Age: 57 |
Birth City: آبادان |
Joined on October 02, 2012
With every step, she risks harassment or even arrest by Iran's morality police whose job is to enforce the strict dress code imposed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"I have to confess it is really, really scary," the 30-year-old fire-safety consultant said in a WhatsApp audio message, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.
But she is also hopeful, saying she believes the authorities find it increasingly difficult to suppress protests as more women join in. "They are running after us, but cannot catch us," she said. "This is why we believe change is going to be made."
The hijab debate has further polarized Iranians at a time when the country is buckling under unprecedented U.S. sanctions imposed since the Trump administration pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers last year. It's unclear to what extent the government can enforce hijab compliance amid an economic malaise, including a currency collapse and rising housing prices.
There's anecdotal evidence that more women are pushing back against the dress code, trying to redefine red lines as they test the response of the ruling Shiite Muslim clergy and their security agencies.
An Associated Press reporter spotted about two dozen women in the streets without a hijab over the course of nine days, mainly in well-to-do areas of Tehran — a mall, a lakeside park, a hotel lobby.
Many other women, while stopping short of outright defiance, opted for loosely draped colorful scarves that show as much hair as they cover. Even in Tehran's Grand Bazaar, frequented by many traditional women, most female shoppers wore these casual hijabs. Still, a sizeable minority of women was covered head-to-toe in black robes and tightly pulled headscarves, the so-called chador.
The struggle against compulsory headscarves first made headlines in December 2017 when a woman climbed atop a utility box in Tehran's Revolution Street, waving her hijab on a stick. More than three dozen protesters have been detained since, including nine who are currently in detention, said Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist who now lives in New York.
Despite attempts to silence protesters, public debate has intensified, amplified by social media.
Last month, a widely watched online video showed a security agent grab an unveiled teenage girl and violently push her into the back of a police car, prompting widespread criticism.
President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have supported a softer attitude toward women who don't comply with the official dress code. However, hard-liners opposed to such easing have become more influential as the nuclear deal is faltering.
They have called for harsh punishment, even lashes, arguing that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral decay and the disintegration of families. The judiciary recently urged Iranians to inform on women without hijabs by sending photos and videos to designated social media accounts.
"The more women dress in an openly sexual way, the less we'll have social peace, while facing a higher crime rate," Minoo Aslani, head of the women's branch of the paramilitary Basij group, told a rally last week.
Another gathering was attended by several thousand women in chadors. One held up a sign reading, "The voluntary hijab is a plot by the enemy."
Reformist lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri said coercion does not work. "What we see is that the morality police have been a failure," said Salahshouri, who wears a headscarf out of religious belief.
Changing hijab rules through legislation is unlikely because of the constraints on parliament, she said.
Instead, women should engage in non-violent civil disobedience, Salahshouri said. She cautioned that it's a slow, difficult road, but that "Iranian women have not given up their efforts."
The hijab controversy goes back to the mid-1930s when police forced women to take off their hijabs, part of a Westernization policy by then-Shah Reza Pahlavi. Under his son and successor, women could choose. Western apparel was common among the elite.
A 2018 survey by a parliament research center indicates that most women wear a casual hijab and only 13% opt for a chador.
Attitudes have changed. In 1980, two-thirds believed women should wear hijabs. Today, fewer than 45% approve of government intervention in the issue, the research said.
Iran has seen waves of anti-government protests, including an outcry after a 2009 election many contended was stolen by hard-liners. Those with economic grievances frequently protest.
Alinejad, the activist, argued the campaign against forced hijabs carries symbolic weight, saying that mandatory headscarves were "the symbol that the Iranian government used to take the whole society hostage."
In recent years, she has posted videos and photos of activists, including of women filming themselves as they walk in the streets without a headscarf. Alinejad said she receives more than 20 images a day, but posts only some.
The activists in Iran take risks.
In March, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has represented female protesters, was sentenced to 38.5 years in prison, of which she must serve 12, according to her husband.
In April, activists Yasaman Aryani, her mother Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz were arrested after posting a video showing them without headscarves in the Tehran metro. In the video, they distributed flowers to female passengers and spoke of a day when women have the freedom to choose.
Amnesty International said Monday that Iranian authorities have used incommunicado detentions, prolonged solitary confinement and threats against family members to coerce detained activists to retract their opposition to forced veiling in video-taped "confessions." The group said it had detected such a pattern in six cases since April.
Some activists maneuver carefully.
The 30-year-old fire-safety consultant said she tries to avoid policemen when she walks the streets without a hijab. She said she grudgingly complies with the dress code when she delivers lectures or sings in a mixed choir — activities she would otherwise be barred from.
At the high-end Palladium Mall in northern Tehran, several shoppers casually ignored a sign reminding customers that the hijab is mandatory. One woman only pulled up her scarf, which was draped around her shoulders, when she stepped into an elevator and found herself next to a security guard.
Nearby, 20-year-old Paniz Masoumi sat on the stone steps of a plaza. She had dyed some of her hair blue, but kept that funky patch hidden under a loose scarf.
She said police recently impounded her car for two weeks, fining her amid claims that a traffic camera snapped her with a below-standard hijab.
If hijabs were voluntary, she'd throw off hers, Masoumi said. But for now, "I am not looking for trouble."
Deutsche Welle: It is Friday evening and a Jewish family's preparations for the Sabbath, the holiest day of the week, are in full swing. In the living room, everyone has gathered around the big table for the traditional celebration as tantalizing aromas of hot food drift through from the kitchen.
The youngest son breaks the unsalted bread, then reads from the Tanakh as his father pours the obligatory glass of red wine to be passed around the table. Although it may look very like the kind of typical scene to be found in thousands of households across Israel every weekend, there is one important difference here. This one is happening in Iran.
The last rays of winter sunshine are just dipping out of sight behind the Alborz mountains on this cold January day in Tehran. It is the last day of the week, which in Iran begins on Saturday. There are no major buildings — and certainly none of a religious nature — to punctuate the skyline in this part of town, with its plethora of small kiosks and supermarkets.
There is no doubt that things have changed since the revolution. Prior to 1979 there were 10 times more Jews living in Iran than there are now. Despite the troubled relationship with Israel however, Iranian politicians and clergy are always at pains to stress that they have no quarrel with the Jews, only with the state of Israel. As Ayatollah Khomeini put it shortly after the revolution: "We recognize our Jews as separate from those godless Zionists."
It is a quote that is still to be found today on every Jewish prayer house. Something that the Iranians, no matter which religion they belong to, have internalized. In contrast to the situation in German-speaking countries, Jewish institutions in Iran do not require any security arrangements. Iran has not seen a single attack on a Jewish building.
After several major waves of emigration, the number of Jews living in the country has now stabilized. According to Israeli statistics, only 1,100 Jews migrated to Israel from Iran between 2002 and 2010. For those who remain, prospects are surprisingly positive. They have been granted official minority status, a permanent seat in parliament and freedom to practice their religion. They have their own butchers' shops, their rabbis are permitted to conduct weddings, and the community can produce and drink its own wine for the Sabbath — and that, even though alcohol is otherwise subject to strict prohibition in Iran.
"We love Iran and we are able to live in freedom here," says Eliyan, the Musazedeh family's eldest daughter. The 24-year-old lives with her family near the center of Tehran, the only Jewish family in the apartment block. "Our neighbors know we are Jews, but it isn't an issue. The society here in general does not have problem with us being Jews."
Although Jews in Iran are not allowed to hold leading positions in state institutions such as the army, police or secret service, their lives are otherwise as free of restrictions as those of other Iranians.
A memorial was erected to Jewish martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war by President Hassan Rouhani, and for some years now, Jews have had the right to take off from work on the Sabbath. "There have been a couple of occasions in the past when I have been looking for work and didn't get the job after saying at the interview that I was Jewish," Eliyan admits. "It wasn't because they didn't want to hire a Jew, but rather because they knew they would be legally obliged to give me Saturday off if I wanted it."
So, if a Jew in Iran does not get a job, it's not because of their religion, it's because the law is on their side and employers are obliged by law to give them an extra day free per week, she explains. "There is no anti-Semitism in Iran. Iran is a multi-ethnic and very diverse country and Iranians are proud of that diversity and history."
'Too fat, too old, or both'
As the eldest daughter, the pressure is now on her to start thinking about a future marriage partner. "My father is always trying to find potential candidates from families we know, but I turn them all down. They are all well off, but either too fat, too old, or both." Eliyan's dilemma is compounded by the fact that, as the eldest, she must marry first; only then will her two sisters, Nazanin and Yasaman, be allowed to date.
Friday evening Sabbath celebrations usually take place at home. Although it is only a few streets away, the Musazadeh family rarely goes to the local synagogue. Three of Eliyan's cousins, Rafael, Ariel and Avraham, have arrived for today's Sabbath. Mother Anita has been busy preparing and cooking the food all afternoon, because any form of work, or use of fire or electricity, is forbidden during the Sabbath, which begins at nightfall.
The Musazadehs generally celebrate Sabbath at home on Friday evenings rather than going to the nearby synagogue
Despite that, Anita will cook the rice in the evening. "I can't serve cold rice for dinner," she says — a sentiment that no Iranian would argue with. The only family member who is regularly allowed to ignore religious laws is the father of the family, Shahrokh, who runs a small business selling women's shoes and bags. He spends Sabbath evenings on the couch, zapping his way through the Iranian satellite TV channels, while Anita is kept busy between the kitchen, her three daughters, youngest son Ariyan and the family dog, as well as seeing to the food.
It is at times like this that it becomes clear why Iranian Jews are Iranians first and Jews second. Like most Iranians, the Musazadehs have an almost unconditional love for their country. Like other Iranians, too, however, they also find the economic situation hard to bear. "I would like to go abroad, to Europe maybe, or Canada," says Eliyan. "You cannot find any well-paid jobs in Iran anymore, and the situation is getting worse every year."
No future in Iran
It is a view shared by many young people in Iran. Many no longer see a future for themselves in the country and are keen to go abroad, at least temporarily, for work or study. "Neither America nor Israel would be an option for me. A relative of ours once went to the US and she hated it. She didn't take to the culture or the fast pace of life at all."
One of Eliyan's aunts, who died last year, visited Israel for medical treatment. "As Jews we have the opportunity of emigrating to Israel, and even receiving around $15,000 (€13,300) from the Israeli government for going. But if we went there, we would have to speak Hebrew, something we only ever do in religious contexts. That would be very strange for us and I would not feel at home there. Iran is our home." >>>
The Guardian: Shortly after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the country’s national newspapers published a joint subpoena, unique in film history. All the key stars of “filmfarsi” – a form of popular cinema that embodied the aspirations and illusions of a modernising society – were summoned to the revolutionary court. The careers of hundreds of actors and directors ended overnight. Unlike the Hollywood blacklisting of the McCarthy era, there was not even the opportunity for a mock hearing. The cinema, seen as emblematic of corruption, “westoxification” and the decadence of the ousted Pahlavi regime, was consigned to oblivion.
So marked the end of one of the most thriving film industries in the Middle East, a cinema of song and dance, sex and seduction, violence and vengeance, which combined the western genres with local flavour – although always with an eye on Shia Islam, as the ultimate code to put everything in its right order. Iranian cinema was anything but limited to poetry and humanism, although both elements existed in some of the pre-revolutionary arthouse films. Millions of filmgoers cared more about a good pop song, the latest tearjerker and a car chase through the streets of Tehran.
Cinema was introduced to the country as the exclusive toy of the Qajar kings. Sporadic efforts to create a national cinema were interrupted by the allied occupation of neutral Iran during the second world war. After the war, the new shah, the Swiss-educated Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was so busy making Iran a modern “island of stability” (to quote Jimmy Carter) that cinema was abandoned in favour of social and military infrastructure.
What happened, however, was that people on the ground took control of the camera, telling their own tales. They even created their own national genres such as “jaheli” films, stories of tough guys in hats from south Tehran, pulling knives in the name of honour and hooking up with local cabaret singers, eventually saving them from a life of disgrace.
The term “filmfarsi” was coined to ridicule the sloppiness of these films. Today, they can be more properly judged in the broader context of Iranian mainstream cinema: genre films with popular stars; village girls lured by the big city but eventually returning to the tranquillity of home – as if everybody knew from the start that the modernisation project wouldn’t last. A miniature of Iranian society, foreshadowing things to come.
Not surprisingly, women were stereotyped: mothers or whores with little middle ground. Yet filmfarsi also offered them a chance to be seen. It even offered women agency and power. If the forced unveiling of women under the first Pahlavi was a crucial point in the history of Iranian women, the real unveiling, although highly fetishised, was through these movies, in which women travelled, taught, fought and settled their scores.
Something rare, euphoric and mad was recorded on celluloid: the Iranian way of life after the second world war, with all its paradoxes. Even the sleaziest films became documents. If the majority of key Iranian arthouse films of the 1960s and 1970s were set in villages and rural areas (a tradition continued until after the revolution), filmfarsi was about the thriving cities, which were expanding blindly, thanks to petrodollars.
Boy-meets-girl stories found an edge, as the Iranian way of life encountered a new world through American, Italian, French and Bollywood films. When Iranians loved a foreign film, they sometimes remade it. There is an Iranian version of Hitchcock’s Vertigo, as well as a feminist version of Billy Wilder’s Sabrina, in which two sisters compete for the affection of the family chauffeur. The result was often camp and only the barest traces of the original storyline remained. However, a confused and frustrating search for an identity through this bizarre process is detectable. Across roughly 1,000 films, they forged it in a remarkable way.
For many Iranians today, filmfarsi is the souvenir of a lost past. For me, after spending the past four years making a film about filmfarsi, I view the films as documents of how Iranian society changed; its schizophrenic nature in grabbing on to anything “modern” with one hand and rejecting it with the other.
It is also the story of a tragedy, both cinematic and real. One of the turning points of the Iranian revolution, and the key moment when the bells tolled the death of cinema, was when the Islamists set fire to the Rex in south-west Iran, where people were watching the second run of The Deer – an immensely popular 1974 drama about two former classmates rebelling against the system, which tested the censors. Directed by Masoud Kimiai and starring some of popular cinema’s best-loved figures, it transformed filmfarsi into something profound and politically committed. Four hundred people burned to death in that cinema. The pain is still there. But out of its ashes arose a new Iranian cinema.
Forty years after the Iranian revolution, filmfarsi, with all its joyful vibrancy and popular eclecticism, remains one of the biggest secrets of film history.
Ehsan Khoshbakht’s Filmfarsi will world premiere at Cinema Rediscovered at Bristol Watershed on 26 July
Metal Injection spoke to one of the members of the band, Nikan "Siyanor" Khosravi in 2017 and he told us they were able to make bail, paying $30,000 USD each. The duo eventually fled Iran and ended up getting asylum in Norway.
In new comments to Metal Injection, Nikan reveals that the sentence for he and his bandmate has been brought down and it's harsh. Khosravi was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in prison and 74 lashes. Ilkhani was initially sentenced to six years but got it reduced to two. Nikan explains how he was able to get to Norway, after initially sneaking out of the country to Turkey. He was the first to flee the country, and break his silence
"After releasing new song and breaking my silence in Turkey in 2018, different organizations who support artists who are in danger stepped up. After a few months, I got invited to come and live in Norway as a political refugee with artistic scholarship."
Nikan explains that the writing was on the wall for his bandmate. "After Arash went to appeals court and saw that they are really are going to follow this up since they had changed our confessions from interrogations to something that they wanted, and imitating my signature to confirm them, he asked for my help. So I start to talk with the Norwegian government and some organizations and since he wasn't banned from traveling outside of the country and had his passport he went to Turkey and after a few weeks they helped him too."
Charges had been filed, and Loudwire obtained a full translation of what the charges say:
Regarding the appeal of Mr. Arash Ilkhani and Mr. Nikan Khosravi, each of them have been convicted to 5 years in prison on charges of insulting the sanctity of Islam and one year in prison on charges of propaganda against the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to the set of contents, news, and received documents displaying the continuation of the activities, the court of appeals has found the allegations well-founded and precise. In the received documents, the court has convicted Mr. Nikan Khosravi to two years of imprisonment for three counts of insulting the Supreme Leader and the president. He has been sentenced to 6 months of imprisonment and 74 lashes for allegedly disturbing public opinion through the production of music containing anti-regime lyrics and insulting content and for participating in interviews with the opposition media. The accusation of attempting to leave the country has also been confirmed by the court. In this regard, Mr. Khosravi has been convicted to 4 years of imprisonment. Regarding Mr. Arash Ilkhani, the appeals court, by reviewing the contents of the case and considering his role in the production of content in the music group named “Confess” and his inactivity in the group during the trial, suspended 4 years from his 6 years of imprisonment and confirmed 2 years of his conviction.
JAILED FOR PROTESTING FORCED VEILING LAWS
Iranian women's rights defendersMonireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani and Mojgan Keshavarz have been arbitrarily detainedin Shahr-e Ray prison, outside Tehran, since April 2019. They have been charged with offences including "inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution" through promoting "unveiling", solely for campaigning against abusive forced veiling laws. All are prisoners of conscience.
TAKE ACTION: WRITE AN APPEAL IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS MODEL LETTER
Head of the Judiciary
C/o Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN
Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 281209 Geneva, Switzerland
Dear Mr Raisi,
Three women's rights defenders Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryaniand Mojgan Keshavarhave been detained since April 2019 with no access to a lawyer. They were arrested in relation to a video that was widely disseminated on social media. The video, shot on International Women's Day 2019, showed them without their headscarves, distributing flowers to female passengers on a metro train in Tehran and discussing their hopes for women's rights in Iran. They have been charged with serious offences simply for peacefully protesting against Iran's degrading and discriminatory forced veiling laws. Their prosecution is part of a wider crackdown since January 2018 on women's rights defenders campaigning against forced veiling laws.
Following her arrest on 10 April 2019, Yasaman Aryani spent the next nine days in solitary confinement in Vozara detention centre in Tehran. During this time, she was subjected to intense interrogation sessions without a lawyer. She was pressured to make a forced "confession" that "opposition elements" from abroad "incited" her human rights activism and to proclaim she is "repentant" and "regrets" her activities.
On 26 June 2019, these women's rights defenders were transferred from Shahr-e Ray prison, outside Tehran, to branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran for an indictment hearing. They were denied access to a lawyer and told by the judge that they could have a lawyer when appealing the verdict. They have said that the judge was abusive to them and said, "You all appear to be [drug] addicts" and "I will make you all suffer". Charges against them include "gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security", "spreading propaganda against the system" and "inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution" through promoting "unveiling", in connection to their campaigning against abusive forced veiling laws. Yasaman Aryani is facing an additional charge of "insulting Islamic sanctities". Monireh Arabshadhi's support of workers' rights was also cited as "criminal" activity.
I urge you to release Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani and Mojgan Keshavar immediately and unconditionally as they are all prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for their human rights work. Pending their release, ensure that they have regular contact with their families and a lawyer of their choosing. I also urge you to stop criminalizing the work of women's rights defenders, including those who peacefully protest against forced veiling, and abolish forced veiling laws.