Conference sought to promote advocacy and break Iranian stereotypes

Aaron Helmbrecht

A CSUN conference about the different views on Iran and Iranian women was held yesterday in the Oviatt Library presentation room in an attempt to make students more aware of the discrimination towards women in Iran.

The organizers promoted ways for students to get active regarding the Iran oppression as well as inform them about campaign groups that have already been actively speaking out; and to kill negative Iranian stereotypes.

The conference opened up with graduate student panelists voicing their opinions and concerns about former CSUN student Esha Momeni. Esha, 28, was arrested while on a trip in Iran to conduct research for her master’s degree thesis on an Iranian women’s movement.

She was later released on bail and is currently home with her family, but she’s not allowed to travel back into the U.S.

Esha’s arrest in Iran is significant because women in Iran do not have many rights.

Panelist John Daquioag felt that the only way to get people concerned about Esha was to inform the public. He, along with fellow students organized a vigil at CSUN, which was a turnout with 200 people and 14 news outlets. Eventually getting the word out about Esha to other schools such as California State University, of Long Beach, UCLA and California State University, Fullerton to name a few.

‘We’re all here and have freedom and safety and (Esha) doesn’t,’ said panelist Kara Lawton.

Activist Roja Bandari, who was born in Iran, came to promote the One Million Signatures campaign. The One Million Signatures, which first launched on late Aug. of 2006, seeks to collect one million signatures for a petition addressed to the Iranian Parliament advocating for the revision and reform of current laws that discriminate women.

Bandari explained that since the Iraq war, women in Iran have been stripped of some of their rights. Some of the changes that the One Million Signature campaign aims to bring about are equal rights for women in marriage and divorce, ending polygamy, equal inheritance rights and the right for women to pass on nationality to their children. There are a few male members who are for promoting equality for women.

Furthermore, Bandari talked about the customs and issues in Iran. She said the reason women’s rights are violated is due to socio-economic class. Having a lot of money meant more freedom and equality with men and less trouble for the women.

Having little money caused more problems for women, which resulted in being stripped of freedom and equality with men.

‘No where in the world should peace activists and women activists be harassed,’ said Bandari.

Activists are phone tapped, threatened and travel outside of Iran is prohibited.

In terms of stereotypes, panelist Ariel Vegosen said, ‘I don’t feel like Iran is a threat to our (Americans) existence.’

She mentioned her visit to Iran and how the people there were so hospitable and treated her so kind. According to media, Iran is portrayed as this terrorist country that’s out to get the U.S. but Vegosen sees otherwise.

She mentioned other stereotypes such as the stereotype that Iranian women aren’t educated, but she found out that 60% of University students in Iran are women.

Lastly, activist Rae Abileah, of Code Pink, whose campaign works to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as put a stop to any new wars. Code Pink has organized several delegations of American women going to Iran to meet and talk with Iranian women, which is another approach to promote peace and end stereotypes.

‘The point is, everywhere in the world, the safety and human rights of people should be protected’, said Bandari.