One Million Signature Campaign : Interview of Azadeh Faramarziha

Monday 22 June 2009

Azadeh Faramarziha is one of the animator of the campaign for Iranian women. In this interview, she comes back on the campaign content, its purpose and results to date.


- Azadeh, can you tell us about yourself?

I am 30 years old and have a B.A degree in Theatre. I’m working with some magazines in the field of theatre as a journalist.

- Can you explain the history of the One Million Signatures Campaign’s development?

The One Million Signatures Campaign officially launched on August 27, 2006, aims to collect one million signatures in support of a petition addressed to the Iranian Parliament asking for the revision and reform of current laws which discriminate against women. The campaign first started in Tehran and gradually different cities joined to it. Even Iranians in other countries joined the campaign and tried to support it.

- How is important the adoption of the face-to-face meeting for the Campaign?

Actually one of the most important aims of the campaign is to raise the public awareness about the discriminatory laws. That is why the face-to-face approach would help us to get close to our aim and make people aware of the effects of these laws on our daily lives.
Using this approach is being applied both in our workshops as well as in the process of collecting signatures. We would try to communicate people, make dialogue and let them get acquainted with these laws.

- What kind of changes do you expect for women?

The Campaign is asking that all discriminatory laws against women be reformed. The kinds of changes we are requesting in the laws have been outlined and explained in the educational booklet of the Campaign, the Effect of Laws on Women’s Lives. The booklet discusses some of the legal changes that the Campaign seeks, such as equal rights for women in marriage, equal rights to divorce for women, end to polygamy and temporary marriage[1], increase of age of criminal responsibility to 18 for both girls and boys, right for women to pass on nationality to their children, equal dieh[2] between women and men, equal inheritance rights, reform of laws that reduce punishment for offenders in cases of honour killings, equal testimony rights for men and women in court, and other laws which discriminate against women.

- What is the impact of the Campaign on Iranian society?

The campaign, since the beginning, has been trying to promote the women’s issues in society; now you can hear about women’s rights, problems and challenges everywhere, in the media. This would get people more involved in women’s issues and make them to think about it more.
On the other hand the campaign is a movement which has got men more widely involved and it is somehow unique in women’s movements in Iran. Men are going along with women actively and more importantly that they are trying to spread their views through society.

- What kind of resistance and pressure have Campaigners faced from government?

Well, there are too many! Campaign has had more than 60 activists arrested since the beginning; many activists have been detained, interrogated and faced different charges and bails. Security officials have repeatedly gone to the homes of members of the Campaign to break up their meetings. These women’s rights activists have been repeatedly told by security officials to refrain from holding meetings in their homes. Because Campaign activists have been systematically denied public space in the form of conference halls and office space to convene their meetings, they has been forced to hold meetings in their homes. Additionally, several members of the Campaign have had their homes searched and property seized in the past few months.

Our website has been systematically blocked and filtered (over ten times). Newspapers and the press have been warned against covering news about our activities so use of the regular media to conduct education and as an outlets for our efforts is not an available option and we have had to rely on our face-to-face education strategies for spreading news about our efforts and campaign objectives.

- Following your actions, were the women’s issues raised in the Presidential campaign?

As I explained before the One Million Signatures Campaign made the women’s issues the dominant discussion of the society and that is why you can see that each candidate for presidency would have to notice to the women’s situation in order to get their votes and I name it as a conquest for the campaign.

- How can international organizations or individuals support your action?

Many international organizations, especially human rights organizations, have expressed their support for our work, which we appreciate. The most important and helpful type of support comes from independent human rights and women’s rights organizations. It is important for the safety of activists that support is not posed in terms that can be closely linked with “regime change” efforts or propaganda, because not only is this not a goal of the Campaign, but it will endanger activists working on the ground and the Campaign too will lose credibility among its true audience which is the Iranian public. It is not to the benefit of individual activists or the Campaign to receive support from government groups or quasi- government groups which are closely linked with or are traditionally viewed as hostile to the Iranian government, because we will suffer a backlash at home. We cannot control the type of support we receive from international groups, but we urge international groups to take into consideration the best interest of the Campaign and its activists and act ethically and responsibly in this respect.

- How has your commitment in the Campaign impacted your life?

First of all it made me more aware about the women’s situation both socially and from the legal point of view. Secondly it raised my general awareness of different issues and finally my interest in women’s issues (in my country as well as all around the world) has been increased since I started to be a campaigner.

- What are your future expectations of the Campaign?

Realistically I know as the campaign proceeds day after day, its challenges and difficulties would be more and more. Because every step to success would make the officials concern and they would increase the pressures because of that. But on the other hand I believe in people acceptance and desire to change as a very important point. Our demands should be public (or national I could say) demands in order to be respond. We are fighting for it and I believe we will soon succeed.

[1] The temporary marriage or sigheh (Persia), is a fixed-term marriage contract. The duration of this type of marriage is fixed at its inception and is then automatically dissolved upon completion of its term.

[2] Dieh is compensation paid to the heirs of a victim for bodily injury or death.


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