UN concerned over discrimination against women and torture in Iran

Wed, Oct 22, 2008

Audio, Press

United Nations Radio / By Bissera Kostova

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A UN report on human rights in Iran says the country has made progress in improving health and education for women, but still has a number of discriminatory laws against them.
The report also expresses concern over the number of executions, including some by stoning, and about practices amounting to torture, such as flogging and amputations. While the country’s laws prohibit such punishment, they are defended by the government as being part of Islamic law. Mahnaz Afkhami (photo), President of the Women’s Learning Partnership, says this is not justified.

“Some of the religious figures, who are not part of the government, have brought out these conflicts and contradictions, and have written extensively about the kind of damage this does to the religion, the view of Islam which the population holds, because it in effect makes Islam culpable for some of these injustices and some of these absurdities, while an appropriate interpretation of the religion would really render quite different sets of laws.”

The report welcomes recent steps by Iran’s government to cooperate with the UN human rights bodies and encourages it to ratify the international conventions prohibiting torture and discrimination against women.

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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 – Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"The crass infringement of women's rights we see in the Muslim world has more to do with power, patriarchy, and misuse of religion as political weapon than with religion properly understood as individual faith." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"Rights and empowerment are interconnected: unless a substantial number of women in a community come to believe that they have rights and demand to exercise them, right remains an abstraction." - Faith and Freedom

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