Topics of the day:
PO Box 7051
New York, NY 10116
Here are excerpts from the English Section of issues nos. 77 and 76:
A REPORT ON THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE UN COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
The Islamic Republic of Iran participated as a member in the Commission on the Status of Women's (CSW) 42nd session during March 2-13,1998 at the United Nations in New York City to monitor the implementation of Beijing Platform of Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women. The CSW monitored four areas of concern: violence against women, women's human rights, the status of girls and women and armed conflict. The participation of the Islamic regime, a gross violator of the rights of women and girls and a perpetrator of state violence against women, was an affront to women's human rights and equality.
The Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR), the International Campaign in Defense of Women's Rights in Iran (ICDWRI), the International Federation of Iranian Refugees (IFIR) and the Worker-communist Party of Iran (WPI)-U.S. Branch conducted a two-week campaign to expose the regime and gain solidarity among CSW participants in condemning the regime's system of gender-apartheid.
On March 1, 1998, activists attended the Non-Governmental Organizations' (NGO) Consultation facilitated by the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, distributed nearly 1,000 flyers on women's status in Iran to the hundreds of NGOs present, and spoke out against the regime's violations of women's and girls' human rights in Iran.
On Monday, March 2, 1998, the first day of the CSW session, nearly forty women and men gathered at the United Nations to denounce the Islamic Republic and its participation in the CSW and to defend women's rights. The demonstration was also in commemoration of March 8, International Women's Day. Speakers, including Ramesh Ahmadi of ICDWRI, Dorotea Mendoza of Gabriela Network, Maryam Namazie of IFIR, Laili Panahi of CHAIR, Hassan Varash of WPI, and Emily Woo Yamasaki of Radical Women, condemned the Islamic regime for two decades of abuses of women's rights. Homa, a refugee who had fled gender-apartheid in Iran, recounted being beaten due to wearing thin stockings and miscarrying her child as a result. Protestors affirmed the universal rights of women and the impossibility of reform of the Islamic regime. Media coverage of the demonstration was extensive, including Fox 5 television, WFUV radio, Voice of America television, and Arab television. An official Iranian government reporter attempting to spy on the protestors fled the scene when he was photographed.
Namazie was invited to participate in the two-week CSW session after much back and forth. Initially, the UN stated that Namazie had to promise not to "cause any problems" before she could attend. Moreover, the UN would not provide a copy of the regime's National Action Plan on implementing the Beijing Platform of Action (a public document) or the names of the Iranian delegation. Their position was representative of the UN's hypocrisy in feigning defense of women's rights while shielding vile regimes.
During the two-week session, Namazie spoke with numerous non-governmental, inter-governmental and governmental representatives and distributed thousands of information packets and flyers on the situation of women in Iran and several videos on the savage stoning to death of a man and woman in Iran. Though the Islamic Republic attempted to promote its "new" public image under the "moderate" Khatami, its posturing could not divert attention from the regime's gross violations of women's rights. Over 450 NGOs working in fifty countries, as well as the Italian and South African delegates signed a resolution "...condemn[ing] the barbaric act of stoning and the Islamic Republic of Iran for its systematic abuse of women's rights and its unabated suppression, torture and criminal acts against women and support[ed] the struggle of millions of women in Iran for their basic human rights." Organizations which signed a resolution included: Aid Afrique (Guinea), Cambodian Human Rights Task Force (Cambodia), Council for Equality (Finland), European Women's Lobby (Germany), Harlem Women's Alliance (NY), Human Rights Concern (Uganda), Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (Costa Rica), International Association of Women Judges (US), International Federation of Women lawyers (Kenya), International Human Rights Law Group (DC), International PEN (US), Irish Council of People with Disabilities (Ireland), Italian Confederation of Workers Trade Unions (Italy), Socialist International Women (UK), Union Internationale des Avocates (Canada), and the World Confederation of Labor (Belgium).
Though the main Islamic Republic delegate, Zahra Shojaie, attempted to hide behind cultural relativism to excuse the regime's brutal actions and policies, the regime learned full well that the removal of Shojaie's chador and her "philosophical" speech about their world view could not avert the overwhelming condemnation of the regime. The broad support gained by the successful two-week campaign affirmed the universality of women's rights, and that women's rights can only be attained in a free, equal and secular society.
RESOURCES ON WOMEN IN IRAN
The Committee for Humanitarian Assistance to Iranian Refugees (CHAIR) has recently developed two useful resources on women in Iran and gender-based persecution. The first is a Master Exhibit on the Status of Women in Iran which contains 33 English language documents (220 pages) from non- governmental, governmental and inter-governmental sources, law journals, academic publications, periodicals and newspapers. As the only reference of its kind, the Master Exhibit is a valuable resource for refugees, activists, advocates, human rights organizations and documentation centers. Moreover, CHAIR has co-produced "Hidden Faces: Women Seeking Refuge" dealing with gender-based persecution and asylum. The video was developed with several other community-based organizations in New York City who participated in the Education Video Center's (EVC) Community Organizers' Television workshop. For a copy of the master exhibit or video, contact CHAIR/IFIR.
KHATAMI AND WOMEN IN IRAN
Euphoria over Khatami’s election has prompted a barrage of articles praising him and his potential to bring about change in Iran, particularly in the status of women. Economic and political self-interests, rather than women’s rights, however, are at the core of this media misinformation blitz.
Khatami’s advocacy for the "rule of law" is an empty public image maneuver to present the regime and Islamic laws in a more amiable package. Under the new wrappings, however, the same rule of law, safeguarding against deviations from obscene Islamic standards and essentials of the Islamic Republic, is brutally enforced. These futile attempts to salvage the crisis-ridden regime are partially a result of stepped up secular and radical protests within Iran. Those longing for Khatami’s modification of Iran into yet another country where oppression is better packaged to facilitate business as usual, are willfully using cultural relativism to excuse religion’s and the regime’s infringements on women’s rights.
The New York Times is at the forefront of this whitewash. A recent editorial argues that "the ruling clerics would be wise to let Mr. Khatami relax the restrictions," and promotes Khatami as a president who "seems to favor more equality for women." IFIR’s letter to the editor by Maryam Namazie follows:
"Your Dec. 26 editorial "The Courageous Women of Iran" rightly states that Iranian women are a "force impatient for change." However, you erroneously imply that women voted for Khatami because they believed he would deliver real changes if allowed. In fact, a majority voted for Khatami to create a new balance of power that would intensify the regime’s in-fighting and bring the Islamic Republic closer to its demise. Khatami like other "moderate" mullahs, is a personification of the Islamic regime. His faction merely promotes different tactics to ensure the maintenance of a system of state- sponsored violence and gender-apartheid.
"The Iranian people, like people everywhere, want to live in a free and secular society; they know this is impossible under Islam or the Islamic Republic. Under the rule of the Islamic regime, women are stoned to death for voluntary sexual relations, a girl of nine can be married, women need their husbands’ permission to travel or work, and women political prisoners are often tortured and raped. Clearly, settling for "relax[ed] restrictions" and "more equality" denies Iranian women their universal human rights."
Forward of Urgent Action Alert issued by Sisterhood Is Global Institute.
U R G E N T A C T I O N A L E R T
IRAN'S PARLIAMENT AUTHORIZES GENDER SEGREGATION OF HEALTH SERVICES & CENSORSHIP OF WOMEN'S ISSUES April 24, 1998
Iran's parliament, the Islamic Consultative Assembly, on Wednesday gave initial approval to a law requiring hospitals to fully segregate all health services offered to men and women. This move at widening the system of gender apartheid puts women's health in severe jeopardy because there are not enough women doctors across the country to attend to women's needs. The regime must be stopped from putting in danger the health of 30 million women by taking away their access to health care.
Recently, the parliament also passed a law that prohibits the press from using pictures of women, even when fully veiled, on the publication's front page. The law also makes illegal discussions of women's issues or rights outside of the requirements of the Shari`a (Islamic law) as interpreted by the ruling clerics. This law will endanger activists, journalists, writers, publishers, in fact any one who seeks to improve women's status.
After the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979, it instituted forced veiling for women under the penalty of flogging and imprisonment, and gender segregation in all public spaces. It excluded women from numerous fields of study and employment, nullified the family protection law that gave women rights within the family, reduced the minimum legal age of marriage for women to nine, and passed a penal code that includes stoning of women suspected of adultery. Despite the regime's oppressive measures, women resisted and forced it to withdraw in certain areas. It has now begun once again to extend the parameters of its gender apartheid policies.
In 1997 President Khatami was elected to office by the overwhelming votes of women who expected him to ease the policies of gender apartheid. However, nothing tangible has yet occurred. On the contrary, the tension between civil society and the regime is increasing. The regime has consistently tried to limit women's freedom of movement and access to public institutions. Women have been resisting and fighting back. In the past, the regime has had to withdraw in many areas under pressure from domestic and international forces. It is imperative that the international community makes its position known on this issue in support of Iranian women.
Saturday May 2, 1998 12 Noon
Assemble on Third Street between Avenue A and Avenue B at the Latino Workers Center 191 E. 3rd Street (F train to 2nd Avenue or #14A bus to 3rd Street) March to Astor Place (1:30p.m.) and then to Union Square (about 2:30p.m.)
Demand: A right to a decent job and a living wage for all! Full and free rights of all workers to organize! Stop government repression of labor organizations in the US and abroad! End discrimination against immigrant workers and in the workplace! Amnesty for all immigrants! End workfare - No forced labor!
For more information, call 212-473-3936