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The coalition of women’s movement in Election: Press Conference

Wednesday 10 June 2009, by admin

Feminist School :A press conference was held on Saturday April 25, 2009 - with the aim of calling the “Women’s Coalition Stating Electoral Demands†into existence.

Participants at this press conference included Simin Behbahani, Shirin Ebadi, Azam Taleghani, Elaheh Kolaii, Shahla Lahiji, Farzaneh Taheri and Shahla Ezazi.

The initial Statement of the Coalition was read at this press conference and participants spoke of the different aspects related to the women’s demand-centered discussion, as well as the formation of this temporary Coalition amongst the women’s movement.

Please read a selection of the speeches made, as follows below:

Shahla Lahiji (writer, translator and publisher), read the initial Statement of the Women’s Coalition and noted: “In this Coalition we do not speak of additional rights for women. We do not want [our rights] to exceed over others, but we ask that the law allow individuals to lead their own destinies, and this is in fact the precondition for sustaining growth and development.

Until now, within our society we have failed to question our ruling circles, and thus our public officials do not feel that they are accountable to the people. In the last thirty years, we have not demanded anything of our candidates prior to elections. As an example, one journalist asked Mr. Ahamdinejad about women’s dress codes before the last elections and he responded; “I will have nothing to do with what women wear†! However, after he was elected, one of the major steps taken by the government was to enforce the mandatory dress code of women in the most violent way possible. Thus, this time, we ask candidates ahead of the elections, to state their views and programs concerning the key demands of women.

Concerning the demands of the Coalition related to article four (4) of the Constitution, Ms. Lahiji said, “The government can propose corrections for certain articles of the law. The Constitution, as all laws devised by human beings, is alterable and not a God given command.â€

And she added that the candidate who will pay attention to these demands and plan towards their achievement, must know that he (or she) will be able to carry the votes of one half of the society.

In assessing the conditions endured by women during the last four years and the work of the current (ninth) administration, she stated; “At the start of the term of this administration, the minister of guidance noted that feminist and pornographic works would be prohibited. What kind of a mind-set is this that places feminism on the same level as pornography? Are we intended to return to the dark ages and to lead the country with mind-set of the Taleban?â€

Azam Taleghani (General Secretary of Society of Islamic Revolution Women of Iran, a former member of the Iranian parliament and the first women candidate for the Iranian presidential election ), said of the promises made by candidates in order to attract votes; “If our statesmen make proclamations at the onset of elections and speak of the equal share of penalties, compensatory payment (diyeh) and such in order to attract voters to the voting booths, then there is not much hope for obtaining equal rights.

In response to a question related to the enforcement of the demands made by women, should these be accepted by a candidate who will eventually come into office as president, she noted; “The enforcement of the promises made by candidates will be guaranteed by the people. If the people use the various means available to them, to pose questions and voice demands, the statesmen shall be forced to be accountable.â€

After noting that it was the 6th Parliament which voted to make Iran a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), she said: “Despite this fact, the proposal is still at the “Expediency Discernment Council†and we expect that its Chairman, who is also the head of Iran’s “Assembly of Experts†, allows it to pass. This convention was adopted over thirty years ago, and has more than 200 state signatories and it is only fitting that Iran also becomes a signatory to it.â€

Concerning the other demand of the Coalition, namely the revision of articles 19, 20, 21 and 115 of the Constitution, she noted, “Changing or revising the Constitution is the responsibility of the “Assembly of Experts†, and a revision may be proposed by the President.â€

The first women presidential candidate in the year 1998, with reference to article 115 of the Constitution that its current interpretation makes the confirmation of a woman candidate unlikely, added: “Considering women as well as men can manage over one another, it is in the interest of humanity that merit is given to she or he who is truly worthy.â€

Simin Behbahani (writer and renowned Iranian poet) , referring to the fact that in this Coalition women of various schools of thought and leaning are present, called it a completely democratic one and a sign of the solidarity and cooperative nature of the women’s movement.

She stated, “We do not make any suggestions regarding who should or should not be the president; we only hope that the person who comes into office will accept the demands of women - the most important of which is in overcoming discrimination and joining the Convention. We wish for the laws to be revised as such that men and women are seen equal in the eyes of the law.

Simin Behbahani - touching on the opinion of some that freedom of expression exists in Iran - added: “…but in our country , we do not have freedom after expression, and under such conditions, citizens can not easily ask their statesmen to be accountable to them, because such a request can be too costly for the average person to bear.â€

Shahla Ezazi (sociologist, university professor, writer, translator and researcher), referring to the past years and the efforts of women for equality with men, said: “The presence of women during the elections, both as candidates and voters, as well as the noticeable presence of women in universities and various professions, is a way of saying that we deserve equal rights and wish to decide and plan for ourselves.â€

While stressing the need for changes in the laws and creating a culture for overcoming inequities, she further stated; “Unfortunately, today we witness that certain old traditions are again propagated. For example, in Iranian state television, the practice of having multiple wives is propagated, and the picture of family put forward there does not mirror what is deemed customary in society. Legal restrictions and the encouragement of faulty cultural traditions hinder the growth and development of women and can lead them toward negative or reactionary behavior.â€

She referred to the support of and responsiveness towards the needs of members of society, as one of the prerequisites to a modern society and clarified that: “ Non-governmental organizations, who are responsible for making the voice of the people audible to governments and seek nonviolent solutions, can only work well when they have freedom of action and expression, and governments must support these organizations in order to help lessen violent reactions and to allow for problem solving options.â€

Elaheh Kolaii (writer, university professor, member of the of Islamic Iran Participation Front, and the Coordination Council of Reformist Women), in assessing the actions of the current government said: “Despite much progress in making women active and in using their abilities and capabilities in the public sphere, the strategy is now to return the women to their homes, so that unlawfulness against women via political and economic apparatus has increased greatly. Unfortunately, based on how the momentary rulers view women, their path and activities are also either opened or hindered, so that now even becoming a signatory to the Convention (one of the other demands of women) is left in doubt. After the reformist government, the way the ruling forces view women also changed and women were made into objects, much like other household items. In the framework of this form of contemplation, we can not expect any progress toward becoming party to the Convention. But we can have hope that in the event of change of the ruling political forces, human identity is returned to women and women can enjoy equal legal rights.â€

Under the given conditions, it is important to strengthen social forces and to prepare the grounds for change. The women’s movement need also pay attention to the given capacities for change.

The Coalition of Women’s Movements is at the start of its path and it is possible to pursue its demands in the course of the process that is taking shape and while paying the lowest possible price. Also in reference to article 3 of the constitution concerning overcoming undue discrimination, she stated; “The demand that the Constitution be revised (which is one of the other demands of the Coalition) is based on this article.â€

Farzaneh Taheri (writer, translator and General Director of the Hooshang Golshiri Cultural Foundation) in regard to the coalition said; “This Coalition has declared its existence as a result of various discussions and analysis of the given conditions , which has led us to seize the opportunity present during the election campaign and clearly state our demands in unity with other women and civil activists, and without entering upon the debate of supporting one or the other candidate, or voting in or boycotting the elections, to state a part of the demands of today’s Iranian society; a society seeking to live in a country where the rights of its people are respected, and their dignity is not trodden upon with the aid of discriminatory laws. A country capable of abiding to the terms of the international conventions it has signed, and with the acceptance of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which adherence to it [translates to] honoring the true position of one half of its society and the fact that advancement of human and acceptable relations in the family and among society will not be possible without revising the necessary laws and enforcing them.

We value this chance for our active presence and for stating our demands , deem it to be our indisputable right - under the given conditions - to ask the presidential candidates to voice their opinions of these issues and to undertake to honor these demands and to enforce them in all areas under their power as well as to create the conditions and help create the culture which will allow for equal rights to be drawn and upheld.

Shirin Ebadi (lawyer, former judge, writer and the 2003 winner of the Nobel Peace prize), taking part at a conference outside of Iran, was able to partake of this press conference via a telephone connection. Concerning the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), she said; “This Convention is the international definition of this need. What is known as discrimination has been defined by experienced international law experts so that it is not necessary for us to reinvent this wheel.â€

Reaffirming that the intention of the Coalition is not to encourage others to vote or not to vote and also is not to advertise for any of the candidates, she stated; “The time is right for stating the demand of women for equal rights between women and men. We want complete equality of rights for women and men and want the state to become party to the Convention without any further delay and preconditions, and to devise its laws accordingly.

Shirin Ebadi stressed that : “with reference to international norms, which are not contrary to our culture or religion, we wish to state the demands of Iranian women, which have been pursued for some seventy years.â€

(Translated from the original Persian by the Women Coalition’s translation team)

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