Who supports Iranian women

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					Who supports Iranian women?
Who supports Iranian women?

October 18, 2006

By Eleanor Ommani

An Iranian friend drew my attention to the September 29, 2006 ZNet article “Chavez’s
Embrace of Iran Leader Insults W omen†by Jennifer Fasulo, under Feminism/Gender, to which I feel
compelled to respond. While purporting to support women’s rights, Ms. Fasulo’s article
contains some arrogant and injurious statements about Iran and Venezuela, misinformation about
the condition and position of women inside Iran, and shows deep ignorance about Iran’s
domestic realities.

Ms. Fasulo’s initial efforts to ensure readers of her progressive, left “credentials†began with
the condescending and loaded statement: “Of course Venezuela and Iran have strategic political
and economic interests in each other based on their roles as oil producers.†My first thought: if
their reason for alliance is based on being oil producers, then Chavez should have been hugging
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Then came Fasulo’s next clairvoyance: “And one expects
Chavez to condemn all U.S. military threats against Iran.†Now that statement presumably puts
Jennifer in the anti-imperialist camp, but behind the “Of course†and “one expectsâ€
statements, Fasulo’s real intent is to slander both countries’ leaders. W have only to read
on to be confronted with a crescendo of childish statements, misinformation and outright lies about
Iran, first of all, and secondly about Venezuela’s revolutionary president, Hugo Chavez.

T quote Ms. Fasulo: “But there is no excuse for declaring solidarity with a theocratic regime that
treats women like sub-humans.†Apparently, Ms. Fasulo does not realize that the solidarity
expressed by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela towards Iran is based on the broad and
dominant issue of the defense of the sovereignty of nations who are confronted by a ferocious war
machine that threatens their very existence by regime change. Who doesn’t know that Chavez
has already faced a coup attempt executed from W    ashington, and Castro has always faced plots
and plans and a near 50-year-old embargo against the people of Cuba? Their solidarity with
President Ahmadinejad of Iran is based on that reality Ms. Fasulo’s claims and position goes far
beyond the question of women; it falls within the category of revolution and counter-revolution. The
question, Ms. Fasulo, is which side are you on?

Facts and Fiction

Let’s examine Ms. Fasulo’s first accusation: “Chavez appears not to have noticed that
the current government of Iran has turned Iran into a country where gender apartheid and hatred of
women are enshrined in law.†I couldn’t help but wonder when was the last time Ms. Jennifer
Fasulo (or those who supply her with such descriptions) was inside Iran, or at least investigated
some of the socio-economic changes that have been documented by credible, international
organizations with access to people and statistics of Iran. How does our writer explain that over 60
percent of university students in Iran are women? In a summary entitled: “Iranian women in the
workforce†on BBC radio’s W      oman’s Hour, the T  ehran reporter stated: “It’s one of
the biggest social shifts since the 1979 Revolution. Iran’s Islamic government has managed to
convince even traditional rural families that it’s safe to send their daughters away from home to
convince even traditional rural families that it’s safe to send their daughters away from home to
study.†Today’s Iran sees women participants in every field: scientific, technological, trade, and

Is our defender of feminist values aware that under the government of the Islamic Republic,
according to Article 77 of the Labor Law, employers are obliged to accommodate pregnant workers,
without wage cuts, by providing them with less strenuous work, as determined by a medical
practitioner of the Social Security Organization? Furthermore, women of Iran are entitled to
maternity leave for a total of 90 days, at least 45 days of which have to be taken after childbirth. For
multiple births, 14 days are added to the leave. After her maternity leave has ended, the female
worker returns to her previous position and her period of absence will be factored into her future
entitlement benefits. (Above Excerpts from the book, W     omen's Rights in the Laws of the Islamic
Republic of Iran by Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Published in Iran in 2002.)

According to research conducted by Shamsosadat Zahedi, female researcher and professor of
management at the Allameh T     abatabai University in Tehran, Iran, in an article entitled:
“W   omen’s Resources are wasted in Iranâ€: “There are measurable improvements in
women’s situation since 1979. And Iran has surpassed other countries with respect to
women’s progress in some areas. W       omen’s life expectancy has increased to 70 years.
W omen’s literacy has increased to 79%. Attendance at elementary school is now at 94% for all
girls. For young women age 14 to 17, school attendance has reached 65%. W          omen now comprise
38% of all the work force in the public sector.â€

(http://kilden.forskningsradet.no/c17224/artikkel/vis.htm.?tid=25043). W   estern readers should bear
in mind such statistics have come about since the overthrow of the Shah’s despotic
government, and rival many other developing countries’ statistics on women, especially with
large Muslim populations, such as Pakistan, India, Sudan or Indonesia, for example. In June 2002,
the Population Reference Bureau, (PRB), located in W   ashington, D.C., released a report entitled:
Iran’s Family Planning Program: Responding to a Nation’s Needs which documented the
stunning results of the Islamic government’s Family Planning Program and the Rural Health Care

“Iran has experienced dramatic demographic change in the last decade. Levels of childbearing
have declined faster than in any other country, and maternal and child health have greatly
improved. These changes have coincided with the revival of the national family planning program,
which is delivered through a nationwide network of primary health care facilities. Many observers
have wondered how such a dramatic increase in contraceptive use could have occurred in a
traditional society ruled by Islamic law.â€
“The program has succeeded in removing both cultural and economic barriers to family
planning, and the information and education campaign has assured the public that family planning
is consistent with Islamic tenets and does not threaten family values (see Box 2, page 6). By
providing free family planning services, the program has given low-income couples in both rural and
urban areas access to services that would otherwise be too expensive for most families. In 2000, the
ministry of health and medical education provided 75 percent of all family planning services (91
percent of services in rural areas and 67 percent of services in urban areas).â€

Instead of an honest presentation, Znet’s readers are presented with an example of abuse as
the rare and out-dated practice of stoning. And she goes on to write: “A cursory example of
Iranian society will show that the Iranian people are in utter revolt against their despotic rulers, with
women leading the way          ell,
                         .†W in fact, a statement like this “shows†nothing as much as it
shows Fasulo’s utter ignorance. In an opinion poll conducted earlier this year by the U.S.-based
firm Intermedia, 71% of the Iranian respondents expressed satisfaction with the general direction of
the country .

Preferring to give her readers a fast-track lesson in fighting imperialism, Jennifer’s next gem was
an “eye-openerâ€: “By embracing Ahmadinejad, Chavez is adding steam to the growing and
dangerous alliance between left-wing and right-wing anti-imperialism.†This statement is
contradictory Isn’t imperialism itself a right-wing force? How could a right-wing be fighting
another right-wing, defeating its own purpose? Ms. Fasulo has to show how, when and where in
history a right-wing force has been anti-imperialist? This is a frivolous concept benefiting
imperialism in fact. It appears that Ms. Fasulo gets some of her information from the so-called
imperialism in fact. It appears that Ms. Fasulo gets some of her information from the so-called
W orkers Communist Party of Iran, the WPI, calling it “a leading leftist group in Iran.†As far as
we know, not one of their activists here in the U.S. has been in Iran in a quarter of a century, and
even more telling, this group has not been an integral part of the anti-war movement here!

According to T   oofaan, the official monthly of Iran’s Labor Party, the WPI praises and condones
the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the cover that it will result in the weakening of political Islam, which
WPI brands as a form of terrorism. One of WPI’s spokespersons, Mansour Hekmat, defined the
recent struggle in the Middle East as “civilized America†against “barbaric Islamists.†Ms.
Fasulo holds up the WPI as a beacon of hope for Iranian women, yet its leaders have joined Britain's
far right politicians in a vicious campaign against London's socialist Mayor, Ken Livingstone, who
alone hosted Hugo Chavez earlier this year (the Queen and T       ony Blair refused to see Chavez, too).
The same British tories had proudly welcomed Chile's mass murderer Augusto Pinochet to London a
few years ago. W    e’re looking for genuine anti-imperialists, Ms Fasulo!

If Ms. Fasulo has no agenda other than the defense of women, why doesn't she address the
problems facing women here, such as the dismal statistics regarding women prisoners in the United
States (a report by UCLA Center for the Study of Women and of women's legal issues in the United

• the U.S. is number one in the world in the number of woman prisoners;
• children of imprisoned parents are more likely to get in trouble;
• there are 1.5 million children in the U.S. with at least one parent in prison;
• over 200,000 women are incarcerated in the U.S., and their children, instead of getting help,
often end up in prison too.

According to a report released by Amnesty International, “There are 148,200 women in state
and federal prisons in the U.S. In federal women’s correctional facilities, 70% of guards are
male. Records show correctional officials have subjected female inmates to rape, other sexual
assault, sexual extortion, and groping during body searches…Male correctional officials retaliate,
often brutally, against female inmates who complain about sexual assault and harassment.â€
http://www.amnestyusa.org/women/womeninprison.html. Subjugation and violence against women
anywhere is a crime, and such statistics documenting the conditions facing women inside U.S.
prisons presents Ms. Fasulo with an opportunity to defend women’s rights right here, but
choosing to use the woman question to criticize the leaders of two nations directly in the cross-hairs
of U.S. imperialism raises a question. Why has Ms. Fasulo not chosen to write about the recent
horrendous crimes against the women and children of Lebanon who are facing bombs,
displacement, degraded infrastructures necessary to support life and family? Are these not crimes
we in the American progressive community should be shouting about? And isn’t it clear that the
spokespersons for U.S. imperialism have been raising the cry about “women’s rights†and
“authoritarian control†in the U.S. media to justify intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela
and Iran? It seems Ms. Fasulo’s vision of progress does not go beyond her opposition to the
Islamic Republic of Iran.
Equality and the Emancipation of W   omen

The struggle for equality and the emancipation of women, and the working class as a whole, of which
women are a critical and integral part, is an on-going task under global capitalism, in all countries
both advanced imperialist nations like the U.S. and in the held-back, developing nations like
Venezuela and Iran. In today’s situation, U.S. imperialism is threatening not only the national
sovereignty of Iran, but also the relative security of its working and middle class, including women
from both classes. Individuals, groups or some ill-informed organizations who stand on the slippery
slope with the neo-cons and old monarchists, repeating their charges and accusations that
dominate the media regarding life in Iran, creates confusion as to the political identity of the Iranian
women protagonists in the U.S., not to mention among the American progressive community           .

If Ms. Jennifer Fasulo’s intention is to defend women, how is it that the countries she has
spotlighted to condemn and ‘expose’ for their “anti-women, student and worker
abuses,†are the two countries that have made the most advances in the shortest historical time
for the vast majority of the working and poor people – Iran and Venezuela? W   ouldn’t her time
be better spent railing against the condition of women in Saudi Arabia, America’s ally, where
be better spent railing against the condition of women in Saudi Arabia, America’s ally, where
women can’t even drive or vote, or exposing the horrendous conditions facing women and
children in Iraq and Afghanistan where the social and economic fabric has been torn to shreds by
the U.S.-British and Nato occupation armies. Why isn’t Ms. Fasulo crying out against the total
destruction of the life support systems by the Zionist IDF forces in the assault on Lebanon and the
daily attacks in Gaza and the W  est Bank, where the lives of thousands of women and children
worsen by the day and hang in the balance between life and death? That would be a real
contribution to the defense of women and the struggle against imperialism.

Eleanor Ommani, is a retired NYC educator, peace and justice activist with W espac,
Nowarwestchester, Progressive News Network, and the American-Iranian Friendship Committee. Ms.
Ommani lived in Iran 1979 -1980, and returned this past March 2006 to visit family in Shiraz,
Esfahan, Saman and T    ehran. She can be reached at: KlosRtoGod@optonline.net and readers can
listen to her brief report on changes in Iran at www.progressiveportals.com/aifc .

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
URL: http://www.zcommunications.org/who-supports-iranian-women-by-eleanor-ommani

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