Saturday, February 10, 2007

Women on the death row

Every now and again, a petition pops in my mailbox: "Save Nazanin!", "Save Malek", "Save Afsaneh", "Save Raheleh". Sentencing women to death is a sensational event for two camps: first the human right activists (both in Iran and elsewhere) and second for the Iranophobes who have yet obtained another unquestionable! evidence of the evil deeds of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Untold, however, are the stories of the formidable success of the Women's Rights movement in Iran, in stopping such executions. Untold, also is the fundamental contribution of this particular brand of activism to the improvement of the human rights in Iran.

Shadi Sadr the Iranian lawyer who has successfully rescued some of the women on death row (and the recipient of the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism raises an interesting issue:
In all those years that the women movement activists were worried for the fate of Afsaneh Noroozi, Kobra Rahmanpoor, Leyla Mafi, Shahla Jahed, Nazanin Fathi, Fatemeh Pejooh, ashraf kalhori and etc*; and restlessly collected petitions, wrote articles and demonstrated to save their lives, many a man walked blindfolded up to gallows and were hanged, without a short report in any paper, without a voice of protest.**
Why is it that the stoning and the execution of women has turned into a social discourse, but the civil society is silent about the execution of men?

Sadr draws attention to the image of women in Persian culture, typifying kindness, love and nurturing, which can hardly be juxtaposed with the images of a death deserving criminal. But she also focuses on the fact that the Iranian Women Movement is the best organized and the most effective form of activism in Iran. Sadr projects that The Women's Movement will inevitably be gaining enough momentum to push forward the humanrights's agenda, genderless.

* Of the 14 women sentenced to capital punishment, 6 have escaped the sentence; and 8 are having their cases reviewed or referred to the supreme court. It appears to me that although the sentence is given according to the law, the judges and the head of the judiciary system do exercise their authority to prevent the sentence from being carried on. To change the law, however, is what the feminist lawyers are most striving for.

** Quotations are translated from her Persian article in the Zanan Magazine, 15:136, August 2006, page 18-22

This post was inspired by and thus dedicated to A Friend to Humanity


homeyra said...

Naj, you raised important points. Often people ask: isn't it difficult for a woman to do this and that... in the same voice when asking about scarves:) my ready made answer is usually "it isn't that easy for men either."
btw I guess you received my email about

Sophia said...

It has nothing to do with Persian culture. It has to do with geder culture that bestows violence on men and nonviolence on women. Although this is may be completely wrong because the history of the women's liberation movement has shown that women who occupy previously exclusively men's territory, like high crporate positions where the violence culture is routine, tend in their majority to imitate men.

naj said...

Sadr draws attention to the image of women in Persian culture, typifying kindness, love and nurturing, which can hardly be juxtaposed with the images of a death deserving criminal.

Shadi Sadr was speaking in the specific context of Persian culture. (If something is Persian, it doesn't mean it is exclusively so.)

If the mythology has a role in the formation of a nation's narative, women in the Persian culture have a special status--non withstanding "certain" Islamic importations--which have found their ways into the urbane culture and legistation, thanks to the strong (Feudalist/Bourgeois) influence of the clergy, even since the inception of the parliamentary system in Iran, but reinforced by the current regime.

I think what the western brand of women's liberation has tried to accomplish has been "equal" norms of behavior for men and women. As far as I can tell, that is not the case in the Iranian feminist movement, which strives to secure "feminin" rights for women. (although I have to clarify that the feminist movement in Iran varies in its degrees of radicalism, and that we too do have bearded women in the Parliament who want to make sure that women will abide by the strict laws of feminity brought forward by the shari'a! But in general, Iranians conduct themselves within the boundaries of Persian traditions--at times very regional, tribal and different from part to part of country, willfully ignoring or turning a blind eye to the Islamic decree.)

But I also don't think that imitation of gender role is the root cause of corporate violence in women; it is just the nature of power, which corrupts the weak links of nature as they struggle to hold on to an undeserved power!

It is my genral philosophy that those who resort to violence are those who are trying to compensate for a "lack", like my favorite President, George of the Jungle!

naj said...

Hi Homie,

You know I had a Pakistani friend visiting me the other day, who was asking me about "so were you forced to wear Borqa, because of Iranian fundamentalism."

"Iranian fundamentalism doesn exist", I told her. (Then went throughthe dance and song of pictorial evidence of my half-scarved head, hair hanging out in front and back, a big piece of pizza stuffed in mouth, a HUGE sign of "COCA COLA" behind me, and a number of even less conservatively clad boys and girls laughing joyously in the background.)

But I was most shocked by her question in the first place. Herself being a Muslim, I expected her to be a bit more world savvy to not buy Globe and Mail trash.

I feel helpless with the ignorance that surrounds me! I just want to come home and get away from this blindfolded community that I am surrounded with!
(I'm sure Sophia knows what I am talking about!)