May 15, 2010 VOLUME 72
E-ZAN VOICE OF WOMEN AGAINST FUNDAMENTALISM IN IRAN
To our readers,
Late April, human rights
advocates were stunned to learn that how the Iranian regime was
generously rewarded for its practice of stoning of women,
cold-blooded murder of Neda Agha-Soltan and horrendous death
under torture of Taraneh Mousavi, torture and rape of hundreds
of other just in the past year, coerce women activities to make
public confession to bogus charges, blaming women’s “immodesty”
for natural disasters like earthquakes, refusing to sign or
ratify the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of
Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), defying more than fifty UN
resolution calling on the Iranian government to abide by the
universal declaration of human rights, refusing to allow the UN
human rights investigators to visit Iran among numerous other
instances of appalling and absolute disregard for human rights
in general and women’s rights in particular. In a stunning move
by the UN Economic and Social Council, Iran was accepted to the
United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). What is
even more outrageous is the deafening silence of western
democracies – except Canada and Italy - particularly the Unites
States to block this travesty or at a minimum publicly condemn.
Emboldened by the continued indifference of the International
community, Tehran last week executed five opposition activists
including an Iranian Kurdish women and its courts this weekend
confirmed the death sentence for six opposition activists
arrested in recent anti-regime uprisings and for their
affiliation with Iran’s opposition People's Mujahedeen.
WFAFI deplores the presence of Iran in the Commission which is nothing short of a shameless slap in the face of tens of thousands of Iranian women who have been executed, tortured, and mistreated by the ruling fundamentalist regime in Iran since 1979. It calls on all UN member states to denounce Iran’s membership in the Commission and boycott any CSW meetings with the fundamentalist regime in Tehran. A walk-out campaign in CSW sessions is what the Iranian women expect to see from those countries who uphold women's rights and human rights.
E-Zan Featured Headlines
(UK) – April 16, 2010
Jila Bani Yaghoob, an Iranian journalist-blogger and women's rights activist, has been awarded a freedom of expression award by the global press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Her blog, We are journalists, which records news and social issues, particularly those affecting women, has placed her "in the forefront of the struggle for freedom of expression in her country," says RSF. Bani Yaghoob and her husband, Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee, were arrested in June last year with other journalists during the demonstrations that followed the contested re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian president. She was freed in August but her husband was sentenced to five years in prison. Bani Yaghoub's career has been marked by intimidation and abusive arrests intended to silence her. But she has never bowed to the pressure from the Iranian authorities. She has produced more than 4,000 reports on sensitive issues, such as schooling of women, prostitution, Aids-sufferers, suicide among young people, but also the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.
New York Times – April 19, 2010
A senior Iranian cleric says women who wear immodest clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes. “Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,” the cleric, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, was quoted as saying by Iranian media. Mr. Sedighi is Tehran’s acting Friday Prayer leader. Women in Iran, one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries, are required by law to cover from head to toe but many, especially the young, ignore some of the stricter codes and wear tight coats and scarves pulled back that show much of the hair. “What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?” Mr. Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon on Friday. “There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
– April 22, 2010
Iran has recently published a book about prominent poets from Iran and the world, apparently without including Forugh Farrokhzad, regarded by many as the country's most influential female poet. The book was reportedly published on the occasion of a congress in Shiraz of Iranian and other poets from around the world that was attended by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Farrokhzad, a controversial and modern poet who openly discussed her love life in her poems, was killed in a car accident in 1967 when she was 32 years old. She remains one of the most influential and best-known female poets and many Iranians know her poems by heart. In comments posted on Iranian news websites, Mostafa Omid, one of the Iranian officials in charge of the five-day congress that began on April 17, said that Farrokhzad was not included in the book for "a number of reasons." "We have a cultural diplomacy and a governmental one. Because of that the name of Forugh Farrokhzad -- even though it is known among those who read poetry -- was not included in this book," Omid said. Omid did not provide more details about the reason behind the move, but he added that the book was published following "necessary research and studies" and that the views of poetry experts and Iranian laws were taken into account. Farrokhzad's poems were banned following the 1979 revolution. Later, some of her poems were republished. In her poems, Farrokhzad writes about the plight of women, her unease with the conventional style of life, and her relationships.
Agence France Presse –
April 23, 2010
UNITED NATIONS — Iran, under fire from Western countries over its human rights record, has decided not to seek a seat next month on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, a diplomat said Friday. Bandula Jayasekara, Sri Lanka's deputy UN ambassador, told AFP that Iran informed the Asian group at the United Nations it would not take part in the annual secret-ballot vote in the General Assembly for new members of the 47-member council. Iran's UN mission did not immediately confirm the move and it remained unclear why the Iranians may have decided to withdraw. But Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Tehran apparently did so "in the face of mounting global opposition due to its abysmal human rights record." "And that shows international pressure can help put states with better records on the council," she added.
– April 26, 2010
Iran has confirmed it will no longer run for a seat on the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council. Instead, it aims to become a member of an international women’s rights body. Iran’s bid to win one of four HRC seats earmarked for Asia had drawn strong opposition from rights campaigners already critical of the presence of countries with poor rights records – including China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia – on the 47-member body. Iran’s withdrawal means that the remaining candidates for the four Asia seats – Qatar, Malaysia, Thailand and the Maldives – are all but assured of success when the full 192-member U.N. General Assembly on May 13 elects 14 HRC members. Iran made the decision to end its candidature after discussions with other members of the U.N.’s Asia group, Tehran’s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Sunday. Hinting at a quid pro quo, he said that Iran would instead be a candidate for an international women’s rights body – “and all Asian countries will support our membership.” It was not immediately clear which body he meant. Iran’s ILNA news agency quoted Mehmanparast as saying the “Women’s Human Rights Council” while IRNA quoted him as saying the “International Commission for Protection of Women’s Rights.” There are two main U.N. bodies relating to women’s rights. The 23-member Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) holds elections in June for 11 vacancies, but the nomination list closed in March and Iran is not on it. The 45-member Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will have two Asia seat vacancies early next year, when Pakistan’s and Cambodia’s terms end. Whatever the case, the prospect that Iran – with the support of other Asian states – will take a seat on a body charged with promoting the rights of women is certain to stoke controversy. “Putting fundamentalist Iran in charge of a women’s rights commission is like putting a pyromaniac as chief of the fire department,” Hillel Neuer, director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, said late Sunday. “It’s an outrage, and completely unacceptable.”
– April 26, 2010
Brig Hossien Sajedinia, Tehran's police chief, said a national crackdown on opposition sympathisers would be extended to women who have been deemed to be violating the spirit of Islamic laws. He said: "The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehaviour by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values. In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins. "We are not going to tolerate this situation and will first warn those found in this manner and then arrest and imprison them." Iran's Islamic leadership has in recent weeks launched a scaremongering campaign to persuade the population that vice is sweeping the streets of the capital. National law stipulates that women wear headscarves and shape shrouding cloaks but many women, particularly in the capital, spend heavily on fashions that barely adhere to the regulations. The announcement came shortly after Ayatollah Kazim Sadighi, a leading cleric, warned that women who dressed immodestly disturbed young men and the consequent agitation caused earthquakes. Another preacher warned Tehran's citizens to flee before the inevitable punishment for flagrant behaviour was visited on the city. "Go on the streets and repent for your sins," Ayatollah Aziz Khoshvaqt, one of the country's highest clerics, told worshippers during a recent sermon in northern Tehran. "A holy torment is upon us. Leave town."
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – April 29, 2010
A group of women's rights activists in Iran and worldwide has written an open letter to the United Nations opposing the Iranian government's bid for membership on the UN's Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports. The letter refers to Iranian laws that gender-equality groups say discriminate against women. These include statutes relating to such matters as divorce, child custody, education, and the ability to choose a husband. Women have been "arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws," the letter says. "The Iranian government will certainly use [CSW membership] to curtail the progress and advancement of women." Radio Farda spoke to Shadi Sadr, a women's rights activist and one of the letter's signatories. Sadr explained that for years the UN has asked Iran to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Iran, however, has refused to do so. "Under such conditions, Iran's attempt to join such an institution [as the CSW] is doomed to fail," Sadr said. Iran announced its candidacy for membership in the commission after it withdrew from its bid for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council last week. The UN describes the commission as being dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.
News – April 29, 2010
NEW YORK — Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest." Just days after Iran abandoned a high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is "dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women," according to its website. Buried 2,000 words deep in a U.N. press release distributed Wednesday on the filling of "vacancies in subsidiary bodies," was the stark announcement: Iran, along with representatives from 10 other nations, was "elected by acclamation," meaning that no open vote was requested or required by any member states — including the United States. FOXNews.com learned of the press release only after being alerted to it by Anne Bayefsky director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. The U.S. currently holds one of the 45 seats on the body, a position set to expire in 2012. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not return requests for comment on whether it actively opposed elevating Iran to the women's commission.
– April 30, 2010
The Iranian authorities continue to sentence people to death by stoning. Currently there are at least 11 individuals at risk of execution by stoning. According to Iran’s Penal Code, execution by stoning is prescribed for “adultery while being married”. The Penal Code specifies the manner of execution and types of stones that should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”. This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict pain in a process leading to slow death. In mid-2006, a group of Iranian human rights defenders, mostly women, including activists, journalist and lawyers, began a campaign to abolish stoning. The ‘Stop Stoning Forever’ Campaign aims to save the life of anyone under sentence of stoning in Iran and to abolish stoning in law and in practice. Since the campaign began, at least 15 individuals have been saved from stoning and others have been granted stays of execution. However, in at least three cases, individuals sentenced to stoning have been executed by hanging.
Ottawa Citizen – May 2, 2010
OTTAWA — Canadian officials are outraged that Iran has been elected to a United Nations panel on women’s rights. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said he was “extremely troubled” about the Middle East nation’s human-rights record. Last week, Iran was elected to the Commission on the Status of Women, part of the UN’s economic and social council. Cannon said in a news release that he has “serious concerns” about Iran’s participation in the panel, which is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women.” “We deplore this development but will use Iran’s membership on this body to take the Iranian authorities to task for their systemic human-rights violations,” said Cannon. “Iran’s actions are an affront to the domestic and international human-rights obligations all nations must respect.”
The Guardian - May 5, 2010
An Iranian civil rights activist who feared for her life after being told she would be deported won a last-minute reprieve today and was released from detention. Bita Ghaedi, 34, who fled from Iran to the UK in 2005 to escape a forced marriage, and lived in fear of her family discovering she had a secret lover, was due to be deported tonight. The high court granted Ghaedi interim relief pending a renewed application to apply for judicial review. Her partner, Mohsen Zadshir, from Barnet in Hertforshire, had warned she could face the death penalty, and said he feared she could be murdered in an "honour killing" if she were sent back to Iran. After the reprieve, he said the couple were "very happy" with the decision, and he was now going out to buy Ghaedi some flowers. In a separate ruling , the European court of human rights also put a ban on her deportation, and informed the UK government of its decision. Ghaedi has spoken out against sharia law, forced marriage and human rights abuses in Iran. She has also criticised the regime on TV channels widely available across the Middle East. These actions, along with her public support of the PMOI (People's Mujahedin of Iran), which is opposed to the Iranian regime, are enough to put her life in danger if she is deported, according to Zadshir and her lawyer. In his ruling, Mr Justice Nicol said that given the "very considerable amount of further information which has been supplied, concerning (in particular) the claimant's association with Iranian opposition groups and the subsequent publicity given thereto", the court should hear her renewed application for judicial review.A hearing has been set for 21 July.
– May 9, 2010
Tehran, May 09 - Five Kurdish activists, including a woman, were hanged on Sunday in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison. The Tehran public prosecutor's office in a statement said Shirin Alam-Houli, Ali Heydarian, Mahdi Islamian, Farzad Kamangar, and Farhad Vakili were hanged at dawn. They were convicted of 'Moharebeh', or 'waging war on God', in 2008 for membership in opposition Kurdish groups, including PJAK, and acting against State security. Last week opposition websites published the text of a letter by Ms. Alam-Houli, 29, in which she described the abuse she had suffered during her three years in prison. Ms. Alam-Houli wrote that she had was told last Sunday by Intelligence Ministry interrogators in the prison's infamous Ward 209 that she would only be spared from the death sentence if she took part in a televised 'confession' to denounce her previous activities. “They asked me to repeat what they were saying, and I refused”, she wrote. According to sources from the town of Kamyaran, where Mr. Kamangar was a teacher for 12 years, hundreds took to the streets to condemn the execution despite a large presence of security forces. Mr. Kamangar's lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, told Deutche Welle radio that his client had been sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court during a five-minute trial and denied the due process of law. Iran observers note that the dramatic hike in the number of hangings, including this morning's executions, reflects growing anxiety among officials over a week of anti-government protests that the opposition has called for beginning 10 June.
Los Angeles Times
– May 11, 2010
Reports have surfaced of renewed unrest in parts of Iran and protests at Tehran University after Sunday's execution of four Iranian Kurds, including a woman, and another Iranian activist for alleged terrorist activities. Media reports said Iranian Kurds were planning protests in anger over the executions and the declaration of martial law in the cities of Mahabad and Sanandaj, which have predominantly Kurdish populations. According to the independent Kurdish news website Aweenah, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had made a secret visit to Tehran early Sunday in a last-minute bid to stop the executions. The website said Talabani, a Kurd, had been scheduled to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to ask him to intervene in the case and put the executions on hold. But the executions went ahead, and Farzad Kamangar, Ali Haydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam-Houli and Mehdi Eslamian were hanged after their convictions on various charges, including terrorism and waging war against God, according to Iranian state media... Kurdish activists insist that none of the four were involved in terrorist activities, and the executions have drawn condemnation and criticism from human rights groups. "A regime which relates earthquakes to the way women dress has no credibility when it tries to link civilian activists to bombings," Kaweh Ahangari of the Kurdish Democratic Party was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.
Associated Press – May 14,
TEHRAN, Iran — A prominent hard-line Iranian cleric elaborated on his claim that promiscuity and immodest dress cause earthquakes, saying Friday that God may be holding off on natural disasters in the West in order to let people sin more and doom themselves to hell. The cleric, Kazem Sedighi, sparked widespread derision with his pronouncements in a prayer sermon last month that women who don't dress modesty spread adultery in society, in turn increasing earthquakes. In Tehran's main weekly prayer sermon on Friday, he defended the claim but added some further explanation on why some places are hit more than others. "Some ask why (more) earthquakes and storms don't occur in the Western world, which suffers from the slime of homosexuality, the slime of promiscuity and has plunged up to the neck" in immorality, he said. "Who says they don't occur? Storms take place in the U.S. and other parts of the world. We don't say committing sin is the entire reason but it's one of the reasons," he said. But, he said, "sometimes, God tests a nation. ... (God says) if believers sin, We slap them because We love them and give them calamity in order to stop their bad deeds." "And those who have provoked God's wrath, He allows them (to commit sins) so that they go to the bottom of hell," Sedighi said.
Agence France Presse – May
TEHRAN (AFP) — The death sentence for six opposition activists arrested in protests after last year's disputed presidential election in Iran have been confirmed, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said Saturday. The six were accused of belonging to the exiled and outlawed People's Mujahedeen, the opposition group the Islamic republic's regime calls "the hypocrites." Three were arrested after opposition protests during the Shiite mourning holiday of Ashura last December, Dolatabadi said, naming them as "Ahmad Daneshpour Moghadam, Mohsen Daneshpour Moghadam and Alireza Ghanbari." "Their death sentences have been confirmed, but they have asked to be pardoned," the Fars news agency quoted Dolatabadi as saying. It quoted the prosecutor as saying the death penalty for the other three, Mohammad Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad-Ali Haj-Aghai who were arrested in September last year, had also been confirmed.
Agence France Presse – May 15, 2010
TEHRAN — Iran has sentenced
in absentia award-winning women's rights activist Shadi
Sadr and another fellow activist to jail and lashes over
a protest in 2007, their lawyer told ILNA news agency on
Sunday... The revolutionary court "has sentenced Shadi
Sadr, 35, to six years in jail and 74 lashes for acting
against national security and harming public order,"
lawyer Mohammad Mostafai said. The other activist,
Mahbubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, was also handed a term of
two-and-a-half years in jail and 30 lashes for similar
charges, he said, adding that he has 20 days to appeal
the "heavy sentences." The court had tried the pair,
both currently abroad, on May 8 over a rally in March
2007 outside a revolutionary court where four fellow
feminists were on trial. Iranian authorities arrested
them along with 30 other protesters. Sadr, who is also a
lawyer and journalist, was awarded the Polish Lech
Walesa Prize in September 2009 along with two other
Iranian women for promotion of "human rights, freedom of
expression and democracy in Iran." Both women, who also
back the anti-government opposition, are well-known for
their campaigning to abolish the stoning to death
penalty for adulterers and for writings against Iran's
Sharia-based law deemed as discriminatory to women.
E-Zan Featured Reports
How the hard-working
Iranian women work? How do they live?
An interview by Sara Sadighi, Committee on Workers Rights
Translated from Farsi by WFAFI News Services
April 11, 2010
It’s been a while that I have been looking for an opportunity to chat with her, and learn more about her life, but she was always busy working. She works fast and agile. Her face is only skin over the bones, a dark, spotted skin, just like every other hard-working woman. Despite her inner kindness, she has a harsh language. She can’t bear with the ignorance and humiliation, not even from the school principal who is her employer, and she has to obey his commands.
Just recently, because of the principal’s inattention and ignorance, she spoke to him sharply.
She says: “He has money and he can’t understand. I have a lot of loan to repay. A relative of mine has spoken to the bank manager, and has convinced him not to charge me for the past due penalties. I had to get to the bank today, but the Principal didn’t give me time off. So, I treated him the same way. I can’t tolerate these behaviors.”
And this incident got her in trouble. They transferred her to a different part of the educational complex. She was lucky not to be fired.
She says she is originally from Isfahan and was living in Tehran for years. She has three daughters. She married two daughters off last year, and she says they both got pregnant soon after. “I am not yet over with expenses of the two dowries, now I have to prepare for baby showers”.
“How did you do it? Two dowries are expensive enough, let alone the baby showers”.
-“I took a loan out. I purchased on installments. It’s been three months so far that I couldn’t pay my rent, and the landlord has given me evacuation notice. Now we have to leave our home”.
-“Why are you being so hard on yourself? You are pressuring yourself to go by these traditions. You could have asked them to prepare the baby shower on their own“.
-“It is not possible. Do I let them down in the eyes of their in-laws? No. it is absolutely impossible”.
You need to be women in her situation to understand what she is talking about. She doesn’t want her daughters to feel embarrassed. To be a woman, a house wife living in a feudal patriarchal society, with no job, and a husband who does minimal jobs with the least possible salary…having experienced all the longings and financial hardships, then you wish your daughter will never have the kind of life you have. “It is ok; I bear the hardship so that my daughters can keep their heads up”.
-“What is your husband doing?”
-“He is ill. He is unemployed”.
-“What was his job before?”
-“He was superintendent of a building. It wasn’t that bad. Four years ago they turned our building and its units to a commercial complex and rented them out. They said they didn’t need a superintendent. From the time he got out of work, his mental status changed. He takes a lot of medicines. He can’t work. Since then, I have been working instead. I have worked here for three years”.
-“How much do you make?”
-“This school year I am making $280”.
-“Do you have health insurance?”
-“Just this year they gave me health insurance”.
-“How much do you pay for rent?
-“I have put two $2000 in landlord’s escrow account, and I pay $200 monthly. It is a good house. It is an 800 square feet apartment, located in an old neighborhood in Western Tehran, and looks old and run down from outside, but it is clean and comfortable inside. If we have to leave this place, I don’t think we can find another place as good as this one, if we are forced to leave”.
-“Well, there wouldn’t be anything left from your salary. How would you put food on the table?”
-“We eat whatever we can get. Thanks God, my children are very frugal. They don’t complain. We don’t have any guests, and I save my lunch, and take it home”.
-“What about you? With all the hard work, don’t you have to eat something?”
She is holding her tears back. She can’t talk. Then tears start running down her face. She doesn’t say anything, and furiously washes students’ dirty dishes one by one.
What have I done? What a stupid question. I have hurt her feelings. I have injured her pride. Her underweight body demonstrates what she really eats.
Feeling embarrassed, I hug her and apologize for my ignorance, and tell her that I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings.
I remembered when the issue of Cash Assistance was raised, she had asked the administrative assistant to check the website, and see whether or not she is eligible. Not only she, but no one else from the custodial workers was eligible, because they were ranked in group three, and in the eyes of authorities they made enough money not to be eligible for any aid.
I changed the subject.
-“How many years have you been living in this place?”
_”We moved in here about 10-15 years ago. But I loved our old neighborhood. People were much nicer. I still miss living there. After all these years whenever I go there, my old neighbors still remember me and help me. How did you think I could put together the dowries and baby showers? I bought all the items from the stores there. We still have good credit with them”.
-“Where did you live before?”
_”Shoush and Molavi. Here even if you are dying, no one would help you. Few months ago my daughter’s Mother-in-Law came to our house without prior notice. My daughter called. I had to save my face. Quickly I went out to buy groceries for lunch. I didn’t have enough money. I wanted to buy yogurt, but the shopkeeper didn’t let me pay for it he day after. So I had to pawn my wedding ring at his store for $2.00.
-“Have your daughters gone to school?”
--“They both have high school diploma, but I had to marry them off. The youngest one was accepted at the university in the School of in Accounting, for this year”.
-“Don’t you want to marry her off?”
-“She has suitors, but she says she wants to study. I tell her that she should get married because I can’t afford her college tuition. Then she comes and charms me and sings to me: I am your little girl who kisses and caresses you and keeps you company. Don’t you want to let me study?”
-“ I can’t bear with this. I tell myself that I have to come up with the expenses of her study. She is right. She says: if I get married, you have to pay for dowry and baby shower. Why can’t you spend that money for my education?”
-“ Swear to God I can’t afford to pay the installments any longer. In order to pay the installments, I have to go to people’s houses and do chores for them”.
-“What time do you go home from work?”
-“I leave this job at 4:00pm, and work at people’s houses until 9:00pm. I work for people I know, and every time I make about $15”.
I was about to ask her why her work conditions are so dire and why should she work so much, when the washing of the dishes finished, and somebody called her to clean up children’s toilet that had paper tissues stuck in it.
She hurried towards the bathroom. I looked at her and thought to myself about the real needs of these women. How could we defend their rights?
These strong, determined women, if they have enough knowledge about their conditions, and have the proper ways and means in their disposal, they can easily defend their rights.
But catastrophic financial hardships and inflation, inadequate salary and lack of job security do not even leave her a peaceful moment to rest, let alone a time for sitting back and contemplating and identifying those who are responsible for her misery.
Maybe Iran's Women Really Can Cause An Earthquake
by Golnaz Esfandiari
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
April 30, 2010
I wasn't surprised when I
read the comments by Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem
Sedighi in which he claimed that women who don't dress
modestly lead men astray and even cause earthquakes. In
fact, I was amused, thinking he was being unusually
imaginative in his reasoning.
But I wasn't surprised. After all, I grew up in postrevolutionary Iran, and we used to find statements similar to Sedighi's on state television and in state-controlled newspapers all the time.
I clearly remember how the hijab became obligatory soon after the revolution, ostensibly to help girls and women protect "their chastity," as well as to shield them from all the evil in society. They told us again and again how the hijab was for our benefit and how it somehow made us valuable.
I remember watching television as a child and hearing a cleric explain in very serious terms how women's hair sent special rays directly into men's eyes, making them lustful. He was trying to explain to us why we had to cover ourselves even during the hottest days of summer.
Odd Science Fiction
Although I was very young, his words struck me as some sort of odd science fiction. Even if the story of the rays was true, why did I and my mother, sisters, and friends have to "protect" ourselves? Maybe it would make more sense for the clerics to force horny men to wear dark glasses?
At first, I just thought it was unfair. Later, though, I came to understand that all this was just a reflection of a basic truth in revolutionary Iran. Women are not protected; women are not valuable. Women are second-class citizens, despite all the rhetoric about how women are granted elevated status in Islam and how the Prophet Muhammad loved and cared for women, including his several wives.
We were told that being a good wife and a good mother were the only achievements that mattered for us. Our schoolbooks depicted men out fighting and engaging in adventures of all sorts, while women and girls sat at home, ironing their hijabs and waiting for their men to come home. And, of course, when they got there, the house would be clean, dinner would be on the table, and there'd be a smile on every face.
They told us the hijab was a gift from God that would preserve us as "untouched pearls." We heard lots of beautiful phrases like that.
Many of my friends and I did not buy this line. All we wanted was to get rid of the hijab and dress like the girls we saw in Western media. We knew that some women welcomed the hijab and wanted to cover themselves, and we respected that choice. But we wanted to make our own choice.
Almost every Friday, clerics of Sedighi's ilk would go to great lengths to praise the good women who covered themselves from head to toe. And they would warn against those who refused to do so, accusing them of causing the many ills of Iranian society. It was only a matter of time before they got around to earthquakes.
No, I wasn't surprised.
In recent days people have been posting a video of a cleric leading Friday Prayers in Mashhad, claiming that he said that women who wear makeup will be eaten by reptiles (what would Freud say?). I watched the video and he didn’t actually say that, but he made similar comments just like the ones we've been hearing all our lives.
And despite this constant haranguing, despite the 31 years that have passed since the revolution, despite the fearsome Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Basij militia, the mighty Islamic republic has been unable to compel women completely to wear the hijab. From time to time, the authorities will begin detaining "improperly dressed" women. They will harass them on the streets and even flog them. They will lecture them will all sorts of bizarre reasons why women must respect the hijab.
But within a few days, women again emerge on the streets with very small and colorful headscarves perched atop their highlighted hair. They wear makeup and short, tight manteaus.
So the authorities keep trying. One Friday, women cause earthquakes. The next Friday, it will be something worse.
All these statements say to me is that the authorities are afraid of these women who they have not been able to control after decades of trying. Women now make up more than 60 percent of Iranian university entrants. And more and more of them are showing that they will not accept second-class status, that they will stand up for their rights.
Maybe Sedighi said more than he knew. Iranian women are capable of causing an earthquake -- one that is shaking all those who insist on keeping women under the chador and at home.
Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/R
Your UN at Work: Iran wins a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women
The Wall Street Journal-Europe Editorial
May 3, 2010
Last week Iran won a seat at the U.N.'s Commission on the Status of Women, the mission of which is to "set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide." Call it another example of your U.N. at work.
We're told Iran's victory was due to a dearth of competition for the spot. Heaven forfend the commission should let a vacancy go unfilled, rather than elect a regime that recently announced it would arrest suntanned women, and which has blamed provocative female dress for earthquakes.
Those are just the most recent outrages, but far from the most serious. The world—along with, apparently, the U.N.'s "principal global policy-making body" for equal gender rights—has grown used to Tehran denying women's right to choose their own husbands; the right to protection against violence; and the right to seek custody of their children in the event of divorce. Death-by-stoning for "adulterous" women is another of the Islamic Revolution's contributions to the advancement of women. Iran's penal code doesn't recognize rape as a distinct offense, and allows a man to murder his wife and her lover if he catches them in the act, according to Freedom House.
So it's no coincidence that female activists have been at the forefront of Iran's democracy movement. They have the most to gain and the least to lose from liberalization. According to Iran's Feminist School group, 68 female anti-discrimination activists were arrested in Iran between July 2008 and February 2009, well before last June's fraudulent elections swept other groups into the country's democracy movement.
Iranian women, certainly, can smell the fraud. Consider the letter opposing Iran's appointment to the Commission, signed by 214 Iranian women's-rights activists, both inside Iran and in exile, and endorsed by groups such as "Women Living Under Muslim Law." The letter warns that "the Iranian government will certainly use this opportunity to curtail progress and the advancement of women."
Ending the kind of nightmares lived by Iranian women was precisely what Eleanor Roosevelt had in mind in 1946, when she read an open letter to "the women of the world" that would help inspire the U.N.'s women's commission. Its goals were lofty and remain as important. Reality, as practiced by the UN, has been otherwise.
Iran hangs a little fish
The Washington Times Editorial
May 11, 2010
A year ago, The Washington Times helped bring the world's attention to the plight of Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish school-teacher wrongly accused of being a terrorist by the Islamic regime in Tehran. He spent almost four years of physical and mental torture in Iran's prison system. Mr. Kamangar's suffering ceased Sunday at the end of a hangman's noose. He was 34 years old.
Mr. Kamangar was killed along with four other "moharebs" or "enemies of God," whom the regime said were "convicted of carrying out terrorist acts." Three of the cases were still undergoing mandatory review when the executions were rushed through. Phone connections to Tehran's infamous Evin Prison were cut over the weekend while the executions were prepared and carried out. The regime did not notify the families or defense attorneys of the condemned in advance, as required by law - they learned of the execution from a press release. For a regime that claims to be the instrument of God, it behaved more like a criminal cabal with something to hide.
Mr. Kamangar's crime was being a Kurd. He taught at an elementary school in the northwestern Iranian city of Kamyaran, where he was a member of the Kurdistan Teachers Union and wrote for various underground human rights publications. He secretly taught his Kurdish students their banned language and told stories about their culture and history. He was arrested in July 2006 and subjected to beatings, whippings, electric shocks, malnourishment, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement in cold, squalid cells. His cries of torment were drowned out by loud tapes playing passages from the Koran.
Mr. Kamangar was given a five-minute trial in February 2008. His lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, told The Washington Times by phone from Iran last year that there was "absolutely no evidence against Farzad that connects him to a terrorist group or activity." Farzad, he said, "is a teacher, a poet, a journalist, a human rights activist and a special person." And no such evidence was presented to the court, or was needed for it to make its perfunctory, predetermined ruling.
In his final letter from prison, Mr. Kamangar related the Iranian story "The Little Black Fish," written in 1967 by the dissident teacher Samad Behrangi, which tells the story of a little fish who defies the rules of his community to embark on a journey to discover the sea. Through many adventures, the little black fish finds freedom, but also an untimely death. "Is it possible to be a teacher and not show the path to the sea to the little fish of the country?" he wrote. "Is it possible to carry the heavy burden of being a teacher and be responsible for spreading the seeds of knowledge and still be silent? Is it possible to see the lumps in the throats of the students and witness their thin and malnourished faces and keep quiet? ... I cannot imagine witnessing the pain and poverty of the people of this land and fail to give our hearts to the river and the sea, to the roar and the flood."
Mr. Kamangar wrote, "The Little Fish calmly swam in the sea and thought: Facing death is not hard for me, nor do I regret it."
Iran Crisis Needs a Firm Response
By Ali Safavi
The Huffington Post
May 12, 2010
In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler spouted his "love for peace" in a series of speeches as the Nazis masterfully concealed their real ambitions to wage war. In public, Hitler became all but a peace activist, while in private, the German dictator spent more on Germany's rearmament program than unemployment relief. If we were in London or Paris in the 1930s, knowing what forces of evil Hitler would unleash onto the world, what would we have done differently?
Fast forward to almost 80 years later. On May 3, the president of the only government flouting its nuclear obligations addressed an international conference dedicated to strengthening compliance with those obligations.
In his 35-minute speech, the firebrand president of the Iranian regime defied logic and overstepped all bounds of deceit. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the US to join a "humane movement" to abolish all nuclear weapons, which he called "disgusting and shameful." He also sought to put the world's mind at ease about the nature of his regime's nuclear program by claiming that there was not "a single credible proof" that Tehran had an illicit weapons program.
The five-yearly Nonproliferation Treaty review conference at the UN will discuss ways to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. The 189 treaty members discuss new strategies, for example, on how the International Atomic Energy Agency should be strengthened. But the Iranian regime has persistently and blatantly sought to defy and thus weaken the IAEA and undermine the NPT as a whole. So, granting a forum to Ahmadinejad is not only ironic but disastrous for the aims of the conference.
But, the Iranian regime is no stranger to irony. The misogynist theocracy was just accepted as a member of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. It is baffling how the UN body, which is dedicated to "gender equality and the advancement of women" in the world, could benefit from a regime that, among other things, stones women to death and systematically rapes female political activists in prisons.
These paradoxical developments, however, do not result from the regime's cunning or mastery at diplomatic manipulation. They are rather the undisputed byproduct of the West's ineffective policy towards a malevolent theocracy, where instead of firmly punishing the regime for its flagrant violations of international laws and treaties, the regime is given further concessions and rewards in a foolhardy attempt to convince it to change its behavior.
Prior to Ahmadinejad's visit to New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed hope that new sanctions would be aimed at "changing the calculus" of the regime on the wisdom of its current course of action. The problem, however, is that the regime perceives a nuclear weapon as the only guarantee for its survival in the face of domestic upheavals.
Later at the UN, Ms. Clinton explained, "Time and time again, I think we have demonstrated our commitment to the two-track process, the track of engagement and of moving forward together, and then the track of pressure."
The challenge is that the track of pressure is insufficient and engagement is problematic. The track of engagement has left just enough room for the regime to maneuver and to buy time for its pursuit of a nuclear weapon. The only way to confront Tehran's threats is to stand firm against it.
Both the UN Secretary-General and IAEA chief have highlighted Iranian non-compliance with NPT obligations. International consensus and growing impatience on the issue has even pushed China and Russia to warm up to a new round of sanctions.
In this context, time is of the essence. Although Tehran can block consensus at the conference for an official declaration, the US should lead attempts to adopt an unofficial majority declaration that isolates Tehran, paving the way for tough sanctions at the Security Council next month.
Furthermore, by virtue of a growing international chorus against Tehran's nuclear program, efforts to water down the new round of sanctions should be genuinely pushed back. Comprehensive sanctions against the regime should include measures against its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (domestic suppressive organ and exporter of terrorism), and an oil and gas embargo. As one House Representative recently noted, "There is no excuse for doing business with a tyrannical regime."
But, ultimately, sanctions should not be an end in themselves. Unless Washington pursues options to strengthen Iran's democratic opposition, the regime will only be emboldened. President Obama should set his sights on a strategic Iran policy by removing obstacles on the path of democratic Iranian opposition groups.
This is especially urgent as Iran is facing its most serious social uprising in three decades while economic woes of large segments of the population are intensifying. So, domestic, not international, factors can ultimately force change into the regime's calculus.
The most prominent Iranian opposition leader, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, has called on the West to support democratic change in Iran by the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement. That is the only strategic guarantee to safeguard the world from the unleashing of more warmongering and terrorism by the Iranian regime. After a nuclear arms race, future generations do not deserve to ask themselves, "If we were in Washington in 2010, what would we have done differently vis-à-vis the Iranian regime?"
Ali Safavi is Member of Iran's Parliament in Exile; President of Near East Policy Research.
A chance to stand tall against Iran on human rights
By Roxana Saberi
The Washington Post
May 13, 2010
Shortly after Iran announced that it had executed five Kurdish political activists on Sunday, I received an e-mail from a human rights campaigner in Tehran who knew one of them, asking me to spread the word about the hangings.
"We are truly helpless," she wrote, "and we feel lost."
Iran labeled the five "terrorists," but human rights advocates have said the prisoners denied the charges against them, were subjected to torture and convicted in unfair trials. One of the five, Farzad Kamangar, was sentenced to death after a trial that his lawyer said lasted seven minutes. Another, Shirin Alam-houli, wrote in several letters from jail that she had made false confessions on camera after being tortured. The prisoners' families reportedly were not informed of the executions beforehand.
If the international community fails to condemn such atrocities, Iran's regime will continue to trample on the basic rights of individuals, many of whom have been detained simply for peacefully standing up for universal human rights. It is common for Tehran's prisoners -- including journalists, bloggers, women's rights campaigners, student activists and adherents of the minority Baha'i faith -- to be held in prolonged solitary confinement without access to an attorney as they try to defend themselves against fabricated charges such as espionage and "propaganda against Islam" or the regime.
When I was incarcerated in Iran's Evin prison last year on a trumped-up charge of espionage, I was fortunate that my case received a great deal of international attention. I was not aware of the extent of this attention until the day my interrogator allowed me to lift my blindfold to see a pile of news articles on a desk in front of me. As he read aloud the names of journalism and human rights organizations, Iranian-American groups and others that had been calling for my freedom, I realized he was trying to scare me into thinking that this outcry was bad for me. But suddenly I no longer felt so alone. Friends and strangers were standing with me, and I didn't have to face my captors by myself anymore. I believe the pressure from this international support eventually persuaded Iranian authorities to free me one year ago this week.
Iranian officials sometimes claim that the regime is impervious to outside pressure over its treatment of prisoners or that it reacts negatively to such attention. Indeed, my captors ordered me early on to tell my parents that publicizing my case would jeopardize my freedom. But even though my parents remained silent during the first month of my captivity, Iranian authorities dragged their feet. I later learned that such threats are routine in Iran and that silence has usually harmed, rather than helped, political prisoners.
Some Iranian decision-makers do care what outsiders say about the Islamic Republic. If they didn't, Iran would not have satellite television networks such as the English-language Press TV trying to spread state-sanctioned messages to international audiences. Nor would Tehran attempt to restrict journalists and censor images leaving the country.
Why should those who are free to speak out voice support for Iranians struggling to make their voices heard? Because people everywhere -- even those who hold different ideas about what it means to be free -- share many basic values, such as the right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and of religion; because many ordinary Iranians want a more democratic government that respects human rights; and because what happens in Iran will affect the region and what happens in the region will affect the world.
As the international community focuses on Iran's nuclear program, it should also make human rights a first-tier issue. When the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva next month, Washington and the European Union should lead calls for a resolution setting up a mechanism to investigate human rights atrocities in Iran during the past year. A bigger push should be made to send a U.N. special envoy on human rights to Iran and to aid Iranians, including the many journalists forced to flee their country out of fear of persecution.
But perhaps even more important than government efforts is the outcry of ordinary people worldwide. When everyday citizens speak out against Iran's human rights violations, Tehran has a tougher time asserting that their calls have been masterminded by foreign governments.
Time is of the essence: Several political prisoners are on death row, and a fresh crackdown on opposition supporters is likely as the first anniversary of Iran's controversial presidential election approaches. Regular citizens can demonstrate support for the Iranian people by participating in any of the rallies expected in several cities around the world on June 12. They can also contribute to human rights groups or take part in Internet and letter-writing campaigns to Iranian officials. Such steps, if done continuously by large numbers of people, can make a difference, making clear to Iran that it cannot get away with torture and wrongful imprisonment or stop people from exercising universal human rights.
If these voices are loud enough, they will be heard by Iranians and maybe even by the detainees enduring injustices. Perhaps those prisoners will feel like I did when I learned of the efforts for my release: empowered.
The writer was detained for 100 days in 2009 in Iran. Her book, "Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran," published by HarperCollins, chronicles her experiences and the stories of her fellow political prisoners in Evin prison.
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Volume 72, May 15, 2010
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