The Iranian women's movement, which in the past years has pursued various ways and means of voicing the demands of Iranian women, and actively sought to achieve these, is now using the opportunity posed by the tenth Iranian presidential elections to form a coalition. By stating some of the basic demands of Iranian women and raising public awareness, the coalition intends to affect decision-making institutions and individuals. Hence, the coalition has entered the debate pertaining to the general presidential election campaign by narrowing down these demands to two specific and pivotal ones:
1. Making Iran a state-party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) 2. The elimination of the discriminatory laws against women, specifically through the revision of articles 19, 20, 21, and 115 of the Constitution, so that these would unconditionally address the principle of gender equality.
In what follows, we have selected quotes from articles written by Iranian women's rights activists, which are representative of their opinions on this coalition.
Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani: We have endured many trials and tribulations and experienced numerous highs and lows. However, when reflecting on our past, we find that the extensive struggles of the women's movement - both in the civic and the political sectors - have borne positive and concrete results. Thus, perhaps we can even give ourselves a passing grade! For if we compare today with what was two decades ago, we see that at each stage we have - without hastiness - first, internalized and savoured what has been achieved, and then proceeded further on our path.
As long as we, ourselves, have not internalized "the right to vote" as an "inalienable right", then our "not voting" will, undoubtedly, not influence others. And, in order for us to internalize the right to vote for ourselves and make it part and parcel of our social being, we must endure the process of reclaiming this right.
Today we should seize the opportunity posed by the current political atmosphere, the Iranian presidential elections, and go further down the road towards gaining our right to vote - via an informed and effective presence on the electoral campaign.
I think it would be wonderful for us, Iranian women, to once again use the same "situational feminism", which has brought coalitions together on other occasions, and grasp the opportunity posed by this round of elections - as we did in the last presidential election (2005). We shall proceed with courage and without fear of attacks and accusations. We shall use this opportunity to strengthen and deepen this coalition, and use its potential to transcend the ideological barriers that have divided us in the past. If our democratic coalition can successfully state the demands of millions of Iranian women then this would also be a means to support the movement. If, in a slow civil election battle, we make "the right to vote" our own right, then, in the near future, we could also transform the political sphere in our country - which has always been deceptive towards women - to be in our favor. This would then offer us the chance to bring about a "major leap in opportunities and in furthering the position of the women's movement". 1
Mehdi Almasian: Today, it is the women who have taken the initiative and, by "stating their demands", are bringing an end to the choice between the lesser of two evils. They enter this arena openly and decisively, by using the elections to voice their demands, fully aware that they would pay a higher price for pursuing such demands both before and after the elections.
These women benefit from the solidarity and cohesiveness of various political and ideological groups and leanings that have adjoined in pursuing their demands. These groups will seek to reaffirm their civic identity even after the elections, and this too is a new phenomenon. For, in Iran, efforts and struggles always discolor and often halt after elections. In the past, this has given the candidates a free hand to voice " perfect" slogans and make wishful promises without having to follow through afterwards. It is important that, in this election, only the candidate that specifically responds to the questions posed by women, and clearly states his/her position on them, be supported by this coalition. Should such a candidate not exist then there will be no lines to vote on Election Day.
At the same time, the Women's Movement Coalition - with its unity, solidarity, mutual understanding between the various strands within it, as well as democratic means and logical dialogue - could serve as a real and achievable role model for others. 2
Azita Rezvan: The members of this coalition may have differing views on whether or not to take part in the election or vote for a specific candidate. However, they all agree on the principle of gender equality. A candidate could claim to support the demands of the coalition, but that does not mean that the coalition, in its entirety, will support this candidate. All members, of course, have the right to make their own choice. But, how amazing would it be if all the presidential candidates (even if only to gain the vote) voiced their support for the demands of this coalition!
A modern society requires modern forms of struggle, and the "coalition of Iranian women's statement of electoral demands" is an intelligent way to address women's issues at this critical juncture. The initiators of this coalition have recognized that the pre-election period is a valuable opportunity, as it has the potential to further the achievements of the Iranian women's movement. 3
Samaneh Mousavi: What is certain is that this public statement of demands is a form of civil struggle, which will only bear fruit in the long run. Thus, for those who in general oppose the current regime and seek its demise - and hence favor a boycott of the elections - this is not a satisfactory method. Those who unconditionally support the ruling forces make up another group who are opposed to this method. This is because they either view such method as an obstacle to their gaining political power or, even more importantly, they see such methods as a way to create a new public space in which criticisms of the system become possible. Furthermore, there are those who, although support the elections, fall for the candidates' personalities, their impossible promises, or the mere fact that they are "not fundamentalist". However, it is noteworthy to emphasize that, within a "demand-centered discourse", the achievement of results is entirely dependant on not only stating demands during the limited pre-elections period. The potential of such method, which is only achievable when there is a widespread and unified coalition of various strands, can also be immensely useful in influencing the ruling policies. (Translated by Women's Coalition Translation Team)
1. Seizing the Seconds: The Women's Movement and the Tenth Presidential Elections, by Noushin Ahmadi Khorsani
2. Bringing an End to The Choice Between the Lesser of Two Evils, by Mehdi Almasian:
3. The Theoretical Positions of the Coalition of Women's Movement and the Elections, by Azita Rezvan
... Payvand News - 05/22/09 ... --