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Promotion of Equal Rights Discourse among Political Groups

Sunday 29 July 2007


By: Bahareh Hedayat*

"One of the significant philosophical dilemmas in recent centuries has been to determine which of the two elements of thought and reality have more of an impact on the direction of historical developments. Undoubtedly modern thought avoids such dualities and seeks for an answer in the complexities of interaction between the two. But this approach does not prevent the notion that perhaps one of these elements is more significant than the other. It seems that in the course of people’s lives, as well as in the course of human history, which is a more complex combination of individual lives, social realities have had a larger impact than constructions of the mind. In the inevitable and infinite interaction between the two, social realities, whether economically motivated or political, have possessed more originality than philosophical thought. If the direction of a societal growth is to change, it will be more in tune with the transformation of its infrastructure, its real foundation, than based on ideas. In other words, a change in political and economic condition is more probable to cause an equivalent change in the culture and thoughts of that society than vice versa. For example, a community that is closed and economically poor and underprivileged has less potential for tolerance. Or when a society is multi-ethnic and multi-religious it resists the idea of equality." The quoted hypothesis is from Morteza Mardiha, and is the basis of my argument as elaborated in this essay about the Campaign for One Million Signatures. In fact, majority of the work in the One Million Signatures Campaign has been carried out admirably, which should be viewed as an auspicious reality. This means that we have been successful in shaping the public’s mental constructs and imagination and if it were not for the illegal sabotage endured by the Campaign, we would have seen a higher growth rate in the collected signatures.

Despite what one might imagine, social reality includes the economy and politics. Therefore, collection of the million signatures is an act to influence the opinion of a wide range of public, and not to change a social reality. To collect signatures without making a serious effort to change the foundation of social reality, which are the realms of politics and economics, will not assure the objectives of this Campaign. For even when one million signatures are collected, and the stack of our demands, as specified in the booklet, is realized and even when public masses are relatively mobilized, will then a change in the law truly take place? I’m not denying the pressure that this campaign and its popularity, proved by the number of signatures collected, can have on the legislators. However, to change the economical and political condition of the people is not possible unless we take the steps to finalize change and to open up dialogue about equality between ourselves and with those men who are cemented in the politics, yet have key economic roles. Without such a relation, our effort is crippled and it will prevent us from reaching an ideal point in our goals. Either the Campaign for One Million Signatures truly intends to change the laws or this is merely an attractive slogan. While we could devote ourselves to make changes in the laws our ultimate goal, the larger issue of fundamental changes in the lives of people will remain untouched.

It may be impossible to imagine cooperation and the building of partnerships with current power authorities, in the path toward achieving our demands. Specially since these officials seem to be fearful of the expansion of our demands and view these increasing demands as being in direct opposition to their own security (but of course not in opposition to the nation’s security). It seems that there is no hope for reform among this group of politicians. However, we can still have hope that Campaign’s voice can expand to encompass many layers of our society, from the grassroots extending out to reach to the mansions of the great powers, penetrating the walls of thought on the other side. There are political hopefuls, without thrones and position, who must become aware of our demands and our suggestions for improving the lives of women. They must take a position with respect to our demands. May there be a time when with the backing of tens of thousands of signatures and support, we would be able to elevate the women’s movement and its agenda and to put it in its rightful place, a place of honor and respect, where under no circumstances it can be sacrificed in a political compromise. This goal can only be achieved through resistance and perseverance on our part. We must be willing to embrace and come head to head with difficult circumstances, as we pay the price of change, all the while, ensuring that we stay true to our demands and ideals. In other words, we must ensure that we maintain our independence. At the same time, realizing that the seeds we plant will fertilize the fields on which politicians and political parties stand. To achieve this goal, we need to be forward thinking and plan ahead. To fear that our demands will be appropriated by political parties is indeed a rightful concern, this fear, however, should not dominate our perspective and prevent us from making these connections.

The desire and concern within the Campaign with respect to penetrating the agenda of politicians and political parties is a serious one. Of course, this desire is not in contradiction to the Campaign’s claim which prides itself on being based on a solid social foundation, deriving all its force from the people, and dedicated to realizing the demands expressed by the grassroots populations. I too believe that collaboration and cooperation with political groups can be beneficial to the Campaign if we can mobilize our resources in line with the Campaign’s objectives, while viewing this possible relationship as an opportunity for furthering the our own aims and the goals of our Campaign.

Do we not sense the occasional overburdening shadow of a fearful reality that circles above the Campaign and makes us agonize about the future of this program? We need to concentrate our efforts to create an extensive unified front, one that is all inclusive from the very top point of the pyramid to its broad social base. The promotion of a specific slogan and clear demand, that is the demand for equality and the change of laws, is potent enough to shatter the patriarchal structure (to use a feminist rhetoric) in our society for the promise of a brighter future. It is our duty to spread the news about our demands for change and our proposals for reform to all, including the politically active and among political factions. Even if we decide that the ultimate goal of this movement is not necessarily to achieve legal change, but to attain a unified million voices, we still could not prevent a vast portion of the population that seeks to join in our collaboration. Regardless of our personal preferences, this minority group is especially powerful in effectively demanding a radicalization of the law. In a more stable political and economic condition, whose existence is neither the aim nor the responsibility of this Campaign, one can benefit from the increased awareness among those with power to change the law. Can we deny that the influential powers on this process are none but these political and party members, albeit the men behind the economic scene, who deserve to become included in a collaborative dialogue? It is only through such collaborations that the mass population, which sits at the other end of the activism spectrum, will be able to benefit from their achieved rights and to gain minimum stability in contrast to the maximum suffering they endure.

*Note: Bahareh Hedayat is a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, as well as a member of the Central Council of the Office to Foster Unity (Shoraye Markazi Daftar-e Tahkim-e Vahdat). She was arrested on July 9th, while staging a peaceful sit-in protest in front of Amir Kabir University, along with five other members of the Central Council, Mohammad Hashemi, Ali Niko Nesbati, Mahdi Arabshahi, Hanif Yazdani and Ali Vefghi. The Students were honoring the anniversary of the student uprising on 18th of Tir (July 1999) which ended in violence. The students were also demanding the release of their fellow students at Amir Kabir University, who had been arrested in May 2007. Bahareh and the five other members of Tahkim are being held in Evin Prison, Section 209, which is managed by officials from the Security Ministry.

This article is a transcript of a speech given at the Campaign’s public meeting on May 16, 2007, by Bahareh Hedayat.

Read the article in Farsi

 

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