Sunday, December 3, 2017

Inaugural PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship Awarded to Ava Homa

Echoes from the Other Land Author to work with David Bezmozgis on new manuscript
PEN Canada has long promoted freedom of expression and supported writers facing persecution. Thanks to a new partnership with the Humber School for Writers, that support now includes fully sponsored peer mentorship for one refugee writer through the PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship. Starting in September, Ava Homa, the scholarship’s inaugural recipient, will work on her new manuscript under guidance of the School’s graduate certificate program director, David Bezmozgis. Homa was born and raised in the Kurdish region of Iran and now makes her home in Canada.
“PEN Canada does exceptional work helping to provide refuge for persecuted writers,” says Bezmozgis. “Bringing them to safety is important, but finding a means to allow them to continue to write is also vital. This partnership between the Humber School for Writers and PEN Canada will provide talented refugee writers with the chance to practice their craft, enter into a professional dialogue with a Canadian author, and, ideally, create a book that will offer a new and valuable perspective to Canadians about the world we live in."
“What is left of a writer when exile denies her publishing in her language?” says Homa, reflecting on the challenges of writing in Canada. “I have lost count of the number of times I have tripped while trying to put the shattered pieces of my identity and my career together. Had it not been for this stellar opportunity, my historical novel, the fruit of seven years of perspiration, would never find a mentor at Bezmozgis’ level to reach its full potential. I am grateful to PEN and Humber.”
The PEN Canada-Humber College Writers-in-Exile Scholarship will provide one member of PEN Canada's Writer-In-Exile network each year with a full scholarship to attend the School for Writers’ graduate certificate program in creative writing. Over the course of 30 weeks, the selected applicant will work one-on-one with one of Humber's faculty mentors on a book-length English-language manuscript of fiction or non-fiction.
The article originally appeared HERE

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Western pressure on Kurdistan Referendum reveals double standard, unifies Kurds




The West has continuously admired the Kurdistan Region for three years: for fighting the world’s enemy, the Islamic State (IS); for its admirable inclusiveness of minorities; for sheltering nearly two million refugees and IDPs, and for practicing a fledgling democracy in sharp contrast with most of its neighbors.
The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) relations with the Western world have been improving, as indicated by numerous visits of Western diplomats to Erbil and the opening of several consulates in the Region.
And yet, despite all of the above, Western powers, one after the other abandoned the Kurds and their government at a time when they approach the age-old dream of no longer being subordinate to a hostile government.
At a time when Kurdistan sought support from its allies, Western powers turned their backs on Kurds who have made, and continue to make, sacrifices in the ground fight against the world’s enemy, IS, and have shed blood to do so in areas outside of their ancient land.
In declaring their opposition to a democratic referendum, in line with international laws and conventions, they undermined the ideas they preach.
According to their double standards, when one of Kurdistan's political parties disagrees with the referendum, it is not interpreted as a sign of freedom of expression and democracy but as “division” and “lack of unity.”
What Kurds, in millions, rally for at home and abroad is not respected. It is overlooked. Democracy seems to be good, but only for the powerful.
Ironically, Iran and the US agree on opposing the referendum, though not for the same motives. Iran is afraid of losing its iron-fisted power over its own suppressed Kurdish population. On its end, the US is wary of Iran’s widespread influence in Iraq.
The United States changed its position on the referendum a few times, but eventually, the State Department’s rejection of the vote was followed by the White House’s refusal to support KRG. Finally, the UK rejected the move, and more countries jumped on the bandwagon.
Political analyst Hemn Seyedi told Kurdistan 24 on the phone he sees four reasons for the complete U-Turn of the West on Kurdistan. 
To begin with, in international relations, countries cannot openly support secession as it would be fertile ground for conspiracy theories, he said, akin to a declaration of war.
The exception would be when countries are openly hostile, such as Iran’s support of Palestine and Israel’s support of Kurdistan independence, he said.
In addition, Western states, especially Trump’s new administration, would like to put an end to costly interventions in the Middle East. With a divided Iraq, their goal for creating a “democratic” Iraq would also have failed, he added.
Moreover, any change in the turbulent Middle East would create new responsibilities they would not necessarily want to shoulder. Therefore they see it in their interest to maintaining the status-quo, Seyedi explained.
Finally, the US wishes to woo Shia officials in Iraq in an “American campaign” to curb Iran’s influence in the country. Washington hopes that a Shia-led Iraq would be different from the Shia-led Iran and would become an ally, the Kurdish analyst concluded.
As such, the United States’ refusal to support the referendum could only be rhetorical and part of an internationally-accepted diplomatic attempt, as Professor David Romano suggests, “to not alienate the Arab world.”
He also told Kurdistan 24 that American leaders “are incapable of thinking outside the box and deviating from standard routines until presented with no other choices and that the standard routine is to defend the current borders.”
WESTERN PRESSURE HAS UNIFIED KURDS
Nonetheless, the Western and regional pressure has had the positive effect of unifying Kurds across the ideological spectrum.
The support for the referendum is spreading to way beyond the Kurdistan Region, as analyst Amberin Zaman told Kurdistan 24 in an email exchange.
“It has reinforced President Masoud Barzani’s standing among Kurds and stiffened his resolve. His refusal to bend to such pressure has put the lie to the myth that the United States always calls the shots,” Zaman said.
The neighbors are panicking, and their rhetorical war has increased so much that the prospect of violence has increased. In fact, the whole world has been hysterical about a legal referendum while turning a blind eye to blatant war crimes in places like Turkey and Myanmar.
Analysts who dismissed the threats as mere rhetoric a few weeks ago now think Kurdistan should be prepared for the possibilities of unrest.
“Whether Turkey follows on its threats to take concrete action, particularly if it shuts the border or shuts off the oil pipeline, it will obviously have a severe impact, and as its effects are felt, it may well weaken support for the leadership over time,” Zaman said.
“Equally, the potential for violence and provocations in Kirkuk is deeply worrying. But nobody said this was going to be easy,” she concluded.
Kurdistan is going through a critical time. Whether or not military action is taken against it for holding a legitimate and democratic vote looms large in the minds of Kurds as they anxiously count down the days with both excitement and trepidation.

The article was originally published here

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How Iran's Education Ministry targets women, minorities through uncompromising, exclusionary policies



Iran's Minister of Education has been using a list of "disorders" for two years that disqualifies applicants from obtaining a teaching position.
The Ministry that is expected to educate non-discriminatory practices managed to exclude the greater part of the population by offering at once a sexist, ableist, homophobic, and racist discourse. Included in the list are cancer survivors, people who have an “accent,” or smoke cigarettes or shisha.
Though teaching is traditionally considered a “gender-appropriate” job, the new list declares that women who are "infertile, have too much facial hair, cyst on ovaries, womanly disorder, breast, or cervix cancer" will not be hired. The statement avoids mentioning words like mensuration or the Farsi equivalent of the cervix.
But the disqualifying "diseases" are not limited to gynecology-related matters. As usual, for women of non-Persian ethnic groups, the pressure is twice since the Ministry says it will not accept educators with "heavy accents."
By recognizing only one official language, Iran has long annihilated linguistic diversity, damaged the well-being of the non-Persian students, and guaranteed unequal access to education.
Approximately, 50 percent of grade one students in Iran have to learn literacy in a language that is not their mother tongue. Many become adults who speak Farsi with Kurdish, Turkish, Arabic or other accents.
Moreover, Iran, which outright denies the existence of homosexuals (President Ahmadinejad created an international uproar when he said at Columbia University that Iran had no gays), mentions “hermaphrodism” (intersex) as a disqualifying “illness.”
But the list does not end there. In addition to excluding most women, the LGBTQ+, a considerable number of non-Persian speakers, the Ministry of Education goes on to exclude people who are not tall enough.
As such, short people are not to become teachers in Iran. Nor do people who limp visibly.
Poor eyesight, having had bladder surgery, blood pressure, thyroid problems, spine issues, digestive system issues are also among barring conditions.
People suffering from PTSD, speech impediments, epilepsy, depression, bipolar or other psychological disorders are not to teach either. Predictably, graduates who have had a stroke, brain attack or have multiple sclerosis, prostate, or other issues are to be excluded from the Ministry.
Although last week social media backlash made the ministry promise to modify the list, the discriminatory perspective of the Ministry is yet to be upgraded.  

FEMINISTS TREATED AS ENEMIES OF STATE
Despite the vital role that feminists can play in such a society, their voices are ruthlessly suppressed. They are treated as "enemies of the state" and are threatened with imprisonment on national security-related charges, as Amnesty International reported. In fact, the supreme leader called gender equality a “Zionist plot.” 
The religious dictatorship in Iran relies heavily on patriarchy to survive and not only because dictators overall are terrified by any form of solidarity and depend on division to survive. When men are watchdogs for women, the government needs to control only half of the society and the other half is an (unwitting) agent reproducing suppression. After all, empowered women are not easily silenced.
The internationally-isolated government also requires the support of religious families who believe a woman’s place is at home. And finally, the success of women movement can inspire other struggles for other social justice movements and has to be harshly punished.
Indeed, if Iranian women of diverse backgrounds were to unite and speak with one voice, they could overthrow the regime.
The political ideology in Iran has justified much discrimination in the past four decades, though the sexist laws go back as far as the 1936 civil code. Since the 1910-era Constitutional Revolution, women in Iran have struggled to achieve gender equality, to no avail.
In the 1930s, women had 14 magazines discussing their rights, and by the 1970s had gained some freedom of education and occupation. But these small achievements were taken away when Ruhollah Khomeini usurped power in Iran in 1979.
Throughout history, Iranian rulers have established control over Iran by subjugating the female body. Reza Shah, the Pahlevi Dynasty’s first Shah, ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941. He forcibly removed the hijab from women in an attempt to westernize the country.
Since 1979, the Islamic Republic has forced the hijab back onto women in order to Islamicize the country. At the micro-level, individual males in Iran have also exerted control over women’s bodies to prove their authority.
Women suffer gross injustice in areas related to marriage, divorce, and child custody. They are legally unable to work or leave the country without their husband’s permission. A woman cannot marry without her father or a male guardian’s authorization. There is little to no protection for women and girls against sexual harassments, and domestic and external violence. Early and forced marriage, as well as marital rape, is still common in the country.
After a century-old movement, women are still officially considered subhuman in the eyes of the Iranian state, and their situation seems too bleak. A glimmer of hope, however, lives within the fringe, counter cultural movements burgeoning under the skin of the country, from Kurdistan to Tehran.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Increasing rhetoric on women’s rights in Iran

My article published in Open Democracy


Increasing rhetoric on women’s rights in Iran: a positive sign or a mere campaign tool?

Why women’s rights rhetoric is suddenly on the rise in Iran, again.
Iranian women lining up to vote in the holy city of Qom. Khademian Farzaneh/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.In elementary schools, before we girls could understand why our bodies – unlike those of boys our age – had to be hidden away and covered, we were told good girls were inconspicuous. Speaking and laughter were discouraged. The only occasion in which screaming was applauded was when we were chanting: “Death to America”, “Death to Israel.”
Every four years during the presidential elections, Iranians are offered a unique level of freedom. Women who are otherwise punished for their non-Islamic dress codes are seen in photos with candidates, uncovered. Gender segregations are limited, and women’s rights rhetoric rises. The melancholic culture, whose holidays are mainly death anniversaries of some Imams, allows street celebrations. Citizens pressed under a crippling economy caused by sanctions, corruption, and mismanagement of resources, are offered a ray of hope, provided that they vote for so and so.
What do women rights mean in a country whose supreme leader calls gender equality a “Zionist plot”?
But what do women rights mean in a country whose supreme leader calls gender equality a “Zionist plot”? How is women’s participation encouraged when their very gender disqualifies them from running for the presidency? The constitution decrees the president has to be male, a believer in the Islamic Republic, and follower of the dominant sect of Islam (Twelve-Imam Shia). Thus, the greater half of the Iranian population is automatically excluded. Hence, women’s “rights” means voting, not being trusted with an important position.
The number of Iranian women working in government positions has slightly increased compared to two decades ago and this has provided a perfect propaganda tool for the state. However, influential ministers such as Maryam Mojtahidzadeh, head of the women’s ministry, talk about ‘complementary’ roles for women – not equality. To this day, a woman’s most important decisions in life (marriage, child custody, divorce, employment, traveling abroad) legally require a man’s approval: a father or grandfather, a husband, or one of the all-male judges.
To this day, a woman’s most important decisions in life... legally require a man’s approval.
Moreover, to draw voters and earn legitimacy, the government banks on horrors of invasions. Iranians are fearful that their country would be torn apart like their neighbors: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan. Women know they are the first victims of war and destruction and so they avoid reaching that point at all costs, even if that means supporting a dictator.
The prevailing myth in Iran, what the hardliners and the so-called reformists promote, is: choose between violence and reform. They undermine options such as civil disobedience or boycotting the elections. “Reformists” have offered no plan to make significant changes to the discriminatory laws of the constitution and yet they pressure the marginalised to vote for them “for stability”.
When women are legally allowed to run for lower rank positions such as city councils or parliaments, they lack the confidence in themselves and other women to trust them(selves) with managerial roles. Although globalisation, the massive population of Iranians in diaspora and access to the internet and satellites, have put Iranian women’s unfair situation in sharp contrast with the West, gender equality is not systematically taught in Iran.
Many still wonder how feminism is not “a threat to families and society”.
Hence, many still wonder how feminism is not “a threat to families and society”. Rising numbers of divorce are seen not as a protest to patriarchy, but as a negative impact of women’s relative liberation from cultural taboos.  
Although 60% of Iranian college graduates are women, they make up just 13% of the workforce. A portion of women has gained divorce and travel rights by stating those in their marriage licenses. However, the implementation of legal loopholes by the upper-middle class has not improved life for the rest of the women.
The protests to gender inequality are sometimes uneducated and misguided. Society has not been taught how everyday language is inherently denigrating for women e.g. “dakhator shohar dadan”, “They married the girl” not “The girl married”. The widespread jokes that mock girls as dullards, incapable of thinking, reproduce patriarchy and recreate the distrust in women.
Globalisation has changed much in Iran, but women are still welcomed only when they contribute to patriarchy and nationalism. The small freedom and hope offered during the election season, the massive propaganda about empowering women, the prevailing myth of ‘war or reformists’, allure women, minorities and other second class citizens to the polling stations. This, in turn, further legitimises the Islamic Republic and recreates a vicious cycle.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"دەوڵەتی ئێران منداڵ وەک ئامێری باج ستاندن بەرامبەر دایک بەکار دێنێت"




سۆما مەهابادی / ژنها JINHA

کەنەدا – لە چاوپێکەوتنێکیدا لەگەڵ ئاژانسەکەمان، ئاوا هۆما، ژنە ڕۆژنامەنوسی ڕۆژهەڵاتی کوردستان کە لەوڵاتی کەنەدا دەژیت، دۆخی یاسایی و دادوەری ژنان لە ئێران و ڕۆژهەڵاتی کوردستان هەڵدەسەنگێنێت.

ئاوا هۆما، سەرەتا سەرنج ڕادەکێشێتە سەر نایەکسانی ڕەگەزی لەناو کۆمەڵگا و سزاکانی کۆماری ئیسلامی ئێران و دەڵێت: "ژنان لە سزاداندا لە ئێران وێڕای نەبوونی مافی یەکسان سزای چەند بەرامبەریان هەیە و سزای قورستریان بەسەردا دەسەپێنرێت. جاری وا هەیە تەنانەت بۆ ئەوەی کە دەستدرێژیان نەکرێتە سەر ژنان پارێزگاری لە خۆیان دەکات و سزای سێدارەیان بەسەر دەسەپێنرێت، تەنانەت لە یاسای ئێران گیانی پیاو نرخی چەند بەرامبەری هەیە نسبەت بە ژن، هەر بۆیەش سەرەڕای مافی یەکسانی نیە سزاکەی چەند بەرامبەرە."

ناوبراو سەرنجیشی ڕاکێشایە سەر سزا قورسەکانی سەر ژنان لە ئێران و بەو شێوەیە درێژەی بە هەڵسەنگاندنەکانیدا: "کۆنتڕۆڵ و ژێردەستکردنی کۆمەڵگای پیاوسالار بە گشتی ئاسانترە بۆ چەوساندەوەی حکومەتی ئێران، ئەگەر نیوەی کۆمەلگا بە دەست نیوەکەی تر کۆنتڕۆڵ بکات لە ئەساسدا کار ئاسانیە بۆ ئەو حکومەتە و پێویست ناکات کە دەسەڵات هەم ژن کۆنتڕۆڵ بکات و هەم پیاو. لەو سیستەمە پیاوسالارانە دا پیاو دەبێتە سەرکووتکەری ژن و تەنانەت ژنانیش دەبن بە سەرکوتکەری یەکتر. هەرچی زوڵم لە ناو کۆمەلگا دا زیاتر بێت، کۆنتڕۆڵ کردنی کۆمەڵگا ئاسانترە بۆ حکومەتێکی دکتاتۆری. لە لایەکی ترەوە سەرکووتکردنی بزووتنەوەی ژنان بە گشتی بەرژەوەندی بۆ دەسەڵاتی ئێران هەیە لەبەر ئەوەی کە ئەگەر بزاڤی ژنان سەرکەوتن بەدەست بێنێ ڕێخۆش دەکات بۆ بزووتنەوەکانی تر وەکو بزووتنەوەی مامۆستایان، کرێکار و ئەو بزاڤانە هیوایەکی زۆرتر وەدەست دێنن بۆگەیشتن بە مافەکانیان. هاوکات ئەوە بنەمای دەسەڵاتی کۆماری ئیسلامی دەلەرزێنێتەوە. هەروەها حکومەتی ئێران مەشڕوعیەتی خۆی لەو چەشنە بنەماڵانە وەردەگرێ کە داب و نەریتی کۆن وپیاوسالارانە لەوێدا هەیەو ژن ڕۆڵی ژێردەست. ئەگەر دەوڵەت مافی ژنێک وەک مرۆڤ بە ڕەسمی بناسێ لایەنگری ئەم بنەماڵەیە لە دەستدەدات، هەر بۆیەش دەوڵەت قەت ئەو ڕیسکەی لەسەر دەسەڵاتی خۆی ناکات. چونکە ئەو چەشنە بنەماڵانە لە واقیع دا مۆدێلی بچوکی دەوڵەتن و نمونەیەکن لەو دەسەڵاتە کە نابێ ژن و پیاو مافی یەکسانیان هەبێت."

ئەو ژنە ڕۆژنامەنوسە باسی لە دۆخی ژنانی ناو زیندانیش کرد و وتی: "تاریکترین بەشی مێژووی ئێران لەسەردەمی دەسپێکی حکومەتی ئیسلامی دوای شۆڕشی گەلان بوو کە دەستدرێژی دەکرایە سەر ژنان بەر لە سێدارەدان، ئەقڵیەتێک کە لە پشت ئەو مامەڵەیە هەبوو ئەوە بوو کە بە بیروڕای ئەوان ژنێک کە بە کچێنی لە سێدارە دەدرێ دەچێتە بە هەشت. خودایەک کە ئەوان باوەڕیان پێی هەبوو ئەگەر بە قەولی خۆیان نەفرەتی هەبوو لە دوژمنی ئیسلام، ئەگەر ئەو کەسە کچ بایە سزای لە لای خودای کەم دەبووەوە. هەر بۆیەش بۆ ئەوەی کە مۆڵەت نەدەن کە بە قەول خۆیان دوژمنانی ئیسلام بچن بۆ بەهەشت شەوێک بەر لە سێدارەدان ژنەکە دەستدرێژی سێکسی دەکرایە سەر و ئەو دەسترێژیان بە زەواج پێناسە دەکرد. هەر لەو کاتەوە دەستدرێژی کردن بە ژن بە گشتی ئامێرێک بۆ سەرکوت کردنی ژن بە تایبەت کە لە کۆمەڵگایەک کە نەک تەنها لایەنگری ناکات، بەڵکو ئەو کەسەی کە دەستدرێژی کراوەتە سەری تەنانەت بە تاوانباریشی دەزانێ. جگە لەوە بابەتێکی تر ئەمەیە کە دەسەڵاتی ئێران زەخت دەخاتە سەر هەستی دایکایەتی ژنان و لە دیتنی منداڵەکانیان بێ بەش دەکات ئەوەش بەشێوازێک باج ستاندن وگوشار هێنانە بۆ ژن بە پێی ئەو ئەقڵیەتە کە پیاو زۆر هۆگری منداڵی نیە و نەدیتنی منداڵ هیچ زەربەیەکی عاتفی لە پیاو نادات کە ئەوە بۆ چوونێکی زۆر چەوت و هەڵەیە. بە گشتی لە بواری کەل و پەلی پێویست و خزمەت گوزاری دەرمانی و تەندروستی بۆ ژن لە بارودۆخێکی خراپتردابووە و پارێزەریان لە بەردەست نیە."

وتیشی: "هەندێک بەند کراوان بە دوور خستنی منداڵەکانیان لێیان ڕیگری لە مانگرتنیان دەکات و هەڕەشەیان لێ دەکات کە ئەگەر مان بگرن مۆڵەت نادەین منداڵەکانتان ببینن. بە گشتی لە حکومەتی ئێران منداڵ بۆ دایکانی بەندکراو وەک ئامێرێکی باج ستاندن کەڵکی لێ وەردەگیرێت جا چ لە ناو زیندان و چ لە ناوژیانیان لە زیندانێکی گەورەتر بە ناو ئێران کە بەرگری بکات لە تەڵاق وەرگرتن مافی ڕاگرتنی منداڵ زیاتر بە پیاوانە، تەنها لە بارودۆخێکی زۆر تایبەت ژن مافی ئەوەی هەبێ منداڵەکەی بستێنێ. ئەمە سەرچاوەکەی دەگەڕێتەوە سەر کێشەی ڕەگەزی و دەوڵەتی ئێران بیر لەوە ناکاتەوە ئەو باج ستاندنە بەر لەوەی کە کاریگەری خەراپی لە سەر ژن هەبێ لەسەر منداڵانی هەیە ئەو منداڵە بەشێکە لەو کۆمەڵگایە لە داهاتوو دا ئەو کاریگەریە خەراپە دەبێتە هۆی وەی کە خەساری کۆمەڵایەتی زیاتر بێ. بەڵام بۆ دەوڵەتی ئێران هێچ شتێک جگە لە ڕاگرتنی هێز و دەسەڵاتی خۆی گرنگ نیە و بەلایەوە گرنگ نیە کە ئەو کلیشە ڕەگەزیانە چ خەسارێک لە کۆمەڵگا دەدا."

لەسەر خەباتەکانی ڕێکخراوەکانی مافی مرۆڤ ئاوا وتی: "باشترین کار ئەوەیە کە لەو کاتە دا باسی بەرجام یان ڕێکەوتنەکانی ٥ +١ لە ئارا دایە باشترین دەەرفەتە بۆ ئەوەی کە ڕێخراوە مافی مرۆڤەکان بە گوشار خستنە سەر وڵاتانی ئەروپا و سیاسەتەکانیان، نەهێڵن کە مژاری مافی مرۆڤ لە ئێران لە پەراوێز بخرێ و قوربانی بەرژەوەندیە ئابوریەکان بێ. یانی تەنیا بۆ ئەوەی کە ئێران بێتە نێو بازاری جیهانی و بە هۆی مەسرەف گەرا بوونی خەڵکی کەڵکێکی یەک جار زۆری هەیە بۆ ئەم بازارە کژاری مافی مرۆڤ پێشێل بکرێ. و ئێران وەک تورکیا و عەڕەبستان تەنانەت چینی لێ بێ کە چوون لەگەڵ وڵاتانی ڕۆژئاوا یەکگرتوون کەس باسی مافی مرۆڤ پێشێل کردنی ئەو مژارە لەو وڵاتانە ناکات.

ناوبراو لە کۆتایشدا دووپاتی کردەوە: "کاریگەری ئەرێنی هەبووە ئێمە نموونەمان هەیە لەسەر ئەو بابەتە کە گوشارێک کە ڕێکخراوی ناونەتەوەیی خستوویەتی سەر ئێران بۆتە هۆی ڕزگاری ژنانێک کە لە مەترسی سێدارە یان سزای قورس دا بوون وەکو سەکینە ئاشتی و نازەنین فەتاحی و نەسرین ستوودە، بەڵام بەهۆی پیاوسالار بوونی ئەم سیستەمە هەموو کات لایەنگری لە پیاو زیاترە و ئێران زیاتر دەترسێ لە زەخت هێنان بۆ پیاوانی دەسەڵات دار تا ژنانی پەراوێز خراو یان ئەوانەی لە دۆخێکی مامناوەند دەگوزەرێنن."

Friday, September 9, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Executioners of today and yesterday, Iran’s 1980s mass killing


A shocking audio file sparked debate among Iranians in early August when it revealed a former deputy supreme leader of Iran blaming the regime for the arbitrary execution of the opposition in 1988.
Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri is heard in the recently released audio file addressing officials and warning that history will condemn Iran for the crime.
In his memoir, Montazeri had already voiced his objection to the execution of 2,800 to 3,800 people, mostly but not all, members of an Iranian opposition Mujahedin-E-Khalq (MEK).
Amnesty International estimated that Iran killed about 4,500 people in 1988; others speak of larger numbers. Underage prisoners arrested for delivering leaflets for their political parties were among those put to death.
NETHER REFORMISTS NOR HARDLINERS CONDEMN ARBITRARY EXECUTIONS
Weeks into the release of the audio file, Iranian authorities either defend the mass killing or keep silent about it.
"We are proud to have obeyed God's order," said the justice minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi about killing the opposition, despite former denials of involvement.
The killings mainly came as a punishment for MEK after they launched an attack on western Iran near the end of Iran-Iraq war in 1988. 
In addition to the rush decision to take away life from people already serving time, the executions also undermined Iranian judiciary system but were not announced in national or foreign media.
Montazeri himself who was expected to replace the then supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, was quickly removed from power for his remarks.
Twenty-eight years after those events, Montazeri’s memoir and his recent audio file remain the most valuable and comprehensive evidence for a dark part of Iranian modern history.
No Iranian leader has referred to the executions of Kurds or other groups when the Islamic Republic took to power in 1979.
Twenty-eight years after the tragedy, a piece of evidence is revealed that could have revived much stronger inquiries in the government and among people. Cultural, political and economic obstacles prevented the predicted reaction.
Even though hardliners and reformists tend to disagree over certain events, for example, whether or not it should be permitted to organize a concert in a religious city like Mashhad, they all seem to agree that the summary execution of thousands of people was justified.
EXECUTIONERS STILL IN POWER
One of the main reason for the approval of killings is that dissecting events that amount to crimes against humanity would get the vast majority of current reformists who are now on “the list of hope,” promising a better Iran to their constituents.
Another reason is that condemning it would mean bringing powerful perpetrators to justice who are currently well established in the regime.
In the 40-minute audio, Montazeri is addressing Iranian authorities who are currently in power: Mostafa Pourmohammadi was the Intelligence Ministry’s representative to Evin prison at the time and is now the justice minister.
Ebrahim Raeisi warned by Montazeri was a public prosecutor in the 80s, and he is currently the head of the Astan Quds Razavi, which is arguably the richest institution in Iran.
Hussein Ali Nayeri was also a judge at the time and a current deputy at the Supreme Court of Iran.
LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY, THEN AND NOW
Politicians’ denial or defense of past crimes and Iranians collective absence of motivation to demand justice depicts a society where lack of accountability is to some degree normalized.
Pressed under a crippling economy, having lived under excessive suppression for nearly four decades, divided by ethnicity and religion, disillusioned by their revolution, desensitized to the everyday persecution of dissidents, Iranians have failed to bring their executioners to justice.
Consequent, “getting away with murder” sends a loud message to the current torturers and interrogators in the Iranian prisons that they should fearlessly continue their job.
The literal and metaphorical stench of the 1980s executions is wafting in the lives of Iranians today, disproportionately affecting minorities.
In the first two weeks of August 2016, Iran executed at least 48 Kurdish prisoners but admitted to killing only 24 of those.
According to the database Iran Prison Atlas, 915 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are in detention as of August 2016 – 390 of whom are Kurds.
"They’ll write your names as criminals in the history... History will condemn you,” Montazeri said in August 1988.
Families of the executed still gather in Khavaran cemetery near Tehran every year to commemorate their loved ones who were put into mass graves. Riot police stops families every year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Personal is political in Kajal Ahmad's Handful of Salt


Handful of Salt is a collection of selected poems by renowned Kurdish author Kajal Ahmad, translated by a group of Kurdish and American women, and published by The Word Works in the United States, 2016.
Virginia-based poet and lecturer Alana Marie Levinson-LaBrosse, who taught at the American University of Sulaimani for four years, selected and translated poems written by Ahmad into English, collaborating with Mewan Nahro Said and Darya Abdul-Karim Ali Najm, two of her former students at the American University of Sulaimani.
For a reader who has experienced Ahmad in Kurdish, reading her in English is a process of rediscovering a familiar voice in a new shade.
Bursting with feminine energy, Handful of Salt is a beautiful and refreshing collection of poems about homeland and body, about love and betrayal, dedication and corruption.
“Why is there no end and why no beginning?/ There is no narrative to the story of Anfal, the home of chemical rain, the house of wounded Halabja,” Ahmad writes.
The Kurdistan that Ahmad portrays is one that pulls you in, lures you by showing you its wounds and tears but swallows you when you are fully in and then spits you out when you break taboos.
She masterfully portrays the contradictions in these lines: “Each thorn killed, each plant martyred, the funeral is for my homeland and the wake for a land that senselessly grows both thorns and plants.”
The land of desolation and affection, bravery and betrayal, Kurdistan asks to be hugged but bites you when in your arms. “My dear homeland, you are a lemon: at your name, the world’s mouth wells up. Shivers come over me.”
The homeland Ahmad loved failed her.
She defied the veil and wrote about desire in a conservative culture that dooms women asexual. Men were attracted to her but offered no commitment. Women admired her but only from a distance.
Lonely and threatened by Islamic groups, Ahmad ended up embracing patriarchy and leaving Kurdistan, decisions that "cracked" her image for her followers.
The famous Kurdish author Abdullah Pashew is quoted in the book saying, “The poet is more than a poet in Kurdistan” where no personal choice is private.
Kajal’s way of life, more than her work of art, have been subjects of discussion in a society where a woman’s personal choices have already been determined.
“What stays in the future are my poems. The scarf will go. I will go. My poems will stay. What I am is my poems. Everything else is far away,” Ahmad told LaBrosse when they met in Jordan where Ahmad currently lives.
LaBrosse, who believes Ahmad is the Gertrud Stein of Kurdistan, told Kurdistan24 she was first drawn to this part of the world because it is where "a lot of streets are named after poets."
"Kurdistan is poet's heaven," LaBrosse said.
"Young people in Kurdistan are very connected to poetry. It's sacred for them. At a poorly organized reading, 200 people show up. At a well-organized one, 700 show up," LaBrosse said.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

In Iran, feminism is overthrowing the government


Amnesty International reported Wednesday that since the beginning of this year, more than a dozen women’s rights activists in Tehran had been interrogated by the Revolutionary Guards.

FEMINISM A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY
The religious dictatorship in Iran relies heavily on patriarchy to survive. When Men are watchdogs for women, the government needs to control only half of the society and the other half  is an (unwitting) agent reproducing suppression. Afterall, empowered women are not easily silenced.
Women's activists are treated as "enemies of the state" and threatened with imprisonment on national security-related charges, AI reported. The government is specifically sensitive about the two following initiatives:
The first was a campaign launched in October 2015 to advocate for more female involvement in Iran’s February 2016 parliamentary election. It was called the Campaign to Change the Masculine Face of Parliament.
Second, a website called “Feminist School” began educating people about feminism in theory and practice by posting reports and articles on women issues in Iran and around the world.
Iranian-Canadian academic Homa Hoodfar was recently arrested upon visiting Iran and has been for the most part incommunicado since.
An article published in the Revolutionary Guards-affiliated press stated that Hoodfar’s work with Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUM) to promote feminism and women’s equality in Muslim countries and enhance women’s bodily autonomy was aimed at “disrupting public order” and “prompting social-cultural changes that can ultimately pave the ground…for a soft overthrow.”
Indeed, if Iranian women of diverse backgrounds were to unite and speak in solidarity, they could overthrow the regime. 

BACKGROUND OF WOMEN MOVEMENT IN IRAN 
Since the 1910-era Constitutional Revolution, women in Iran have struggled to achieve gender equality, only to no avail.
In the 1930s, women had 14 magazines discussing their rights, and by the 1970s had gained some freedom of education and occupation.
But these achievements were taken away when Ruhollah Khomeini usurped power in Iran in 1979.
Throughout history, Iranian rulers have established power over the country by subjugating the female body. Reza Shah, the Pahlevi Dynasty’s first Shah, ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941. He forcibly removed the hijab from women in an attempt to westernize the country.
Since 1979, the Islamic Republic has forced the hijab back onto women to Islamize the country.
After a century-old movement, women are still officially considered subhuman in the eyes of the state.
Women suffer gross injustice in areas related to marriage, divorce, and child custody. They are legally unable to work or leave the country without their husband’s permission. A woman cannot marry without her father or a male guardian’s authorization.
There is little to no protection for women and girls against sexual harassments, and domestic and external violence.
Additionally, early and forced marriage, as well as marital rape, is still common in the country.
Women’s rights groups were hopeful that gender-based discrimination would ease under President Hassan Rouhani, but they have seen few improvements.
According to the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum, Iran ranked 130 out of 136 countries in 2013.
Just three percent of Iran’s parliamentarians are women. Even influential ministers such as Maryam Mojtahidzadeh, head of the women's ministry, talk about ‘complementary’ roles for women—not equality.

A DIVIDED MOVEMENT
Feminism under a theocratic government that severely suppresses any challenge to its “divine” rules is an endless struggle. Any activity must be undertaken with extreme caution and has severe repercussions. 
But the Iranian women movement is divided and is facing many challenges.
The contradictory perspectives of secular women activists versus religious ones is one of the main obstacles.
While one group believes “genuine” Islam can be emancipating for women, the other considers secularism as the first step out of male domination.
Urban and rural women are also divided. Middle and upper-middle class women seek occupational and educational rights, while for poorer women, health issues and welfare are primary needs.
Kurdish women's activist Geziza Bapiri believes feminism does not receive the social support it needs. 
"Iranians have not been educated about the value of feminism. That kind of awareness frightens the regime," Bapiri said.
"Also, the movement is a protest. Iran does not tolerate any sort of criticism because it might surface the dissatisfaction among the citizen or inspire other movements. That terrifies the government too," Bapiri added. 
But an important, yet unacknowledged, source of division among feminists in Iran is the ethnocentrism of the dominant group.
Women of Kurdish, Baluch, Arab or Turkmen origins in Iran suffer ethnic as well as gender oppression. However, the first level of subjugation is not admitted by the feminists of the dominant group.
The plight of ostracized women is marginalized not only by the patriarchy in their culture and the national chauvinism of the ruling state but also by the negligence of mainstream feminists.
Last week Kurdish women began a campaign to support female cyclists who were harassed and threatened by officials. The women were biking as part of an environmentalist movement, namely "Green Tuesdays."
Despite the momentum it gained in the Kurdish region, the initiation was largely overlooked by prominent Iranian feminists.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kurdish woman helps cure fatal brain cancer



A conference on pluralism and its challenges in Iran


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Berkeley offers Kurdish language course

Berkeley University offers Kurdish language course
A Kurdish girl by a blackboard writes the name of her language and her unofficial country. (Photo: Archive)
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) – For the first time, the Kurdish language will be taught at one of the most prestigious American universities, University of California, Berkeley.
“Hûn bi xêr hatin Pola Kurdî ya Destpêker - Welcome to the Beginner Kurdish Course,” announced the Near Eastern Studies of UC Berkeley. 
The course will introduce complete beginners to the Kurmanji-dialect of Kurdish, a language that is rarely taught in the United States.
Deniz Ekici, the language director for the University of Arizona’s new Kurdish Language and Culture Studies program in Diyarbakir, Turkey, will be teaching the course at Berkeley this fall.
Ekici is a former Visiting Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. He received his Ph.D. from the Centre for Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter, UK.
“UC Berkeley has some funding for a pilot project involving Kurdish language and area studies. Within the framework of this pilot project, the university offered a Kurdish history, politics and culture class taught by Nicole Watts last year," Ekici told Kurdistan24.
"This year UCB want to follow up with Kurdish language courses for fall and spring semesters. Depending on their funding and interest they might continue offering Kurdish courses. I think this is a great accomplishment for the field of Kurdish studies and I hope more universities offer similar courses,” Ekici added.
He is the author of Beginning Kurmanji Kurdish DVD-Rom, University of Arizona Press (July 2009) and Kurmanji Kurdish Reader, Maryland: Dunwoody Press (February 2007).
The course will “introduce basic grammatical forms, essential frequent vocabulary and key aspects of pronunciation,” UC Berkeley announced.
“Participants of the course will have opportunities to practice communicating in Kurmanji-Kurdish in class on daily topics such as routines and activities, hobbies and habits and so forth,” the university added.
The course hopes to enable students to communicate on everyday topics in various social contexts.
Interested individuals can then progress to the “Beginners Kurdish 2” class in the Spring term.
Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies Department, founded in 1894, is one of the oldest and most distinguished departments in the country.
The department offers both general instruction and specialized training in Archaeology, Art History, Assyriology, Egyptology, Iranian Studies, Judaic and Islamic Studies, Comparative Semitics, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany