Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- From House of Cinema to "Forbidden City" (Arseh Sevom)

Photographer Hoda Rostami in her "Forbidden City" (see last item in entry)

Our colleagues at Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society in Iran, post their latest summary of developments in the country:

Fewer Clerics in Parliament

The new Parliament officially began operation on the 27th of May in Tehran.

According to 24 Online News, the number of parliamentarians who are clerics has dropped “to an extent that after 32 years of the Islamic Republic’s victory, a comprehensive research must address all aspects of this change". The report adds “the first parliament had 153 seats given to clerics, the number plummeted to 44 MPs in the eighth parliament and, now, in the ninth round of Majlis there are 27 legislators who are clerics". (Historical numbers vary. For more information on Iran's electoral system read the report Duality by Design (pdf) from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.)

House of Cinema Re-opened, Then Re-closed

This week, many found hope in reports that the Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds (House of Cinema), whose closure was ordered last year, would be allowed to re-open. The chairperson of the House of Cinema’s management board announced that the organization “will resume its operation as of...7th of Khordad (27th of May)".

Farhad Tohidi added, “The first meeting of the board of the managing board was heldafter five months.” Mr. Tohidi insisted, “the administrative justice bureau has nullified the decree of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance [on the closure of the organization].”

Not everybody agreed. A small group gathered in front of the House of Cinema to demonstrate discontent with the reopening of the guild. Holding placards that read “Down with BBC documentary producers” and “Doubt when the enemy praises you”, they sprayed paint over House of Cinema’s door plaque.

Finally, in the last hours of Sunday, the head of the administrative tribunal announced the verdict for liquidation of House of Cinema is “still valid and in effect.”

Fars News Agency, which is aligned with the Revolutionary Guards, quotes the verdict issued by the “Cultural Centers Affairs Committee” of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance that dismisses any possibility for the resumption of the House of Cinema’s activities. The verdict read, "The activities of the so-called association of House of Cinema, is void of any legal legitimacy. In the case that it resumes any unlawful activity, it shall be liable to legal counter measures.”

For now, the Iranian House of Cinema remains closed with black paint sprayed over the gold plaque at its entrance.

Amnesty International Report 2012: Iranian Crackdown Continued

The new “State of the World Human Rights Report” for 2012 by Amnesty International has been released.

Amnesty International points to the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and highlights the following:

  • Religious and ethnic minorities discrimination in law, and, in the case of the Baha’i minority, persecution.
  • Government control of the media,
  • Suppression of protests against government
  • Threat to freedom of expression on the Internet
  • Enthusiasm in use of death penalty

Three Out of Four Prisoners of Conscience on Anti-Depressants

The Kalemeh opposition website has posted a report based on information obtained from the families of prisoners of conscience currently held at Rajaie Shahr Prison, just outside Tehran. According to the report, “Three out of four inmates at Rajaie Shahr are on strong tranquilizers and anti-depressants.” The report adds that guards have intensified physical abuse of the prisoners and just last week “seven prisoners passed away, one of whom was a prisoner of conscience". The families explain that “closed doors, 2x2 meter rooms, and brief exposure to fresh air have contributed to depression and addiction among inmates. Some inmates use both anti-depressants and narcotics simultaneously.”

“Women Studies” Becomes “Women’s Rights in Islam”

University post-graduate programmes of “Women Studies” will be changed to “Women’s Rights in Islam” according to a report by Shargh: "The measure is considered the first act of Islamicisation of humanities and social sciences in Iran. The decision dubbed as ‘immediately effective’ was made by the Special Council of Development and Advancement of Humanities and Social Sciences of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution.”

The chairperson of the council, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, stated that the prevalent global trend in women’s studies was in direct conflict with Islam, “Unfortunately, in the past, the subject was copied without investigation and criticism in our universities.”

Tehran Air “Still Unhealthy”

Hamshahri reports that Tehran’s air quality remains unhealthy. The wave of pollution has reportedly spread to other provinces in Iran, and air quality in Lorestan province has deteriorated to an extent that “air pollution has now reached 18 times the permitted amount."

Mazandaran: Student’s Death Ignites Unrest

Saham News reports that students have staged protests following the death of an Master’s candidate at Mazandaran University. The student lacked funds for emergency surgery and university officials took no action to save his life. The report states four student activists were arrested and five banned from entering the campus as a result of the protests. Others have been summoned for interrogation by security forces.

An updated report from Daneshjoo News said that, as of 24 May, 20 students had been blacklisted as a result of the protests.

After the Streets, “Campaign against Bad Hijab” Reaches Parks and Mountains

Last week we reported on the national re-launch of the so-called “moral security” project. The campaign has now gone beyond streets and reached mountains and parks as well.

The Forbidden City

While the Moral Security project is implemented with full force, the Iranian-Swedish artist, Hoda Rostami, challenges the treatment of her peers through the lens of her camera. Rostami’s collection of photographs from Tehran shows Iranian women freed from imposed hijab in current day-to-day situations. In an article on Tehran Review, the artist describes the motivation for her work:

My street photography soon turned into my concern for myself and others around me in a city and country that I loved, [so] I depicted it in another way, as I liked it to be. This collection is more of a manifest and an expression of words that appear to have been forbidden for years in this city.

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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