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Posts Tagged ‘women's rights’

Iran’s fearless female revolution

In protest, women's rights on April 26, 2010 at 3:26 am

When Americans hear the words “Iran” and “women” used the same sentence, images of long black veils and public floggings are probably what come to mind. But what western media does a poor job portraying is the quiet, but bold, feminist movement that is taking place in Iran.

For example, Americans would probably be surprised to learn automobile racing is a popular sport in Iran. They’d be even more shocked to discover one of the nation’s top competitors is a women.

Meet Iran’s Dana Kirkpatrick, Zohreh Zatankhah. Ms. Zatankhah is a nationally ranked racecar driver who has taken first in races against her male competitors. In all 40 of her last races, she has placed in the top three.

“When I started this job, the men would laugh at me, Zatankhah  said. “They aren’t laughing anymore.”

But sports isn’t the only male-dominated field Iranian women are making headway in. Tahmineh Milāni has been testing the limits of the her nation’s film industry for years. In 2001, she was arrested and jailed for her controversial film, “The Hidden Half.” Her most recent film, “Payback,” tells the story of a group of women who pose and prostitutes and then seek their vengeance on accepting men.

“A society that reduces women to mere sexual objects, would have to pay a very high price for it,”  Milāni said.

While Milāni’s and Zatankhah courage and accomplishments are more than impressive, it’s the activism of the granddaughter of the Islamic Revolutions’ leader that is most shocking. Zahra Eshraghi’s grandfather was none other than Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini is still revered by Iranians as the father of the 1979 Iranian revolution. His strict interpretation of Sharia law imposed on women is something his granddaughter is trying to reverse. And although she wears the traditional chador, Eshraghi has become famous for her recent campaign against requiring women to wear headscarves.

”I’m sorry to say that the chador was forced on women,” Eshraghi said of the long black garment. ”Forced — in government buildings, in the school my daughter attends. This garment that was traditional Iranian dress was turned into a symbol of revolution. People have lost their respect for it. I only wear it because of my family status.”

It’s been almost 100 years since the United States gave females the right to vote. Should American women ever grow complacent or forgetful of their revolutionary past, perhaps their sisters in Iran can offer inspiration.


Watch Iranian filmmaker Tahmineh Milāni talk about her latest controversial film, “Payback.”

Watch Matt Lauer’s report on Iranian female racecar driver, Zohreh Zatankhah.


The myth of women’s liberation in Afghanistan

In women's rights on October 8, 2009 at 4:53 am

(Note: The film, “Rethinking Afghanistan,” is showing Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 7:00 p.m. at MSSU’s Cornell Auditorium in Plaster Hall.)

Yesterday marked the 8-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. As support for the war is reaching an all-time-low, I find myself siding with popular opinion.

However, although I view the war as a complete and utter failure, I believed it to be successful in the area of women’s rights — until yesterday.

We’ve all scene the portrayals of the happy, newly-liberated Afghan women. The media has told us they are now teachers, politicians and business women. And some of them are. But a video I stumbled across yesterday shattered the myth I held. I believed that change in Afghan law necessarily meant change in the lives of Afghan women.

On the contrary, it appears existence has worsened for the average Afghan woman.

Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, and Mariam Rawi, member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, stated in an article:

“The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.

Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.”

Kolhatkar and Rawi appear to be right.

I, like many Americans, was under the ridiculous notion that the force of law had changed the hearts of Afghan men. On the contrary, it seems to have made many of them more grounded in their sexist ideology. In April, President Hamid Karzai signed legislation legalizing rape in marriage. The law also prevents women from leaving their house without the permission of their husbands.

Many Afghan women and women’s rights groups attribute the increasing abuse to U.S. action. Specifically, America’s support for the mujahideen’s return to power.

The mujahideen were the U.S.-supported predecessors of the Taliban. Like the Taliban, they are radically sexist and oppressive of women — and they are now in control.

My discovery of the true state of women’s affairs in Afghanistan has only further convinced me that an outside force cannot liberate another people. As was the case with the American Revolution, it seems that it is the hearts and minds of the oppressed that must desire for themselves freedom — and then choose to act on that desire.

My sentiment echoes that of Orzala Ashraf with the Afghan Women’s Network:

“I don’t believe and I don’t expect any outside power to come and liberate me. If I can not liberate myself, no one from outside can liberate me.”

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