Fighting Against Oppression In Iran
AWID interviews Delaram Ali - a women's rights activist in Iran, who is facing a prison term for participating in a peaceful a protest in Tehran, and who could not attend the recent 11th AWID Forum in Cape Town because of these charges against her.
AWID: Why were you not able to attend the recent 11th AWID Forum: The Power of Movements in Cape Town where you were due to speak on a panel organised by the Million Signatures Campaign?
In June 2006, I participated in a women’s peaceful protest against discriminatory laws in Hafte-Tir square in Tehran. I was extremely beaten by the police and security forces and arrested along with 70 other women and men. The accusations against me were endangering national security, propaganda against the state and disruption of public order. After one year, the court found me guilty of all charges and I was sentenced to a 2 years and 10 months prison term and 10 lashes. My lawyers, Nasrin Sotoude, Shirin Ebadi, Leila Alikarami and Zohreh Arzani, and I, asked for a revision but after one year, the appeals court only reduced my terms to 2 years and 6 months and acquitted me on the charge of disrupting public order, but found me guilty on the two other charges. This time the prison term was decisive and they issued an arrest order for me. We objected again to the head of the judicial system and he issued an order to stop the implementation of the terms and this was how my case went to another court for the third time. This court also found me guilty on the eve of the AWID conference. This time they found me guilty for an accusation that I was once acquitted for: disrupting public order.
I could not attend the conference because I was busy objecting to this unfair sentence. But one of the other activists and a friend of mine, Sussan Tahmasebi, was also banned from travelling abroad and could not participate in the conference.
AWID: You are the first Iranian woman to be sentenced to imprisonment for participation in a protest in support of women’s rights. What implications do you see for you personally and for women's rights activism in general in Iran?
I am the first woman who was sentenced to decisive (and not suspended) prison terms, for two times and from two different courts. So this was really an alert for me and my other activist friends - not only because one of us was going to prison but because this has never happened since the 1979 revolution and could be a beginning for sending women’s rights and human rights activists to prison and to lash them. It is really a backlash for us and I think if we accept this, we should wait for longer prison terms and more lashes!
This is why we arranged widespread protests against this sentence and we have been successful up to this moment. I remember every time the court confirmed my sentences; it was a great pressure on me, my family and my friends in the women’s movement. However, we did our best to spread the news, object to the sentences and pursue legal efforts in order to stop the implementation of my sentences. We have not slept for many nights, we gathered together, we had meetings and discussions and we bore a lot of pressure - and all of this helps us to be successful. But I think if these kinds of sentences become common, we will also lose our strength and we will be really in need of our feminist sister’s support worldwide.
In our systems of activity, we cannot only think of our activities, goals and the methods to achieve them, we have to think a lot about the dangers and threats and devote a large part of our abilities and strategies to oppose them. If we stay still and calm or retreat for a second, we will lose so many things and perhaps we will not even be able to continue our way. So being an activist in Iran really needs a lot of strength and resistance.
During these years, the events around my sentences have taught me a lot. Now we know how to resist and how to make decisions in hard times, how to help each other and to stay strong and not get disappointed. These are great lessons for me.
AWID: How can women's rights activists, organizations and movements support you and women's rights activism in general in Iran?
I think, up to this moment, all the supporters of equal rights have shown us and have proved that we can stop any unequal and unfair law with resistance and solidarity. But I think, with these kind of sentences, both in my case and in any other case; we really need a more stable, continuous and sisterly support and help.
I think if we, as sisters and as feminists, work together and protest widely and continuously against what happens to our sisters and other activists in other parts of the world, we will give the world a borderless message, which will not be limited to a country or a specific kind of problem. We can arrange protests - even symbolic ones - that are not possible in another country because of the political and social restrictions. Every feminist group in every part of the world can show this protest in a unique form and be a part of our great coalition against inequality in the world.