We Never Endangered Any Security
by Nafiseh Azad
Saturday 8 December 2007
translated by Roja Bandari
I’m writing this time; writing with anger. I’m writing so my essay becomes a loud cry while my mouth is shut. I’m not depressed anymore. I used to get sorrowful when my friends were arrested before; but that time has passed. Today I’m furious; I swallow my sorrow and only fury remains; fury and a shout.
What are you threatening us with gentlemen? Insults? Degradation? Prison? Is it not true that we are the offspring of this patriarchal society where our mothers’ and sisters’ homes have been prisons for hundreds of years? Prisons not as distinguished as Evin, but nameless and dark as the years in the lives of the women who were buried in these homes. Is it not true that we are degraded every day with laws that consider us half a human? Aren’t we insulted in these very streets? So don’t try to threaten us with prison, degradation and insult!
We are the same people in Haft-e-Tir square (1) whom you described to bystanders as “a bunch of indecent women” and beat us with your clubs. How come we are now called “activists against national security”?
In Khorram-Abad, when you “conquered our small workshop with your guns,” you said that we were women who want to marry four men! Now I ask you, is it so hard to lose the right to marry four women that you felt compelled to attack us full-force? Does your macho “national security” depend so much on unequal inheritance and dieh (3), or a right to unlimited temporary “lust marriages (4)” that even talking about changing them disturbs you like this?
Brothers! Living with women who have equal rights is not so terrible. Look at your sisters, spouses, and daughters. They attend universities and some are your co-workers. If you think we are strangers and enemies, then ask the women in your lives! Ask them if they consider these laws just; if they don’t object to them at all. Ask these questions and look in their faces and see that the face of a woman who wants equality is not so terrifying.
We abide by the law. We don’t seek political power. We are not at war with anyone. In our homes (where you have ordered us to stay), and in the streets, we are only talking about these laws. Anything we have said and done, we have done transparently, for everyone to see. But what do you do? In the name of protecting the law, you break the law (5). Yet we, who object to parts of this law, still abide by it. You come to our homes, break up our small meetings and take us to court or prison. You never give us access to any media or a tribune where we can express our views. You pry into our private lives (6). Yet we have always complied with the law; we have always been truthful; we have always sought refuge in the law and we have never endangered any security (7).
The Campaign and its demands are not limited to Maryam, Delaram and others that you know. If you step away from these walls and step in the family courts, you will find the campaign’s supporters and believers under the roofs of this very city’s homes. They are women who burn in the violent flames of discrimination. Their unsafe homes and their wounded pride drives this change. No my brother! Don’t threaten us with prison, insults, and degradation. This story is the heartbreaking commencement of the demand for equality by the women of this land; women who have paid dearly, equal to men, when it came to war, misery and disasters. This story is the beautiful beginning of the women who have chosen the most peaceful ways in the face of your most violent act in Haft-e-Tir square. This story has known creators, but is continued by unknown people. This movement began at the closed doors of an institute in this city (8), but it will not end in Evin; it goes on in the hearts of the men and women who have reached the belief of equality. At the end of this story, history will be the judge between us and you.
Writing about Maryam, Delaram, Ronak, Haana or others who go to jail for this movement is not just writing about a person; it’s writing a history that this time will not be narrated only by men, with a man’s perspective; it’s writing about a voice that demands equality from history and the law; it is writing of the price that is being paid for this equality; and it’s writing about demands which -if fulfilled- might calm the distressed souls of our sisters and children in another time.
Our hands are empty, our homes are made of glass; there is a knot in our throats and no time to cry; our sisters are in jail; our days are filled with danger, and yet forever, until these laws change, we will leave traces of even more signatures on the campaign’s petition.
(1) On June 12th 2006, the peaceful gathering of women’s rights activists in the Hafte-Tir square was violently broken up by police. Participants were beaten with clubs and arrested. The idea of the campaign was conceived by the participants of this gathering after this violent day.
(2) On September 14th 2007, the police raided a women’s rights workshop in a private residence in Khorramabad (the capitol of Lorestan province), strip-searched the participants and arrested them. The police had told the public that this was a lewd and indecent gathering and the women were loose and corrupt.
(3) Dieh is the amount of money paid as compensation for a physical injury or death. A women’s dieh is half of a man’s.
(4) Lust marriages or “Mot’e” are marriages between a man and an unmarried woman and can be quite informal and short-term.
(5) Police clashes with peaceful protests, arrests of women who collect signatures, and violent treatment of the activists are all against the Iranian law.
(6) Phone conversations and emails of the activists are monitored by the government.
(7) Charges against many of the activists are vague and broad like “actions against national security.”
(8) The campaign was scheduled to launch with a seminar about the effect of laws on women’s lives. The seminar was going to be at the Raa’d Institute in Tehran. On the day of the seminar, the institute was ordered to cancel the seminar and the Campaign was instead launched in the street at the closed doors of Raa’d Institute.