Omid Memarian

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Message Contained In a Statement with 700 Signatures

The statement prepared for the June 11th Women’s Solidarity Day, which was signed by over 700 civil society activists in Iran, demonstrates that despite all the tribulations and pressures of the previous years and specifically those of the recent months, some of the most dedicated activists demanding legislative changes and improvement in the women’s rights arena in Iran, have indeed renewed their faith in the outcome, gaining more support.

Those who try to eliminate discrimination amidst the social, political, and economic challenges of recent years, endurance of which is no easy feat, attempt law changes, cultural changes and criticism of deep-rooted traditions and beliefs in the multi-layered Iranian society.

In addition, issuing an assertive statement promising continuation of the movement and the will to realize demands costs for which escalate on a daily basis, proves how wrong those security-minded authorities are who think suppressive and oppressive confrontations in a police state, threatening to civic activists will delay or eliminate such demands.

It is now customary for suppressed social movements to be linked to entities abroad by security forces, as their activists are labeled, and financial, moral and other files are fabricated for them, their names continuously smeared in Kayhan, creating serious difficulties for them when they sign statements and petitions. I remember that in the past years, whenever such waves of attacks were directed at activists, even the heartiest of them who always signed these protest statements, would face reservations and trepidations in signing yet one more statement or petition.

I believe there are still those who face those reservations; those who seeing the incredibly swift suppression of even the most peaceful social protests—the flag for which is carried by Iranian women—experience misgivings in signing statements of support or protest. On the other hand, however, the flood of people who believe in the validity of such movements, or those who believe in pursuing the cause increases daily, delivering new names accompanying the old, promising that despite what a select few among security and judicial authorities who pursue civil movements with hate and hysteria think, the voices of women, as active participants of Iranian civil society, are heard by others. All the policies supporting beating, arresting, imprisoning, labeling, and libel against activists in that infamous newspaper, is not only no longer effective, it goes to prove that Iranian society supports the demands raised by educated women of Iran.

Now Kayhan’s Editor can continue writing his “House of Spiders” series I, II, and III, and in “special reports” he can connect everyone to foreign organizations and countries and intelligence services of western countries, etc. Nothing will change. These libel-filled articles, under the best of circumstances, will only continue to fool those who govern blindly, and will not affect the will of those activists. Seven hundred conscious votes of individuals some of whom have years of knowledge and experience behind their signatures and know the price of having signed prior statements, demonstrates that those methods, though effective for a while in the past, will now only deliver infamy to organizations supporting them.

The dedicated, thoughtful, and hard-working sections of the regime, whether in security or judicial branches now have a pivotal opportunity. They can receive the message contained in the powerful statement issued on the occasion of Women’s Solidarity Day. The message is that the people of Iran along with Iranian and international civil societies, in their cooperation with campaigns such as “No Stoning Campaign,” or “One Million Singatures for Changing Anti-Women Laws Campaign,” present viable demands in peaceful, humanitarian, and legitimate ways. Resisting such legitimate movements not only vilifies the regime, as seen in previous years, it will contribute to further deepening of the rift between the people and the government. Understanding those who lovingly and patiently demand improvements in their society, and joining and assisting these demands instead of going against the flow as Kayhan prescribes, will strengthen their ties with people of Iran and will reduce the perils of ineffective policies, returning energy and exuberance to Iranian civil society. It makes no difference which government is in power—such a prescription will help all authorities to get closer to the society they govern and instead of following the civil society, they can take charge of the process, working closely with the public, using all opportunities in different areas, compensating for the government’s earlier losses.

Those 700 signatures, some of which represent activists who have served jail terms, while some others still have open cases in the courts, released on heavy bails, braving the sword hanging over their heads which could return them to jail, indeed represents a very positive promise. Those signatures could tell the wiser in the regime, especially amongst the worldly moderate conservatives, that actions taken against Iranian civil society—and specifically that which has been done to women’s rights activists—has been an ugly, unfruitful, and costly project.

To those who sent this message should go congratulations for having turned every single bad event of recent years into a bouquet of flowers, the fragrance of which is pleasing to all Iranian civil society activists.


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