Tag Archives: Election in Iran

Neda’s Death Highlights Women’s Role in Iran Protests

A young woman who was shot through the heart and died on the streets of Tehran has become the face of the opposition movement in Iran.

Neda Agha Soltan was killed by a Basij militiaman during a protest march on June 20, according to people who said they were eyewitnesses and posted videos of her death on the Internet. The videos on Facebook and YouTube show her collapsing, losing consciousness and dying.

Her death has resounded worldwide and become a symbol of the crackdown by Iranian authorities against demonstrations over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed June 12 re-election. Police used tear gas and batons to disperse about 1,000 people who had gathered in Haft-e Tir Square in central Tehran yesterday to mourn the university student.

“The violence of the regime has intensified. They are trying to create a regime of terror,” said Mohammad-Reza Djalili, an Iran expert at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva in a telephone interview. “The future will be marked by this horrible chain of events,” he said of Soltan’s killing.

Soltan was among countless women, of all ages and backgrounds, who have taken to the streets to demand a recount of the presidential vote they and others say was won by Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister. Mousavi made his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a feature of his campaign and promised to give women more rights.

34 Million

Iran’s 34 million women are demanding female cabinet ministers, the right to able to run for president and the revision of civil and family law, Rahnavard said earlier this month. The country’s population is 66.4 million.

President Barack Obama today said of Iran that Americans were “appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days.” Speaking at a press conference, he said, “Above all, we have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” he said in response to a question about whether he had seen the video. “Anybody who sees it knows there is something fundamentally unjust about that.”

At least four Facebook pages are dedicated to Soltan, and more than 50 members of the social networking site have changed their user names to Neda Agha Soltan. One page called “Neda” has more than 15,000 members and the group’s 55 officers come from countries as diverse as Canada, Kuwait, Haiti, Italy, the U.S. and Zambia.

Black Banner

Mourners were prevented from holding a remembrance ceremony in a mosque yesterday, and Soltan’s family was told to take down a black banner they had hung outside their home, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Neda had said that even if she lost her life and got a bullet in her heart, she would carry on,” Caspian Makan, Soltan’s fiancé, told the British Broadcasting Corp.’s Persian Television by phone from Tehran. “She gave a big lesson to everyone even though she was very young.”

Seventeen people have been killed in the protests, Iranian state television reported.

Soltan was a 27-year-old philosophy student, according to the text posted with the video on YouTube. Heat and frustration led her and her music teacher to abandon their car when it was blockaded by the demonstration. Minutes later, she was shot. She died in just two minutes, according to the YouTube text.

Iranian bloggers paid tribute to the young woman, one writing about the melancholy of the “alley of loneliness” where she was shot. Photos of the flowers left in memory of Soltan are posted on the blog.

Fierce Impact

“He had a clear shot and could not miss her,” wrote a man who said he was a doctor and posted one of the videos showing Soltan’s death, referring to the gunman. “The impact of the gunshot was so fierce that the bullet had blasted inside the victim’s chest.”

The author Paul Coelho said on his blog that he was best friends with the doctor, and that his friend had tried to resuscitate Soltan. In the video, as blood pours from Soltan’s eyes, nose and mouth, screams are heard and a small crowd gathers around her limp body.

“Neda, don’t be afraid; Neda stay with me,” says a man standing nearby, who holds her in his arms and has been identified as her music teacher.

The killing took away any “vestige of respect” people had for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for an end to the protests and allied himself with Ahmadinejad, because “a spiritual leader should not be leading carnage,” said Haleh Afshar, a professor of politics and women’s studies at University of York.

Seeing the video of Soltan’s death has left Zahra Khedri, a 24-year-old Iranian postgraduate student at the U.K.’s University of Essex, feeling numb and shocked, she said.

“It could be me, simple as that,” said Khedri. The video “will help us with the support we need. Ahmadinejad must not be recognized.”

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aX.UJaDJj_Fg

The video of Neda’s death: click here (Warning, graphic images!)

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Who was really cheated in Iran’s vote? Women.

iranian-women-protest~s600x600What is striking about the Iranians protesting fraud in the June 10 “election” is the number of women on the front lines. Among all those cheated at the polls, they may feel the most denied.

For the first time in one of the Islamic Republic’s controlled presidential campaigns, the women’s movement was able to raise its demands clearly and independently – even though the unelected, 12-member, all-male Guardian Council did not allow any female candidates to run.

The movement’s courage to confront the patriarchal theocracy (in which “morality police” still roam the streets looking for women with make-up) may have been a big reason why the regime rigged the vote count – and why supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was forced to make a show of ordering a probe of the fraud.

Iranian women do enjoy privileges that women in many Arab countries do not. But Iran’s powerful clerics know that democracy’s advance and the liberation of women go hand in hand. They’ve seen women recently elected in Kuwait and in Iraq’s new democracy, while their proxy group in Lebanon, Hezbollah, lost an election. So they are trying to stop both the women’s movement and open democracy in Iran in order to maintain their Shiite “revolution” and their own rule.

Yet the ballot fraud was done with such audacity and clumsiness that the “landslide winner,” President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will likely find it difficult to rule. And the West should hesitate before cozying up to a regime with fading legitimacy and which so openly suppresses half its population and sees women as a security threat. What country would have faith in signing a deal with a regime that cheats its own people, especially women, at the ballot box?

During the campaign, Iran’s feminists found a voice in the popular opposition candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister. He promised to disband the morality police, reform the many laws that treat women unequally, and appoint women to high posts. He campaigned with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a prominent academic and author of 15 books. The two appear to be a loving couple, displaying a modern equality to Iranian women. But he “lost” the vote – even in his hometown, which was yet another sign that the fix was in.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, has a strong record against women. He changed the name of the government’s “Center for Women’s Participation” to the “Center for Women and Family Affairs.” He limited women’s access to higher education and proposed laws that would allow men to divorce their wives without informing them and not to pay alimony.

Most of all, the regime has jailed dozens of women involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign, a grass-roots movement that began in 2006 to reform the legal system and to end gender discrimination. The group has been harassed in their homes and branded as illegal.

It is of little surprise, then, to see images of women, only slightly veiled, confronting the regime in postelection protests. While Ahmadinejad’s false victory may have toughened the clerics’ foreign posture with the West, they’ve only exposed their weakness at home.

Eventually, Iran’s women will not be denied.

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0615/p08s01-comv.html

Iranian Presidential Contenders Court Women Voters

For the first time in Iran’s 30-year history of presidential elections, candidates are going all out to win over female voters, making a flurry of last-minute appeals before Friday’s balloting.

Today’s campaigns are a departure from the past, when candidates spoke of women voters in general terms, mostly centered on their respect for a mother’s role in society or through economic assistance to widows.

In this election, the three candidates challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose tenure has included a crackdown on women’s-rights activists, have tried to set themselves apart from the incumbent by focusing on female voters.

“Iranian women can be a major force and now candidates are realizing our support can deliver them victory and credibility,” says Elahe Koulaee, a professor of political science at Tehran University and a former parliament member.

The top reform contender, Mir Hossein Mousavi, broke the taboo of mixing personal life with politics by campaigning with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, an artist and scholar who has been dubbed Iran’s Michelle Obama by local media.

Presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist cleric, has said he is against forcing women to wear the Islamic veil. He recently debated with his team the number of cabinet posts women should fill. Mr. Karroubi’s top advisers lobbied for the foreign ministry, speculating that when relations with the U.S. normalize, the new foreign minister could shake hands with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Conservative candidate Mohsen Rezaie, who formerly headed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, has an advisory team of accomplished women and said he plans to reform the law so it ensures more equality for women. Mr. Rezaie has said he will place Iranian women in top posts in politics, education and management both in and outside the country.

Female voters have responded to the candidates’ appeals, with many attending rallies and street demonstrations.

Mr. Mousavi’s following among professionals and educated women is thanks in part to his wife — a well-known artist and Iran’s first female professor. Ms. Rahnavard also was chancellor of a prominent women’s university, Al Zahra, a job she lost when Mr. Ahmadinejad took office.

“She is very liberal and intellectual, we feel like we can trust her to fight for our rights,” said Shirin Shadi, a 23-year-old university student who studies physical education and wants to see restrictions eased on the Islamic garb female athletes wear.

During a recent candidates’ debate on live television, President Ahmadinejad mentioned Ms. Rahnavard, engaging in a rare public attack on a prominent woman. Mr. Ahmadinejad held up a folder with a picture of Ms. Rahnavard and questioned the validity of her doctorate in political science.

Many women rallied behind Ms. Rahnavard, saying the president had insulted all educated, professional women. Ms. Rahnavard has said she will file a defamation suit against Mr. Ahmadinejad if he doesn’t publicly apologize to her. The president says he stands by his statement.

At a rally in Tehran on Wednesday, Ms. Rahnavard told a crowd of women and youth, “He wants to force all women to sit at home and be housewives. I am a symbol of Iranian women. By insulting me, he has insulted all of you.”

Mr. Ahmadinejad hasn’t spoken at length publicly about his position on women and his wife rarely appears in public. Half-way through the election season, his sister, Parvin, began to campaign for him among conservative women.

The president also held a rally specifically for women. To boost turnout, his campaign brought supporters by bus from his political base south of the capital and from nearby towns and villages.

Last year, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s government introduced two bills that would impose a tax on a woman’s dowry and make it easier for a man to practice polygamy. The bills were dropped after an uproar and pressure from women’s-rights activists who marched to the parliament by the tens of thousands, demanding to meet with lawmakers.

Iranian women are among the most highly educated and socially active in the Middle East. Women have a 77% literacy rate and account for 60% of university students, according to local census. Half of the eligible voters in Iran, which has a population of 72 million, are females.

In April, a spectrum of secular and conservative women’s-rights activists formed a coalition and made a list of demands from Iran’s next president.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124467815307304269.html

‘Mrs Mousavi’: Artist who could be Iran’s First Lady

mousavi

Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of moderate presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, is breaking the mould in Iranian politics by campaigning openly alongside her husband for next month’s election.

If Mousavi, a former prime minister, is elected president in the June 12 vote, the Islamic republic may get its first “first lady” in decades who would have a strong public profile like her peers around the world, observers say.

Despite playing a key role in the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, Iranian women have had but a token presence in politics under the three-decade rule of conservative clerics, with just a handful of parliament seats and two cabinet posts.

Many Iranians have no clues what their presidents’ wives look like, as heads of government, even the reformist Mohammad Khatami, mostly kept their spouses out of the spotlight and shied away from appearing with them at political events or on foreign trips.

But with a prolific academic and artistic background, Rahnavard is to many a household name in her own right, especially those who studied at Tehran’s all-women Al-Zahra university, where she was chancellor for eight years.

Since her husband announced his bid for the presidency, she has appeared at most of his campaign rallies and has given numerous speeches, notably criticising Iran’s treatment of women, especially under hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“It is very ordinary, natural, sensible and religiously-accepted” for a president’s wife to have an active and visible role alongside her husband, she said in an interview with popular youth weekly Chelcheragh this month.

An admirer of her namesake, the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Fatemeh Zahra, Rahnavard has for years been an advocate of equal rights for women and called for their economic empowerment and a change to Iran’s laws deemed as discriminatory to women.

The 64-year-old grandmother, whose husband served as Iran’s last premier before the post was abolished in 1989, has said that mothering three daughters has made her more sensitive and concerned about women’s issues.

Despite appearing in public in the traditional black chador favoured by conservative women, she sports flowery headscarves and bright coats underneath, and says she did not wear the Islamic veil until her early 20s.

The sculptor and painter says she enjoys rap music and her favourite accessory is a bohemian handbag adorned with Iranian tribal motifs.

Rahnavard has slammed Iran’s tough police crackdown on “un-Islamic” attire over the past three years as “the ugliest and dirtiest patronising treatment of women”.

At a pro-Mousavi rally in Tehran on Saturday, she urged young supporters to vote for a new government that will “not have political and student prisoners” and one that will fulfil the wish of “removing discrimination against women.”

In 2005, shortly after Ahmadinejad’s election, she invited Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi to speak at Al-Zahra university — a move which did not go down well with hardliners who condemn Ebadi over her criticism of human rights in Iran.

Rahnavard was replaced as university chancellor less than a year later.

She met Mousavi at one of her exhibitions in 1969. The two shared a love of the arts and a common cause of overthrowing the shah.

In 1976, as the former regime stepped up its pressure on political dissent, Rahnavard left Iran for the United States with her two children and returned shortly before Islamic revolutionaries seized power in 1979.

She holds a PhD in political science and served as an advisor to Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005. She has also been a Koran researcher and authored several books on art and politics.

A picture of Rahnavard and Mousavi leaving a rally holding hands has been circulating in cyber space, sparking positive comments on many blogs — although conservatives frown upon public displays of affection even between married couples in Iran.

Source: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5ivPLFO0uBvov3-JgMdGiZYjFySSg