Anniversary of One Million Signatures Campaign

Monday 3 September 2007

By: Mehrangiz Kar

Roozonline: A year has passed since the launch of the One Million Signatures Campaign to Change Discriminatory Laws. When we look at the developments during the year, we find it hard to believe that the campaign is only a year old; it has matured and experienced a lot in just a single year. It is noteworthy that throughout this time, even some conservatives and opponents of the campaign have jumped on the bandwagon and now advance the goals of the campaign to gain popularity.

Throughout the year, Iranian women experienced a very difficult task ahead of them. On one hand, they have had to convince the Western press not to compare them to women from neighboring Middle Eastern countries, as Iranian women have decades of experience in carrying out social work and fighting for human rights. On the other, they have had to convince their own government that certain laws passed in the name of Islam have cast a shadow on the entire history of women’s rights movement in Iran. Some of these laws, though they may have been useful in the past, have not evolved and are not appropriate any longer. Many ayatollahs, grand ayatollah clerics, and Muslim experts agree that Iran’s current laws are appropriate for the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the prophet. But they are not suitable for the social conditions of today’s Iran and the world, the history of Iranian women, or the country’s national interests. Two solutions are available to Iran’s rulers. They must either act on the opinion of jurists who believe that reforming current laws is possible and necessary, or accept people’s demand to separate religion from politics.

The One Million Signatures Campaign intends to spread this message through a sustained, gradual and peaceful movement. It wants to gauge public opinion and inform officials of the result. It wants to say that if people become aware of the shortcomintgs of the law they will undermine it themselves; so it is better for the government to take the initiative in reforming them.

Alas, in the past year the campaign faced many roadblocks: suspensions, outrageous bails, and suppression were the themes last year. In less than a year, dozens of events have threatened the campaign’s energy.

Intelligence officials treated a group of women who only had pens and paper, and a filtered website, as if they were an armed battalion. They could have used the campaign to increase their own legitimacy. They could have invited some of the campaign’s officials to discuss and voice their demands in the Majlis [parliament]. Unfortunately, rather than doing political work, they chose beating and badmouthing, imprisoning and punishing. Alas that the campaign has become more experienced under the heavy weight of suppression and attacks.

We hope that the campaign will continue on its path unimpeded, with the aid of progressive clerics, secular intellectual circles and international officials, all of whom have lent their support to this movement in the past year, implicitly or through signatures and other means.

Read the Article on Roozonline


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