Dear Friends: We would like to thank you for your concern and activism thus far. It is thanks to you that the EU has condemned the stoning execution of Sakineh, thanks to you that the Islamic Republic’s Ambassador to Norway has been called in for an emergency audience with the Norwegian Prime Minister, thanks to you that France has demanded that the sentences of Sakineh and Mohammad Reza Haddadi be overturned, and thanks to you that Sakineh’s story has gotten the mass media coverage that it needs and deserves. We want to thank everyone out there who spread the word for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani by tweeting, blogging, writing letters, demonstrating in protests this past weekend, or simply talking about Sakineh’s case around the coffee pot at the office.
We have received mails from many of you asking what more can be done, in addition to writing letters to your government representatives and to the UN and the ICRC. Many have asked for guidance on holding their own protest. Many of you have never done this before, but have been so moved by the plight of Sakineh and her children that you want to do more. And we applaud you for that.
This post, then, is for you. Here you will find guidance for holding your own protest/demonstration for Sakineh and others who are facing the same fate as she is. As tragic as Sakineh’s case is, we must never forget that hers is one case among many – one victim among hundreds of thousands of victims of this regime. And by standing up for Sakineh, you stand up for all innocents whose lives have been cut short by the heartless brutality of the Islamic Republic.
You should also know that word of your efforts does filter out to Sakineh and her family, and they are grateful for all you do.
This post is divided into three parts, none of which are particularly difficult to achieve, all of which are essential to holding a protest that maximizes the political benefit for Sakineh and others facing execution in Iran:
1. Nuts and bolts of protest: selecting a site, informing authorities, informing the community and media, making signs with appropriate slogans, documents to have on hand, essential equipment
2. Political orientation: We fight for Sakineh and her kids, AND we fight for others like them at the same time. We demand DIPLOMATIC SANCTIONS on the regime as the best way to support people struggling inside Iran.
3. Sharing the results of your protest: Photo and event report.
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NUTS AND BOLTS:
Holding your own protest is easy. As long as there is a camera to take at least one photo of the protest, there is a protester holding a sign, and there is a paragraph or two to say what the protest was about, what the demands were, what the protesters did, and where they did it, that is all that matters. You don’t need to have 100 people show up to have an impact. Ten is nice. Five works. And if there’s a problem that needs immediate protest and you’re the only one available to stand out there with a sign, then go forward solo and do it with pride. Here are the basics:
1. Select your location. If you are in a city where the Islamic Republic has some kind of office, hold your protest against the regime in front of that building: you are protesting their barbaric policies. If not, hold a demonstration in front of a building that houses your local government: there, you demand that your local government represent your interests and demands. If you don’t have a local government building nearby, then you can protest in some other significant location, or you can hold your demonstration in the place in your town where you can get the most visibility. Remember that where you choose to protest makes a statement about your political priorities, so choose carefully.
2. Inform the local authorities. In the US, because of First Amendment rights (freedom of speech), there is no requirement to get a “permit” to demonstrate if you are going to demo on a normal public sidewalk. All you have to do is ensure that you don’t block the sidewalk and don’t trespass on private property. Nevertheless, it is always good to give a call to your local police station and let them know your plans. If you are in another country, just give your local police a call and find out the procedure. In the US, if you want to demonstrate on national landmark land, you may have to file for a permit; this could take up to 3 days to get a permit, but is usually not a problem as long as no one else is using the space.
3. Inform the community and the media about your event. It is important to let your community know what you are doing, both so you raise awareness about the issues, and so you attract supporters to your event. MFI does a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, and we do a press release. Send your press release to email@example.com, your local newspaper and radio station, and any other relevant news service that you want to send to, and post it on your blog or website if you have one. If you have access to other media like radio or tv, that is fantastic. Social media, as we all know, is also very important, so make a facebook event if you’re on facebook, tweet about it if you’re on twitter, and let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can put your event on a central calendar.
4. Make signs for your protest. Fun and easy and great to do with kids: go to Michaels or a similar arts/craft store. You will spend ~$2 for a bottle of acrylic paint, <$2 for a paintbrush, and ~$2 for a piece of foam-core board. You then have everything you need to make a sign. (I like to add glitter. :D) To maximize your message space, put slogans on both sides of your signboard. Make a few signs to share with other protesters, and ask protesters to bring their own signs. You can see the signs we used for our July 2 protest in the photos here (most were homemade). Take note of the slogans that were used on the signs; these are appropriate for an event to support Sakineh and others like her.
5. Documents to have on hand.
— Chants. Most protests have some chanting to draw attention to the cause and make the protest’s demands audible as well as visible. Have a sheet of paper with your chants for the event printed out. A sample of appropriate chants appears below this post.
— Resolutions of the protest. Normally at a political protest, the demands or political positions of the organizers are read at the end of the event. The demands for a protest for Sakineh and others like her can be based on or the same as the ones that were read during the Global Protest event on July 2-4.
— Flyers. We handed out two double-sided flyers at our protest for Sakineh and Zeinab: one with their respective stories (download pdfs: Sakineh | Zeinab), and one that was focused on the demand to remove the Islamic Republic from the Commission on the Status of Women (download pdfs: UNCSW | HR 1371).
6. Essential equipment. A camera is all you really need – this is for documenting your protest. Just one photo does the trick, but feel free to get fancy with your video camera if you like to do that. A megaphone is nice to have for chanting, but it’s optional.
1. Remember that when we fight like this for Sakineh and her children, we fight for them at the same time that we fight for thousands of others just like Sakineh and her family. There are two levels of goals that we are working for: first, to save Sakineh, and second, to make sure that we don’t have to have another campaign like this for another woman and her kids. The imminent stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi, and of Azar Bagheri, 19, and Marian Ghorbanzadeh, 25 – also facing imminent stoning – and the imminent execution of political prisoner Zeinab Jalalian — all of these reflect the criminal nature of a regime that rapes, tortures and executes whenever and however it chooses in order to maintain political power. So when you can reflect those two levels of the fight against the brutality of this regime in your protest, you take the movement further down the road towards justice and freedom for Sakineh and her children, and for all Iran.
2. For this kind of protest effort to achieve its objective, the message must be on target. There are some demands that are appropriate to make, and others that are not. This kind of effort requires that activists push for DIPLOMATIC sanctions: the Islamic Republic is killing women, children, and workers, so the proper response is to hit the regime hard with delegitimizing diplomatic sanctions: when the regime stones women to death, governments must ensure the removal of the Islamic Republic from the UN Commission on the Status of Women. When the Islamic Republic threatens to execute child offenders, we demand removal from UNICEF. When the Islamic Republic tortures and executes workers, we demand that the regime be removed from the International Labour Organization (ILO). This is in addition to demands for other kinds of diplomatic sanctions such as shuttering Islamic Republic embassies, freezing bank accounts, and issuing diplomatic travel bans. Incorrect demands would be to ask for economic sanctions, which deeply hurt civilians, or bombing of/war on Iran, which is simply unacceptable.
SHARING THE RESULTS OF YOUR PROTEST:
If we can count and document these efforts, we can concentrate them into a very strong message to policymakers that we, the concerned people of this world, will not tolerate these abuses. We have to be strategic with these protests – if they are scattered here and there without being captured under a leading effort, then the energy from them is also scattered and their political power is dispersed. But if we can show the world that 100 protests have sprung up worldwide to demand an appropriate response to the barbaric behavior of the regime and all of the governments that are supporting it, that can and should be wielded as a serious political force.
If we work strategically on this, we can create enormous pressure on a regime that fundamentally depends on the abuse of women for its survival. At the same time, we will force governments to take women seriously as a political power; currently they do not, as can be seen by the willingness of governments to allow a gender-apartheidist government onto the UN Commission on the Status of Women.
Thus, it is important that you share your protest photos and event report on your own blog, website, facebook page, and so on. But it is also critical that the power of our individual efforts be brought together so that decisionmakers in the Islamic Republic and in our own governments see and hear our collective demands as if they were made with a single voice. Therefore, we (Mission Free Iran and the International Committee Against Executions) ask that you send your event photos and reports to us so that we can be sure that your efforts are included in the push to save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and others suffering in the same situation. Mail your protest photos and reports to Maria Rohaly (email@example.com), and we will ensure that your event makes the maximum contribution to the push for Sakineh’s freedom, and the freedom of all political prisoners in Iran.
An example of an event report for a protest on behalf of Sakineh and Zeinab Jalalian can be found here. This is a longer report; yours does not need to be as detailed if you don’t have the patience or time for writing a long report. Just a paragraph or two is far better than nothing!
That’s it! You’re all set! If you have any questions, let us know – otherwise, good luck, and we can’t wait to see what you do out there! :)
All the best,
Mission Free Iran
Examples of chants:
1. United Nations! We’re out of patience! No compromise on women’s lives!
2. Women’s rights are human rights!
3. No more bloodshed…(crowd echoes)… No more dictator…(crowd echoes)
4. 1, 2, 3, 4, dictator out the door! 5, 6, 7, 8, no more killing! no more rape!
5. What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!
6. Stop the killing, stop the violence! People’s voices won’t be silenced!
7. The people, united, will never be defeated!
8. Freedom for Iran! (crowd echoes)… Human rights for Iran! (crowd echoes)…
9. United Nations, pay more attention!
10. Stop the torture! Stop the lies! No one else, needs to die!
11. Together we stand, together we fight! We demand human rights!
12. Zendaniyeh siasi, azad bayad gardad. (Political prisoners must be free)
13. Iranian women! Lead the way! ….(crowd echoes) Civil rights are here to stay!….(crowd echoes)
14. Khamenei ghatele… hokomatesh bayad bere!