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Iran: Theocracy and Democracy

Mon, Apr 28, 2003

Audio, Press

WAMU American University Radio “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” / By Kojo Nnamdi

Audio B&WListen to the Interview

As Iraq’s Shiite Muslims emerge from Saddam’s shadow, we go inside neighboring Iran to examine a government they may emulate – one that adds a splash of Democracy to a religious theocracy

Guests:
Mahnaz Afkhami: Executive Director, Women’s Learning Partnership and Foundation for Iranian Studies; also former Iranian Minister of State for Women’s Affairs
Muhammad Faghfoory: Professor of History and Islamic Studies, George Washington University and Mary Washington College
Afshin Molavi: Fellow, The New America Foundation; also author of “Persian Pilgrimages: Journeys Across Iran”

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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Democracy

"Tuned to the law, Muslim societies are historically and structurally receptive to democracy's motto of 'government of law not of men' ". - Faith and Freedom

"Religious zeal makes democracy problematic because it turns every attempt at understand and compromise - the hallmarks of democracy - into an evidentiary test of religious righteousness." - Rights of Passage

Quotables – Iran Women’s Movement

"Now, when I look back [on the work of the WOI], it seems to me that our main mistake was not that we did not do other things which we should have done. Our main mistake was that we created conditions in which the contradictions related to modernity, progress, equality, and human rights, especially women’s rights, increased and the reaction to our work put perhaps too much pressure on the country’s social fabric." - Fate of the family protection law

"Iran’s One Million Signatures Campaign for the Reform of Discriminatory Laws is an extraordinary phenomenon. It is democratic, nonhierarchical, open, and evolving in a polity that is none of those things." - Iranian Women’s One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality: The Inside Story, Foreword

At the time of her execution, [Ms. Parsay] wrote one of the most moving letters to her children. And in that she expressed the same courage and the same steadfast belief in her principles that she had followed all of her life. And that was that: I’m a doctor. I know what it means to die, that takes only a minute. I’m not afraid of that. What I’m afraid of is to be pressured into denying 50 years of service to women. - Executed But Not Forgotten

“Prostitution was the code word for activism during the early part of the revolution” - I Was Iran's Last Woman Minister

Quotables – Religion

"Women ought not to be forced to choose between freedom and God." - Rights of Passage

Islam is not the problem. Rather it is the misuse of Islam by interpreting it to fit the needs of the partriarchal order - the powers that be - and the privileges that one gender has held over the other.” - How are women working to eliminate violence against women in Muslim-majority societies?

"Religious zeal makes democracy problematic because it turns every attempt at understand and compromise - the hallmarks of democracy - into an evidentiary test of religious righteousness." - Rights of Passage