“Dialogues on freedom” – Why we engage for people in Iran…

"Why do I fight for human rights? The reason why I am fighting for human rights is because I am living in a free country. Living in a free and democratic country means:
freedom of thought,
freedom of speech,
freedom of religion
freedom of assembly
I can form my own opinions and express them freely w/o having the fear of being arrested.
I may dress the way I like and use make up and red lipstick without being harassed by the moral police on the street.
For us, it is so self-evident and normal to live this way – without fear.
But then you realize that there are countries as Iran where people have to fight really hard for the liberty that we find so normal. They live in constant fear because the regime is controlling every little facet of their lives.
And certain people in those countries, they are so brave that they are even risking their lives to obtain the rights which ought to be natural. I am full of respect for them.
We are all equal.
All people all over the world are entitled to have the same universal rights, and deserve dignity and respect.
Human rights are universal rights.
And because I am living in total freedom, I think it is important to help those who are not having this freedom, because they can use all the help they can get.
There are 4 reasons why I think fighting for human rights is important:
1.  To raise awareness for the situation of oppressed people here in the West.
2.  When we are silent, we give green light to the oppressive regimes to continue violating the human rights of their citizens. We give them the chance to go further and further and we help to create a sphere of impunity for them.
3.  It is important for the people who are struggling for their rights to know that they have our support so that they have the courage to go on.
4.  Although, most of the time, we don’t see any visible impact, there will always be an invisible effect and it will always have a positive influence.
Why Iran?
The first reason is solidarity and compassion with the people of Iran
On June 12, 2009, there were the presidential elections in Iran.
After the elections which were widely assumed to be fraudulent, the Iranian people came massively to the street and protested peacefully. They were asking ‘Where is my vote?’
The regime’s answer was brutal crackdowns and many were arrested. We heard terrible stories of torture and rape.
Ever since those elections, the situation in Iran got worse.
Many journalists, students, lawyers, women, union activists, and human rights activists are in prison. Ethnic and religious minorities have been threatened and suppressed.  The pressure on Gonabadi dervishes has increased.
It seems that Iran is becoming one huge prison for its people. Above all these human rights violations in prison, the regime is creating a reign of terror by public hangings, public flogging and public amputations of limbs.
The second reason is because the Iranian regime is a dangerous regime. It is spreading its dangerous ideology with the final goal to get a worldwide supremacy and to impose its ideology and its view of Islam to the whole world.
Some experts compare Iran with an octopus: the head is in Iran and the tentacles all over the world.
Fighting for respect of human rights in Iran is not only about supporting and helping the people of Iran but it is also about preservation and protection of our own human rights and our democracy.
Examples of human rights violations
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic views everything equally for men and women. However in the name of Islam, women are very much discriminated in Iran.
I would like to list some restriction on women:
–       Conservatives in Iran think that a woman’s main obligation is to be a good wife and mother:
–  education: Iranian girls can go to university
However, since the new academic year of 2012, 36 universities in the country have excluded women from 77 fields of study. And this despite the fact that girls are achieving higher scores on admissions exams than boys. (Middle East Research and information Projects – by Nazanin Shahrokni, Parastou Dokouhaki | published October 18, 2012)
–  Job opportunities: female graduates have to contend with many discriminatory employment laws, and as a result the percentage of women with permanent jobs is very low throughout the country. According to official figures this is between 12 and 14% of the work force.
(Iran’s employment laws detrimental to women’s futures – Shahrzad News September 5, 2012)
–       In case of an accident, the monetary value for inflicted physical harm (diya) for a woman would be half that of a man. Even more tragically, if a Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrian woman loses her leg in a car accident, the amount of the monetary damages awarded to her will be a quarter of that awarded to a Muslim man in the same circumstances.
As a woman you are discriminated but if you are on top of that belonging to a religious minority the discrimination if even bigger.
(Pushed Back to Square One – Huffington Post – by Shadi Sadr – 14 Dec 2011)
–       The testimony of a woman is worth half of that of a man
(Pushed Back to Square One – Huffington Post – by Shadi Sadr – 14 Dec 2011)
–       On 15 January 2013, a resolution was passed in the Iranian Parliament which allow unmarried women over the age of 18 to obtain passports, but having a passport does not mean that they are allowed to leave the country without permission from their guardians.
According to the new resolution, married women not only need their husbands’ permission for leaving the country, they will also need it for possessing a passport as well. Additionally, if a woman’s father or husband first grants her permission to leave the country but after a while, for whatever reason, rescinds the permission, the woman’s passport will be confiscated.
(Lawyer and Women’s Rights Activist Hopes Discriminatory Passport Law Does Not Pass – The Int’l Campaign for HR – 31/01/2013)
–       On the other hand, a nine year old girl has criminal responsibility and if she were to commit a crime, she will be dealt with as an adult. (the age for boys is 15)
(Pushed Back to Square One – Huffington Post – by Shadi Sadr – 14 Dec 2011)
–       According to international conventions on children’s rights, people reach adulthood at 18. Under the Islamic Republic regime’s laws however, girls may marry at 13 and boys at 15.
In the remote villages of the provinces of Khuzestan and Siastan-Baluchestan, many parents regard their young daughters as economic burdens. They marry them off to older men, hoping that the groom’s family will support theirs financially. According to official figures, 72% of Iranian women who ran away from their husbands in the last two years were between 11 and 17.
(Iran’s teenage widows growing in number – Shahrzad News –  12 February 2013)
–       Family laws in the Islamic republic of Iran lay the legal foundation of unequal relations between men and women. When a woman is marrying she relinquishes her right to divorce, the right to take custody of her children, the right to work and many other rights.
(Tehran Launches Center for Temporary Marriages: Concubism, the Product of Discrimination and Inequality – Roozonline – By Kaveh Ghoreishi – 6 April 2012)
On top of these discriminations, in March 2012, Iran’s parliament approved a new amendment to a law in the civil code (Article 1075 of Iran’s civil code, sanctions temporary marriages) that allows men to have as many sexual partners as they want – all sanctioned by sharia law under the term "temporary marriage".
Sex outside marriage is a crime in Iran punishable by 100 lashes or, in the case of adultery, potentially the sentence to death.
However, a man and a woman can marry for a fixed period of time after performing specific religious rituals, in a practice called sigheh. The marriage can last for a few minutes up to several years without need to be officially registered. Only a man has the right to renew a sigheh when it expires or to terminate it early.
Women may have only one husband at a time.
Temporary marriage is in large extend the privilege of wealthy married men. One of the most important reasons why women resort to sigheh is poverty and economic needs.

 (Discrimination in Iran’s temporary marriage law goes unchecked – The Guardian – by Fazel Hawramy – 6 March 2012)

–       All forms of violence are on the increase in Iran, including domestic violence, 70% of which never gets reported either to the social services or to the police. According to a leading sociologist and Alzahra University governor Afsaneh Kamali “Many women experience domestic violence every day, accepting it as part of life, and covering up for the instigators. Only 30% of such cases are reported, and indeed it seems futile to do so, as the government never introduces any measures aimed at improving the situation.”
(70% of Iran’s domestic violence goes unreported – Shahrzad News – 29 January 2013)
All these discriminations are done by the current Iranian regime in the name of Islam. They are misusing Islam to suppress women and to treat them as second hand citizens.
What do we hope to achieve?
1.  To raise awareness in the West – so that internationally the civil society knows about all these abuses
2.  To let the oppressive regime of Iran know that we are observing the violations that they commit so that we can hold them responsible.
3.  We hope to encourage the people to continue there struggle for liberty
4.  We hope that our actions will change the situation for the Iranian people. We hope to put pressure on the regime to release the prisoners of conscience.
We hope that our actions might have a visible impact in the country.
Since December, the International Organization to Preserve Human Rights in Iran, Amnesty Int’l and Karamat are doing a series of manifestations in front of the Iranian Embassies across Europe for the release of Nasrin Sotoudeh. There has been one in Brussels in December and one in Berlin in January and there will be one in Den Hague, The Netherlands in February.
We hope that our actions for Nasrin Sotoudeh may have a butterfly effect which is a metaphor once used by the American scholar Edward Lorenz: when a butterfly is flapping its wings in Brazil it might cause a tornado in Texas. So lets hope that our actions for Nasrin Sotoudeh in Brussels, Berlin and later this month in The Hague will soon cause a freedom hurricane in Tehran and the rest of the country.
Source: http://www.mehriran.de/en/articles/single/datum///dialogues-on-freedom-why-we-engage-for-people-in-iran/


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