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.
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.
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.
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.

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. 

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.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book review: You Can’t Bury Them All

Book review: You Can’t Bury Them All
You Can’t Bury Them All by Patrick Woodcock. (ECW Press, Toronto 2016)
Reading You Can’t Bury Them All is like going on a journey with the poet, Patrick Woodcock, seeing people and landscapes of the otherwise estranged lands of the Kurdistan Region, Fort Good Hope, NT, Canada, a small aboriginal community in the Northwest Territories, and Azerbaijan.
The poetry collection, with its striking imagery and piercing language, allows the reader to see what locals see, be frightened or moved by what entices them, and hear voices that wake people at night, like that of the Kurdish propane tank which the poet describes as “an archive of apparitions, an urn of celestial ashes.”
Woodcock digs under the surface of objects and into the skin of locals. He presents to the reader not only what or who he sees but also “the shadows they cast.”
The collection confronts the borders, races, religions and whatever else manages to isolate human from human while exploring and bringing into focus all that connects us.
“Yan Kurdistan, Yan Naman” Kurdish for “Give me Kurdistan or Give me death,” is the title of the first section of You Can’t Bury Them All.
You Can’t Bury Them All is Woodcock’s ninth book and his second poetry collection that contains poems about Kurds.
Woodcock has been called an “almost Kurd” since he lived in the Kurdistan Region for over two years and was deeply engaged with the Kurdish culture, history and landscape. He is still active within the global Kurdish community and is working on an NGO called Canadians for an Independent Kurdistan.
But Kurds are not the only people Woodcock has immersed himself with. He was a volunteer with the elders of Fort Good Hope 20 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle for almost a year and taught in Baku for two years. His incredible power of empathy enables him to see the world from the point of view of various cultures and age groups.
“The cemetery’s headstones are scattered, misshapen—some are as small as the palm of my hand. Smaller than infants, some battered, some hidden, as if none ever mattered or walked on this land.”
The “I” contained within the poems of You Can’t Bury Them All is not always Woodcock but often a local whose perspective the poet is exploring.
In this book, “I” can be a man, a woman, a Kurd, an Azeri, or an aboriginal elder in Canada's north where he worked as a volunteer. It could also be a statue of a poet or a post-communist building falling to ruin.
The central theme of the collection is contained within the title. You can’t bury them all - not in the mass graves in Kurdistan, abandoned children’s cemeteries in Azerbaijan, not under the heavy snow of Canada's north, not by time, aging, neglect, homophobia or by trying to stifle protest and free speech.
“Let snow and what it blankets hearten not haunt you.”
Sprinkled with historical, cultural and geographical references of the three countries,You Can’t Bury Them All triggers one's curiosity by offering a myriad of powerful and profound images. This allows the reader to relish the initial poem before delving further into the geo-political complexity of its subjects.
The accompanying link to the book with the photos and captions can be helpful to enlighten the reader.
You Can’t Bury Them All by Patrick Woodcock
ECW Press, Toronto 2016

Friday, May 20, 2016

Cannes Film Festival screens 'Peshmerga' documentary

The image of the "Peshmerga" documentary showing a female fighter scanning the horizon during the battle with the Islamic State. (Photo: Bernard-Henri Levy website)
CANNES, France (Kurdistan24) – “Peshmerga” is a documentary about Kurdish freedom fighters directed by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy and is included in the 2016 Cannes Film Festival official selection.
In a press release, the organizers explained the last-minute addition, “This film, which we have just discovered, offers a close-up look at the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.”
The topical and insightful story portrays the sacrifices of the unknown individuals in the military forces in the Kurdistan Region, who are fighting the Islamic State (IS) extremists.
Levy said in a statement on Monday that he traveled 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) along the Iraqi border to film battles, landscapes and the faces of men and women who rarely show themselves.
Ala Hoshyiar, one of the main camerapersons of Levy's crew, told Kurdistan24 that the heart of the great battles is the Kirkuk areas of Mosul and Sinjar (Shingal).
“The movie that started in May 2015 recorded Peshmerga's activities indiscriminately across the border,” he explained.
Hoshyiar was severely injured during the recording of the film but did not stop working.
The 92-minute picture will be screened at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, May 20, in the Salle Bazin.
“If demand is high, another screening will possibly be added on Saturday,” organizers said.
The Kurdish Peshmerga have been the most efficient ground forces battling IS on behalf of the world. Many Peshmerga commanders continue to call on further support from the international community in the form of weapons and ammunition.
These humble and noble men and women fighters in Kurdistan are suppressing the same group that claimed attacks in Paris, Brussels, and California.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Right groups: Sohrabzadeh's life is threatened

Rights groups: Sohrabzadeh's life is threatened
Afshin Sohrabzadeh suffering from cancer, remains incarcerated in internal exile at a remote prison in Minab, Hormozgan province, desperately in need of immediate specialized medical attention outside of prison.
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan24) - Fourteen human rights organizations released a joint statement, expressing deep concern about the dire conditions of a Kurdish political prisoner.
Twenty-four-year-old Afshin Sohrabzadeh, a Kurd serving a 25-year sentence forMoharebeh (enmity against God) in Iran, suffers a life-threatening gastrointestinal condition, exacerbated by prolonged lack of adequate treatment.
Sohrabzadeh went on hunger strike in protest to the lack of proper medical care on Monday, April 11, 2016. 
"The right to life is one the most basic rights of every human being. Iran’s Judiciary is causing serious physical harm and even death of prisoners during their imprisonment by ignoring their right of life," the statement said.
Iran is breaking its own laws by denying prisoners like Sohrabzadeh and Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand proper medical care.
Prison authorities are legally required to protect the health of those in their custody but they have refused to cover the expenses.
Article 113 of Iran’s Prisons Organization Law, adopted on Wednesday, December 14, 2005, states: “Soon after the prisoner feels ill,  he or she should inform the prison authorities and should receive referral  to use the prison’s infirmary or a related healthcare facility to receive medical care and the necessary medication.”
Sohrabzadeh's family is too poor to afford the medical costs. 
Amnesty International (AI), a global human rights network based in the United Kingdom also called on Iran to provide medical care for this prisoner. 
Due to Sohrabzadeh's deteriorating health conditions, several requests have been filed with Persecution authorities to let the political prisoner serve his sentence in a province where he can receive medical attention. So far, the appeals have been rejected.
Sohrabzadeh was arrested in 2010 in Kamyaran, Kermanshah Province, and was denied the right to communicate with his family for several weeks.
Sohrabzadeh says he was tortured in that time which fractured his nose and caused a hernia in his abdomen. 
"In addition to his gastrointestinal illness, he is also believed to suffer from respiratory, renal and urinary tract health problems, which he says were caused by his torture, and have worsened due to conditions in prison," the AI statement added.
Taimoor Aliassi, the representative to UN of the Association for Human Rights in Kurdistan of Iran-Geneva (KMMK-G), told Kurdistan24 that Iran currently has 1152 political prisoners, 467 of them belong to the Kurdish minority. Out of 93 prisoners sentenced for Moharebeh (enmity against God), 63 of them are Kurds.  
“Moreover, 95 percent of secret executions in Iran are taking place in ethnic territories," Aliassi concluded. 

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Why Kurdish prisoners are double oppressed in Iran?

Kaboudvand, chronically ill Kurdish prisoner on hunger strike
Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand has been imprisoned in Iran for nine years now. He was the editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan and the chair of the Tehran-based Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (RMMK).
LOS ANGELES, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand, serving an 11-year-imprisonment in Iran, has been on hunger strike for 10 days, suffering aggravated health conditions.
Kaboudvand, born in Diwandara (Divandareh), Kurdistan Province, in the northwest of Iran, was the editor of the banned weekly Payam-e mardom-e Kurdistan and the chair of the Tehran-based Kurdistan Human Rights Organization (RMMK).
When he co-founded the Kurdistan Human Rights Organization, along with other activists, Kaboudvand documented and publicized widespread human rights abuses in the Kurdish areas committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
He was incarcerated in 2007 for his activities and has suffered several health problems in prison that are now aggravated because he stopped eating as of Sunday, May 8.
The hunger strike is in protest to the new accusations brought up against him almost a year before his scheduled release.

Speaking to Kurdistan24 on the phone, Parinaz Hosseini, Kaboudvand's wife confirmed the news and she informed that he has lost significant weight, and his kidney infection and digestive problems have worsened.
Regarding the new allegations she explained that Kaboudvand has recently been interrogated three times.
“First, he was interrogated for having sent a message in support of Kobani and asking Turkey to resume peace with Kurds,” Hosseini said.
“The second time for 'propaganda against the state,' and the third time for writing his dissertation on the violation of the prisoners' rights in Iran,” she said. “The third accusation comes at a time when his dissertation has not been completed yet, and his writing has focused on Turkey and minorities.”
She called on human rights organizations to stand up for justice and not to allow “an innocent man to yet again suffer for crimes he has not committed.”

UN recently condemned Iran for denying prisoners medical attention.
Several Kurdish prisoners such as Afshin Sohrabzade, Mohammad Sediq Kaboudvand and Zeinab Jallalian suffer chronic illnesses.
Azad Moradian, an LA-based activist told Kurdistan24 that Kaboudvand reportedly has suffered from "heart disease, several heart attacks, and a prostate disorder. His condition worsened to the point that in April 2008 he suffered an acute stroke and was taken to a specialist for treatment."
At that time doctors announced that the prisoner needs immediate and specialized care, including heart and prostate surgery.
"Despite the professional advice given to authorities of the Islamic Republic on this issue, and the outcry and condemnation of his treatment from around the world, the authorities have thus far denied Mr. Kaboudvand medical care," Moradian added.

Kurds make up 10 percent of the 70 million population of Iran but they are a majority among political prisoners and receive some of the harshest treatments in prison.  
Saman Rasoulpour, a Sweden-based Kurdish journalist and analyst told Kurdistan24, “The pressure on Kaboudvand has been extreme even though his only 'crime' has been working on human rights in Kurdistan. He is a symbol, representing Kurdistan's civil movements. That's why Iran continuously increases pressure on him.”
In the past nine years, Kaboudvand received furlough only once even though it is one of the prisoners’ rights, according to Iranian laws.
Rasoulpour continued, “His [Kaboudvand's] case ceased to be a legal case years ago and has turned into a revenge story of Iranian government against any Kurdish movements towards equality and justice.”
He told Kurdistan24 that the new charges brought against Kaboudvand were part of the game Iran is playing to claim that it will respond to calls for the release of political prisoners by further oppressing them.
“But the reality is that anytime there is focused national and international pressure on Iran for a specific case, the government gives in and reduces pressure on that specific case,” Rasoulpour added.
Rahman Javanmardi, a Netherlands-based Kurdish journalist also said, “Kaboudvand was one of the first people who actively worked on human rights violations in Kurdistan. A region Iran is terrified by."
He added that, "Kurdish political prisoners such as Kaboudvand and Adnan Hassanpour never receive pardon although many non-Kurdish Iranian political prisoners have been released after serving a portion of their sentence.” 

John Kirby, the spokesperson for the State Department, highlighted Mohammad Sedigh Kaboudvand's case for World Press Freedom Day in April.
“He [Kaboudvand] reported on torture in Iranian prisons, women’s rights issues, and cases of human rights abuses against Iran’s ethnic minorities,” Kirby said and called Iran to release Kaboudvand and other prisoners who have been detained “simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
Because of his journalistic activities, Kaboudvand was named the international journalist of the year at the British Press Award in 2009. He has also received international recognition from organizations around the world for his commitment to human rights.
PEN International, a worldwide association for literature and freedom of speech, adopted Kaboudvand as one of their select writers in prisons.
The British Press Award also named him “international journalist of the year” in 2009. Amnesty International has designated Kaboudvand as a “prisoner of conscience, held solely for his human rights work and the peaceful expression of his views.”
Amnesty International, and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and its affiliate, the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights (LDDHI) have repeatedly called upon Iranian authorities to release Kaboudvand.

The following coalition is currently working on Kaboudvand's case: Human Rights Organization of Kurdistan (HROK), Kurdish American Committee for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran (KAC4DHRI), Kurdocide Watch Chak (Eastern Kurdistan), Kurdish Women’s Rights Organization and Kurdish Human Rights Association. They are in contact with Kaboudvand's family and the international human rights organizations, US politician, and the United Nations.

Reporting by Ava Homa
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany