Arseh Sevom http://www.arsehsevom.net Promoting vibrant civil society Fri, 12 Sep 2014 11:22:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Mahsa Shekarloo: Women’s Rights Activist, Internet Pioneer http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/09/mahsa_shekarloo/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/09/mahsa_shekarloo/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 17:13:47 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=9173 Arseh Sevom — Mahsa Shekarloo, women’s rights activist, writer and editor, translator and founder of the online feminist journal Bad Jens, died Friday September 5, 2014, surrounded by her family. She had been stricken with an aggressive form of cancer. Arseh Sevom joins others around the world in mourning her ...

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Arseh Sevom — Mahsa Shekarloo, women’s rights activist, writer and editor, translator and founder of the online feminist journal Bad Jens, died Friday September 5, 2014, surrounded by her family. She had been stricken with an aggressive form of cancer. Arseh Sevom joins others around the world in mourning her loss and celebrating her life.

Mahsa was thoughtful, skeptical, and insightful. In life she would not have wanted to be the center of so much attention. Her passion and work were not done to fulfill a personal ambition or to place her front and center in the public spotlight. She worked because of her great curiosity, her dedication to human rights and the women’s movement, and her belief in the possibility of change.

Mahsa was born in Tehran but spent most of her childhood in Chicago. She moved back to Iran in the early 2000s right after graduating from college. It was there that she discovered a place she could love and a society she could contribute to. In an article about Mahsa, The Feminist School wrote [fa]:

She was part of a group of people from the Iranian diaspora who returned to Iran to employ their cultural capital and experience and contribute to the culture. She joined a group of Iranian women who were taking advantage of that moment when there was a small opening in the political system to expand the women’s movement and the discussion of equality of men and women in the culture.

Mahsa also translated two of Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi’s books: Women’s Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and The Story of One Woman.

The streets are our stomping grounds

In February of 2014, Mahsa worked to help promote and organize One Billion Rising-Iran, which was part of a global day using dance to call attention to the issue of women’s rights. This is how the group described itself:

For us in Iran, One Billion Rising is one more way for diverse social groups to unite and demand justice and equality for women in the home and in society. We take to the streets because they form the fabric of our lives. The streets are our stomping grounds. They hold our memories, pain, and joys. They are where we find our allies and friends and where we become aware of dangers. They are where we take refuge when our homes become unsafe. It is on the streets where we have discovered our voices and also have lost our lives. The streets are where we articulate our demands and where we haggle and negotiate, not just with the merchant, but also with the ruler and sovereign. Stomping in the streets is a way for us to arrive at reconciliation, equality and social justice for all. This action is for those who want joy for themselves and for others, and who are willing to stomp for it.

This video is one of several created by participants:

Bad Jens

In a 2007 interview with Qantara.de, Mahsa discussed the online feminist journal she founded: Bad Jens. The objective of the journal was to give a voice to feminists inside Iran, to provide a way to break out of the isolation that they felt, and to challenge Western assumptions.

Mahsa stated:

“…I think most Westerners, when they come to Iran, assume that Iranian women, Muslim women, are among the most oppressed women in the world – which may or may not be true. But the point is that – because they come in with that assumption – everything they see, when they’re here, seems to confirm that.

Recently, since Khatami is president, a different kind of stereotype, a different image is: “the young girl with her veil pulled back and with a lot of make-up and tight clothes” – glamorizing that almost. Well, it’s important what these girls are doing, that is one thing; but making it sound like it’s the best social revolution to occur is something else, this is simply not the case.”

And if Westerners do have positive images of Iranian women, they’re always represented as these heroines. So it’s these two extremes: on the one hand Iranian women are portrayed as very passive and as victims, and one the other they are just an exception, breaking all the rules and social norms. So what gets lost is everything in between.”

Internet Pioneer

The bi-lingual journal Bad Jens was a revelation for many. At the time of its launching, there were few sources for the English writings of people living and working in Iran. Iranians like Mahsa used the internet to create a public forum denied by restrictive policies on other platforms such as printed magazines and newspapers.

The internet was adopted quite early in Iran. It opened a space for challenging governmental doctrine, engaging in debate, and personal expression.

In the early 2000s, Persian was the second most used language on the Internet. Blogging from Iran was a phenomenon. A nation of storytellers had discovered a format for their stories. They used it to talk about everything from Harry Potter to Islamic law to women’s rights. Those first self-published words were a revelation. Iranians had found a way to connect with each other on a personal and political level that had been restricted for a number of years. A study of Iran’s internet done in 2008 showed that people with differing views engaged and overlapped with one another. Commenters on blogs engaged each other in discussion. In their paper, Iran’s reformists and activists: Internet exploiters, Babak Rahimi and Elham Gheytanchi wrote:

The impact of the Internet on Iranian politics resembles the introduction of earlier information technologies, such as the telegraph in the late nineteenth century and the cassette tapes in the 1970s, which also created new individual and social spaces for dissent.

The online journal Bad Jens contributed to the discussion with thoughtful articles, fiction, and poetry.

In a 2005 interview with ABC news Mahsa said:

“You use any available avenues that you have. One reason why the internet is so popular here is precisely for that reason. It’s an independent space, relatively accessible or at least relatively uncontrolled.”

Our Conscience

For many working on issues of human rights and women’s rights, Mahsa was a kind of conscience. She believed in the power of small changes beginning with the family and inside small social groups. Positive change could be more sustainable if it took root in the family and was not imposed from outside.

She lived her life practicing her ideals in all ways: as a friend, a mother, and a colleague. This is why her loss is such a tragedy for so many of us. What we gained from her comradery was more than she herself knew or could imagine. This is because her work as an engaged intellectual and defender of rights went beyond the professional. She showed many that the effects of living a life dedicated to small, changes could have a broad impact and create lasting change.

It should come as no surprise to us that tributes to her are coming in from so many directions and from all over the world. Her sharp intelligence, warmth and generosity of spirit was admired by many. She showed the right mix of skepticism, realism, and optimism when it came to designing projects and taking action.

In a bio of Mahsa available online, we read that

“…when she’s not helping others help Iranian women, she’s secretly sowing post-colonial feminist thought among her unknowing colleagues.”

Mahsa Shekarloo was an internet pioneer, a women’s rights activist, and a friend. She will be missed.

Photo of Mahsa Shekarloo by Kamran Ashtary. You can share it with attribution, but don’t sell it.

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Iran: Halt Execution of 33 Sunnis http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/iran-halt-execution-of-33-sunnis/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/iran-halt-execution-of-33-sunnis/#comments Fri, 13 Jun 2014 09:44:17 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=9130 Arseh Sevom joins 18 other groups and individuals calling for a halt to the execution of 33 Sunni Muslim men in Iran and a moratorium on all executions.

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Arseh Sevom joins 18 other groups and individuals calling for a halt to the execution of 33 Sunni Muslim men in Iran and a moratorium on all executions.

Iran: Halt Execution of 33 Sunnis

Accounts of Cases Raise Fair Trial Concerns

(June 12, 2014) — The Iranian authorities should quash the death sentences of 33 Sunni Muslim men, including possibly a juvenile offender, convicted of “enmity against God” (moharebeh), and impose an immediate moratorium on all executions, 18 human rights organizations and one prominent human rights lawyer said today. The call comes amid serious concerns about the fairness of the legal proceedings that led to the men’s convictions and the high number of executions reported in Iran during the last year, including the June 1, 2014 hanging of a political dissident, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, on the same charge.

Information the rights groups gathered suggests thatmost of the men werearrested by Intelligence Ministry officials in the western province of Kordestan in 2009 and 2010, and held in solitary confinement during their pretrial detention for several months without access to a lawyer or relatives. They are believed to have been tortured or otherwise ill-treated during that time.

Thirty one of them were tried by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, while one was tried by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran and another by a branch of the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj. They were sentenced to death after being convicted of vaguely worded national security offenses including “gathering and colluding against national security,” “spreading propaganda against the system,” “membership in Salafist groups,” “corruption on earth,” and “enmity against God.” The latter two charges can carry the death penalty.

These vaguely worded offenses in Iran’s Islamic Penal Codedo not meet the requirements for clarity and precision that international law outlines for criminal law. The authorities, routinely invoke them to arrest and imprison people who have peacefully exercised their rights to freedom of religion, expression, association, and assembly, or to accuse activists of supporting violent or armed opposition groups without evidence, the rights groups said.

Information gathered by the rights groups suggests that all of the men deny any involvement in armed or violent activities and maintain that they were targeted solely because they practiced or promoted their faith, such as taking part in religious seminars and distributing religious reading materials. Sunni Muslims are a minority in Iran, where most Muslims follow the Shia branch of Islam. Most Iranian Sunnis are from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, and have long complained of state discrimination against them in both law and practice.

Recent changes to Iran’s penal code require the judiciary to review the cases of the 33 men, and vacate their death sentences on the charge of “enmity against God” if they had not personally resorted to the use of arms. The execution of Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, despite no evidence being presented to the court that he had used arms, suggests that Iranian authorities appear not to implement new provisions of the penal code that could save the lives of these 33 men, and others on death row on the charge of “enmity against God.”

According to his national identity card, at least one of the defendants, Borzan Nasrollahzadeh, is believed to have been under 18 at the time of his alleged offense, which would prohibit his execution under international law, including under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Iran is a party.

Among the group are four men — Hamed Ahmadi, Jahangir Dehghani, Jamshid Dehghani and Kamal Molaee — accused of killing Mullah Mohammad Sheikh al-Islam, a senior Sunni cleric with ties to the Iranian authorities. The men have denied the accusation, saying that they were arrested between June and July 2009, several months before the sheikh’s killing, in September. The Supreme Court upheld the death sentences in September 2013, and the sentences have been sent to the Office for the Implementation of Sentences, the official body in charge of carrying out executions. The men are considered to be at imminent risk of execution.

The Supreme Court also confirmed the death sentences of four other members of the group — Seyed Jamal Mousavi, Abdorahman Sangani, Sedigh Mohammadi and Seyed Hadi Hosseini, the rights groups reported. The other 25 men remain on death row pending review by the Supreme Court. Most of them are believed to be held in the Raja’i Shahr and Ghezel Hesar prisons in the city of Karaj. One, Seyed Jamal Mousavi, is reportedly in Sanandaj Prison in Kordestan province.

The rights groups are concerned that authorities sentenced the 33 men to death after trials during which basic safeguards, such as rights of defense, were disregarded, in contravention of international fair trial standards. Information gathered by the groups indicates that at least some of the men were denied access to a lawyer of their own choosing before and during their trials, in breach of Article 35 of the Iranian Constitution, which guarantees the right to counsel.

Their court­-appointed lawyers were not allowed to see them in prison and did not have access to their files, according to information gathered by the groups. A few of the men have alleged that they met their lawyers for the first time a few minutes before the start of their trials. The court proceedings were held behind closed doors and reportedly lasted only between 10 to 30 minutes.

Some of the men also alleged that the judiciary handed down their death sentences based on incriminating statements they were forced to sign under torture and other ill-treatment, in violation of Article 38 of the Iranian Constitution, which prohibits all forms of torture “for the purpose of obtaining confessions.” Several alleged in open letters that they were physically and psychologically abused during their detention. One of the men, Shahram Ahmadi, wrote:

 “Officers of the Revolutionary Guards kicked me in the head and face, causing my nose and head to break…I did not receive any treatment for my broken nose…and I currently have breathing difficulties as a result… [My] interrogator knew that I had been injured [in a previous incident of mistreatment]. He purposely punched me in my stomach and I began bleeding heavily from my old wounds. I was hospitalized in Sanandaj Hospital under a fake name… later my wounds became infected but they refused to give me medication.”

The rights groups have found no information indicating that there was any investigation into these allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, contrary to Iran’s domestic law and international law. Article 578 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code provides for the punishment of officials who torture people to obtain confessions. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a party, prohibits the use of torture and other ill-treatment.

The irregularities reported in the men’s trials would also violate the fair trial provisions of Article 14 of the ICCPR, which include the presumption of innocence, adequate time and facilities to prepare one’s defense and to communicate with a lawyer of one’s choosing, and not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess guilt. The UN Human Rights Committee has stated that: “In cases of trials leading to the imposition of the death penalty scrupulous respect of the guarantees of fair trial is particularly important.”

In view of the apparently flawed legal proceedings, these 18 human rights groups and one prominent human rights lawyer urge the Iranian authorities to immediately halt the execution of these men and quash their sentences. Authorities should, at the very least, grant these men retrials in proceedings that comply with international standards of fair trial, without recourse to the death penalty.

The 33 men are, in an alphabetical order: Hamed Ahmadi, Shahram Ahmadi, Alam Barmashti, Jahangir Dehghani, Jamshid Dehghani, Seyed Shaho Ebrahimi, Varia Ghaderifard, Mohammad Gharibi, Seyed Abdol Hadi Hosseini, Farzad Honarjo, Mohammad Keyvan Karimi, Taleb Maleki, Kamal Molaee, Pouria Mohammadi, Keyvan Momenifard, Sedigh Mohammadi, Seyed Jamal Mousavi, Teymour Naderizadeh, Farshid Naseri, Ahmad Nasiri, Borzan Nasrollahzadeh, Idris Nemati, Omid Peyvand, Bahman Rahimi, Mokhtar Rahimi, Mohammadyavar Rahimi, Abdorahman Sangani, Amjad Salehi, Behrouz Shahnazari, Arash Sharifi, Kaveh Sharifi, Farzad Shahnazari, and Kaveh Veysi.

Iran remains the second largest executioner in the world, after China. In 2013, according to Amnesty International figures, the Iranian authorities officially acknowledged 369 executions. However, reliable sources have reported that hundreds of additional executions took place in 2013, bringing the total to over 700. According to Amnesty International, as of May 25, 151 executions during 2014 have been acknowledged by the authorities or state-sanctioned media, while reliable sources have reported at least 180 additional executions, for a total of 331.

The rights groups are:

 Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

Justice for Iran

Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

Arseh Sevom

Association for Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran

Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G)

Baloch Human Rights Organization

Center for Combating Racism & Discrimination against Arabs in Iran

Centre for Supporters of Human Rights

Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM)

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Iran Human Rights

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center

Step by Step to Stop Death Penalty (LEGAM)

Mehrangiz Kar

Nobel Women’s Initiative

Siamak Pourzand Foundation

United for Iran

 

For more information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Kamran Ashtary, Executive Director Arseh Sevom
kamran.ashtary@arsehsevom.net
+31 6 4659 3979

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Highlights from Arseh Sevom, June 2014 http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/highlights-from-arseh-sevom-june-2014/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/highlights-from-arseh-sevom-june-2014/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 14:41:14 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=9089 Arseh Sevom's monthly newsletter presents some highlights from our site, plus news about the organization. The June version comes on the heels of an honorary mention for the Prix Ars Electronica and the publication of our 2013 annual report.

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Arseh Sevom — It’s been a busy time at Arseh Sevom. We received an honorable mention for the Ars Electronica Digital Communities award. We redesigned our website to make it easier to find content. We issued the 2013 annual report. Despite some setbacks, everyone at Arseh Sevom has put in extra volunteer time to make sure we can continue to grow and flourish. The team kept writing, working on projects, and building our networks.

Annual Report 2013

2013 Annual Report

Board President Bert Taken had this to say in the opening letter for Arseh Sevom’s 2013 Annual Report:

“Civil society is pushing the door open wider. Every day people in Iran are working for a better society. They are raising their voices against environmental degradation, forced hijab, and poverty. They are working to make sure medication reaches people in need. They are fighting for justice and demanding their rights.”

In 2013, Arseh Sevom saw a 125% increase in website visitors. We created 4 important publications in Persian covering elections, the Cyrus Cylinder and the origin of human rights, writing and style, and 100 Iranian NGOs.

Arseh Sevom is pleased to announce that we have received an honorary mention from Ars Electronica for our digital work. Arseh Sevom was one of 2,703 projects from 77 countries nominated for consideration for a Prix Ars Electronica prize in 2014.

http://prix2014.aec.at/prixwinner/13533/

Prix Ars Electronica: Honorable Mention for Arseh Sevom

Ars Electronica Golden Nicas

Ars Electronica Golden Nicas

Prix Ars Electronica is the oldest and most well-known competition for media art in the world. Awards are issued for several categories. Arseh Sevom was nominated for the Digital Communities award. In that category, the Golden Nica (the name of the award for the top winners), two awards of distinction, and twelve honorary mentions were given. Arseh Sevom was given an honorary mention.

It was a great honor for Arseh Sevom to receive a nomination, and an even greater honor to be recognized with an honorary mention. We were especially honored to be in such good company for the Digital Communities award. Other honorary mentions in our category include Global Voices and Syria Untold. The Golden Nica award was given to Project Fumbaro Eastern Japan, a grassroots volunteer platform in Japan, designed to deal with the needs that arose after the 2011 earthquake.

Our New Site

Over the past few months, Arseh Sevom worked on creating a site that would be easy to use, responsive, and highlight content in a way that made it more useful and accessible. In June, we launched the new site. Make sure to take a look and let us know what you think.

This month, we urge you to read an archived interview with Antonia Bertschinger. At the time of the interview, she was working with the Swiss section of Amnesty International. She had this to say about human rights work and why it attracted her:

“I always knew I wanted to work in an international environment and had some vague notion of humanitarian or human rights work. My studies were quite idealistic and humanist and removed from political reality. One thing that has really shaped me in all these years is a kind of intellectual strictness, the ability to find a principle and think it through to the end. I think this is really important in human rights work. This developed in my thinking and even in my personality removed from actual human rights work.

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Iran is Not Done Surprising Us http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/iran-is-not-done-surprising-us/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/iran-is-not-done-surprising-us/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 07:03:50 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=9026 2013 was a busy year for Arseh Sevom. It was a year of collaboration, partnerships, and exploration. In 2013, we brought eighteen people together to discuss civil society in Iran and create a strategy for moving forward as an organization more effectively. We did this by spending a significant amount of time mapping out Iran’s civil society, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, talking to civil society actors and organizations inside as well as outside Iran.

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Dear Readers,

A year ago I wrote, “Iran is not done surprising us, of that I am sure.” I am sure many of you would agree that those words are still true.

The door that was closed to civil society opened just a crack with the surprising first round election of Hassan Rouhani. His election raised the hopes of many and echoed the widespread aspiration of people in Iran to meaningfully engage with the world community.

Civil society is pushing the door open wider. Every day people in Iran are working for a better society. They are raising their voices against environmental degradation, forced hijab, and poverty. They are working to make sure medication reaches people in need. They are fighting for justice and demanding their rights.

The new administration was quick to put forward a citizen’s rights document. Even so, executions proceeded at a rapid pace and minorities continued to feel the brunt of the government’s oppressive policies. The work of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran has never been more important than it is now. The work done by the Special Rapporteur supports that of rights activists inside the country who are risking their freedom to challenge violations and defend the vulnerable. Without domestic efforts, the international community can do little.

2013 was a busy year for Arseh Sevom. It was a year of collaboration, partnerships, and exploration. In 2013, we brought eighteen people together to discuss civil society in Iran and create a strategy for moving forward as an organization more effectively. We did this by spending a significant amount of time mapping out Iran’s civil society, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, talking to civil society actors and organizations inside as well as outside Iran.

In 2014 and 2015, we want to hear more from you, our readers. Talk to us. Let us know what help you need and what we can do better. We’re listening.

Bert Taken
Board President, Arseh Sevom

Download the full report [pdf]
Amsterdam, May 2014

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Arseh Sevom Receives Prix Ars Electronica Mention http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/arseh-sevom-receives-prix-ars-electronica-mention/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/06/arseh-sevom-receives-prix-ars-electronica-mention/#comments Tue, 03 Jun 2014 18:39:43 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=9016 Arseh Sevom receives honorary mention for its work building digital communities. Read more.

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Prix Ars ElektronicaArseh Sevom is pleased to announce that we have received an honorary mention from Ars Electronica for our digital work. Arseh Sevom was one of 2,703 projects from 77 countries nominated for consideration for on of the Prix Ars Electronica in 2014.

The prizes will be awarded at the Ars Electronica Gala in the Brucknerhaus in Linz on Friday, September 5, 2014. For more information click here.

We’re especially honored to be in such good company for the Digital Communities award.

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The Day I Became a Feminist http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/04/the-day-i-became-a-feminist/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/04/the-day-i-became-a-feminist/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 16:28:04 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=8964 Arseh Sevom--Feminism is essentially the idea that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. "The notion of freedom for men is not reality in Iran as long as women are not equal" Safoura Elyasi writes. She spoke to several Iranian male activists about their relationship to feminism. One told her: "A lot of people think that women are not currently in the right situation to be treated equally, so we should not extend equality to them. Equality needs to be in the act. It’s related to power. This idea that women are not ready for equality so they should not have it is flawed. In addition to civil actions, we need underlying cultural changes." In part one of a two part article, we hear from three different men.

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Equality is in the actArseh Sevom–Feminism is essentially the idea that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities. Why is it that many who care about equal rights do not identify as feminists? This is a question we often ask each other in the Arseh Sevom offices. “The notion of freedom for men is not reality in Iran as long as women are not equal” Safoura Elyasi writes. She spoke to several Iranian male activists about their relationship to feminism. One told her: “A lot of people think that women are not currently in the right situation to be treated equally, so we should not extend equality to them. Equality needs to be in the act. It’s related to power. This idea that women are not ready for equality so they should not have it is flawed. In addition to civil actions, we need underlying cultural changes.” In part one of a two part article, we hear from three different men. (Translated from the Persian)

Activist Men Reflect on Feminism and Equality, Part I

By Safoura Elyasi

There are more young men in Iran identifying as feminists now than there were just a few years ago. Others find themselves increasingly identifying with feminist ideals. While many may not be eager for their wives to have the advantages of feminism, they want their daughters and other women to have more rights

If you view men as part of the problem, playing a role in preventing equality, then it follows that they should be part of the solution as well. We should not be surprised that many men want to be part of the movement for equality.

Just as female feminists have a variety of ideas and levels of engagement, so do feminist men. Men who support equality don’t necessarily share one idea or notion of what it means to be a feminist. They do not always agree on the problems or how they are addressed by different strains of feminism. The notion of freedom for men is not reality in Iran as long as women are not equal.

In Iran, many have accepted the traditional idea of the fundamental inequality of women. They unquestioningly agree that women are weak. A man who identifies as a feminist discovers that he is also seen as weak.

For some men, the struggle for equality is one relegated to the legal sphere. If the laws change, many men believe they will be “freed” from the mehrieh (the (financial) obligation a man has to his wife if the marriage breaks down and which can be demanded at any time during the relationship) as well as from other financial obligations. Others feel that giving women the right to travel abroad will free them from the added bureaucratic burden they face when arranging such documents. From their point of view, the rules are a problem and not the unequal cultural norms underpinning those laws.

A number of men say that they are unashamedly feminist and believe deeply in equality. Feminist men and those who believe in equality often face emasculating comments and attitudes from Iranian society –included. To be a feminist man is extremely difficult in Iranian society. This is why I chose to speak to feminist men – because they experience humiliation from the traditional society and from the women who see them as weak, as beta men who could never be appropriate husbands, boyfriends, or providers.

The notion of freedom for men is not reality in Iran as long as women are not equal.

Mohammad Sharough

Mohammad Sharough

Mahommad Shouragh

Mohammad Shouragh grew up in Ahwaz and currently resides in Tehran. He studied civil engineering and was the secretary of a student association while in university. He introduces himself as a feminist.

I was not raised in an equal family. I was raised in the patriarchy. Nearly all Iranian families are in similar situations. I grew up with a lot of newspapers and books, which allowed me an education not possible in many other families.

My father does not believe in equality, but he isn’t completely patriarchal. I am disabled and had a lot of problems with other children. Because of that, I read a lot and studied more than other children.

SE: Why are you now a feminist?

There is about 18 months difference between me and my sister. I also have two older brothers. Growing up, I realized my sister and I are about the same age, but I can do things and act in a way that is not allowed for her. I asked myself, Why? Why can’t she go to the stores or play in the streets?

When I was in high school, I found this strange. I didn’t approve of the behavior of my older brothers and the way they treated my sister. Sometimes I stood up to my brothers.

Many of the women in our family were beaten by their husbands. I saw women who had husbands with second and even third wives. I saw girls in our neighborhood who were forbidden from cutting their hair. I witnessed classmates in high school bragging about sexually harassing girls in their family.

This had a great impact on me. Most importantly, it made me wonder how can I make a better situation for my sister?

When I was in high school I participated in an 8th of March event [for International Women’s Day]. We got a magazine with texts on feminism, and I read The Second Sex. That began my education as a feminist. I spoke with people and read everything I could.

Research and data were not enough for me. I realized that I wanted to act as a feminist.

In June of 2006, The One Million Signature campaign began. I wanted to become part of the campaign and to work for them. From that time on I’ve been working with them as a feminist.

SE: How does society view feminist men?

There are two sides. On one side is patriarchal society which sees feminist men as traitors. On the other side are women who tease them and see them as weak. They say you just want to flirt, to meet women. They say you are not a man.

First they make fun of you, then they ignore you, then they fight with you.

Now our situation is better than it was five years ago. We have less of this behavior now.

There was some reasons for the negative view of feminists in general. There have been some actions taken by a number of feminists that have not been wise, that do not consider the time or place. Some take actions unrelated to feminism, yet in the name of feminism, which has caused problems for feminism in Iran.

For instance, If you want to have sex with others, it’s not important to me. If you are a feminist who is open about your sexuality, then Iranians think you want to promote free sex.

Some feminists in Iran engage in immoral behavior, saying that it is because of feminism. So if society reacts, many believe it’s because of their feminism rather than the behavior.

Yasser Azzizi

Yasser Azzizi

Yasser Azzizi

Yasser studied law. He introduces himself as a civil society and political activist sympathetic with the left. He lives in a small town near Shiraz. He has a middle class life.

The behavior of my mother and father is unsympathetic to patriarchy. A lot of people in society that we know are intellectuals behave in accordance with the patriarchy. They accept it. For example, my aunts think that there is no reason to change the laws. Their brother is the family provider and they believe they cannot be in an equal system because of their dependence on him.

My family does not think of equality as an ideology. They act according to the ideals or equality because of their situation. They deviate because of norms. Because their behavior is not ideological, they don’t act against me for my beliefs.

Many people unquestioningly  accept their place in society. Because I read so much from leftist literature, I have been affected by its ideas. When you are sympathetic to the left, you must accept equality. As a result, I deeply believe in the equality of women and men.

A lot of people think that women are not currently in the right situation to be treated equally, so we should not extend equality to them. Equality needs to be in the act. It’s related to power. This idea that women are not ready for equality so they should not have it is flawed. In addition to civil actions, we need underlying cultural changes.

I began working in 2006 with the One Million Signatures Campaign. I am not a feminist. I am acting with this group because of my deep belief in equality.

SE: What does society think about feminist men?

The public ignores us. Intellectuals make sexual innuendos about us. They want to make a joke so that no one can call them out on it.

Kouhiyar Goudarzi

Kouhiyar Goudarzi

Kouhiyar Goodarzi

Kouhiyar was raised by a divorced single mother. His mother deeply believes in equality and he believes that it is his mother’s beliefs that influenced him

There is no comprehensive definition of feminism: neither in Iran nor in the rest of the world. I’ve known about feminism since childhood from reading old magazines I found that belonged to my mother and grandmother. This is where I learned about equality.

I am not a feminist, but I believe in equality, and that is what I strive for.

SE: Why do you believe in equality?

I love human rights. I am concerned about the value and generosity of humanity. I think that women’s rights are a sub-category of human rights. In this way, equality is my concern.

SE: How does society think about feminism?

Society finds it ridiculous. But with my personality and my behavior and my actions, I force people to take it seriously. Feminists view me in a very good light. Society and feminism are not looking to each other with trust. I don’t have any special experience with feminism only. I have always been acting as a human rights activist.

 

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Nasrin Sotoudeh: Equality Will Prevail http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/03/nasrin-sotoudeh-equality-will-prevail/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/03/nasrin-sotoudeh-equality-will-prevail/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:18:17 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=8172 Arseh Sevom -- In this exclusive interview with Arseh Sevom editor Mohammad Reza Sardari, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh discusses the very personal impact of her struggle for equality and justice. She tells of a young son who lost his childhood. “I grew up all of a sudden,” he tells her. In 2013, she was released from prison after serving three years of a six-year sentence for her activities defending the rights of her clients. In this interview, she reminds all of us that there is a price worth paying for the achievement of justice and equality.

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nasrin-sotoudehArseh Sevom — In this exclusive interview with Arseh Sevom editor Mohammad Reza Sardari, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh discusses the very personal impact of her struggle for equality and justice. She tells of a young son who lost his childhood. “I grew up all of a sudden,” he tells her.  In 2013, she was released from prison after serving three years of a six-year sentence for her activities defending the rights of her clients. In this interview, she reminds all of us that there is a price worth paying for the achievement of justice and equality.

ARSEH SEVOM: Ms Sotoudeh, can you tell me what your ideal society looks like?

Nasrin Sotoudeh: I have often been asked what my ideal society looks like. All activists ask this question of themselves over and over. My ideal society is a society in which rationality, love, sincerity abound instead of the military force and government intimidation:  a society in which there is respect not only for women’s rights, but also for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities, children, and all people. This is the way we can live together in peace.

AS: What is your dream reality?

NS: I dream of human equality regardless of gender, color, race or any other factor. Equality is not something that happens overnight. Continuous efforts are needed. A woman involved in such an effort certainly leads a different kind of life, but not one that is necessarily worse than another’s. Children with such mothers may suffer in comparison to others, but they do come to understand why they had to endure such hardships.

Reza Khandan with the couple’s two children

AS: How have your efforts to reach your ideals affected your personal life and your family: especially your children Nima and Mehraveh?

NS: You know three and a half years ago, I was sent to prison on political charges. At that time my children were small. Because of my husband’s great parenting, they could bear my three year absence. With his parenting and his untiring efforts to educate our children, my husband showed his lifelong commitment to equality.

During my three-year absence from my family, I saw natural changes in my children. They had grown. My daughter was 11 when I was arrested. Now that she is 14, she knows why her mother was away for three years. I’m suddenly faced with a young  girl who has a rationale for her decisions and my son, who at the time of my arrest could not even understand the concept of imprisonment, is now six years old. A toddler’s mind dealing with the concept of imprisonment, crime, theft, and political offenses, and the mistakes of the police!! And thus, he has been introduced to all these things.

He has lost his childhood. He often asks me, “When did I grow up”? “I grew up all of a sudden,” he says. His memories of me are from prison.

AS: I remember before you worked as a lawyer, you were a children’s’ rights activist. The “Association for the Protection of Child Rights” was established to protect the rights of children and you were one of its founders. Did the rights of your children come at the expense of your ideals?

NS: These stories are, of course, upsetting. But let me share my experience with you and tell you that we do have to pay the price of our ideals. This is an unwanted cost. If you say that it is paid at the expense of my children, I definitely agree with you. And if you say, we have no right to pay the price of our ideals at the expense of our children, again, I agree with you.

Is there a point of intersection between human rights and motherhood?  On International Women’s Day, we have the right to speak about our problems. If a mother is working for children’s rights, she will certainly try to defend the rights of her own child, and if she suffers, the whole family suffers. What should I do? Should this mean that we give up our vision? Definitely not.

As we , in order to empower our children and educate them, impose the difficulty of going to school on them, we, in our turn, should tolerate some hardship ourselves to teach our children that to a price must be paid to get something valuable.

Our share of the cost to achieve justice and equality has simply been “distance” and “nostalgia”.  Just this. In comparison to the ideals we are trying to achieve, it’s not much.

AS: Finally, how do you see the future?

NS: I am a symbol for equality and justice, and I fight for this through my legal practice. As long as I am able, I will fight for these ideals. If they close that path on me, I will struggle to open it with every right I have as a human being.

Of course I am optimistic for the future. I have no doubt that equality will prevail, because without equality you cannot have peace and love, and without peace and love, life is empty.

Translated from the original Persian

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#Iran: Abuse in Soccer Schools, Feminists Speak Out, Economy and Sanctions http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/03/iran-abuse-in-soccer-schools-feminists-speak-out-economy-and-sanctions/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/03/iran-abuse-in-soccer-schools-feminists-speak-out-economy-and-sanctions/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 11:56:08 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=7835 Arseh Sevom--Women's day passes us by and we can look forward to another 364 days dominated by men. Award winning reporterNaeimeh Doustdar wrote for Arseh Sevom: "I know I should be a feminist and am a feminist, yet I wonder why others, men and women, are not. Discrimination is complex, and the struggle is complex. The ideals of feminism are not simply for the benefit of women..." [fa] This week's review paints a picture of a society struggling with difficult issues: rights, abuse, corruption, and poverty.

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Arseh Sevom–Women’s day passes us by and we can look forward to another 364 days dominated by men. Award winning reporter Naeimeh Doustdar wrote for Arseh Sevom: “I know I should be a feminist and am a feminist, yet I wonder why others, men and women, are not. Discrimination is complex, and the struggle is complex. The ideals of feminism are not simply for the benefit of women…” [fa] This week’s review paints a picture of a society struggling with difficult issues: rights, abuse, corruption, and poverty. 

by Peyman Majidzadeh with contributions from Arseh Sevom staff
Why aren't we all feminists
Women’s Day once again passed with a number of Iranian women imprisoned for advocating for or exercising their rights. In “The Day I Became a Feminist,” [fa] a number of men spoke with Arseh Sevom about their experience as feminists. Award winning human rights lawyer Nassrin Sotoudeh spoke to Arseh Sevom about her dreams, her work, and her family [fa].

The most recent round of Iran’s nuclear talks was held in February in Vienna. U.S. Foreign Minister John Kerry said at AIPAC meeting on March 3 that the United States has three conditions [fa] for signing the final document:

–          No nuclear weapons for Iran in the future

–          Pursuing peaceful goals by Iran

–          Full transparency from Iranian side

According to a recent report [en], a Washington think tank is pressing the U.S. Senate to increase funding for the IAEA in fiscal year 2015, which ensures “full and robust international inspections in order to maintain pressure on Iran.” Official documents [en] indicate that Washington provided over 40% of the agency’s budget in 2014. Recently, President Rouhani asked Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to back off on anti-US tough talk [en], saying:

It is very important to formulate one’s sentences and speeches in a way that is not construed as threat, intention to strike a blow.

Rouhani knows that, although some analysts believe the Guards are “cautiously open” to a nuclear agreement [en], the IRGC’s positioning might yet lead to major misunderstandings. Readjusting the position is necessary, but not sufficient. What Iran is missing in its negotiations, some experts believe, is the help of experts on sanctions who are outside government circles to provide insight on how the negotiated terms would play out in practice.

In fear of secondary sanctions imposed by the United States a number of organizations are keeping up the pressure on Iran. Some banks have stopped providing services to Iranian citizens. The Bank of Hawaii, among others, has closed accounts belonging to Iranian nationals [en] irrespective of their place of residence.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in the UK recently launched a consultation into “contract sanctions” [en]. The new sanctions mechanism is an attempt to prevent British courts from enforcing contracts signed with “targeted regimes.” The objective is to

“increase the pressure on repressive regimes or countries engaged in proliferation of nuclear technology and extend the scope of traditional sanctions, to provide disincentives to the private sector outside the EU from doing business with targeted regimes.”

Bypassing sanctions and has led to significant profiteering by individuals and groups inside Iran. During his domestic travels Rouhani brought up the staggering  corruption in Babak Zanjani’s case [fa], which is now estimated at 9000 billion tomans (nearly 3 billion dollars).

Iran is still trying to make new ties with the international community. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi said that Iran and UK had reestablished diplomatic ties [en]. In another report, Iranian Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Reza Nemat Zadeh said that Iran is ready to conduct more business with Germany [en]. The circle of new business interactions also includes the United States. U.S pharmaceutical giant Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) signed a contract for the licensed production of medicine in Iran [en], which is a good step forward especially after Iran’s medicine crisis.

One of the international events attracting the attention of Iranianswas the recent development in Ukraine [en]. While Iran’s state media backs former president Viktor Yanukovych, reformist press and netizens are mostly happy with his ouster. Some Iranian netizens even went one step further and saw basic similarities between Iran and Ukraine. One of them tweeted [fa]:

Why is Ukraine so important for us? Because the political context and civil structure are similar to those in Iran.

The twitter user may be referencing the February 22 release of Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned leader of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, while Iranians demand freedom of their own Green Movement leaders who remain under house arrest.

Last time we reported on the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) assessment on Iran’s economic situation. Two leading American newspapers, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, drew different sets of conclusions [en] from the report: one positive and the other negative. Regardless of the US press’s conclusions, Iran’s economic situation does not seem promising at least in the short run. Some media outlets reported a 15% increase in the budget for the Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation in the upcoming year. This might suggest the growth of poverty inside the country, since the foundation was established with the objective of helping the poor.

A number of economists are criticizing Rouhani’s economic plans, particularly the food distribution plan. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech, expressed concerns that implementing such programs [en]  will lead to increasing populism as witnessed under the administration of Mahmoud Ahmadinaejad. The economist hopes the Iranian government will transform such plans into more effective anti-poverty programs.

Iranians were shocked by reports of child sexual abuse in their  soccer schools [fa]. A twitter user covering the report calling it “unbelievable” [fa]. Although the case is not new, it is so sensitive that almost no one has talked about it in recent years. However, Masoud Shojaei, a player of Iranian National Soccer Team, broke the silence this week, speaking about the subject on the popular TV show “90” [fa].

Last time we reported on birth of the reformist newspaper Aseman Daily. Unfortunately, the daily did not live long. Iranian officials shut down Aseman Daily [en] once again demonstrating their intolerance for dissenting voices.  The official reason for the shut-down is an article which described Islamic “qesas” (retribution laws often resulting in executions) as “inhumane.” A report published by Iran-Emrooz provides an overview of the work of newspapers [fa] since Rouhani took the office. According to the report, four other newspapers were shut down before Aseman.

United for Iran, a team of experts and activists who advocate for an end to human rights violations and support the movement for democracy in Iran, launched the Political Prisoners Database [en]. The database contains information on all Iranian political prisoners and their current situation, which can be very helpful for groups and organizations that are trying to help them. The report also means a lot to the families of the political prisoners in reassuring them that their dear ones are not forgotten. Interesting patterns have emerged, such as the high percentage of prisoners of rights who are from ethnic minorities.

Unlock Iran­, a campaign launched by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, attracted attention from celebrities. Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon tweeted:

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#Iran–Negotiations, Prisoners of Rights, and More http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/02/iran-negotiations-prisoners-of-rights-and-more/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/02/iran-negotiations-prisoners-of-rights-and-more/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 15:09:57 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=7390 Arseh Sevom--Wow, is Iran ever in the news. Nuclear negotiations, prisoners of rights, fertility treatments, and sanctions relief all feature this week. What we didn't include could fill an entire newspaper. Arseh Sevom congratulates physicist Omid Kokabee on the award of the Andrei Sakharov Prize from the American Physical Society and calls for his immediate and unconditional release from prison. We are watching other developments with interest.

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Arseh Sevom–Wow, is Iran ever in the news. Nuclear negotiations, prisoners of rights, fertility treatments, and sanctions relief all feature this week. What we didn’t include could fill an entire newspaper. Arseh Sevom congratulates physicist Omid Kokabee on the award of the Andrei Sakharov Prize from the American Physical Society and calls for his immediate and unconditional release from prison. We are watching other developments with interest.

By Peyman Majidzadeh with contributions from Arseh Sevom staff
Javad Zarif

On February 10, 2014 the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran announced that the efforts of human rights and Internet freedom activists resulted in changes to the sanctions on certain Internet services and equipment for personal use of Iranians [en]. As a result, Iranians can now purchase personal technology products or services made or offered in the US. The lobby AIPAC changed its direction announcing it will not press for new sanctions against Iran [en]. Meanwhile a report shows that Israeli arms dealers tried to evade sanctions on Iran to sell it spare parts for its military aircraft, and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laid out his country’s conditions for recognition of the state of Israel [en]. Zarif said in an interview:

“Once the Palestinian problem is solved the condition for an Iranian recognition of Israel will be possible.”

Just-Access_11-11000-french-960x368

Iran is attempting to make business interactions with France [en]. French automakers lost 11,000 jobs when sanctions forced them to pull out of Iran. It has been a while since Iranian officials have admitted to the country’s economic problems. If the two countries can overcome international concerns, the possible deal could help Iran recover from its economic illness.

It was last week that the International Monetary Fund published its report on Iran’s economy [en]. The evaluation states that years of government mismanagement together with the pressure resulting from international sanctions left scars on the nation’s economy that will be hard to overcome in the short run. In this bad economic situation, Iran’s only choice is to reshape its international business contacts and recover its blocked money. Iran is expecting an influx of oil money from South Korea [fa] starting in March 2014. South Korea will be the second country to pay Iran’s oil money after Japan.

Another scene for Iran’s maneuvering is the new round of nuclear talks [en]. Iran and the world’s six major powers had agreed that the talks, aimed at reaching a comprehensive deal, would begin on February 18 in Vienna amid tempered expectations. Just before the talks, Tehran reaffirmed its call for the United Nations nuclear watchdog to present records used to accuse the country [en] of trying to build a nuclear weapon. What threatens the talks is that the parties will lock themselves into entrenched and widely divergent positions that will make it more difficult and time-consuming later to reach an agreement. Maybe the best way forward is for both sides [en] is to “own up to past mistakes and make amends.” Let’s hope they can generate enough goodwill to reach to a comprehensive and more effective agreement.

The new round of nuclear talks began as the Islamic republic of Iran celebrated its 35th birthday [en]. Former president Mohammad Khatami and President Hassan Rouhani asked people to participate in the ceremony: a request only a few reformists embraced. The 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution was a good opportunity for analysts to review Iran’s post-revolution history. This link [en] provides you with some meaningful numbers on Iran’s revolution.

Unlock Iran protest-UN

Civil society, on the other hand, is making its positive moves while Iran is engaged in interactions with the international community. The campaign Unlock Iran [en] has been launched to raise awareness about prisoners of rights in Iran. In an early morning “pop-up demonstration,photos of prisoners of conscience were displayed in front of the UN building in New York.
Omid Kokabee

One of the prisoners featured in the campaign, Omid Kokabee, is a physicist studying for his second PhD in Texas who was arrested during a visit to family in Iran. A petition calling for his release is available here. Kokabee is a recipient of the American Physical Society’s 2014 Andrei Sakharov Prize “for his courage in refusing to use his physics knowledge to work on projects that he deemed harmful to humanity, in the face of extreme physical and psychological pressure.”

In another significant move, Iranians participated in the One Billion Rising [en] global campaign to end violence against women. The campaign asked participants in different countries to gather on 14 February 2014, and collectively dance to support justice for women. Public dancing is prohibited in Iran, however Iranian participants sent their videos to the campaign’s Facebook page to prove one more time that nothing can stop them from demanding their rights.

Iran’s domestic scene also marked birth of a new reformist newspaper, Aseman Daily [fa], this week. A team of well-experienced and skilled journalists have come together to feed hungry minds with some portion of the information they so desperately seek. After a while of being a weekly journal, Aseman is now facing a new level of challenges as a daily.

Iran has transformed itself into the fertility treatment capital of the Muslim Middle East [en], with more than 70 fertility clinics throughout the country. It attracts people from all over the region.

Iran cannot keep information doors closed to its people while being one of the most populated countries in the region. More births means more youth in the near future. And more youth means a higher need for information and education. In such a situation, let’s wait and see what the new government has in mind with the controversial project of National Internet [en]. Does it intend to limit people’s access to the free flow of information? Is it able to do so in the first place? No one can ever underestimate the power of people, especially when it comes to the needs of the youth.

It seems the news about Iran has no end. Here are some suggested links regarding the review just provided. Feel free to explore!

Mann: Iran-G5+1 talks held in good atmosphere [en]

Iran says may send forces into Pakistan territory for abducted border guards [en]

Supreme Leader says N-talks would lead nowhere but he would not oppose [en]

Iranian bank sues U.K. for $4 billion over business lost to sanctions [en]

Iran names 8 banks for transferring frozen assets [en]

70 MPs seek to question Zarif over Holocaust remarks [en]

U.S. congressmen back diplomacy with Iran [en]

Iran’s forgotten prisoners, by Mansour Osanlou [en]

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#Iran — I’m Sorry, So Sorry, #Rouhani Apologizes on State TV http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/02/iran-im-sorry-so-sorry-rouhani-apologizes-on-state-tv/ http://www.arsehsevom.net/2014/02/iran-im-sorry-so-sorry-rouhani-apologizes-on-state-tv/#comments Mon, 10 Feb 2014 16:24:49 +0000 http://www.arsehsevom.net/?p=7207 Arseh Sevom – There are times when the sword is mightier than the pen and on January 29 it was so. Two Ahwazi Arabs were executed without warning, without the chance to say goodbye to loved ones. Their crime: “enmity against God.” This review looks at politics, sanctions, apologies, and executions.

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Death-of-a-poet
Arseh Sevom – There are times when the sword is mightier than the pen and on January 29 it was so. Two Ahwazi Arabs were executed without warning, without the chance to say goodbye to loved ones. Their crime: “enmity against God.” This review looks at politics, sanctions, apologies, and executions.

By Peyman Majidzadeh

Last week, US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published the new Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list [en]. The list includes individuals and companies owned or controlled, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries, and also targeted individuals and groups that are not country-specific. A simple search reveals that the word “Iran” is repeated 5066 times in the document.

OFAC also published the new list of Foreign Sanctions Evaders (FSE) [en]. This one includes foreign individuals and entities that have violated sanctions on “Syria or Iran” — interestingly, Iran and Syria are regarded as a “package.”

France and Iran are looking forward to resuming business interactions [en], while US Secretary of State John Kerry warned French companies [en] on the issue.

In a conference on renewable energies which was held 18th and 19th January in Abu Dhabi, representatives of Iran and Israel [fa] sat behind tables a few meters from each other. Similarly, Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon did not leave the hall when Zarif gave his speech at the Munich Security Conference [fa]. These events are meaningful in international relations given the existing history.

On January 29, 2014, two Ahwazi Arabs were executed in Iran for “enmity against God.” One of them, Hashem Shabani, was a poet who managed to smuggle letters and poems [fa] out of prison. (Forgive our awkward translation of a phrase from one of his poems, which in Persian is filled with alliteration and meter)

A dark night with waves of dread

Imposed on the bud, full stop

But every time I’m reading the swallows

Release is better than the snare, full stop

The world wakes to a ceiling of wind

And then the story dot dot dot

US statements on human rights violations in Iran are a standard of United States foreign policy with the Islamic Republic. Recently Iran’s Basij Militia released a report on US human rights violations [en]. It accuses the United States of using human rights as a tool to wage war on other countries, while violating the same rights at home. Death penalties, violation of prisoners’ rights, racial discriminations, breach of privacy rights, lack of free speech, and violation of the rights of indigenous populations are among the accusations.

It seems that the report is the beginning of a long-term program aimed at responding to the West’s accusations on Iran. Lieutenant Commander of Basij Force Ahmad Esfandyari said that Basij has been planning to establish a system to record the cases of human rights violations by the West [en]. They might look at the West’s own activists who are busy reporting rights violations and still manage to roam the streets freely.  In fact, there is nothing in the report on US violations that was not first reporting by US-based activists. If the Basij want to play the game, they might start by allowing their own human rights activists access and freedoms.

Secretary of Iran’s Human Rights Council Mohammad Javad Larijani said in a ceremony held in Tehran University to unveil the report:

 “Iran is the biggest democracy in the Middle East but the West’s allies in the region even don’t have the least [elements of] democracy, and this shows the West’s deceptive claims about democracy [en].”

Among the elements of a democratic country is the accountability of the ruling power to its constituency; a value which has often been ignored by the ruling elites in Iran. Presidents often go on air to report on how they have kept their promises given in their campaigns but honesty and real figures are manipulated on air.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s TV interview was set for Wednesday, the 5th of February. Rouhani was supposed to give a report on his achievements after almost six months in the office. However, the interview aired after more than a 90 minute delay. During the delay, Rouhani’s twitter account posted a tweet that triggered a flood of social networking reactions among Iranians:

Head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Zarghami, prevented live discussion w/ people on #IRIB1 which was scheduled for an hour ago.

“What is happening?” was the most highlighted question in the minds of Iranian citizens and, especially, netizens. Right after the tweet, Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported Rouhani’s TV interview was not broadcast by the decision of Zarghami [fa]. Later, it was revealed that the reason was a disagreement between Rouhani and Zarghami concerning who should host the show [en]. Rouhani’s office preferred reformist journalist Sonia Pouryamin as the host. Zarghami’s team had selected hardliner host Kazem Rouhani-Nejad known to be sympathetic to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iranians remember the problems former reformist president Mohammad Khatami had with the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) during his eight years in office. Hardliner president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never experienced such problems. And now the problems re-emerge just six months after another semi-reformist president took office. Anyone can see a similar trend in IRIB’s hypocritical interactions with different presidents. The head of IRIB is directly appointed by the order of Iran’s Supreme Leader.

Rouhani’s first sentence when the interview was finally broadcast was a rare event in Iran’s post-revolution history: an apology. Anyone who has lived in Iran after the Islamic Revolution knows that Iranian officials find it hard – maybe even impossible — to apologize. For the rest of his interview, Rouhani outlined his achievements and future plans. In an important part of his speech, Rouhani promised healthcare for all Iranians in the next four years, an initiative his Twitter account called RouhaniCare [en]:

Surprisingly, the interview included yet a second apology for inappropriate implementation of the government’s food distribution program which caused difficulties for some [en]. The act of apology needs to enter Iran’s political sphere. It solves no problems in the short-term, but elevates dignity and promotes accountability. Everyone hopes these apologies lead to proper actions in the mid-term and long-term.

Editing and contributions from Arseh Sevom staff

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