Rooz Speaks to Women’s Rights Activist Khadijeh Moghaddam
We Don’t Feel Safe in Our Own Homes
Monday 28 January 2008
Rooz Online: Khadijeh Moghaddam is an established civil society activist and a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign to Change Gender Discriminatory Laws in Iran. A few days ago, Moghaddam was forced by police officers to cancel a funeral ceremony she was holding at her house in memory of her late mother-in-law. In an interview with Rooz, Moghaddam speaks about that experience and the general intimidation of civil society activists.
Rooz (R): The disruption of your mother’s funeral was very unexpected. Do social activist have to obtain the permission of security organizations to hold wedding and funeral ceremonies?
Khadijeh Moghaddam (KM): We don’t feel safe in our own homes. After the death of my mother-in-law, some of my friends, neighbors and colleagues decided to visit me on a certain day. I agreed and we made arrangements to hold a ceremony on Saturday. Around 3 pm that day, security officers began calling our house threatening that we cannot hold such a ceremony and that I need to go to the police station. I said I won’t go and that you can’t ask me to go verbally. They said, okay, we will send you a summons in writing. Half an hour later, they came to our house with a written summons. They asked me to go with them. I spoke with my lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, who told me that the written summons is illegal as well, because only the prosecutor can issue such a summons. Meanwhile, guests were coming to our house but weren’t allowed to come in.
R: What explains their extreme sensitivity?
KM: They are afraid of the popularization of our campaign, because the campaign is moving along very well despite all obstacles they have created. They are ignorant of the fact that women’s issues have become the public’s issues and many officials and religious scholars have called for revising discriminatory laws. Majlis MP’s have asked women activists to go there and discuss the issues with them. These things show how successful the campaign has been so far.
R: In your opinion, how do actions such as this affect peaceful movements like the One Million Signatures Campaign?
KM: They have the opposite effect because people are aware of the issues. They want to do something to stop the campaign but the opposite will occur. I tell you right now that several million people support the campaign, but because of obstacles they have created, we have not gathered one million signatures yet. People may get scared and not sign the forms, but they do support the campaign. We have to keep doing what we are doing with more energy and effort… In any case, I will file a complaint against the police. We like to continue our peaceful efforts in peace and the actions of security officers will not derail us. Actually, they make us more determined. If the government wants to act in people’s interest, it actually needs to be very thankful of the campaign’s members because they work so tirelessly to raise public awareness toward progress and development of their country. We do not expect to receive presents, but we should not be punished either.