Iranian Voices: A Seminar About Iran and Human Rights (in English and Swedish)

Fri, Dec 16, 2011

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On December 16, 2011, Afkhami participated in Iranian Voices: What is happening today? A seminar about Iran and human rights at the Swedish National Theatre’s Södra Teatern. The Arabic spring is considered as the starting point of a new era in the Arabic world’s history. From Iran, however, it’s been very quite. The demonstrations were hushed up successfully and today pro-democracy movement appears underground. Come and meet human rights activists from Iran in the areas of LGBT, women’s rights and ethnic / religious minorities. The seminar is aimed primarily at people working within human rights and with the Middle East. Take the opportunity to pose questions to panelists. How can your organization and Sweden support the democracy movement in Iran?

Payam Akhavan is a lecturer and researcher in the fields of public international law and international criminal law. He has a particular interest in human rights, multiculturalism, war crimes prosecutions, UN reform and preventions of genocide. Working as well as a guest lecturer at the University of Toronto and Senior Fellow at Yale Law School and Yale University Centre for International Studies, he has published a number of books, for example ”Beyond impunity: Can International Criminal Justice Prevent Future Atrocities?” (2001), which was selected by the International Library of legislation theory and practice as one of ”the most significant papers published in today’s legal studies.” At the moment he works as an advisor on Iran issues to the Obama government and other politicians in the U.S. and in Canada. Payman will participate in the panel by Skype.

Mahnaz Afkhami a former Iranian Minister of Women’s Affairs who today is the founder and CEO of the Foundation for Iranian Studies and president of Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP). Afkhami has been a champion of women’s rights in more than three decades. She has founded several important non-governmental organizations, and has great experience & knowledge in lecturing and publishing on international women’s movement, women’s human rights, women in leadership, women and technology, and women’s participation in civil society building and democratisation. Mahnaz will participate in the panel by Skype.

Mehrangiz Kar is a prominent Iranian lawyer, human right activist and author. Mehrangiz Kar is one of the most celebrated activists in the history of women’s movement in Iran that goes back nearly for over a century. In 2002, the U.S. First Lady, Laura Bush, awarded her with the National Endowment for Democracy – Democracy award. She is the widow of Siamak Pourzand, a fellow Iranian dissident and former prisoner of conscience who committed suicide on April 29, 2011, after a long period of torture and imprisonment.
Arsham Parsi, a tireless advocate for LGBT issues, both internationally and in his country of birth, Iran. He is the founder and head of the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (IRQR), an international non-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada. Arsham is also the coordinator and ambassador for the Stockholm-based organisation International Lesbian and Gay Cultural Network (ILGCN).

Roya Toloui is a prominent Kurdish/Iranian feminist, journalist and a human rights activist who currently resides in the United States. She is the chief editor and editor of the newspaper Rasan (Rise Up) and founder of the Association of Kurdish women who support peace in Kurdistan, and a member of the Kurdish PEN. With the newspaper Rasan, she managed to publish three issues before it was shut down by the Iranian regime. Because of her outspoken criticism of the regime and as an advocate for rights of Kurdish and Iranian women, she was accused of jeopardising national security. She was arrested and freed on bail, and then later applied for asylum in the U.S. in 2005.

Asieh Amini has dedicated a great part of her career to raise awareness about the situation for women in Iran who have been sentenced to stoning and death. She has worked for a long time, trying to eliminate stoning within the laws and for the removal of the death penalty completely, especially for young legislative offenders and women. For her work Asieh has been awarded the prestigious Hellman / Hammett price of the Human Rights Watch.

MODERATOR: Ardalan Shekarabi has worked at the Cooperative Institute and the Department of Justice, where he was a personal letter writer to Thomas Bodstrom. At the Swedish Social Democratic Youth League Congress in Karlstad in August 2003 Shekarabi was elected unanimously as the new chairman after Mikael Damberg. As chairman Shekarabi worked towards issues relating to the housing policy, youth unemployment, integration policy and the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In 2011, the Swedish National Theatre’s (Riksteatern) project ”Iranian Voices”, supported by Sida (UD’s targeted funding for democracy and human rights issues). The project is a collaboration with Sweden Radio (Radio Theatre), builds on documentary stories with a focus on human rights in Iran, and operated in close collaboration with several international theaters and radio stations in Germany, Britain and Turkey. By dramatizing the stories on the radio about homosexuals and women in Iran in five different languages (Swedish, Persian, German, English and Turkish), we spread knowledge through both air and sound files on the net. The goal is to get a large spread over the whole world – even inside Iran. Some stories are now also animated and will be broadcasted via satellite television and in Sweden by Channel Worldwide. Part of the project consists of workshops in Sweden, Turkey, Germany and Britain.

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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

Quotables – Technology

"[Modern information technology] has the potential to empower women in ways unprecedented in the social and cultural evolution of human history" - Making IT Our Own: Introduction

"The new information technology, indifferent to human suffering, does not accommodate humane needs unless we harness it and make it do so." Leading To Choices

"We must be bold and creative, our feet firmly grounded in the realities that surround us, but our gaze aimed at the lofty possibilities that our advancements in science and technology promise and that our growth as a global society is only beginning to comprehend." - Toward A Compassionate Society

“International movement building in the 21st century and involvement of youth in advocacy will be made possible largely through technology" - Engendering IT Tools