Jun 252009

It does truly defy understanding that given that  roughly half of the human occupants on planet earth are women  anyone would think that you can resolve a global economic crisis without their full and equal participation.  Via IPS News:

A groundbreaking U.N. General Assembly conference on the global economic crisis and its impact on development, set to begin Wednesday, may sideline women’s numerous concerns, civil society groups say.

The three-day meet does include a Women’s Working Group for Financing and Development, and the draft text to be debated by diplomats and heads of state, which was submitted and finalized Monday, mentions the differential impact the economic crisis is having on women.

However, the working group’s participants are gender equality and rights activists, not member states or delegates.

“We are counting on member states to recall their commitments to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment,” Yassine Fall, economics advisor for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), told IPS.

And while the General Assembly conference includes a women’s working group to address these issues, according to Bien Aime, that is part of the problem.

“The U.N. is very good at segregating women’s issues,” she told IPS. “It is critical to incorporate gender into all issues, that’s where the U.N. fails a lot.”

“They reserve an afternoon for women, almost as an afterthought,” she added.

Gender is an issue the U.N. has long struggled to properly address, even within its own structure.

According to a 2008 report by the office of the secretary-general, progress in the percentage of women represented in professional and senior appointed posts at the U.N. over the past decade was “disturbingly slow”, with only a three percent increase in female representation since 1998.

“It’s very necessary to have women in politics, to have women in society who come into power,” Barbara Prammer, president of the Austrian parliament, told IPS in May. “We need women in leading positions in the economy, everywhere, I’m deeply convinced.”

The U.N.’s official summary of the conference states explicitly that one of its main goals is to mitigate the impacts of the crisis on “vulnerable populations”, but nowhere are gender issues specifically noted. 

Wow–these are known issues and it should truly be crystal clear that they must be considered.  Sadly it is doubtful that a conference that is this disdainful of women’s lives will accomplish anything truly productive.

 June 25, 2009  Posted by on June 25, 2009 Comments Off on The Girls’ Guide To The Economy Part 20–Women Are An “Afterthought” On Agenda For U.N. Economic Conference
Jun 252009

Short on time this morning, but wanted to post this link to an interview with Isobel Coleman of the Council on Foreign Relations with some interesting thoughts about the role of women in the politics of Iran.

Also a followup thought to what I posted yesterday regarding comparing the murder of Neda Agha Soltan to other iconic images such as the killings at Kent State University or the murder of Meena, a leader  of RAWA–it occurs to me that another comparison worth some thought is the way that news of this killing was disseminated–namely via digital video and the digital cameras that  brought us the pictures of Abu Ghraib.  Something to be said for it being a whole lot more difficult to hide atrocities in the digital age.  Thoughts?

 June 25, 2009  Posted by on June 25, 2009 Comments Off on A Few Quick Thoughts About Iran
Jun 242009

The long-term political impact of the highly visible murder of Neda Agha Soltan is not yet known.  I have seen several comparisons of the horrifying video of her death with the 1970 shootings at Kent State and indeed there are some legitimate points of comparison, not the least of which is the eerie similarity between her teacher leaning over her body and John Filo’s Pulitizer Prize winning photo of Mary Vecchio leaning over the body of a student who had just been shot.But politically it may well be that the symbolism of Neda’s death will in the long run be more akin to the brutal killing of Meena, one of the founders of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA).

Without a doubt, the Iranian  government takes her death quite seriously, with The Guardian (UK) reporting that,

The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world.

Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has offered legal assistance to the family, saying that her killing was “illegal” and that,

“According to the constitution of the Islamic republic, peaceful rallying and demonstrations are allowed and do not need permission from any authorities.”

Ebadi, who was out of the country at the time of the election, will no doubt  continue be an important part of the dialog. Indeed, it is becoming quite clear that women are playing a far greater role here than simply being the victims of brutality, they are very visibly at the forefront of the political dissent.

As the Toronto Star points out when it quotes Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi, a professor at the University of Toronto,

“Today we are seeing what is historically the first national movement with a leadership that is predominantly female. Women are running this resistance.”

And Anne Applebaum writes on Slate,

(T)here is a connection between the violence in Iran over the last week and the women’s rights movement that has slowly gained strength over the last several years in Iran.

Citing women’s activism going back many years in Iran, she says,

Not Obama, not Bush, and not Twitter, in other words, but years of work and effort lie behind the public display of defiance—and in particular the numbers of women on the streets.

The Iranian clerics know that women pose a profound threat to their authority: As activist Ladan Boroumand has written, the regime would not bother to use brutal forms of repression against dissidents unless it feared them deeply. Nobody would have murdered a young woman in blue jeans—a peaceful, unarmed demonstrator—unless her mere presence on the street presented a dire threat.

As Dana Goldstein frames it,

(B)y almost every measure, the Ahmadinejad era has represented a leap backward for Iranian women, leading to a resurgence of feminist organizing. “I wouldn’t say the election was a turning point for women,” says Sanam Anderlini, a Washington-based consultant on international women’s issues. “But I would say women were the turning point for the election.”

Dr. Judith Rich goes so far as to wonder,

Are we witnessing the first female led revolution in modern history? The genie is out of the bottle in Iran and those close to the scene doubt it can ever return to the status quo, even if the current regime manages to crush the rebellion.

Given  The historic nature of the role that women are playing in the events in Iran, it is truly disheartening to hear Martha Radditz of ABC say that, “Many are calling this a Lipstick Revolution.”  Radditz does not say who the many are and the only  use of the term relevant to the current situation that I could find was Playboy’s unfortunate piece, “Making Sexy Political” which informs us that the unrest is “about (women) displaying their centuries-old legacy as voluptuaries.”  Even stranger, Radditz uses the term even though in a related piece on the ABC website  she writes,

“Others say the presence of so many woman is only the tip of the iceberg. “This movement is not about wearing lipstick and throwing their veil off,” Kelly Nikinejad, editor of Tehranbureau.com, told ABC News. “It’s so much deeper than that.”

Please contact Raditz and ABC and let them know that trivializing this story by reducing the human rights and political might of Iranian women to a matter of merely cosmetics is absolutely unacceptable and displays a shocking lack of understanding of the current events in Iran.

The Feminist Peace Network will continue to provide analysis of the role that women are playing in Iran as events unfold.  Also please see the following earlier posts:

Statement From Iranian Women’s Rights Activists

Stoning To Be Outlawed In Iran?

Some Stone Cold Reality About The Implications Of The Iranian Elections For Women and More On The Unfolding Situation In Iran

Iran: People Have The Power

Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism In Iran: It Is Unacceptable To Attribute What Is Happening In Iran To Just An Outcry Over The Recent Election Results

More On Women And The Election In Iran

Deanna Zandt On Social Media And Iran

Women’s Voices In Iran And The Twitter Coup

Statement From The Women’s Forum Against Fundamentalism In Iran (WFAFI) On The Iranian Election

 June 24, 2009  Posted by on June 24, 2009 1 Response »
Jun 232009

At Tuesday’s press conference, President Obama referred to the horrific shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran, a murder that was caught on video and has become a rallying cry in both Iran and the world, saying,

“When a young woman gets shot on the street when she gets out of her car,” Obama said, “the violence clearly has reached an intolerable level.”

No doubt.  So I have this followup question for the President:  Is it also intolerable when women are shot in their homes?  When women are raped in the Congo? Set themselves on fire to escape domestic violence in Afghanistan, are killed by their families for reasons of ‘honor’ in Iraq?  And let’s bear in mind that this took place in a country where women’s human rights have been under siege for quite some time.

Will misogynist violence now be a focus point for your administration because while Neda’s death is horrible and a sad symbol of what is happening in Iran right now, the reality is that women get shot or killed in other ways every damn day on this planet for reasons that aren’t so different from why Neda got killed–namely the need to assert power over another and to control their lives–and those deaths rarely get more than lip service.  President Obama, what new actions will you be taking to end the pandemic war against women?

That is the question I wish had been asked.

 June 23, 2009  Posted by on June 23, 2009 Comments Off on Memo To Pres. Obama: Yes Neda’s Death Is Intolerable, But Women Get Shot Every Day, Are Those Deaths Intolerable As Well?
Jun 232009


This statement was circulated among women’s rights activists in the current conditions of a near complete communication shut-down. Therefore, many women’s rights activists [interested in signing] might not have yet seen this statement at this point. Zhila Bani-Yaghoub and her spouse, Bahman Amouiee, are among the undersigned but have since been arrested and are currently among the detainees.

Stop the Repression of Iran’s Women and Men

Release All Detainees

Although the non-democratic tenth presidential election was one of the most promising elections for bringing about peaceful change, what ensued afterward gave rise to widespread protests by the public.

Alongside civil and political rights activists, labor activists, students, journalists, and ethnic rights activists, a large spectrum of women’s rights activists from several campaigns and tendencies also participated in the election in order to say “no” to a government with a discriminatory orientation and to demand an end to gender discrimination.

A hope for change brought millions of women and men to ballot boxes, but the official results transformed this hope into despair and led to widespread demonstrations by the population. The response of the establishment to these protests has been blatant violence, beating, bloodying, injuring, and killing innocent citizens, and the arrest of human rights lawyers and activists, civil and political activists, journalists, students and ethnic rights activists.

Repressive forces, including those who give and those who carry out the orders, once again assaulted universities and dormitories in bloody fashion calling to the minds of all Iranians tired of violence the bitter memories of the events of July 9th 1999 in [Tehran] University dorms. Reports indicate that a significant number of female and male students have been killed, injured, arrested, or are missing across several Iranian cities.

In addition, the blocking of phone and internet communication channels has minimized access to information and and has distressed and disrupted the public psyche. Through complete control of the media, especially all radio and television broadcasting, the establishment is whipping up anger in the population by portraying those who protest and criticize its totalitarian behavior as hooligans and rioters. Meanwhile, without paying any heed to their rights, the state is subjecting people to various forms of brutal violence.

We, the undersigned activists of the women’s rights movement, condemn the violence and humiliation that has continued to be perpetrated against Iranian women and men in recent years and which is aimed at repressing them. We emphasize our continued commitment to achieving the demands of the women’s rights movement, which has had a profound role in educating the public and in civil struggles in recent years, and we express our solidarity with those who protest the results of this election. We demand that those arrested in recent days be released without condition and we call for securing and protecting civil and political freedoms.

 June 23, 2009  Posted by on June 23, 2009 2 Responses »