We are back from our brief break! In this week’s review, Iranian organizations and individuals receive awards for their work on HIV/AIDS while Mississippi doctors try to fix healthcare inequalities by learning from Iran and Iran’s Supreme Leader puts an end to family planning. The Unveil a Woman’s Right to Unveil goes from Facebook to the streets of Iran, residents in Neyshapour take to the streets to protest inflation,and a report shows the lopsided impact of economic sanctions on women. A group of citizens cleans a park in Isfahan and the loss of Iranian identity is lamented. (Click to tweet)
Red Ribbon Award for Combatting HIV (Click to tweet)
This past week Iranian organizations and individuals were in the news receiving awards for their work to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Afraye Sabz Association, an organization in Kermanshah Province won the Red Ribbon Award given by UNAIDS each year to recognize exceptional work in AIDS prevention. Afraye Sabz was honored for its work on HIV awareness, its educational programs, and its support for people living with HIV and their families.
The UNAIDS Executive Director presents the Red Ribbon Award in the category ‘Prevention among/by people who use drugs’ to representatives of the Afraye Sabz Association. Credit: UNAIDS/C. Kleponis
In related news, the brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei, who were imprisoned for several years in Iran on security charges, received the Elizabeth Taylor Award. The award was given to acknowledge their work in HIV prevention and human rights in the field of HIV.
‘Unveil Women’s Right to Unveil’ Reaches Iran’s Streets (Click to tweet)
The “Unveil the Right to Unveil” campaign is still underway. Many have joined in sending their photos and the message of the campaign has now reached the streets inside Iran. A recent post on the official page of the campaign shows wall graffiti in the city of Bojnord in North Eastern Iran that reads:
Free Hijab, Iranian Women’s Right
Source: Unveil the Right to Unveil campaign page on Facebook. This photo is said to have been taken in the city of Bojnord from the entrance of a girls’ high school.
In an interview with Arseh Sevom (in Persian) the journalist Masih Alinejad and campaign developer Sahar Rezazadeh discuss the campaign. They talk about its influence inside Iran and in the diaspora. They also ask women to share their stories of forced hijab. “It’s a very important part of our history,” Alinejad states.
Me and my Free Dress
Following a request from Masih Alinejad that instead of only sending out photos women can share their stories of living through the mandatory hijab in Iran, the feminist campaign female = male / زن = مرد asked their 137K followers to submit their experiences. Many women joined to share their memories of how they were affected and belittled on a daily basis by the proponents and enforcers of compulsory hijab. Exiled author, Ahoo Shokraie is one example. She recalls (our translation):
My mother did not let me and my sister wear a headscarf until the last days, [when we reached puberty and had to observe the hijab]. It was my fear of the morals police headquartered at Vozara street or the craven looks in the eyes of other men that caused even my mother started to say, “This dress is too tight.” My father would comment, “This is too short” and my sister: “Today is a religious holiday, don’t wear this one.” It wasn’t long before I reached the day when my own son, the grandchild of that woman who never sewed a headscarf for us, walked beside me and told me what to wear and how much my scarf could go back on my hairline.
Courtesy of “Nature Sweepers” group page on Facebook
IRNA state news agency reports that seven members of what this agency describes as “an unconventional dating website” have been arrested. The Iranian cyber police told IRNA that “four of the detained people are under the age of 20.” The Iranian cyber police warned Iranian families that “online dating is a new phenomenon spreading in Iran.” And families should “have a close look at the activities of their children.”
Mehr News Agency cites an education expert expressing concern over the alienation of Iranian students from their history and heritage. Morteza Nazari told Mehr, “Textbooks lack the smallest reference to the glorious aspects of Iranian civilization and the undeniable contribution of the Iranian thoughout mankind.” He added, “Contrary to all that has been said by the officials of the Ministry of Education, the role of families is more significant in familiarizing children with the history, culture, and civilization of Iranians than the national educational system and families will have to take matters in their own hands.”
Earlier in September 2009, the Ministry of Education announced, “Kings will be gradually omitted from students’ history books.”
ICAN has published a report on the effects of economic sanctions on women in Iran, noting that women suffer in multiple ways because of the sanctions regime. The report states that economic sanctions inhibit the education of women, isolate Iranians from the international community, lead to increased violence against women linked to high levels of male unemployment, and threaten Afghan refugees and their children. (Read the report here — pdf)
“We Didn’t Revolt for Chicken” (Click to tweet)
In response, the general and revolutionary prosecutor of Neyshabour reportedly said, “It is beneath the dignity of Neyshabouri people to protest in the streets, to chant slogans for one or two chickens… We didn’t revolt for bread and water [in 1979], and we are not bearing all the hardship now if anything happens, if things worsen.”
Prison Guard, a New Academic Major
Meanwhile, Iranian universities are to offer a new program called Prison guarding.
No More Family Planning, I Say (Click to tweet)
Reversing Iran’s traditionally progressive stance on family planning, Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, has called for an abolishment of family planning laws. Khamenei is quoted as saying, “Our country has the capacity to house double the current population.”
In response to his recent ruling, Shargh newspaper published a report stating that in Tehran the family planning budget has now been cut to zero. The opposition website Neda-ye Sabz-e Azadi [Iran Green Voice] posted the news of a “Mothers Social Marketing Project” launched as a pilot plan in Tehran to facilitate population growth.
Learning from Iran (Click to tweet)
The New York Times published the piece, What Can Mississippi Learn From Iran?, about the common problems delivering healthcare to poor, rural families throughout Iran and in Mississippi. The article documents the efforts of Mississippi doctor, Aaron Shirley, to learn from Iran’s model of preventative care in rural areas, which has lessened gaps in access to healthcare among the rural and urbanized populations.
Do your part to lift the pain of sanctions on Iranian families.
Dear Catherine Ashton:
We, the undersigned, are concerned about the effects the implementation of sanctions are having on average Iranians. We are particularly concerned that items that are not sanctioned, such as medication and humanitarian goods are not reaching the people in Iran.
This is a time of great suffering in the region. We want to ensure that we are not further contributing to the suffering because of the denial of access to a payment channel for humanitarian items. We know the intention of the sanctions is to put pressure on Iran’s ruling elite. We worry that this is not the reality.
The brunt of the suffering falls on women and children and the most vulnerable in society. They suffer the consequences in very real ways. They lose their incomes, their homes, and their access to life-saving medication. Some of this suffering can be alleviated by facilitating the seamless implementation of the existing humanitarian exemptions. These include financial transactions related to medications, basic needs, and other items that are currently not sanctioned.
We ask the European Union to create a payment channel to accept transactions from Iran. This channel should be closely scrutinized. This will allow much needed financial transactions for medications and basic needs to take place.
It is crucial at this time when the people of Iran are desperately trying to make their own voices heard that we show we are listening. They went to the polls in an attempt to show their own government that they wanted reform and better relations with the outside world. We need to show we are listening.
Please help to avert a humanitarian disaster. Allow Iranians access to the international banking system to purchase medications and humanitarian goods.