed journalists, had at least 35 behind bars at the start of April, down from 52 in March thanks to short term-furloughs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the New York-based monitor of press freedom worldwide. Five are known to be women.
"Putting women in detention because they are calling for equality will only cause them to become even more active and inspire them to the same," Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator for the Middle East at the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Women's eNews.
Iran is the only country in this region to domestically manufacture sophisticated monitoring software and hardware to track online publications and filter out content the government considers a threat to national security, Dayem said.
Google, the California-based Internet technologies corporation, supported the Reporters Without Borders' award. Iran blocked the company's popular e-mail service, Gmail, as part of a broader cyber censorship crackdown in February.
On March 14, Teheran's Prosecutor Office announced the arrest of 30 people in connection to a U.S. cyber conspiracy. Most of the detainees, according to Human Rights Watch, were human rights activists, including advocates for women's rights and rights for regional minorities.
Ardalan says that foreign media attention carries risks for journalists on the ground. But international support--in the form of electronic signature campaigns or Web-hosting services--also helps content providers such as Gender Equality sidestep censorship and raise the profile of female activists and journalists.
"Social networking increases our security too by publishing our news," she said. "When they arrest somebody that it is unknown it is easy to jail them without a show from supporters."
Siemens and Nokia Singled Out
In March, Nobel-laureate and women's rights activist Shirin Ebadi singled out German engineering giant Siemens and Finnish telecoms company Nokia for supplying Iran with the dangerous know-how.
"They send the Iranian state software and technology that it can use to monitor mobile telephone calls and text messages," she told France Culture Radio.
The European Parliament judged the companies "instrumental in the persecution and arrest of Iranian dissidents" in a February resolution that criticized Nokia Siemens Networks for equipping the Iranian government with censorship and surveillance tools. The companies have denied the charges.
At least 5,000 men and women have been arrested since Iran's contested election last summer, according to Iran's Equality Now Web site, including many members of the One Million Signatures Campaign.
The government's crackdown on information since the rise of the pro-democracy movement has been so severe that international watchdog organizations struggle to keep track of who has been arrested and why, especially since few international reporters are allowed inside the country and local sources are under constant pressure from security forces.
"It's a revolving door," Farez Sanai, Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch in New York, told Women's eNews. "It is very common for individuals to be picked up, put in detention, not know what the charges are and then be released several days or weeks later."
Mahdieh Goloroo’s Husband: Charges are Ridiculous!
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
April 9, 2010
Mahdieh Golroo, a women’s rights activist and expelled Allameh University student, was tried in court without the presence of her attorney. In proceedings similar to the trials of other arrested members of the “Right to Education Council,” Golroo was not allowed to defend herself against the charge of “relations and cooperation with Mujahedin Khalgh Organization (MKO).” In a phone call with her family after her trial, Mahdieh Golroo has called the charges ridiculous and has expressed concern because Golroo was not allowed to defend herself against and refute the charge. Other charges made against this student activist were propagation against the regime through interviews with foreign media and congregation and mutiny in relation to Right to Education Council meetings.
Expressing concern about the unfair process of Golroo’s case, the student activist’s husband, Vahid Lalipour, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran: “In the trial session of 15 Farvardin 2010, with Judge Pirabassi presiding, my wife was not allowed to defend herself against the charge of relations with MKO, and we are concerned that the same thing that happened to Majid Dorri and Zia Nabavi might happen to Mahdieh, too. During their trial sessions, they, too, were told that it was not necessary for them to defend against relations with the MKO, but when the verdict was announced, they were sentenced to five or ten years in prison for this same exact charge. There was no relation between this group and Mahdieh and my wife’s thinking has no common grounds with this organization. The case judges have made the cases only based on an assumption that the Right to Education Council is being led by MKO. This charge is to suppress those whose rights have been violated.”
Mahdieh Golroo’s trial was behind closed doors and without her attorney present. Her family and her husband were not allowed to attend the trial. Regarding the trial process and Golroo’s attorney’s absence, Lalipour said: “One night before the trial date, Mahdieh called to say that one of her friends who had gone to the office of Women’s Head Warden at Evin prison, had seen her name in the list of those whose trials were to be held the next day. My wife’s case was reviewed with an attorney, in a closed court, and without prior notice to her family. Her attorney, Mr. Oliaeefar, was arrested just before Nowrooz holidays, so he had not been able to make any progress on Mahdieh’s case. So we asked Mr. Raeesian to take on my wife’s legal representation. As soon as we learned which branch was reviewing her case, Mr. Raeesian and I went to Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Courts. Unfortunately, after an inappropriate confrontation, the court did not accept Mr. Raeesian as the representing lawyer. Under these circumstances, Mahdieh was taken to court on April 4th without prior notice. Believing that all her activities are within the framework of the country’s laws, she did not request for an extension and she was deprived from legal representation in court.”
Mahdieh Golroo is also deprived from meeting with her family in person. Lalipoor said that since his own release on February 21, 2010, he has been allowed to meet with his wife only once for Iranian New Year and with a letter from the Prosecutor. He said: “Each time they come up with a different excuse to keep us from visiting her. Authorities at Ward 209 are in possession of Mahdieh’s and my birth certificates and they refuse to return them to us. Evin Prison authorities have told me that I cannot visit her because I cannot present my birth certificate. Even though I take several pieces of identification to each visit, including our marriage certificate, and I am always with Mahdieh’s mother and sister, they tell me I can’t see her because I don’t have a birth certificate [to establish familial connection to the prisoner].”
The latest news on the student activist’s health condition is that she is suffering from an intestinal infection. Her husband referred to the prison’s bad diet and hygiene and blamed lack of medical attention on Golroo’s illness: “The prison infirmary considers such health conditions as “pretending to be ill,” and does not do a proper checkup. The prison food is not suitable, or better said, it’s not edible.”
Mahdieh Golroo, a student activist and a member of Right to Education Council was arrested along with her husband Vahid Lalipour on December 3rd, 2009 after their home was stormed by several security forces. The couple were taken to Evin Prison. Vahid Lalipour who did not have any records of political activities, spent 65 days in Ward 209 of Evin Prison, 32 days of which were spent in solitary confinement. Lalipour’s charges were similar to his wife’s–propagation against the regime, congregation and mutiny and relations with Mujahedin Khalgh Organization. Mahdieh Golroo was formerly sentenced to one year’s imprisonment which was suspended for five years. Currently several members of the Right to Education Council are in prison–Zia Nabavi, Majid Dorri, Shiva Nazar Ahari, Peyman Aref, and Mahdieh Golroo. Zia Nabavi and Majid Dorri were tried and sentenced to 15 and 11 years in prison in the same court branch.
Iran's brutality: Women and children first
By James Zumwalt
April 14, 2010
Following World War II, much was written about Western democracies ignoring the aggression of rogue states Germany and Japan—opting for appeasement—until such aggression could no longer be tolerated. The question repeatedly asked is why warning signs went unheeded. At some future time, historians of another generation will ask the same question in the aftermath of a nuclear attack by a 21st Century rogue state.
While timing is in question, it is clear Iran eventually will possess a nuclear weapon. If allowed to do so, there is no doubt in this historian’s mind that Iran’s president and resident madman, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will use it.
There are warning signs we have received and, like our pre-World War II leaders, have ignored. But even more telling is evidence of violence perpetrated upon two groups of his own people—groups Western culture has long regarded as deserving special protection: women and children.
During the eight year Iran-Iraq war, Tehran very quickly learned its army was no match for Iraq’s. When Iraqi minefields began claiming Iranian soldiers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini concocted a scheme to reduce these losses. He encouraged Iranian children to volunteer for a special force known as the Basiji. Lightly armed but more often unarmed to avoid the loss of weapons, the Basiji were trained to form human waves to march through Iraqi minefields towards the enemy. This process—through the sheer loss of numbers of children—eventually cleared a minefield, providing Iran’s professional soldiers an unencumbered approach route to Iraqi defenses.
Most of these children were illiterate and from poor families in the countryside. Often, their only asset prior to enthusiastically sacrificing their lives was a plastic key given to each young martyr—told by his Basiji trainer, it was to open the gates of paradise in the afterlife.
Khomeini ordered 500,000 plastic keys from Taiwan for this purpose. During the war, he sent 450,000 children to the front. This “man of the cloth” undoubtedly found it more wasteful to have ordered 50,000 extra keys than to have ordered tens of thousands of innocent children to their deaths.
Islamic extremist logic came into play during the war when some believers became concerned the childrens’ bodies were either being vaporized by the mines or body parts were being strewn about the battlefield. Not to be deterred by these concerns, the logic applied was the children were instructed to wrap themselves in blankets beforehand so their bodies would remain intact!
One of the Basiji trainers was a young Islamic extremist now serving as Iran’s president. Because of this special relationship between the Basiji and Ahmadinejad, the former was brought in by the latter to take an aggressive role in suppressing protests in Iran following Ahmadinejad’s theft of office in the rigged 2009 election.
It is Ahmadinejad who now oversees another egregious policy—this one aimed at unmarried women he seeks to execute. Under Islam, it is forbidden to execute female virgins. The arrests, trials and ordered executions of female reform activists has created a problem. Due to Islam’s prohibition against executing virgins, if a woman is unmarried, steps have to be taken to cure this—but without violating Islam’s prohibition against unmarried sex. To circumvent both prohibitions, the female convict is drugged and a sham marriage performed with a prison guard who then brutally rapes her. A witness to this brutal act sneared, “I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their ‘wedding’ night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning.” Video evidence of this atrocity has recently been smuggled out of Iran.
President Obama expressed confidence he would succeed in enticing Iran’s leadership away from their nuclear arms ambitions by extending an olive branch. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN—for this regime is incapable of reason! An unabated Iran will only result in a future generation of historians one day asking how Obama could have been so naïve about Ahmadinejad’s intentions. They will wonder, aware of Ahmadinejad’s brutality towards Iranian women and children, how Americans could have failed to have foreseen the fate awaiting them once he acquired nuclear weapons.
A Simple Proof: Abrogation of the compulsory Hijab (Head scarf)
Farsi Interview with Sohaila Sadegh, Chair of the Education Committee, National Council of Resistance
Translated by WFAFI, April 13, 2010
This year in the anniversary of the International Women’s Day, like the past years, and particularly because Iranian Women, in the course of recent uprising, played significant roles, we witnessed the anti-women rhetoric of the reactionary clerics and the heads of the Iranian Regime’s. Among all commentaries issued by clerics these days, are the commentaries of the Friday Prayers Cleric, Ahmad Khatami about immodesty and its imminent danger for the Regime, and his request for fining solution for this matter.
A: in your opinion, why the Regime feels threatened by the so-called “Immodesty”? What is this sense of urgency telling us?
Q: These comments, before everything else, express Regime’s immense fear and its desperate need to suppress women more and more. The same women, whose prominent roles in questioning of the legitimacy of this regime, as you accurately noted, have captured the admiration of the world.
Although the cleric-made pretext of “immodesty’ has always been used as a means of creating the atmosphere of intimidation and public suppression for all, and for women in particular, in my opinion, the comments of the Regime’s authorities, including Mullah Khatami’s, are different from their usual comments. The difference is in their emphasis on the sensing of the “danger”.
Well, they are right! Because they are facing a widespread uprising in entire country and in spite of all arrests, executions and brutal repression, it is moving towards further propagation and radicalization.
Yes. This is a moving storm, and women despite being the victims of the barbaric repression of this regime, not only have not turned passive or marginalized, but also through their brave presence and assuming leadership roles in most battle fields, have played their outstanding roles.
Although your questions are more about Regime’s recent comments, but allow me to take the opportunity to clarify that the term “Gender Discrimination” does not really describe what the religious dictatorship has done against Iranian Women so far. This Regime is “anti-women” and has institutionalized this phenomenon in its laws, and indeed, is known by this characteristic. However there is a shining truth, that is, Iranian Women have never surrendered to the religious despotism. This reality stands out shining like the sun, and its lustrous effects have attracted the eyes of the world, even after30 years of fascinating resistance of women in all battle grounds, torture chambers, and execution fields. Their active presence in the leadership positions within the organized resistance, have captured the attention of the world.
Whenever I see this threat that the Regime’s authorities feel from women, it reminds me of this phrase from Mr. Rajavi’s speech at Else court, London, in front of large gathering of the Iranian people.” You have done whatever you could, from humiliation, cruelty, repression, and killing of Iranian Women. But be sure that your tyranny will be dismantled by liberated, free-willed women of the world”.
Q: As a Mojahed Woman and The Chair of Education Committee of Iran’s Council of Resistance, what is your opinion about the forced veiling (Hejab) imposed by Mullahs?
A: Allow me to remind you of some past history. You surely remember the issue of “Compulsory Cover”, through the slogan of “Scarf or Slap” that was brought up and enforced right around the first month of Khomaini’s Government.
In contrast, Mojahedin, an Islamic force, from very beginning, and while Khomeini enjoyed the ultimate popularity and acceptance, and any disagreement with him would have demanded the highest price, publicly and directly announced their disagreement with this repressive, reactionary phenomenon.
During the feminist uprising that took place on the Women’s Day of that year, Mojahed Women who themselves wore scarf, were in the forefront of the protestors. Indeed, what really became unbearable for Khomeini’s Regime was the participation of a progressive Islamic force with his actions causing the disillusionment of the public about his claims of Islam.
It was during the 60s decade that the Mojadedin’s political stance was clearly stated in the Iran’s National Council of Resistance as well, and Mrs. Rajavi has repeatedly referred to them in her numerous speeches.
We are opposed to all kinds of force or imposition in this matter, and we believe any forceful action taken in this regard, would be an insult to the identity and existence of Iranian Women.
Finally, let me mention the fact that the position of every ideology is known by its point of view about women’s issues which is the indicator of the level of its democratic ideas, and a true proof of its quality.
Mrs. Rajavi, at a gathering in celebration of the Women’s Day, in the European Parliament, with the subject of “Women, the Leaders of Democratic Change in Iran” with the reference to this subject, and pointing to the demands of Iranian Women, and the necessity of taking position in this regard by those wishing to have freedom, stated: “ Iranian Women’s demand is, of course, overthrow of the religious dictatorship. But I would just bring up a simple proof that is the abrogation of the compulsory cover which is one of the Iran’s Council of Resistance’s Resolutions issued in the year 1977.
As far as this Regim is concerned, because it is inherently unable to reform, it will never agree to do it. But if anybody is in favor of freedom for Iranians, must defend the minimum freedom, including freedom of women clothing.
31 years ago, Mullahs began their dictatorship by imposing the mandatory cover under the pretext of Islam. We, inspired by the true Islam, emphasize on the necessity of freedom, including the freedom of clothing for women and denounce any sort of force and imposition in this issue. This is the true meaning of Qoranic message of : “There must be no imposing in religion”. Let every woman chooses what she wants to wear or not to wear. This is the minimum freedom for Iranian Women.
To send us your comments or op-ed on relevant topics for future issues, email email@example.com
To unsubscribe or subscribe others to our newsletter, email firstname.lastname@example.org
For past volumes of E-Zan visit www.wfafi.org
Volume 71, April 15, 2010
The E-Zan © 2010