Fight for justice, “One Million Signature Campaign for Equality (OMSCE) in Iran”

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What tactics do the women of the OMSCE apply to escape power? To what extent do these
tactics indicate power relations in social structure and everyday practice? What does OMSCE see
as the strategies of domination to regulate and control feminist Muslims?

These are the main questions that Farsaneh Sajadpour attempts to illuminate for us with her dissertation. It is purely qualitative research conducted tostudy the practical challenges Muslim feminists face in a mostly conservative Islamic nation. Due to security concerns, the researcher was unable to access any feminists for interviews; therefore, she opted to study a vibrant campaign of one million signatures launched in 2005 that was co-founded and sponsored by educated Shia Muslim women in Iran demanding for repeal discriminatory laws. Like other Muslim societies, the researcher noted that the Iranian constitution never guaranteed women rights. Iranian women have a history of the struggle for gender equality and equal rights, which is more than 120 years old. Even the democratically elected parliament that ruled over the country from 1905-1911 ignored women’s rights, which continued even after the so-called revolution erupted in 1979. However, the researcher noted that a slight change was observed in 1921 when Iranian leader Raza Shah established the Pahlavi dynasty. Raza attempted to modernize Iran through various means. He imposed a ban on the veil in 1936, the researcher wrote. When Raza Shah’s son took over, women started keeping a soft corner for Khomeini, ignoring their fundamental rights. During this time, Iran was confronted with many social and political challenges; perhaps that was one reason women did not choose to present their demands for equal rights. Two weeks after Khomeini came into government in 1979, and he uplifted the ban on the veil. He made it mandatory that garnered anger among feminists who had joined Khomeini against Raza Shah’s son.

Discriminatory laws against Iranian Women in Constitution

In the part of findings researcher has presented discussion on the frequently repeated keywords
“discriminatory laws” and “violation against women’s rights”. Furthermore, researcher has taken
unequal laws and discriminatory laws as well. According to the researcher “the founder’s
reference to women’s rights violations points specifically to the definitions provided in law about
women”. Even Iranian constitution have protected rights of all the citizens equally, law have
provided a specific interpretation of women which is main ground for unequal analysis.
Researcher mentioned constitutional revolution change the many system along with monarchy
system and which was established with long process of struggle. Researcher has presented how
legal discriminations are within the law with the help of different statement from founder in Iran.
With analyzing of statement researcher has stated that women do not have access to power and power holders are associated with religious institutions. Religious institutions have the potential
to have real impact on law enforcement contrary to the demands of equality. Researcher has
brought the statement that the constitution does not conceive a woman in any position other than being a mother in family. So, researcher believes that the lack of access to high level of
management deprives women of legislative power. Furthermore, authority holders are not
necessarily in the interests of those who are dominated or powerless. So, the interpretation and
practices of power holders women are discriminated however, constitution states that the entire
citizens are equal in rights.

Practical challenges of Muslim feminists in Iran

1979 Islamic revolution deprived women of the rights guaranteed by Raza Shah. Since then,
Muslim feminists have been struggling for their rights in Iran. They have launched various
movements. The start of 2000 was the year of feminist movements in Iran. The predominantly
Islamic nation witnessed three uprisings launched by feminists in 2005, 2006, and a rally aiming
to secure One Million Signatures for Repeal of Discriminatory Laws and equality. The campaign
could not achieve considerable results due to shifts in some basic demands, the researcher said.
According to the researcher, the movement leaders changed their behavior and actions toward
Islam and shifted their attention toward OMSCE. Over time, they turned conservative, which the
researcher noted did not help Muslim feminists to find safety in Iran. One of the critical
challenges Muslim feminists faced was political Islam defined by the regime, which does not
believe in women’s equal rights. In addition to internal challenges, the deep state policies
systematically circumvent women’s representation in public offices. The constitution crushes
those who rear head for equal rights. The researcher claimed that «campaign key leaders and
supporters suffered constant harassment”. The state rounded up several leaders of the campaign.
The massive arrest and harassment of campaigners killed the uprising for equal rights. However,
such actions by the State revealed that the authoritative regime does not tolerate any dissent,
which challenges its power even when it engages Islamic discourse, the researcher concluded.

How women deal with those practical challenges in Muslim feminist in Iran.

Women have chosen democratic and peaceful way to pursue their demands. And they have
chosen the women’s approach to collecting signatures, especially on the information practices they have adopted, demonstrates this peaceful action. They have adopted peaceful rally in 2005
in front of Tehran University. According to researcher the main aim of that rally was related to
inform the protection towards the wide range of people. In 2006 statement again referred to this
symbolic presence as a wake- up call for lawmakers. After ignorance of women’s demands in the
past year, they have presented peaceful rally at the Haft-e-Tir Square, where they demonstrators
were only asked to attend Haft-e-Tir Square Park to protest calmly and quietly against
discriminatory laws. After that there came the One Million Signatures Campaign. Women
decided to collect one million signatures to pursue the goal of its resolution to amend
discriminatory laws. This has purposes to include expending ground to women’s participation in
society. They have had face to face procedure for collecting signatures, along inter or other
means. Through this they tried to establish a direct link between democracy and women’s rights.

Result of OMSCE and two rallies for equality

The researcher has revealed that the campaigners did not reach to their goal to collect one million signatures but the movement was stopped by extensive arrests of activists. Though, they succeed in some point as making solidarity with other various groups of women, training women about the impact of discriminatory laws on their daily life was main resource of cultural power that was target of the campaign and empowering them to engage in face to face tactics. As a result, Iranian women are now able to increase their tactics and call for reform as their Muslim feminists’ counterpart wished to do. Obviously, they are going to enjoy the time of equality one day because nothing is stable in the world.

This was the interesting reading that endorsed me to understand about the challenges of Muslim
women in Iran, how they are deprived from political power, discriminated in laws, suppressed
from Islamic government in theocratic system and the struggle of Muslim feminists’ to bring the

Written by: Kamala, Jhana and Kiyya

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