Human Rights, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, Solidarity with Women

American Feminist Organizations Begin to Demonstrate Support for Iranian Women

Mission Free Iran welcomes the growing participation of American feminist organizations in supporting the struggle of Iranian women demanding freedom and equality.

Since the summer of 2009, Mission Free Iran has repeatedly attempted to find support for Iranian women’s struggle among feminist organizations, which should be natural allies for Iranian women fighting for equality under a dictatorial and gender apartheidist regime. Iranian women distinguished themselves on the front lines of the uprising in Iran in the latter half of 2009. We have seen the Islamic Republic intensify its crackdown against women ever since, from aggressively enforcing “bad hijab” with assaults on the streets for showing an ankle and outrageous fines for wearing nail polish and lipstick, to targeting female human rights lawyers for arrest and detention, to pressing for stoning executions of Sakineh Ashtiani, Maryam Ghorbanzadeh, Azar Bagheri, and 20 others, most of whom are women. Based on Shari’a law, the Islamic Republic has enshrined into its penal code and constitution provisions that are fundamentally anti-woman: a woman’s life is valued as half that of a man, the rape of the girl child is legalized in the name of marriage (it is legal for girls to be married at age 9), and women have few rights in terms of marriage or divorce, while the rights they do have are constantly threatened. Women have no right even to choose their own clothing in the morning – they are forced to wear compulsory hijab whether they want to or not.

The struggle of Iranian women that erupted into visibility in 2009 should have been a clarion call for feminists and feminist organizations worldwide to stand in solidarity with women in Iran from June 2009 forward. From the start, it has been a woman’s revolution. However, Western feminists, and especially American feminist organizations, largely refrained from becoming active in support of the struggle of Iranian women. Even when the Islamic Republic was given a seat on the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women at the end of April 2010, giving it a voice in determining global policy recommendations on gender equality and empowerment for women in all countries, no feminist organizations spoke up to condemn the selection of the misogynist regime.

In the aftermath of the Islamic Republic’s ascension to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, Mission Free Iran renewed its outreach to feminist organizations, sending repeated requests to the National Organization of Women, Feminist Majority, and Code Pink, via email, phone call, Twitter and Facebook, asking them to take a position on the Islamic Republic vis-a-vis its abject violence against women, and its absurd legitimation by the UN Commission on the Status of Women. None of our overtures to these organizations received any response.

By July 2010, the case of Sakineh Ashtiani had drawn international condemnation for the absurd sentence of death for the so-called crime of adultery by the barbaric method of stoning execution. Sakineh’s case drew particular attention from feminists, and more organizations became active in support of Sakineh Ashtiani, and Iranian women’s struggle more generally.

Equality Now was the first feminist organization to condemn the stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, issuing an alert in the last few days of June, almost as soon as the campaign was announced.

We later received a copy of a letter (pdf) that Radical Women sent to the Islamic Republic on October 18, 2010, demanding 1) the immediate and unconditional release of Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, Houtan Kian, and the two detained journalists, 2) the revocation of the stoning or execution sentence of Sakineh Mohamadi Ashtiani while granting her immediate and unconditional freedom, and 3) respect for the human rights of women in Iran.

Finally, on November 3, 2010, one of our members received an emailed action alert from Feminist Majority (click on image to see their alert), asking its membership to take action in support of lawyer Nasrine Sotoudeh and Sakineh Ashtiani. Although the Feminist Majority website does not yet have this action alert posted on its website, we appreciate that Feminist Majority is finally taking action on behalf of both Nasrine and Sakineh, and hope that they will expand their efforts in support of all Iranian women. Previously, Feminist Majority had only supported Islamist activists like Shirin Ebadi (1) and the 100 Million Signatures campaign, both of which support the continuation of the gender-apartheidist Islamic Republic and are therefore fundamentally anti-woman in nature. Feminism demands nothing less than gender equality.

We also point out that the National Organization of Women remains silent on the struggle of Iranian women, and worse, that Code Pink has long been an active supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic, most recently during Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York City to capitalize on the United Nation’s continued willingness to legitimize the genocidal regime that he represents.

Mission Free Iran thanks American feminist organizations Equality Now, Radical Women, and Feminist Majority for coming out in support of Sakineh Ashtiani and other women facing persecution by the Islamic Republic. We invite them to join us on December 11 to demand a UN resolution to criminalize stoning worldwide, and to demand removal from the UN’s women’s organizations of states that depend on misogynist policy and practice to maintain political power. We hope that they continue to work in solidarity with all women in Iran throughout the crisis they are facing, and make the same demand of gender equality for our sisters in Iran as we demand for our sisters in Western countries. Freedom, justice, and equality are neither East nor West – they are universal.

(1) Shirin Ebadi’s support for human rights is very limited. She only recognizes certain (Muslim, reformist) political prisoners as worthy of her support and advocacy, and does not see the Islamic Republic’s slaughter of thousands of prisoners – regardless of the given reason for their execution – as a symptom of the fundamental incompatibility of a theocratic regime with universal human rights. Shirin Ebadi believes that an Islamic theocracy can somehow be made compatible with the principles of human rights. But Shari’a law is fundamentally antithetical to the most basic principles of human rights: equality of the sexes.


5 thoughts on “American Feminist Organizations Begin to Demonstrate Support for Iranian Women

  1. You write :”Previously, Feminist Majority had only supported Islamist activists like Shirin Ebadi (1) and the 100 Million Signatures campaign, both of which support the continuation of the gender-apartheidist Islamic Republic and are therefore fundamentally anti-woman in nature. Feminism demands nothing less than gender equality.”

    And: “Finally, on November 3, 2010, one of our members received an emailed action alert from Feminist Majority (click on image to see their alert), asking its membership to take action in support of lawyer Nasrine Sotoudeh and Sakineh Ashtiani. ”

    Then, sorry, there is something I should have missed…

    To my knowledge, full name of One Million Signatures Campaign is ONE MILLION SIGNATURES CAMPAIGN TO END DISCRIMINATORY LAWS AGAINST WOMEN and Nasrin Sotoudeh is one of the most active members of this campaign; she has been, in addition, the lawyer defending ALL MEMBERS OF CAMPAIGN before the various courts where they have been summonned. And YES Shirin Ebadi is also defending the campaign. Furthermore, Nasrin Sotoudeh has been Shirin Ebadi official lawyer and it is the main reason why she is jailed now; she received many threats to stop defending her. Apart from the legal aspect, they are very close friends.

    At a time when UNITY is more than ever needed, I really do not see ANY ADDED VALUE to attack somebody like SHIRIN EBADI and trying to isolate her from her friend NASRIN SOTOUDEH. I am eagerly waiting for an explanation.
    Thanks in advance

    Posted by Marthe Gonthier | November 16, 2010, 4:48 pm
  2. I am also waiting and watching for an explanation of this blatant and inaccurate attempt to discredit Shirin Ebadi and the One Million Signatures Campaign.
    How can you claim to be advocating for human rights, and post divisive unsubstantiated opinions like the ones here?

    Posted by lissnup | November 16, 2010, 5:03 pm
    • Here is the article where Ms. Ebadi essentially delegitimizes the injustice of Sakineh’s case by calling her campaign a “distraction” from “real” victims of regime human rights abuses:

      And here is where she makes the same assertion about Shahla Jahed – saying essentially that attention to her plight is a regime-engineered plot to distract from “real” victims of regime injustice.,,6203678,00.html

      Ms. Ebadi reserves her “human rights” advocacy, it turns out, for some victims of the Islamic Republic’s murderous abuses, but not for all. Pretty sweet deal if you’re her good friend or her sister, not so great if you’re Shahla Jahed.

      Now that Shahla has been executed, I wonder if Ms. Ebadi has trouble sleeping, wondering if her shameful words in anyway suppressed the outcry in Shahla’s defense – an outcry that perhaps could have saved her life, or swayed the opinion of Laleh’s family.

      Finally Liss, there is no need whatsoever for anyone to “attempt to discredit Shirin Ebadi.” She does it herself, to herself, and in her own words.


      Posted by missionfreeiran | December 3, 2010, 4:24 pm
  3. It is correct that Ms. Ebadi has been rather selective in her human rights support, but that is just a small problem compare to other damages that she has done to the movement. She has worked tirelessly to convince the EU and US governments that people of Iran do NOT want a secular democracy; using her “Noble Prize” like a weapon against the will of our nation which was clearly demonstrated last year. To suggest that Malaysia is the best model for Iran’s future is to slap every woman in Iran in the face. It is not to say that we should not encourage her support of political prisoners. Every voice counts right now in the race to stop IR from committing another mass murder of political prisoners like the 80’s.

    Posted by shadien | November 16, 2010, 9:07 pm
  4. While all of this subjective bickering is going on with some people, there are literally 1000s of people who are being tortured and abused daily, and 100s of others in danger and still others in imminent danger of execution for speaking out against this brutal regime. I heard Ms. Ebadi myself at the September 17, 2010 panel discussion speaking out on behalf of ALL the prisoners with deep concern. The ICHRI Web site only shows partial video (11 minutes of almost 2 hours.)

    Can we please put our subjective opinions aside and press on? Is this possible, because if human rights activist start attacking each other, where does this leave the people who need us? Thank you.

    Posted by Debra Slattery | November 18, 2010, 12:33 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: