IRAN - ONE MILLION SIGNATURES CAMPAIGN - 4th ANNIVERSARY ANALYSIS
Introduction to a series of articles published to mark our 4th anniversary*
29 August 2010
Change for Equality: Four years have passed since the start of our struggle for equality. Four years filled with major changes and upheavals for the people of Iran. A Campaign which started with the goal of changing ten laws, from numerous discriminatory laws in Iran’s legal code, is today facing both encouragement and criticism. The milieu of social, political and economic conditions along with the tensions and shock that were injected into Iranian society over the last year and following the disputed presidential elections, have posed many questions for Iranian women’s rights activists, including activists involved in the Campaign. These questions, within the social and political context of Iranian society prior to the election unrests, may have yielded another set of answers. The pressures and crackdown on civil society, the closure and constriction of public space, the increase in migration of social and women’s rights activists and other similar challenges have left the social fabric of Iranian society in a bewildered state. To reconstruct the women’s movements, and its strategies and struggles in a manner similar to what existed prior to these developments, would be as if one were were recreating previous choices in a context that had experienced significant change.
There were those who felt that the Campaign had not yet achieved its goals. They believe that the Campaign should continue with its efforts. There were others who believed that the Campaign should directly and concretely coalesce itself with the Green Movement and even accept the supremacy of the Green Movements demands over its own. Some believed that the Campaign had lost its position and status, and had to come up with a different plan for its survival. Some believed the Campaign strategies and structure were innovative and novel, while others spoke of the multiplicity of ideas, and Campaign’s inability to define a new strategy because of its confused structure and lack of defined leadership. What is the Campaign and where is it going? What are the criticism of the Campaign and what aspects of the Campaign are to be commended? How much has the legitimacy of signature collection for a petition been undermined given the new developments in Iranian society? How should the demands of the women’s movement been prioritized vis-à-vis the larger movement for democracy? These were the questions and challenges that Campaign activists faced. In order to devise an appropriate response to these questions, time and opportunity was needed. The fourth anniversary of the Campaign however has served as an excuse to tackle some of these lingering questions.
The need for efforts intent on eliminating discrimination, or in other words the struggle to prevent the creation of further discriminations, becomes more meaningful for women’s rights activists when government officials—men and women alike—intensify their pressures and pursue further discrimination in the law in the form of the Family Support Bill. This is a bill which even the staunchest of the Campaign’s critics, the most conservative groups of women, view to be anti-woman and anti-family. Introspective questioning has resulted in the illuminating of the special circumstances with which Iranian society is currently grappling. It serves as an exercise in the examination of the challenges and strengths, opportunities for praise and criticism, of equal rights movements, such as the Campaign.
The benefits to this introspective questioning and the invitation to Iranian society at large, analysts and civil society and women’s rights activists to provide their analysis of the situation of the Campaign and the women’s movement in these new and difficult times, especially at a time when women’s accomplishments, such as their high numbers in university, are under sever attack and being relentlessly undermined are many. They include the opportunity to hear new ideas, the ability to devise new strategies, the purposeful attempt at safeguarding and nurturing a constructive feminist critique of our current situation, and the ability to reconstruct social networks for the purpose of agency and for the purpose of reaction and resistance.
This time, instead of reading the critiques of the Campaign in other media, we have sought them out ourselves. But we have not limited ourselves to analysts and activists alone, we have gone to where the legitimacy of the Campaign lies, to where it aims to have the most impact—we have gone to the people on the streets and in the alleys as well. We have collected these ideas and suggestions, these critiques and are publishing them on our site then in electronic format as a collection. With the hope that equality is not a futile cause and that prison is not where equal rights activists are condemned to spend their days.
**It should be noted that for June 12, 2010, the anniversary of Day of Solidarity of Iranian women a similar volume entitled: “Again from those Same Streets” was published in Farsi on our website. This collection included essay, interviews and writings by Campaign and women’s rights activists, who examined the situation of the women’s movement in general and the Campaign in particular vis-à-vis the green movement and provided analysis on the future of the Campaign given the changed political and social climate of Iran following the protests to the disputed presidential elections in June 2009. This latest volume seeks the perspectives of those who follow the Campaign from a distance. Select articles from both volumes will be translated and made available on the English website of Change for Equality in the weeks that follow.