interview with Khadije Moghadam by Deutsche Welle

A Campaign to Advance Society’s Culture

Translated by Roja Fazaeli

Saturday 27 January 2007

Khadijeh Moghaddam: This movement was not initiated by elite groups or intellectuals, rather it has sprung from the depths of society and as a result of concret needs.

For the first time in Iran a campaign has been initiated by women’s rights activists, whose primary objective, according to its organizers, is training and educaiton. Ms. Khadijeh Moghaddam one of the founding members of the Campaign states: "we train and we also learn, in other words we become familiar with the pain and the problems of men and women."

Albeit the collection of signatures, being carried out through the Campaign titled “One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws” is an enormous task like no other, but as stated by Moghaddam, the aim of this campaign is not solely to collect one million signatures but largely it is to develop and advance society’s culture.

Interview by Maryam Ansari Q: Ms. Moghdam, with regards to the training component of this Campaign which seems very broad, with what resources and strategies will it be implemented?

Khadije Moghadam: We will carry out this component of the Campiagn using two methods. The first is face-to-face education, where we reach out to the public, explaining to both men and women the goals of the campaign and ask for their support in the form of signatures. Those who decide to use this method as their primary form of outreach and signature collections, should take part in our training courses and workshops, where they will be trained on how to conduct public education and outreach activities, using face-to-face education, which is a new technique for us and on how to collect signatures. And, we have another method which is that of group education and information sharing. Public venues such as NGO seminars and workshops, or other events at which women gather are used to conduct outreach, education and signature collection activities.

Q: There are also financial resources needed for this campaign, how can this need be accommodated—with encouragement, talking and publicity, or other strategies?

Khadijeh Moghaddam: Well yes, we the founding members of the campaign started our activities using our own financial resources. We developed educational booklets, created forms needed for the collection of signatures and brochures. All of these resources were supported through volunteer contributions by the members of the Campaign and supporters who believed in this effort. Needless to say, we had few options, besides asking for support from our friends. This is how we have progressed so far. The conference which was to mark the launch of our Campaign was unfortunately cancelled. But this event was to be a part of a series of similar conferences and seminars aimed at publicizing our efforts. We hope we will be able to hold these events at different venues such as universities. We have been successful in holding various programs in the provinces and cities other than Tehran, which were well received. We hope that those who have enthusiastically accepted our invitations will also be willing to help us with financial contributions so that we won’t face too many challenges in this respect.

Q: How receptive were women to your efforts, for example, housewives or ordinary women you speak to on the street? Although perhaps it is too early to judge your success, but nonetheless how nevertheless how do you assess the first wave of people who have been receptive to the efforts of the Campaign?

Khadijeh Moghaddam: In general one might think it is too early to evaluate how many will join or how much they care, but in my opinion it is not too early. I have worked regularly with women from a variety of social groups over the past 10 years. These include elite groups, intellectuals, or ordinary women, such as workers, etc. This has been my job, as such, I am in contact with various groups of women. Unfortunately, there is always talk that something should be done [to address women’s problems], and there is general complaint from these women about the level of pressure they face. One of the aims of the campaign is to take collective action or allowing for the participation of all in to change discriminatory laws. We cannot do this by ourselves and even if changes to laws are sanctioned from above, as this has been gained without expense, we will not be able to protect and preserve it. I can say with certainty that women who experience discriminatory and unjust laws, are more welcoming of the campaign and are more willing to sign it, since they feel that it will change their future. The difficult lives that many women face, we witness it every day, there are some men who are addicted to drugs or there are men who leave their wives to marry another, amongst countless other problems faced by women. It is only natural that they are more welcoming of the campaign.

Q: So in reality this movement commenced from the depths of society and today it has taken on the form of this campaign?

Khadijeh Moghaddam: Exactly! This movement was not initiated by elite groups or intellectuals, rather it has sprung from the depths of society and as a result of concret needs. The decision to launch this campaign and this movement begun as a collective effort.

Q: Ok is it possible to explain the structure of the campaign and its activities?

Khadijeh Moghaddam: We have established a training committee, which in reality is one of the most important committees. We also have a public relations committee, which undertakes the strategic planning of conferences and seminars and a finance committee that is essential in order to assemble a budget and to allocate and direct it for different purposes. The main part of the budget is spent on the development of training materials and educational booklets, which have been published as a part of the Campaign. There is also the media committee, which is responsible for media communications. In addition we have a documentation committee, which is very important. Usually in our country documentation is not taken seriously, and we do not document our activities with the aim of using these experiences in the future. Therefore there is always repetition which occurs. Hence we are hidden in history and women’s activities are hidden too.

Q: Have you also planned to connect to the women’s movement outside of Iran and ask them for assistance?

Khadijeh Moghaddam: Of course, we have established the internet site, for information sharing. In this site international supporters can sign the statement of the Campaign and declare their support. In addition we ask our Iranian friends to aid us with this campaign in any way they can and we really do not want this one million signatures to be collected only in Tehran but it should be in all provinces and towns. We want all Iranians across Iran, whether man or women, who believe that these discriminatory and unjust laws have to be reformed to join our campaign.

Q: My last question, it is true that this movement has stemmed from society’s depth, however who came up with the idea and how, through which process, how did you reach the idea of a campaign to collect one million signatures? This idea is unprecedented in Iran.

We thought of this campaign at the same time as the 22nd Khordad demonstration [in 7th Tir Square], we decided that one of the approaches we could use [to achieve our goals] would be to launch this campaign, which is a collective movement. We reflected considerably on the issue, of how to make it more effective, that it should not only be about signatures, in any case we reached this conclusion. And this movement has also taken place in countries such as Morocco, but in my opinion ours is the only campaign that is accompanied by education and in this collective movement this is a very important point to note.

This interview was conducted by Deutsche Welle, Persian Language Radio


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