امسال به مناسبت ٨ مارس ، مقاله ای ننوشته ام ، در تظاهراتی [ تا این لحظه البته ] شرکت نکرده ام و جایی هم سخنرانی نداشته ام . اما، دیروز در نشست جانبی شورای حقوق بشر، پنلی داشتم در ارتباط با وضعیت زنان در ایران برای کشورهایی که مخالف تمدید ماموریت احمد شهید بودند. این که استدلال این نمایندگان چه بود ، موضوع دیگری است که شاید در نوشته دیگری به آن بپردازم . [ فقط این را بگویم که نماینده برزیل از کل گزارش ٨٥ صفحه ای آقای شهید ، گیر داده بود به دو خطی که شهید از پیشرفت تحصیلی و بهداشتی زنان نوشته بود ] و با استناد به همین دو خط استدلال می کرد که لزومی به تمدید ماموریت آقای شهید نمی بیند. [ ای کاش نماینده برزیل، چند خط زیرهمان پاراگراف را هم می خواندند که آقای شهید از محدودیت انتخاب رشته برای دختران نوشته بود .]
امسال به مناسبت ٨ مارس، تصمیم گرفتم خلاصه متن سخنرانی دیروز ام را این جا بگذارم وفقط آرزو کنم که روزی بیاید که " واقعا" نیازی به تمدید ماموریت آقای شهید نباشد ، نه به خاطر ٢ خط از ٨٥ صفحه ...
Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. Today, I want to talk about the existing discriminations against women in both laws and policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian government often justifies its discriminatory laws and policies under the name of ‘Islam’ or ‘family cohesion’. If you are raised in Iran one thing that you constantly hear about at school and in the media is the importance of family cohesion. The government has used this concept as well as Islam, as an excuse to justify its discriminatory laws and policies against women. To name some, girls are not allowed to choose certain fields of study at the university (such as mine engineering). The authorities justify the banning of mine engineering on the grounds of this move being necessary for the cohesion of the family. The authorities argue that it is not in the interest of the ‘family’ that women as wives leave their households for mines in remote places, far away from their homes.
In laws there are many discriminations against women under the name of family cohesion. For example, according to Iran’s Civil Code a husband is allowed to bar his wife form her job if it is believed that her job goes against the family good. A wife needs a permission of her husband for travelling abroad. Moreover, polygamy is allowed for men and the right to divorce is only reserved for the husband. Honor killing exits in the Penal Code. According to the law, if a man finds his wife in bed with another man, he has the right to kill them both. Some other discriminatory laws are also justified under the name of Islam. For example, in most cases women’s share of inheritance is half of their male counterparts. A blood money of a woman is also half of a man [meaning that when a man and a women are hit and injured by a car, the compensation given to the woman is half of that received by the man.] In many cases, the testimony of a women is worth half that of a man.
Despite all the restriction and limitations imposed, Iranian women have well succeeded in entering universities and even in the recent years the number of female students (more than 65%) has outbalanced the number of male students. With the rise of female students, the authorities decided to put a quota for boys. The decision raised protests in society. The authorities justified their actions by stating that if the number of women, supersede the number of educated men then it would be hard for female students to find a proper and educated husband and that ultimately, would threaten the foundation of the family!
A note that, I want to mention here in parenthesis is that, while on the one hand, authorities misuse the cohesion and interests of the family to justify their discriminatory actions and decisions, on the other hand, when the government wants to exert pressure on human rights activists and journalists who are not afraid of prison or who are outside of Iran, it uses their families as victims. In recent years the government has harassed family members and relatives of hundreds of journalists and activists (from calling them in for interrogation, to confiscating their passports or denying them their pensions and even subjecting them to short periods of arrest) in order to exert psychological pressure on activists and journalists. Families are told to make their journalist/activist relatives stop working in these fields or get them to co-operate with the Iranian Government. Of course, there were (and are) thousands of spouses who were supportive of their activist husbands and wives and who stood beside them, but realistically one should take into consideration that not all human beings have this same capacity. Thanks for their efforts! Many families have now broken apart (for example the family of the daughter of the Opposition Leader Mousavi and many others) because some could not tolerate the pressure of the Government and its intelligence agents. One can easily see how, the Iranian government is only hiding behind some notions including the cohesion of family to justify its discriminatory policies and laws.
The same is also true with Islam. Whereas many reformative Islamic scholars, have offered different Interpretations of Islam (interpretations which are more compatible with human rights), the Government applies its own interpretation to justify its breaches of human rights.
Another point worth mentioning is that whereas in other realms such as inheritance, custody over children, marriage, divorce, ownership and the ability to be a witness, women are considered less able than men, when it comes to punishments and criminal responsibility they are suddenly considered much more mature and able than men and hence according to Iran's Penal Code, the age of criminal responsibility for girls is six years lower than boys. Whereas boys become criminally responsible at the age of fifteen, girls are considered responsible at the age of nine. That means that if a nine-year-old girl commits a crime, she would face the same punishment as a forty-year-old woman who has committed the same crime.
In 2006, in response to the discriminatory laws against women, a campaign under the name of ‘One Million Signatures’ was formed in Iran with the aim of raising awareness of the discriminatory laws against women and to collect one million signatures in support of changing the discriminatory laws. The campaign has been severely suppressed by the government: its members have been jailed and its website blocked. Charges against members range from acting against the national security of the state and propaganda, to membership in the One Million Signature Campaign itself. However, this did not stop its members from their activities. These activities include informing people bout the discriminatory laws and gathering signatures against these laws. Today, the prisons of the Islamic Republic of Iran are filled with many brave Iranian women: Nasrin Souroudeh (lawyer), Shiva Nazar Ahari (journalist and human rights activist), Bahareh Hedayat (student activist), Zhila Bani Ya’ghoub (journalist), Mahsa Amrabadi (journalist) are just some examples of these women who are now in jail for being the voice of the voiceless.
Ahmad Shaheed’s Report can bring these discriminations and the struggles of all these brave women to the attention of the international community and pressure the Iranian government to observe its human rights obligations. As one of my Bahai’s friends told me once when he was arrested by the religious police (basij) he was told that ‘had it not been because of the pressure of the international community, we would have you 'on our tongue' and swallow you up whenever we wanted.”
This year, many discriminatory bills were about to pass. For example a bill, which required single women under the age of 40 to obtain the permission of their fathers for travelling abroad. Fortunately, due to the widespread protests, the bill was not passed. Ahmad Shaheed’s report can help women’s rights activists in their struggle to abolish discrimination.