Friday, November 21, 2008

Freedom of Expression ?

For several hours ,I was under peaceful siege and questioning of dozens of journalists who sought to find replies for their political , social, urban and international queries. I took some time yesterday (Thursday) afternoon to visit the National Press Fair held in Tehran. The Press Fair is now an annual event and many newspapers and news agencies take part to introduce their work and activities in the field of journalism. The free press has faced many challenges in the past in Iran and some members of the press were absent due to the ban that the judiciary has set on their publication, nevertheless many independent newspapers and reformist press were present. It was a very demanding function, since I was constantly ushered into different booths and expected to visit and of course, provide an interview for each. Some of these newspapers now have a considerable readership, although many argue that the numbers are still much lower than what should be expected considering high literacy and education rates in Iran.

A popular Tehran daily, Hamshahri, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Tehran Municipality, now has a group of affiliated journals as well. I spent more time with them, since as a Tehran City Councilor ;I felt we needed to take more stock of the assets of the newspaper group for better urban management. In meeting with some of the more conservative media I could not refrain from stressing upon the importance of observing freedom for the press and allowing a wider spectrum of views and criticism to be voiced. I criticised some of the current policies in curbing freedom of expression and troubles created for independent press. There were many people around us asking for autographs, contact numbers, proposals and ideas for urban management and environmental protection. I guess I missed some of them in the crowd and the hassle created.
The interviews were mostly political , the news agencies were asking about the alignment of political parties and their coalitions. They were also inquisitive about Mr. Khatami, of every 10 people I met 9 were asking whether Khatami would accept to stand as a candidate in the upcoming Presidential elections. "The answer is not clear yet, otherwise you wouldn't all be asking the question. Mr. Khatami has not made the decision. There is alot of pressure on him to stand, but he has his reservations and that makes it difficult to decide." I told them.
After 3/5 hours , there were still many media asking for interviews , the closing of the exhibition at 8 pm was a relief for me. My vocal chords were just not holding up. I left the fair pondering on the reasons why as an Islamic Democracy we have not fared well in tolerating criticism and allowing more freedom of expression as stipulated in our Constitution.
The Reform movement has endeavored to create an opportunity to accommodate the principle of freedom of expression and the right to criticise power, but that has proved to be a difficult ordeal in the past.We have to hope for the future.


Anonymous said...

not related to this post, but interesting!!!!!

I'm starting to think that Mr. Ahmadinejad can't be so bad if this guy is his "khesseroon"!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

btw, if u dont know the meaning of that word "khesseroon", just ask Mr. Karroubi!

Anonymous said...

just one thought about the title of this post "Freedom of Expression":

I hope you agree that "Freedom of Expression" is not limited to the "Freedom of Speech" or "Freedom of Press"? When one considers the meaning and depth of this inalienable right we all strive for in the free world - called "Freedom of Expression" - one should recognize that it refers to any form of "Expression", INCLUDING the expression one makes with the way one CHOOSES to dress!

This is why YOU Dr. Ebtekar, as a Muslim feminist, a Reformist politician, and a woman with a voice in Iran (which is quite a rarity) who has once lived quite a piously devout Muslim life without having to wear that black cloak of invisibility called "chador", but has been put in the position of having to prove her unquestionable loyalty to the IRI establishment by going that one (undesireable) step further and setting up a black tent on her head and draping her entire wardrobe, as to show that she belongs in that system and she deserves a chair at the table of its majority fundamentalist MEN, YOU Dr. Ebtekar should also speak about the Iranian women's "Freedom of Expression" when it comes to dressing themselves!

one more thought about this "Freedom of Expression" that Iran's Reformists are taking up as a cause that's dear to people's hearts:

As you know Dr. Ebtekar - yourself having lived in the West (as a child) and being a politicians who regularly makes official trips to different parts of the globe - in much of the world, greeting is done by the common gesture of a "hand shake", and especially in business or diplomatic meetings, the gesture of shaking hands at the beginning and the end of any meeting is a VERY important and significant part of the whole encounter.
So, if IRI hopes to move toward becoming a respectable country again on the world stage, and to NOT be subject to ridicule by its enemies, then your religious leaders who have imposed this Sharia decree of forbidding Iranians to shake hands with members of the opposite sex, NEED to revisit the relevance and applicability of that 1400 year old law, and consider the wisdom of it, and questions have to be asked by the Iranian public as to WHY???

Having studied something about Shiite Islamic rules (as a teenager, when I lived the life of a devout Muslim for a while), I remember the answer that was given by those fundamentalist priests, was that members of the opposite sex cannot touch each other's bare skin even through a simple hand shake, because it may cause them to commit the sin of getting sexually aroused!!!!!!!!!!

If this is the basis of such so-called "laws" and "rules" being enforced in Iran, and if such enlightened Muslim scholars as Mr. Khatami and his progressive allies have not YET been able to put such INSULTING nonsense under question, then PLEASE Dr. Ebtekar, don't presume to be defending the "Freedom of Expression" in Iran!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

with Hillary as Secretary of State, who will Iran have as a WOMAN Foreign Minister not having to refrain from shaking Hillary's hand at their ground breaking meeting?

If Iran elects a Reformist president in June, then I put all my money on Dr. Ebtekar as Iran's first ever WOMAN Foreign Minister, but if they get another right wing so-called "Principlist", then what woman do they have????? a woman who looks like a black blob with only a small part of her nose sticking out of the "chador"?????

khoda nassib nakoneh!!!

Anonymous said...


I just read this passage from Mr. Khatami's recent speech at Baran:

رئیس موسسه بین المللی گفتگوی فرهنگها و تمدنها تصریح کرد:«اگر نظامی به نام دین مستقر شد و انسانی در متن آن نظام، با هر گرایش و عقیده ای از حقوق اساسی، حرمت و امنیت محروم شد، مطمئن باشید که آن نظام نسبتی با دین ندارد، ولو اینکه با غلیظ ترین عناوین دینی نیز تعریف و توصیف شود.»

and I just wanted to ask these questions:

1) "hormat" = respect

Is it "respect" when a grown woman (an adult woman, over 18) is told to get her father's (or husband's) permission for ANYTHING she wants to do in life, from studying to working, from getting a passport to go abroad to even traveling in her own country from one city to another city???? ... Is it "respect" to tell a woman that she cannot ever become a judge and that even her testimony is worth half of that of a man's in a court of law, and that even if she is an educated scholar with a PhD degree in Law, the court will equate the testimony of two illiterate janitors or construction workers to that of this one accomplished woman just because (according to reasons given by Shiite clerics) "she goes through menstruation 5 days a month and therefore her mind may not be working properly at the time of her testimony"??????? .... Is it "respect" that if a woman walks on the street dressed in the style of her choosing, she would be subject to a burqa-wearing (chador-wearing) extremist, fundamentalist, reactionary woman's wrath of insult and immoral, harsh, demeaning and condescendingly self-righteous criticism called "amr be ma'roof va nahy az monkar", or worse, punishment and jail?????

2) "amniyat" = security

Do people feel "secure" when they see that each time somebody writes a newspaper article or a weblog post or a book that might have the slightest tone of criticism and truth-telling about the injustices and crimes committed by officials and rulers, he/she gets arrested, accused of treason, and put to death???? ... Does it feel "secure" when people can't express their opinions even over telephone wires, out of fear of being listened to and arrested for what they may or may not say that could offend the ideology of the "listeners"???? ... Does it feel "secure" if a person born into a Muslim family knows that by simply declaring his/her non-adherence to Islam, he/she will be sentenced to DEATH "mortadd"????? ...

3) "hoghooghe assaassi" = basic rights

!!!!!!????? Don't even get me started on that!!!!!! Which basic rights????? Is he kidding????? ...

Anonymous said...

hey!!! you posted them all!!!! i wasn't sure you would! thanks!
Mrs. C

Anna said...

Freedom of Expression, Dr. Ebtekar!!!!! remember!!!! ...

so, why didn't you post my last ever blogpost on my weblog, which I addressed to you and your feminist sisters?

what's wrong with it? you don't wanna be named in the same group as the other women I mentioned in my post? but that's just me looking at you all as women working for more or less the same goal of "Women's Rights" in Iran! it's not your declaration of being in agreement with these great ladies (in my view)!!!!! it's just my view, and i thought you believed in Freedom of Expression?!!! :-)

i will not write another post on that weblog of mine which I started 10 months ago, and I will no longer write any comments on your weblog again either!
but I still believe in you and all your Reformist sisters and brothers, and I will always support ANY Muslim feminist dedicating her life for the cause of Women's Rights!

Long Live Freedom and Democracy!

Black Chador said...

You are right Kathy, Freedom of Expression start from one's own web log. Dr. Ebtekar web log does not have Freedom of Expression because it is control by Mullahs in Iran. You however are more than welcome to post all you want on mine because I don't censor anyone’s comments. Even those Mullahs can post on my blog.

Anna said...

Thank you! and I just wanna clarify my point about YOU being a feminist in my view:

Any woman in Iran who has struggled to be heard and seen and taken seriously and survive in that utterly SEXIST society as an influential figure with whom the MEN couldn't mess, is in my view a Muslim feminist, working in some way or another, directly or indirectly, consciously or subconsciously, FOR Iranian women's RIGHTS!

Whether it's Iran's ONE and ONLY Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Ms. Shirin Ebadi who is actually, officially, and actively involved in Human Rights and Women's rights cases as a prominent defense attorney, and was also once (before 1979) Iran's FIRST EVER female judge, ...

or whether it is Dr. Massoumeh Ebtekar:
Iran's FIRST ever female Vice President who is named by the international community as one of 50 world leaders in the Green Revolution dubbed as "Earth's Saviors", capable of steering the world toward a sustainable development economy based on environmentally sound and responsible policies, ...

or whether it is Dr. Zahra Rahnavard:
Iran's FIRST ever female university chancellor who happens to also have been a top adviser to Iran's most democratic president Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, and is also married to Iran's last ever Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi (before that exact same role was replaced by the title of president, and presidency became a lifelong privilege as in Egypt, but under the title of Supreme Leader), ...

or whether it is just a woman with a privileged family heritage of being the granddaughter of IRI's founder Ayatollah Khomeini, Ms. Zahra Eshraghi:
who is not involved in politics, does not hold any office, but speaks out for Women's Rights in Iran!

ALL of you, in some way or another, whether you know it or not, whether you want to be or not, are flag bearers of Islamic Feminism!
Bravo to you all, and God Bless!

Anonymous said...


I have written comments here a few times before, but anonymously. now though, i have decided to start writing here more often and sign off as "dokhtar-e Lur", b/c my ancestors were from the heart of Iran's Lurestan (vooriyerd)!

I just read this report of a speech given in one of Iran's universities by my dear fellow Lur, Mr. Karroubi:

and i just wanted to say:
Karroubi, I love you!

to those who think of this wonderful man as a spoiler to Mr. Khatami's bid for a 3rd term, i just have one thing to say:
you call us Lurs: naive (haaloo)????
who's naive now????!!!!!!
you think there's a rivalry between the great big brains atop the REFORM movement????
are you people naive or what?????!!!!!
you think men like Khatami and Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, or their admirers like Dr. Aref, Dr. Ebtekar and others don't have the political judgment and acuity of brain to UNDERSTAND and recognize what needs to be done for the good of the country??????
you think these men of God, these truly MORAL students of Mowla Ali ibn-Abi-Taleb, these selfless national heroes and revolutionary figures who have given so much of their lives for the cause of the revolution and to SERVICE of their people, have even ONE selfish, self-serving, power-hungry bone in their bodies??????!!!!!

har kassi az zann-e khod shod yaar-e man!

you think just b/c you have NO morality what so ever, just b/c you are 100% corrupt (faassed) and slaves to your "motehajjer", reactionary, extremist, radical, fundamentalist, yet power-hungry, money-hungry, blaspheming, insincere and pretentious ILLUSION of being pro-revolution and pro-Islam, that others must be also like you??????!!!!!!!!!

no, i have news for you, you impostors:
Iranians can recognize you all for the canards and phony INFIDELS that you all are!!!!!

vaa'ezaan kin tobeh dar mehraab o manbar mikonand, chon be khalvat miravand aan kaar-e digar mikonand!

Iranian PEOPLE are familiar with their Hafez and Khayyam and Rumi's words of wisdom!
they have recognized you impostors just by looking at your pretentiously unshaven faces and unbuttoned shirts and worker jackets (kaapshen kaargari) which are just your polys meant to paint yourselves as men of people!!!!!!!
Iranian people are also aware of the truth behind your "more Catholic than the Pope" rhetoric which is supposed to prove your undying devotion to the cause of injustice in the Muslim world!!!!!!!!!!!
mon eoil!!!!!

let me tell you impostors:

Iranians can trust a man (or two actually, Mr. Khatami and Dr. Aref) from Yazd: the bastion of goodness, ...
a man from Lurestan (Mr. Karroubi): the bastion of frankness ("rooraassti"), ...
or a man from Iran's Azerbaijan (Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi): the bastion of courage and heroism and the home of Iran's most courageous NATIONAL HEROES like Sattar Khan and Bagher Khan, ...
but Iranians WILL NOT trust their future to impostors!!!!!

dee sheikh baa cheraagh hami gasht gerd-e shahr, kaz deev o dad maloolam o enssaanam aarezoost!