By: Manda Zand-Ervin
On June 12th in Iran, nine women – who had called for a protest against the arrest of their friends – were arrested themselves. This demonstration was to have occurred on the anniversary of last year’s mass arrests of women activists who had attempted to collect one million signatures against the anti-women laws in Iran.
For over a decade, the women of Iran have been using every method of peaceful protest against Shar’ia law, the guiding law of the land, even though the protests were stopped every time they began. As Shar’ia applies to women, these laws restrict – in a draconian way – women’s mobility and rights. For example, in Iran, the law oppresses women by such indignities as counting women’s testimony as only half that of men, and by such barbarity as stoning women to death for adultery. So it is critical that these brave women prevail in their protest against such cruelty and backwardness. But instead of respectfully observing and noting the protests – like them or not – as politicians do in the United States, the Iranian regime arrested the protest leaders in raids to their homes at 5:00 a.m., beat them up and dragged them to Iranian prisons while all the roads to the planned demonstration location (and to the women) were blocked by paramilitary forces.
Iranian women started by voting overwhelmingly for the Mullah Khatami in 1996 who promised them reform but, once he was elected, betrayed them. Since then, these valiant Iranian women have tried every possible path to get their rights back but they have ended up with nothing more than prison terms. Facing the fact that the regime would not reform its anti-woman Islamic laws, and the paramilitary forces would not allow any assembly or demonstration of their demands, a group of women set out to collect one million signatures against the oppressive Islamic laws to make their point.
So on June 12, 2007, a half dozen women started out to collect one million signatures and, by the end of the week, they had hundreds of volunteers helping in the collection of the signatures. In no time, the regime learned about the effort and ordered the arrest of the women and the confiscation of all their collected signatures. The Iranian human rights activists in Western democracies have been petitioning, writing and talking about this issue ever since but there is no response nor, appallingly, is there any support from any Western women’s group. It is just as shocking that even the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has been thoroughly indifferent to this particular offense as well as, generally, to the oppressive regime itself: the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has stripped Iranian women of all their human rights and left them defenseless as underclass and oppressed citizens.
Thousands of women from the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia gather together every year to discuss violence against women but the real problem is discussed only superficially. The biggest and worst oppressors of women in today’s world are Islamic theocratic regimes, yet there is no mention of their gross violations of the human rights of 800 million women throughout the world, and that includes the women of Iran.
Western women have no need for the UN Commission to defend their rights. They are not only fully emancipated and empowered; they are living in the free democratic societies that will allow them to speak up if they so desire. In Iran, it is the opposite.
The singular need and mission for the UN Commission on the Status of Women is to defend and secure the human rights of women who live under the tyranny of patriarchal hierarchies and who have no face, nor any voice. Yet most unfortunately, the Commission – in a shameless and disgusting way – does not deign to defend such suffering. CSW has demonstrated repeatedly that it is not concerned about the women who are deprived of their most basic humanity. No one within the Commission has an interest in discussing the abuse of women by these oppressive laws and, in fact, they all turn a blind eye to the plight of Iranian women.
And then there is the UN auxiliary organization, UNIFEM, whose slogan on their letterhead is, “Say NO to Violence against Women” next to the beautiful face of Ms. Nicole Kidman, their honorary chair.
UNIFEM even goes out of its way to solicit money from the oppressors of women, like the Islamic Republic of Iran itself, even though they know full well that Iran is perhaps the most wanton violator of the human rights of women. Iranian women have been struggling for three decades to get their human rights back from this dreadful Islamic regime, yet they are being ignored by the world.
In an ideal humanitarian world, one would expect UNIFEM to have a list of such immoral governments and indict them in the international arena for their inhumane laws. In an ideal world, UNIFEM and the United Nations would punish and pressure these regimes that oppress women, but instead they solicit bribes from them.
Is it wrong to assume that if UNIFEM receives money from a gender apartheid government, it is expected to be silent about that government’s gross violations of women, and also to be silent about their children’s rights? Is it logical to believe that if UNIFEM criticizes these regimes, they will not receive that regime’s largess the next year around? And if they continue to receive funds from such oppressive regimes, is it logical to assume that UNIFEM must have understood such unspoken expectations?
One thing we know for sure: the Islamic Republic of Iran is expecting reciprocity for the undisclosed large amounts of money that they contribute to the apparently corrupt UN.
How could – or why should – any woman anywhere in the world, whether or not she lives under such onerous oppression, have any faith or any trust in the UN, or in its Commission on the Status of Women, or in its auxiliary organization, UNIFEM? In this question lies the disturbing truth that the UN’s disdain for Iranian women threatens women worldwide. The only thing that stands between the fate of any other woman on earth and the fate of Iranian women is the wrong politician, or regime, in place.
Perhaps the reason that no one pays attention to the struggles of Iranian women is because the international organizations and European governments are all choosing their own short-term economic interests over and above the human rights of the women and children of Iran.
And why not? After all, what is the value of a human life compared to that of money?
The views reflected in this article are Ms. Ervin’s personal opinion.
FamilySecurityMatters.orgContributing Editor Manda Zand-Ervin is an Iranian activist and the founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian Women.