In a new series, Arseh Sevom summarizes reports on civil society throughout the world. This post looks at the 2012 publication of Defending Civil Society. This report notes that the space for civil society throughout the world seems to be shrinking even as consensus on the need for an independent civil society is growing.
This week was dominated by news of parliamentary elections, and threats of war, Asghar’s Oscar continued to bring some joy to people and to be a topic of discussion all over the world. In the streets of Tehran some even handed out candy to celebrate. The New York Times has provided a flurry of opinion [...]
Arseh Sevom — The Islamic Republic ratcheted up its attacks on Iranian citizens this past week. As you are reading this digest, the Iranian prisoner of conscience Mohsen Aminzadeh, is fighting for his life due to deteriorating health, and the death sentence of an IT expert, Saeed Malekpour, was confirmed by judicial authorities.
On the 14th of February, security forces filled the streets of Tehran and other large cities in an attempt to nip in the bud any sign of possible opposition gatherings and dissent. Calls had been made for a silent protest, marking one year since opposition leaders Moussavi and Karroubi were placed under house arrest. Reports of several arrests were broadcast on media.
The Butcher of the Press
A long awaited verdict in the case against the chief prosecutor of Tehran, Saeed Mortazavi, shocked civil society activists. Mortazavi, known as the “butcher of the press,” and on trial for the torture and death of prisoners at Iran’s notorious Kharizak detention center, was found “vindicated.”
NGOs around the world Condemn Persistent Crackdowns on Egyptian Civil Society and reject disabling draft NGO Law. Civicus has joined with other organizations to issue a statement about the crackdown of civil society organizations in Egypt. They warn of new regulations that would stifle independent civil society in Egypt. Arseh Sevom joins Civicus in condemning [...]
In Arseh Sevom’s first ever newsletter (online here), we looked back at some of the highlights from the pages of our website. Those included:
What is Civil Society
Click here for the complete post.
Before trying to delve deep into a practical definition of a “civil society activist” let us see what is exactly meant by a “civil society”.
According to Jeffrey C. Alexander – one of the thinkers who has helped us understand this rather abstract idea – civil society was conceived in the 18th century in a positive way. It was in the words of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, “a burgher, city dweller’s society.” Later, more complex ideas were annexed to the endless definitions and as per a recent version, civil society is “a basic configuration in which society stands apart from the state, develops autonomously and becomes increasingly conscious of such autonomy at both the individual and the collective levels.” All that would translate into an active society wherein citizens take matters related to their community, neighborhood, rights and etc. into their own hands – “civilly”. These activities might include forming associations, clubs, organizations, developing networks and raising awareness on their issues of concern.
The Small Media Foundation has published the report, Cultural Censorship in Iran: Iranian Culture in a State of Emergency. This report looks at government pressure on and censorship of publishing, music, theater, and film, demonstrating an increase since the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
The findings of the authors, Mostafa Khalaji, Bronwen Robertson, and Maryam Aghdami, show the efforts of the regime to make the barriers towards public culture even higher by pulling previously approved books off the shelves, controlling funding and licenses for films, denying musicians and theater groups access to their audience, and other acts of suppression.
The publishing industry has been especially hard hit. The independent writer’s organization, The Forum of Iranian Writers, is being supplanted by the deceptively named, Pen Association of Iran, a government-sponsored organization. The regime financially supports like-minded authors and publishers and purchases mass quantities of their books. In that way they can claim that the number of books published remains high. Bookstores are being shut down at an alarming rate.
by Halleh Ghorashi
For years, the Iranian women’s movement has been the subject of my research. During the 1979 revolution, Iranian women flocked to the streets to make their voices heard. It wasn’t too long after the success of the demonstrations that women were asked to go back to the house and play the role of the “good wife.” In spite of this, women in Iran used every possibility to make their demands heard and to create a place for themselves in society. In the 1980s, the ubiquitous oppression meant that their efforts were largely invisible. It wasn’t until the mid-90s that the significance of their efforts became clear: the tireless dedication of women had cleared a path for civil society and dissent.
In his piece, Let’s Beef-up and Meet-up, Hamid Tehrani challenges activists to find new and exciting ways to use technology. He points to the example of Meet-up, a kind of matchmaking service that brings groups of like-minded people together. Knitters in New York can meet and ply their craft together over coffee. Lovers of Dostoevsky [...]
Arseh Sevom, 3 May 2011- In a deliberate move to attack democratic organizations, the Iranian Parliament’s joint commission has simultaneously approved a bill requiring supervision over Members of Parliament, and is considering a restrictive bill to reform the Political Parties Law. This is happening despite the fact that, due to pressures resulting from the opposition of Iranian civic organizations, the Iranian Parliament has suspended its review of the proposed bill on the Establishment and Supervision of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) for a period of three months.
These efforts collectively show that the Islamic Republic has made an organized attempt to eliminate all civic and democratic organizations in Iranian society. Arseh Sevom warns that these policies will lead to the destruction of the remnants of civic and semi-democratic organizations through the creation of supervisory committees. Arseh Sevom urges Representatives of the Islamic Consultative Assembly to remove from its agenda the bill for reforming the Political Parties Law and the bill for supervision over Members of Parliament. They should do so to defend of the right to freedom of association and assembly, the right of representation, and to protect the legal immunity of Members of the Iranian Parliament in fulfilling their role as representatives.
Arseh Sevom in the news during the month of April:
Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation has written an open letter protesting the bill Establishment and Supervision of NGOs, which would place civil society in Iran under the jurisdiction of the security apparatus. Were the bill to become law, it would effectively criminalize most independent society in Iran. The letter, signed by Civicus director Ingrid [...]