Why didn’t I vote in the latest elections for the president of the country of my birth, Iran? Because no matter who became the president of Iran, they would stone me.
As an Iranian woman, I need to be convinced of big changes in policy to convince myself that a change in president would mean an improvement of my basic rights as human being inside Iran.
Here are some simple facts that demonstrate that, irrespective of who is president, I would be stoned to death in Iran:
1. As a woman whose husband refused to divorce her when she escaped the country and moved to Canada as a refugee, I am considered this man’s wife as long as I am alive. It does not matter if I have lived separate from him for years, have divorced him in my new country and am in a relationship with a new man. Under Iranian laws, and the Iranian constitution, which are based on strict interpretation of Islamic laws, I am considered his wife and am at risk of being stoned for “adultery” if I ever go back to Iran. In fact as a woman, I have no right to divorce my husband under the country’s laws while he has the privilege of marrying three more times without divorcing me. This is the case no matter who is the president of Iran: Ahamdinejad or Mousavi.
2. As a journalist and filmmaker, I am called upon by the Islamic Republic of Iran to respect the ‘red lines’. These red lines include belief and respect for the Supreme Leader and the savagely unjust rules of traditional Islamic law in my country. I am expected not to write or demand equal rights. I am not allowed to make the underground films I have made about the plight of sex trade workers and other social diseases rampant within Iran, as I did secretly 12 years ago. In fact, I am not allowed to make any film without the permission and without censorship by Iran’s Minister of Culture. If I did openly do all these things in Iran, I would be likely to be tortured and raped. I would be killed as have so many women journalists, filmmakers and activists in Iran. Among those killed include Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photo journalist, who was brutally tortured and murdered for attempting to photograph and publicise brutalities committed by the Iranian regime.
3. I would be considered an infidel if I was born into a Muslim family and later converted to another religion or had I considered myself a non-believer who does not follow strict Islamic morality. My branding as an infidel would result in my public murder, probably by stoning.
4. I would be lashed in public, raped in jail or even executed to death for selling my body in order to bring food to my family, as so many unfortunate Iranian women have been forced to do. Even the simple ‘crime’ of being in love, engaged in a relationship outside of marriage, or worse yet, giving birth to a human being out of Islamic wedlock is considered a crime against humanity. The product of such a union would be considered a bastard and would be taken away from me and I would receive 100 lashes immediately after giving birth to my baby.
5. No matter who runs the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would be denied a university education, a government job and a say in politics I was a Baha’i. I would be considered half a Shia Muslim if I was Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian or even a Sunni Muslim (Kurd, Baluch, Turcoman) by all levels of society.
6. I might be found dead if I were to keep writing and demanding my basic rights as a woman and an intellectual who has no say in politics (there was not even one female minister in the so-called “reformist cabinet” of Mohamad Khatami). This would be my fate had I continued to argue against and challenge the authorities about the fact that although Iran is one of the richest countries in the planet when it comes to resources, 70 per-cent of my people live in poverty. This is caused by corruption among the leaders and their generous contributions to external causes, from fanatic Muslim Hezbollah in Lebanon to the communist government of Venezuela through which they build alliances around the world. Huge numbers of children go to sleep on empty stomachs. Little girls are forced to sell their bodies in the streets of Tehran, Dubai and even China just to survive. No matter who is president of Iran, I would be jailed for expressing myself as a dissenting woman.
7. No matter who runs the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would not be able to be a judge or even a witness in court as a woman. This is because according to Islamic Courts, two women are equal to one man. No matter how educated and aware, I still would be considered half of a man who might be at a demonstrably much lower level of education and qualification.
8. No matter who runs the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would be lashed if I did not cover my head and body in public in compliance with the mandatory Islamic dress code. If I was caught uncovered at a private family/friend party or wedding taking place in mixed company, I would be harshly punished. If I was caught drinking, my punishment would be much worse. It would not matter if I considered myself a non-believer of Islam who simply does not want to follow Islamic rules. I would be cruelly punished, lashed, and raped while in custody before even getting the chance going on trial, no matter who is the president of Iran.
9. No matter who runs the Islamic Republic of Iran, I would be killed if I was openly a homosexual. I would be denied all rights as a human being since homosexuality is considered one of the greatest possible sins under the Iranian Islamic regime. I would be considered a criminal to be killed because “there are no homosexuals in Iran!’ That’s odd, because some of my closest friends in Iran say they are gay, but stay “in the closet” (and will continue to do so) for fear of execution.
10. No matter who runs the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iranian activists living in exile, including myself and many others who are openly opposed to the regime for its cruel human rights violations, will not be able to enter the country. We would be caught at the airport by the regime’s police forces and forced to sign an apology letter for our actions against the regime. If we refused, we would be jailed without trial for wanting freedom for our fellow people. I would be denied of my basic rights as an opposition to the regime and would likely be called a “spy”, jailed, tortured, raped and executed. This would happen regardless of who was the president of Iran.
This is what it means to live under Ayatollah Khamein. No fundamental change is conceivabely possible while Iran is controlled by autocratic, fundamentalist religious despots who determine the laws of the land. There has been no real election. Candidates are all hand-picked and cleared by a central religious committee. It is a farcical imitation of the free electioral process that we have pictured in the free world. There is no possibility that a secular, pluralistic, freedom-loving democratic person who loves his or her country can become a candidate to run for president (or any other office) in Iran.
Let us not forget that Mousavi was Prime Minister of Iran in the 1980s when more than ten thousand political prisoners were executed after three-minute sham trials. He is also backed up by the Rafsanjani mafia family, who have stolen oil money for their own family interests while 70 per-cent of the population lives in poverty. So ingrained as he is in a system of corruption and exploitation, how can anyone believe that Mousavi genuinely wants reform?
For these and many other reasons, I chose not to vote and instead boycotted the election, along with many other Iranians. But this time, many Iranians who boycotted the vote in the last election voted in this one because of their profound disgust with Ahmadinejad. I sympathise with them, but I believe that there exists no better option for the people of Iran than to entirely overthrow the Islamic regime that oppresses the country of my birth. I strongly support my people’s movement against the ever-present dictatorship and violence infecting my country. I will scream, along with my compatriots, “Down with dictators!”, “Down with murderers!”, “Down with the brutal oppression that is the Islamic regime and all of its toxic, self-serving alliances from Ahmadinejad to Mosavi!”
Long live freedom in Iran!
Lila Ghobady is an exiled Iranian writer-journalist and filmmaker living in Canada. She has been involved with human rights since working as a journalist in Iran at the age of 18 and continued her work in Canada when she arrived as a refugee in 2002. For more information, please read her blog at: www.banoufilm.blogspot.com. Lila can be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.
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This post was written by Lila Ghobady