Wednesday, December 17, 2008
" On December 10, women's rights activist andattorney Nasrin Sotoudeh and her family went to the Imam KhomeiniAirport. Ms. Sotoudeh's passport was confiscated by securityofficials at the Imam Khomeini Airport as she was about to leave for Italy,where she was to receive the 2008 Human Rights International Prize. Ms.Sotoudeh's travel ban is a continuation of a policy of sustained repressiondirected at human rights defenders.
Ms. Sotoudeh is not alone. At least four other women's rights activistshave gone through the same experience: Parvin Ardalan, MansourehShojaee, Talat Taghinia, and Sussan Tahmasebi. Furthermore, EshaMomeni, member of the One Million Signatures Campaign for genderequality, is still unable to leave Iran, as the Ministry ofIntelligence continues to hold her passport."
Please sign the following petition and spread the word: http://action.humanrightsfirst.org/campaign/Nasrin/
Thursday, December 11, 2008
"It is December 8th, and we are still waiting after two long months, for Esha to return to the United States and her academic program. The last few weeks have been wrought with confusion. At first Esha was banned from leaving Iran. Then, Iranian officials said that she was free to come back to the United States but they wouldn't give her back her passport. Clearly, it appears she is not free to leave. This is a problem because it leaves her months behind in her academic work. Esha has not submitted any of the work required to earn her thesis, because her video was seized. She is now months behind in her academic work, and the deadline to file to graduate will soon pass. Her other professors and I are asking the Iranian government to lift her travel ban, give back her passport and allow her to return to California in time to enroll for Spring semester."
Professor Wall further expressed these concerns in a radio program on KPFK's indymedia. You can listen to this program here. Below is a quote from Esha's classmate Anasa Sinegal in this radio program:
She is still not able to leave the country - not only are we continually worried about her well-being, we are also worried about her standing in our program. Is she going to be able to come back here and finish her degree? . . . And we also just really want her to graduate with us, to stand on that stage. We've become a tight knit family. We're worried that's not going to happen. We want her back as soon as possible so that we can talk to her and see her again and we can all graduate come May 2009.
To help Esha:
Write a letter asking the Iranian government to drop all charges and allow Esha to return to California to complete her degree. Based on the recommendations of the Observatory for Human Rights Defenders, consider the following text:
Please guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Esha Momeni, and immediately drop all charges and allow Ms. Momeni to return to the US without conditions to complete her academic work. Her arrest was in connection with her peaceful activities in support of equal rights for women in Iran and in the context of her graduate research.
Leader of the Islamic Republic, His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, The Office of the Supreme Leader, Shoahada Street, Qom, Islamic Republic of Iran, Faxes: + 98.21.649.5880 / 21.774.2228.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Delegates from Association of American Universities (AAU) during a meeting with Iranian Officials expressed their concerns regarding Esha's arrest
The article further states that:
"The general issue and specific issue [of safety] were brought up on numerous occasions, with faculty, with university administrators and with the minister of science," Skorton said. AAU spokesperson Barry Toiv stated in an e-mail, "Now, a very high percentage of the country receives a college education. Interestingly, 60 percent of that student population is women, despite the severe limits placed on women in Iranian society as a whole."
According to Leebron, the delegation expressed their concerns to Minister Zahedi regarding "what [the delegates] would call interference" with academic freedom. They were particularly concerned with American-born Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University at Northridge, who was arrested in Tehran in mid-October while researching the Iran's women's movement. He called this case "one particular point of difficulty."
I am 25 years old. I have a BS in Surveying and am currently working on my
Masters in City Planning. My focus is on women and the use of public
spaces. The Campaign has been an enormously empowering experience for
me. Prior to entering the Campaign, I had lost hope and had become
disillusioned. I felt like I needed to do something to positively improve
my society and to positively impact the lives of women in my country, but
I was constantly faced with closed doors to this end. I could not find a
place to go and be active on behalf of women's rights and my own concerns.
When the Campaign started it changed the environment of the women's
movement and younger women were afforded an opportunity to get involved.
From among the 50 volunteers that I follow up with, none have been
dissuaded from involvement in the Campaign because of security pressures
or at least they have not expressed their concerns to me. I share news and
info on developments in the Campaign with the group I am responsible for.
When I shared the news about sentences issued in the case of Campaign
activists, like the sentence issued for Delaram Ali, most activists wrote
back expressing their support and concern and asked what if anything they
could do for us. Or when we shared news about Esha's Momeni's release from
prison, we received a lot of supportive messages from volunteers.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
However, Esha Momeni's passport has not been returned to her and according to close friends, Esha was told by the officials today that this news was incorrect and that she does not have permission to leave the country.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
In its statement, the Observatory welcomes the release of Ms. Esha Momeni, and thanks all the persons, institutions and organizations who intervened in her favor. It further states that Momeni's release was on a bail of $200,000 met by the deeds to her family's apartment. The statement adds:
"... the Observatory recalls that Ms. Esha Momeni remains charged with "propaganda against the State", and expresses its deep concern about the ongoing harsh repression of the Iranian authorities against human rights defenders, in particular women's rights activists involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign. To that extent, the Observatory recalls that more than a hundred of women's rights activists have been arrested, interrogated, or sentenced in the past two years and that the government has raised over one million Euros by imprisoning the activists and releasing them on high bail."
For complete text of the appeal click here:
Thursday, November 13, 2008
"I am very proud of all of my graduate students who have worked so hard to let the world know about Esha Momeni's situation and who stand here tonight asking that Esha be allowed to return to Cal State Northridge to finish her degree with her classmates.
I am especially proud of Esha - for the courage she has shown in order to share with us a seemingly simple message: Iranian women are more complex and a lot tougher than the images we so often see of them.
We are not here tonight to offer Esha or any other Iranian woman our pity - but we offer our understanding and our solidarity and to share our hope that Esha be allowed to rejoin us soon to continue her academic work."
Video posted by Los Angeles Daily News, November 13
Here are a few links to news and photos about this event:
Other related posts:
90 Scholars signed a statement for Esha Momeni's release
Letter of American Association of University Professors to the Iranian officials about Esha Momeni
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
A vigil/celebration for Esha's release and awaiting her safe return is scheduled for tomorrow, Nov. 12, in Calstate Northridge in front of the Oviatt Library at 4:30. Daily News reported on the release of Esha Momeni including interviews with her professors and classmates:
At California State University, Northridge, professors and classmates of Momeni, who are busy planning a vigil/celerbration [for tomorrow] in support of the grad student's release, celebrated the news. "These three weeks have probably been some of the most difficult weeks I have ever experienced," said professor Melissa Wall, adviser for the communications graduate program at CSUN.
"But these weren't wasted weeks. We have all learned a lot about ourselves and about the obstacles that exist in communication between these two very different countries and cultures. These were the exact issues Esha's work focused on and even though this has all been very difficult, maybe eventually something good will come out of this."
Read more>> http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_10951919
In an interview with CNN, Elise Auerbach, the Iran specialist for Amnesty International USA, commented on a recent news on Esha Momeni's charge.
According to CNN, Auerbach stated that "Tehran's deputy general prosecutor, Hasan Hadad, has 'deliberately leaked' to the state-run media his intentions to charge Momeni with propaganda against the state". The Iranian judiciary has not commented on Momeni's release. "A lot of people have faced that charge," Auerbach said. "It's kind of a vague, loosely worded charge that's kind of convenient. They can use it against whomever they want basically." Auerbach said Momeni is not the only woman involved with Change for Equality who has been jailed recently; at least three women who worked with the group are being detained, she said. As of Tuesday morning, the Iranian government had not returned Momeni's passport and travel papers, Auerbach said.
According to this report, Hadi Ghaemi, coordinator for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said he believes Tehran wants to stifle the women's rights movement, and Momeni's arrest was meant to intimidate like-minded scholars or activists. "We see here detention as a method of pressuring that movement on a broader scale," he said. "The government would very much like to quiet these women."
Monday, November 10, 2008
(a deed to her family's house). According to the deputy general prosecutor of Tehran, Hasan Hadad,the charge against Esha is "propaganda against the state". Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University Northridge, and a volunteer in the One Million Signatures Campaign had been kept in solitary confinement since October 15.
This weblog will continue its work until the return of Esha to California and to her studies at CSUN. Any future news as her case progresses through the courts will be posted here.
We, the undersigned, have heard with great alarm of the arrest in Tehran, on Wednesday October 15, 2008, of Esha Momeni, a graduate student conducting research in Iran as part of her Master's degree requirements in Mass Communications at California State University, Northridge. She has not been charged with any offense, and has not been allowed contact with her lawyer.
Esha Momeni had been in Iran for two months to visit her family and to conduct research for her Master's degree thesis, which included interviews with some members of a grassroots women's rights campaign called the "One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws." The Campaign has made it clear that its activities are peaceful that it has no political objectives.
Esha has stated that the purpose of her work is to better the lives of her fellow citizens and banish negative stereotypes of Iranians through photo and film. Ms. Momeni has passionately sought to promote inter-cultural communication between Americans and Iranians and we are therefore dismayed that she should have been arrested and detained despite not having engaged in any unlawful activities.
We, the undersigned professors, academics, and concerned scholars stand in solidarity with California-State University Northridge in condemning Esha's detention and the confiscation of her research material. We therefore respectfully urge you:
- to release Ms. Momeni immediately and give back her research materials so that she can return to complete her education.
- to guarantee that Ms. Momeni is treated fairly and provided all legal rights due her in detention, including immediate and regular access to her family, lawyer and any medical treatment necessary in light of her medical condition (kidney stones).
- to affirm your commitment to the promotion of free and open dialogue to the benefit of all scholars and academic institutions across the world.
Intellectual exchange and scholarly collaboration are essential for fostering knowledge and academic inquiry in our communities. These activities only benefit us all.
. Ahmed-Ghosh, Huma – Professor, Department of Women's Studies, Center for Islamic and Arabic Studies, San Diego State University
. Alamdari, Kazem – Professor, Department of Sociology, California State University, Northridge
. Alpers Edward A., Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles
. Amiran, Eyal - Associate Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
. Benavides, José Luis - Associate Professor, Journalism Department, California State University, Northridge
. Bitel, Lisa M. – Professor and Chair, Gender Studies Program Director, Monastic Matrix University of Southern California
. Brown, Brené - Professor, Graduate College of Social Work, University of Houston
. Bloch, Ruth - Professor, Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles
. Blumenkrantz, David - Assistant Professor, Department of Journalism, California State University, Northridge
. Bruhn, Lisa M. – Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California Santa Barbara
. Brodkin, Karen – Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
. Bruhn, Kathleen – Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Burton, Mike M. - Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
. Chomsky, Noam - Institute Professor & Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
. Cooperson, Michael, Professor of Arabic, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California Los Angeles
. Cooper, Melinda – Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Sydney
. Coutin, Susan – Professor, Department of Criminology, Law & Society, University of California, Irvine
. Dabashi, Hamid – Professor, Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
. Davaran, Fereshteh - University of California, Berkley
. Deeb Lara - Associate Professor, Department of Women's Studies, University of California, Irvine
. Demovic, Angela R. - Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Wichita State University
. ElShakry, Omnia - Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California, Davis
. Eileraas, Karina - Department of Women's Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
. Estrin, Deborah – Professor, Department of Computer Science, Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of California, Los Angeles
. Ejikeme, Anene - Assistant Professor, Department of History, Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas
. Gallagher, Nancy – Chair and Professor, Middle East Studies Program, University of California Santa Barbara
. Garb, Paula – Professor, Co-Director of the Center for Citizen Peace Building, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
. Gheytanchi, Elham - Sociology Department, Santa Monica College
. Gibson, Steve – Professor , Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles
. Giroux, Henry A. – Chair and Professor, Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University
. Golden, Rebecca - Department of Anthropology, Tulane University
. Grewal, Inderpal - Professor, Women's Studies, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine
. Gutter, Briana - Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge
. Hale, Sondra – Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Los Angeles
. Hasenauer, Jim - Professor, Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge
. Hayes, John L. - Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of Southern California, Berkeley
. Hirsch, Barbara - Arts Library, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Hoffman, Donald D. – Professor, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine
. Holmes, Douglas - Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harpur College of Arts and Science, State University of New York at Binghamton
. Hussain, Hassan, Department of Modern Languages, Santa Monica College
. Joseph, Suad - Director, Middle East/South Asia Studies, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis
. Jarratt, Susan C. – Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
. Kagan, Al - Professor of Library Administration and African Studies Bibliographer , University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
. Karimi-Hakkak, Ahmad - Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland
. Kaminski, Marek – Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvine
. Keddie, Nikki- Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of California ,Los Angeles
. King, Katherine – Professor, Department of Comparative Literature and Classics, University of California, Los Angeles
. Klammer, Thomas P. - Dean of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences at California State University, Fullerton
. Kramer, Alejandra Letelier –Lecturer, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
. Lavine, Adrienne – Chair and Professor , Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles
. Littleton, Christine A. – Chair and Professor , Women's Studies Department, University of California, Los Angeles
. Mailloux Steven , Professor of English and Chancellor's Professor of Rhetoric
University of California, Irvine
. Makau, Lynn - Assistant Professor , Department of English Program in African American & African Studies, Center for Gender in Global Context, Michigan State University
. Marafiote, Tracy - Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, State University of New York, Fredonia
. Marshall, Jennifer , Department of Communication Studies; California State University, Northridge
. McClary, Susan – Professor, Department of Musicology, University of California, Los Angeles
. Mashayekhi, Mehrdad - Assistant Professor , Department of Sociology, George Town University, Washington, DC
. Miller-Von Ah, Jenna - Graduate Coordinator , Department of Women's Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
. Mitchell, Laura – Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of California, Irvine
. Montoya Michael-- Assistant Professor , Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
. Monroe, Kristen Renwick – Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvine
. Mufti, Aamir - Associate Professor , Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Los Angeles
. Navab, Mohammad - Professor of Cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles
. Pateman, Carole – Professor, Department of Political Science, University of California, Los Angeles
. Pacheco, Denise - Department of Education and Informational Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
. Peterson, Kristin - Assistant Professor , Department of Anthropology, University of California, Irvine
. Pirnazar, Jaleh - Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkley
. Pottie, Gregory – Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, Associate Dean of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of California, Los Angeles
. Rahimieh, Nasrin – Professor, Humanities Department of Comparative Literature , Maseeh Chair and Director, Dr. Samuel M. Jordan Center for Persian Studies, University of California, Irvine
. Robertson, James B. - Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Rahmandad, Hazhir – Assistant Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, Virginia Tech
. Rodriguez, Jason - Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz
. Sabar, Yona – Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of California, Los Angeles
. Saberi, Kourosh – Professor, Department of Cognitive Sciences, University of California, Irvine
. Sahimi, Mohammad – Professor, NIOC Chair in Petroleum Engineering, University of Southern California
. Sakharov, Mae - Educational Director, College Counselor and School Consultant
. Schwab, Gabriele - Chancellor's Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
. Searls-Giroux, Susan - Associate Professor, Department of English and Cultural, Studies, McMaster University
. Sharpe, Jenny- Professor, Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles
. Shigekane, Rachel - Director of Programs Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley
. Schaefer, Karl R. - Professor of Librarianship, Director of the Center for the Humanities, Drake University
. Solomon-Godeau, Abigail - Professor, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Sorrells, Kathryn - Associate Professor , Department of Communication Studies, California State University, Northridge
. Terada, Rei –Professor, Director, Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
. Tsao, Tsu-Chin –Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering at Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of California, Los Angeles
. Thiong'o, Ngugi wa - Director, International Center for Writing and Translation, Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine
. Tohidi, Nayereh - Chair and Professor, Gender & Women's Studies, California State University, Northridge
. Vatter, Sherry – Lecturer, Department of History, California State University, Long Beach
. Wall, Melissa - Associate Professor of Communication, California State University, Northridge
. Winant, Howard – Professor, Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara
. Williams, Betty - 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, A Founder of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement
Friday, November 7, 2008
You can read the complete translation of this interview here.
According to AKI, the Italian government has made a formal complaint to Iran about the arrest of Esha Momeni and called for her immediate release.
The Foreign Affairs Minister, Franco Frattini, has instructed the Italian ambassador in Tehran to formally convey the government's concerns and express its strong expectations for a positive outcome. Frattini has also asked the head of his department to meet the Iranian envoy on Monday to discuss the issue and to receive a direct explanation for the reasons behind the Esha's arrest and the prospects for her release.
Leading Women and Human Rights Organizations Issue Statement in Support of Women’s Rights Defenders in Iran
Leading women and human rights organizations have issued a statement objecting to the recent increase in pressures on women’s rights activists involved in the One Million Signature Campaign. The letter is issued by: Human Rights First; International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific; Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights; International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH); Equality Now; Center for Global Women’s Leadership; Association for Women’s Rights in Development; Human Rights Watch; The Asia Pacific Forum on Women and Development (APWLD); International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran; Front Line – The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders; Foundation for Women, Law and Rural Development (FORWARD); World Organization Against Torture (OMCT); and Women Living Under Muslim Laws – International Solidarity Network. The letter objects to the harrassment of women's rights activists and urges the Iranian government to respect their rights. It makes specific demands regarding Esha Momeni, Sussan Tahmasebi, Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh, and Parastoo Alahyaari.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
The arrest of Esha Momeni comes shortly after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s insistence, during a visit to the United Nations, that Iranians were free to say what they wanted. While President Ahmedinejad postures unconvincingly on the issue of freedom of expression, Iran’s track record continues to leave much to be desired: in May 2007, US-Iranian academics Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, and California-based peace activist Ali Shakeri, were arrested and held for more than 100 days on suspicion of causing harm to national security. The most irksome aspect of accounts such as these, is the notion that campaigning for women’s right is somehow detrimental to national security. That Iran has so many intelligent, vociferous, and brave women and men willing to fight for the most basic of rights for womankind is admirable and awe-inspiring; far from locking them in the darkest corners of Evin, they should be celebrated for their tenacity.
Read more>> http://caledoniyya.com/2008/11/07/the-arrest-of-esha-momeni/
1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Esha Momeni;
2. Assure that while in detention she is granted immediate and regular access to her family, a lawyer of her choice, and any medical treatment necessary in light of her medical condition (kidney stones);
3. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Iran.
Esha Momeni has been kept in solitary confinement in the Evin prison since October 15th and has not been permitted to speak to her family or her lawyer yet. According to the Iranian Judiciary spokes person Esha Momeni is under investigation for "acting against national security", a charge that a few other women's rights activists have also received in current years.
To sign the petition click here
The Nobel Women’s Initiative is calling—with renewed urgency—for the end to the harassment and arrest of women human rights defenders in Iran.
Authorities arrested campaign member Esha Momeni on October 15, and she is still being held in detention. Momeni is a dual American-Iranian citizen who traveled to Iran to visit family and complete her Master’s research on the Iranian women’s movement. Also last month, Iranian officials prevented campaign member Sussan Tahmasebi from traveling and confiscated campaign materials from the home of Parastoo Alahyaari.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Pressure on women’s rights activists by security forces has entered a new era. According to the “Change for Equality” website, after seizing Susan Tahmasebi’s passport, officials took a film of her house and confiscated some of her CDs, books, writings, course materials, tapes, and her computer. She was traveling to the United States to visit her family and to attend some conferences. Also, Parastou Allahyari’s house, one of the members of the “One Million Signatures Campaign”, was searched last week and her personal belongings such as her laptop, CDs and books were seized.
Peyman Malaz, an International Relations student in the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA), is one of the many individuals that are actively working towards the freedom of Esha Momeni. I had an interview with him about Ms. Momeni’s status, activities of this group of people, as well as the effects that Ms. Momeni’s arrest can have on the other Iranian students.
What do you know about Ms. Momeni’s current status?
- Today, Friday, exactly two weeks and two days have passed since Esha Momeni’s arrest. Unfortunately, not only they haven’t let Esha’s family visit her but also Mr. Dadkhah, Esha’s lawyer, hasn’t been able to read her file.
As you know, in the process of her arrest, none of the legal premises that are required while arresting an accused have occurred.
While she was driving in a high way, she was pulled over by the traffic violation officers and then, she was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison. However, authorities, according to the laws are supposed to send a summon letter to the accused, and give her a deadline to introduce herself to the court.
On the other hand, according to Article 1 of citizenship laws (passed in 2006), “Discovery and following allegation as well as investigation and temporary arrest should be based upon laws and with clear, definite judicial order, and should be independent of personal opinions, power, violation, and additional unnecessary arrests should be prevented.”
According to what I mentioned, Esha’s arrest and later treatment she has received are illegal. Esha went to Iran two months ago to complete her Masters’ thesis. Therefore, she had in-person interviews with some of the activists of the “One Million Signatures Campaign”.
– First, filming, unless in public places, is not illegal in Iran, and there is no need for a permit. In contrast, according to the Citizenship laws, seizure of personal films is illegal.
– Secondly, the “One Million Signatures Campaign” is a non-political movement and its activities are defined within the civil society. The purpose of the Campaign is to change the discriminatory laws against women’s rights.
Criticizing laws and requesting change is not illegal at all and cannot be considered as an accusation.
If some of the citizens believe that the current laws are impractical, and try to discuss it with other citizens, and if they are in agreement, the citizen signs a petition, is their activity illegal?
I don’t understand the logic behind this continuous reaction toward “One Million Signatures Campaign”. I wished just for once, the officials could say frankly how within the boundaries of the Campaign, the activists are doing anything illegal.
There were times that even some of the highest authorities of the government talked about the imbedded discrimination within these laws. Also, some religious clergies had issued statements against these laws. Should one consider taking a stand on these matters illegal as well? Neither researching for a University thesis is a crime, nor volunteering in the “One Million Signatures Campaign”. However, what they are doing to Esha is illegal.
What efforts have been made for Esha’s freedom? What was the academic society’s reaction toward this incident?
- The academic society of US is in shock and confusion. Last week, the President of the California State University- Northridge in a conference announced that he was worried for Esha. He said that he would use all his power, such as visiting Iran’s representative in the United Nations, to pursue this subject matter. He stated, “She [Esha] is a student invested in learning and understanding current conditions in the country of her family’s origin. Anyone who values knowledge and the role of academic inquiry in shedding light on the human condition should be concerned.”
On the other hand, the American Academic Union of Professors (AAUP), which is a 90 years old institute and has 47,000 members in a statement signed by its current president, Ms. Nelson, requested Esha Momeni’s freedom as well as a guarantee for the provision of her primary needs such as visiting her lawyer and sufficient medical care. As Esha’s father said in one of his interviews, Esha suffers from the pain of kidney stones.
There is also an online petition requesting Esha’s immediate release in a web log, (for-esha.blogspot.com)
designed by Esha’s friends, that gathers and reflects news about Esha. Although it has just been a few days since the online petition was imitated, about 2500 people have signed it. They intend send this petition to Iran’s representative in the UN.
Also, different academic centers as well as centers in defense of academic freedom have supported the Northridge University’s statement.
Furthermore, Esha’s arrest in the US media has been widely reflected due to its unusual circumstances, and also because Esha in an US citizen.
Esha’s friends, who try to promote the massage of the “One Million Signatures Campaign” in California, are trying hard to make sure that Esha’s arrest won’t be used as a political tool of Iran and America as well as the complicated relations between them.
Esha was in disagreement with the orientalism approach of the western media and academic atmospheres. One of the main reasons for choosing the topic of her thesis was to show the real character of the Iranian women, who are trying hard for their rights.
On the other hand, because Esha is a US citizen, the US media consider themselves responsible to follow her destiny.
Although some people are misusing this subject matter, Esha always criticized the wrong politics of the US current government as well as the conservative politics in favor of war against Iran.
The misuse of this subject by the media does not help Esha or the Campaign. They will continue to provide coverage because they are interested in the sudden arrest of Esha and the later misbehavior towards her.
People who have kept her in the solitary confinement for two weeks are responsible for the hype around this case.
The imaginary statements that were broadcasted on the second channel of Iran’s state run TV station only shows that program coordinators are unfamiliar with the system of media in the US.
I recommend that makers of these TV programs consult with Dr. Molana, who is an American citizen and lived in the US for more than thirty years, and now is the president’s media consultant.
As an Iranian-American student, what worries do you have regarding Esha’s arrest?
- One of the main barriers to development which impacts Iran is the “Draining of the Geniuses”. Every year, a number of good students leave Iran, and most of them do not intent to go back to Iran, rather they want to study in the universities abroad.
Some of these students study social sciences, which are principles of development in all countries. They do their research on Iran because of their love for Iran. Esha’s arrest and the way she has been treated have worried those students.
It hasn’t been long time since the trip of the authorities of Iran to the US, and the Iranian’s invitation of the Americans to visit Iran yet they stopped a student, who loves Iran, in a freeway as if they were arresting a drug dealer. Are the authorities familiar with the effects of their actions on the Iranian students outside Iran?
Momeni’s family has not received any news about Esha after two weeks. Is this legal or even Islamic? I am so worried for Esha who is jailed for no reason. She is a victim of false and over exaggerated imagination.
Imaginary remarks noted in Keyhan Newspaper are so meaningless that one should not even consider thinking about them. This newspaper called Esha a tie between the US and the Campaign.
This Campaign operates at such high level of transparency that the volunteers even releases its financial report clearly on their website on regular basis.
The members of the Campaign are under pressure, and most of them are free with high bail and under close watch. Now, the official newspaper of the country, using the tax payers’ money, considers a 28 years old student, whose seized films show that she was doing research for her thesis, a connection between the US and the Campaign.
Authorities should know that Esha is an American citizen, because when she was born her dad, who has spent half of his lifetime in road construction in the underprivileged southern parts of Iran, was studying in the United States.
Keyhan Newspaper states that in a press conference, a reporter asks an Iranian official about Esha, and the speaker of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responds: “Because Esha is a US citizen, they are investigating about this matter. “
Similar to all other countries, investigating this matter is one of the responsibilities of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs, however Keyhan finds this to be news worthy and writes a special article about E-M (Esha Momeni) and starts a new scenario.
I’d like to end this interview with a passage from one of Esha’s sister’s letter to her because these days, I feel the same way:
“My heart is broken, and I am miserable not because I see you behind that jail; but I am heart broken because we are strangers in our own country. I see your loneliness more gloomy and bitter than the nostalgia I feel here, in foreign land.”
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
To My Dear Esha,
Although you made me cry when I heard your sad voice and your outpour of tears over the phone, inside I felt proud of my little Esha who like an exceptional champion and a historic hero will triumph over the effects of an era of injustice. This feeling gives me an inner delight and the strength of a young man.
This brave woman roars like a caged lion, yet she leads a great symphony which will make the universe dance and lifts me like a light-footed angel up to the zenith of my dreams.
In hope of your immediate release,
Your concerned father
The charge against Esha Momeni is a common charge also brought against several women's rights advocates in the One Million Signatures Campaign, a peaceful equal rights campaign aiming at collecting signatures for a petition addressed to the members of the Iranian Parliament.
Esha, a dual citizen of US and Iran and a student in Art and Communications at Cal-State Northridge, was in Iran working on her Master's thesis. Her thesis included interviews with a few members of the One Million Signatures Campaign. Esha Momeni has not been allowed visits by her family or her lawyer since her arrest on October 15 and she is being held in solitary confinement.
Translated by: Leila
Change for equality-Elnaz Ansari: The Arrest of Esha Momeni, a volunteer of the One Million Signatures Campaign, is the latest reaction of security agents in regards to women’s movement. Within the two years of the commencement of the One Million Signatures Campaign, roughly 50 volunteers and activists involved in this Campaign have been arrested. In none of these cases, the assigned judges could identify the request for “Change for Equality” as an illegal movement; however Esha Momeni was arrested for this reason.
She was arrested while driving. Her family is under a lot of pressure not to talk with the media. Nasrin Sotoodeh, well known attorney of law, in her conversation with “Change of Equality” mentioned that the arrest of Esha Momeni is an illegal reaction and she warned the officials regarding the illegality of their actions.
Nasrin Sotoodeh stated: “The major issue with this arrest is the disregard for the basic principles of an arrest which requires the accuser to deliver the summon to the accused, Esha in this case, and the fact that under cover intelligence agents disguised as traffic agents stopped her car and arrested her. This ambiguous action is one of the main civil right violations that applies to Esha Momeni’s case.”
Sotoodeh described dangers of this kind of actions and said: “When we face these types of actions more often, it means we are in tremendous danger due to obstinate agents who do not follow the rules and regulations and their activities pose a threat to civilians.”
The above mentioned lawyer stated that Esha Momeni`s activities of recording and interviewing with campaign activists are not illegal and she further noted: “Ms Momeni was doing her research for an academic project which does not violate any laws, and these types of activities if it is not in the streets or public places does not require any formal permit. As long as the films are kept in a personal archive, they are considered personal properties which you can have in any home and no one is allowed to confiscate them.”
Sotoodeh also commented on the discriminatory laws against woman in regards to the situation of the members of the campaign who were interviewed by Esha, and said: “Under the laws of any land, criticizing the law is not illegal in any part of the world including Iran. In regards to the women’s rights, university professors, journalists, lawyers, and civilians have an aversion to these laws, even some judges identify these laws as injustice. If the criticizing of the law were to be illegal, thousands of people should be arrested”.
After 12 days of Esha’s arrest, there is no information available regarding her condition in the 209 section of the Evin prison and what are the charges against her.
She is one the One Million Signatures Campaign volunteers and has held a few photo exhibitions focusing on women. Esha Momeni interviewed with few of the campaign members in Iran in order to make a short film about the strength of the women rights’ activists in Iran for her master thesis.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
In its letter to the Head of the Judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, Amnesty International called for immediate clarification of the reasons for the detention of Esha Momeni and for her to be released if she has been detained for her peaceful activities in support of the Campaign for Equality. It also asked for the reasons for the actions taken against Sussan Tahmasebi and Parastoo Alahyar and called for all travel bans imposed on account of the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association, or in order to limit such peaceful exercise, to be lifted immediately and for passports confiscated from human rights activists to be returned to them.
Amnesty International fears that these recent incidents are part of a systematic pattern of harassment and intimidation of peaceful human rights activists by the Iranian authorities.
Friday, October 31, 2008
The graduate students at CSUN's Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communications are planning a candlelight vigil for Esha, the Iranian-American graduate student held in Evin prison since October 15, where they will be watching and waiting for her safe return home. The organizers are Esha's friends and classmates who, like Esha, are pursuing masters degrees at CSUN. Their myspace blurb reads: "As part of the same college, the same city, the same community she belongs to, it's our responsibility to unite, support Esha, and ask for her release. Right now, she needs us."
For more information regarding this event or to help go to:
In its statement, NIAC states, "We ask the Iranian government to cease actions which hinder the ability of individuals of Iranian descent to visit their homeland and their families,"
According to its statement, "PAAIA calls on the authorities in Iran to respect and safeguard the rights, safety and security of all Iranian Americans traveling to Iran, including Ms. Momeni, and to make every effort to bring her case to an expeditious resolution."
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
An Interview with Reza Momeni, Esha’s father.
Translated from Radio Farda’s Article dated10/25/2008
Esha Momeni, an American- Iranian graduate student, traveled to Iran to work on her academic research on the subject of Women. After her car was stopped, allegedly because she had overtaken another car illegally, she ended up in section 209 of Evin Prison.
Esha’s family has spent the past 10 days waiting for Esha, while Iran’s judicial authorities told Mohammad Dadkhah, Esha’s attorney, that she has been arrested because of her association with the “One Million Signatures Campaign: Change for Equality” [this grass root campaign is working to change the discriminatory laws against women in Iran]
In an interview with Radio Farda, Reza Momeni, Esha’s father, talks about Esha’s life and studies and describes Esha’s arrest.
Radio Farda: According to news reports, Esha was born in the U.S., but you live in Tehran?
Reza Momeni: I was a student at California State University, Los Angeles. During my studies two of my children were born in America, one of them was Esha. After Esha was born, I finished my studies and the Iran–Iraq War broke out. Because of my devotion to my country we came back to Iran. We lived in poor and harsh places and tried to help.
Radio Farda: What do you mean by poor places?
Reza Momeni: I loved my country, I lived in Port of Bandar Abbas for example and for two years we lived in Hormozgan Province. I was a civil engineer and we build roads. All of my kids, especially Esha, grew up in that situation. When we came to Tehran I enrolled Esha in a music class. She was 10 years old when she started to learn the tar. Then she went to university and got her BA in Graphic Design. After her graduation, since she was a US citizen, she went to the U.S. for her graduate studies.
Radio Farda: How come Esha decided to come to Iran to do research for her thesis?
Reza Momeni: You have no idea how much Esha loves Iran. Every time we talked about Iran, Esha wanted to come back and work in Iran. We told her to do the research in U.S. and that it may be harder to pursue her research in Iran.
Radio Farda: Did you know that Esha was working with the One Million Signatures Campaign?
Reza Momeni: Yes, I often travel to the United States. I talked about this with Esha and I went to some of their gatherings. I saw among them many well educated and active women of the community; if it was a bad idea these intelligent women wouldn’t support the efforts of the campaign. Their requests are not against Islam or religion and their activities had nothing to do with Iran’s political order. I had no objections once I got to know them. And I did not stop my daughter from participating.
Radio Farda: Ms. Momeni came to Iran. But what really attracts our attention is the way she was arrested. Didn’t she talk about her project with the Iranian government before she began it?
Reza Momeni: There was no need for her to talk to the government, because she didn’t film in public places, nor was she bothering other people while shooting her interviews. Esha even asked me about the situation and I told her that if she wanted to talk to four people, she would not need permission from the authorities. Her work was not designed to question the political system in Iran and it was not against the law.
But Iranian officials state that they originally arrested her for a traffic violation, because she was unlawfully passing another vehicle. Then while she was driving another car suddenly turned in front of her and from that car some special forces officers got out and arrested her. At first they had told her she had unlawfully passed another vehicle. She called me; she was frightened; she was crying. She told me, "They are telling me I have committed a traffic violation". Then they arrested her for that and brought her home. The police searched my home. There were four male officers and one female. They searched our home for one hour and then they took her with them to Evin.
Radio Farda: Is she in Section 209 in Evin Prison?
Reza Momeni: Yes and we hear she is not feeling well. The last time I talked to her she was crying. She was really upset. Our lives are upside down now. Esha needs to go to her classes. She will lose her job. This situation has made a mess of her whole life.
Radio Farda: Mr. Momeni, have you talked about her arrest with Iranian officials?
Reza Momeni: We went to the Islamic Revolutionary Court twice. We took the title to our house as a security deposit, just so they would let her out of the prison, and then we will take her back for the court date. But they said that her interrogation has not yet been concluded, and when the interrogation is over they will let us know what to do.
Six presidents of research universities on Friday announced plans for a joint trip to Iran next month to meet with academic leaders and students there. The presidents are: Jared Cohon of Carnegie Mellon University; David Leebron of Rice University; J. Bernard Machen of the University of Florida; C.D. Mote Jr. of the University of Maryland at College Park; David Skorton of Cornell University; and Larry Vanderhoef of the University of California at Davis. They will be joined by Robert M. Berdahl, president of the Association of American Universities, which is coordinating the trip. The announcement comes at a time that many academics in the United States are concerned about incidents involving the detention of scholars in the country. Currently, U.S. officials are pushing for the release of Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University at Northridge, who is being held in prison in Iran, where she was doing research on the women's movement there. A spokesman for the AAU said that this issue is one "of great concern, and we're making inquiries."
Related post: Letter of American Association of University Professors to the Iranian officials about Esha Momeni
Esha Momeni’s Dad, “This Is Not Good for the Image of the Administration...” , Rooz Report on October 27th
Original Article: 10/27/2008
"Gholam Reza Momeni, father of Esha Momeni—graduate student at State University California at Northridge and volunteer in the One Million Signature Campaign--sat down for an interview with Rooz online and said all their efforts to free Esha have led to nothing. “We have not been able to do anything. They don’t answer our questions. They ask us to leave and not to return until they notify us.” Despite this Mr. Momeni is hopeful that officials will act in accordance with the laws of the country, realize that his daughters arrest has been a mistake, and release her promptly. "
Original article:10/19/2008 http://www.change4equality.org/spip.php?article3035
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
October 27, 2008
His Excellency Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
His Excellency Ahyatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie, Ministry of Intelligence, Second Negarestan Street, Pasdaran Avenue, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran
We are very concerned about news reported that Esha Momeni, a graduate student at California State University, Northridge, in the United States, was arrested by Iranian security officials on 15 October.
We understand that she has not been charged with any offence and that she is being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. It is our understanding that she was arrested while peaceably working on her graduate thesis, a video project.
We urge that Ms. Momeni be released immediately or charged with an internationally recognized criminal offence and brought to trial promptly, fairly, and with legal representation. While incarcerated, we hope you will ensure that she is well treated and granted access to a lawyer, her family, and medical treatment if needed.
The American Association of University Professors is a nonprofit charitable and educational organization that promotes academic freedom by supporting tenure, academic due process, and standards of quality in higher education. Founded in 1915, the AAUP has approximately 47,000 members at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Cary Nelson, President, AAUP
Monday, October 27, 2008
The California State University Northridge Daily Sundail - Imprisoned student wanted to break down stereotypes of Iranian women
BBC reported that while 12 days have passed from the arrest of Ms. Momeni, none of the Iranian officials had confirmed her arrest until this day.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
We only shared a couple of glances in the morning and during the talk. At noon, for lunch break, Leva introduced me to her: She was Esha and I was Roja.
Her curly hair was tucked back from her broad forehead and formed a mass of fiery orange on her back. We walked to the nearest exit and found our way to a small lunch place in Bancroft Street.
She asked me if I studied Art back home, and the answer was yes: She studied Art as well and here she was a Communication and Arts student. I admired her camera; she looked tired. I got a salad and tea, she got a large blend of carrot and orange juice and while we talked she kept offering me to have a sip of her fruit juice and I refused! I only wished I hadn’t refused her offer. I am so devastated to think maybe if I had accepted to have a sip, somehow Esha would have been free; now I think, perhaps out of desperation, that if I had a different talk with her that day Esha was far away from the section 209 and Evin Prison. I am rebuilding our first three days, only wishing she comes back soon.
That night I was tired and I returned to the hotel early. I saw her the second day and I was too busy with my translations and she was busy with other things we didn’t talk much.
The last night of the conference, after the banquet when we shared a ride I just started to know her. It was short, her voiced was broken; earlier that night she had asked me who I have in Khavaran; I hadn’t answered; I gave a vague and cold answer. I did not know her to tell her: You see, it is not like you can walk around and say it out loud. I never talked about it, even with my closest friends; it is something they never ask and I usually don’t feel like telling. His name comes up, and his jokes and his green eyes and his pictures are everywhere in my room. But I never talk about it with strangers. Stranger, Esha wasn’t!
That night in the car she let me know with a broken voice, that she is not a stranger; she too lost someone in those dreadful years.
I myself, also a member and volunteer in the campaign would like to write a few words about my friendship and experiences with Esha Momeni. But, let me say that I will not give a melodramatic soliloquy on the matter nor do I feel the need to interject with a character defense. What is obvious is that as a woman, a friend, a confidante, and a mentor Esha Momeni stood up for me, and all the other women and men in or outside of Iran that have raised their voices for change. But as we gaze from wherever our "outside" may be, Esha is still standing for us, even if it is in the 209th ward of Iran's Evin prison.
Campaign for Equality: A number of the members of the Mothers Committee visited the mother and grandmother of Esha Momeni on 20th October and conveyed their regrets at Esha's arrest.
Esha's mother, who was extremely upset by her daughter's arrest, said the following during this meeting with the Mothers Committee:
"During the time Esha has been here, I have seen very little of her. I took the matter up with here, and she said that I should come to America and see her there. She has been pursuing her tasks and research with great enthusiasm." Her mother, emphasizing that she was sure Esha had not been engaged in any oppositional activity and that she would be released, said: "I feel so emotional every time I think of that day when Esha explained to me with such tremendous enthusiasm what her thesis project was and how excited she was to be coming to Tehran and how while she was spending a few months with us she would also be working on her Master's thesis. She wanted to show her professors and her American friends how powerful Iranian women are, and that the Taleban are not in power in Iran, to show how much progress Iranian women have made. She said that in America people have absolutely no idea about the situation of women in Iran and that they confuse us with Afghan women, that Iranian women dress in the same way as Afghan women and that they are prisoners in their homes. They even think that we don't have the right to vote and that is the reason I want to carry out research on Iranian women. And now she is in prison, and I am here waiting for her. Esha loves Iran and the people of Iran. For this reason she chose to write her thesis about active Iranian women. I hope she is freed as soon as possible and that she doesn't fall behind in her work and study."
Concerning the original motive for Esha's involvement in women's activism, she said: "The most important reason for Esha's being drawn to women's issues was her personal experience of a life full of violence. She was deeply saddened by this. I said to the gentlemen who came to the house, "if you were in her place, you would do the same thing". And I would do the same thing too. She has suffered a lot by taking this course. From every standpoint she was superior to her husband, but she was forced to put up with him."
Maryam Zandi, one of the mothers of the committee, said at this meeting: "Esha was extremely glad to see that three generations of Iranian women were working hard side by side, in a peaceful and civil manner, in order to obtain equal rights. It is truly a great shame that this passionate woman should spend even one day in prison. I hope that she is quickly set free."
Khadijeh Moghaddam, another member of the Mothers Committee, continuing Ms. Zandi's words, said: "Esha, like many of the young members of the Campaign, is enthusiastic, compassionate, and desires the progress of her country. When I spoke with Esha, I used to forget that she doesn't live in Iran. While possessing a sharp intelligence, she is also patient and capable. When I read Esha's biography, I realized how much trouble she has gone to in order to get where she is today. I truly congratulate Esha's family on having such a daughter and I hope she is set free as soon as possible. A cell is no place for such a young person."
At the conclusion of this visit, the Mothers Committee expressed the desire that Esha be released as swiftly as possible, and declared that they were ready to provide help to Esha's mother in any form that she might request.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Click below to sign the petition:
We request you not to sign petitions not listed on this blog. While such petitions may mean well, they often contain inappropriate language and factual errors and as such are more likely to endanger Esha than help bring about her release. We are, however, grateful for the information provided by reputable independent human rights organizations like Amnesty International and OMCT and we are working with such organizations in order to make our efforts as effective as possible.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Please follow this link if you wish to respond to the OMCT's appeal to free Esha Momeni. The OMCT appeal gives details about her case and provides the contact details of senior figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran to whom your appeal may be addressed. It also offers detailed guidelines for what to include in your letter, fax, or e-mail. You can find the link to the appeal here.
The OMCT or World Organization Against Torture* was founded in 1986 and is based in Geneva, Switzerland. Through a network of organizations and correspondents across the world, this organization aims to promote human rights with particular attention to the prevention of all forms of torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. Among its activities is the launching of world-wide appeals designed to protect individuals at risk. It pays particular attention to vulnerable categories of persons such as children, women, and human rights defenders.
* OMCT is the French acronym of this organization, standing for "Organisation mondiale contre la torture".
Artistic expression and commitment to the welfare of Iranians has been a mainstay of Esha's life since her early childhood. Esha started painting from an early and began studying traditional Iranian music at the age of fourteen (14). She studied traditional music and learned to play the tar (a Persian musical instrument) performing professionally as a member of Chakavak Women's Classical Music Group from 1998 to 2001. She preformed at venues such as Banu Women's Cultural Center in Tehran August 2000 and Fajr Musical Festival in January 2001.
Esha followed her passion to the university and completed a Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design from the Arts Faculty at Azad University of Tehran in 2002, where she produced a short movie entitled "Adam and Eve's Banishment from Heaven" and an animation entitled "The Little Prince and Me." She also worked with the Saadabad Art Gallery and the White Wall Art Group. As a university student, she began to become interested in social issues and art. She was a monthly contributor to the student magazine Kalagh o Kalameh, and volunteered at Ameneh Orphanage, where she taught art classes to children to encourage them to express themselves.
However, it was her short but agonizing experience in a marriage tainted by domestic violence that would prove to be a turning point in her life. Rather than allowing the experience to break her, she became determined to use art to redefine her own life and to give a voice to others. Therefore, she decided to come to the United States to continue her education. Esha matriculated into the Masters in Mass Communication program at California State University Northridge and enrolled in photography and film classes. She produced a photo essay and worked on a short film on attitudes towards race in America entitled "N Word" presented at CSUN Showcase.
During her studies Esha was stunned by stereotypes of Iranian women in the United States as weak and passive as well as distressed by the possibility of American military intervention in Iran. Therefore, Esha decided to make her master’s thesis project a personal exploration of the shared experiences of everyday Iranians which included interviews with some members of a grassroots women's rights campaign called the "One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws." The Campaign has made it clear that its activities are peaceful and merely aimed at reforming the Iranian laws in areas that discriminate against women and that it has no political objectives otherwise. Esha is determined to better the lives of her fellow citizens and banish stereotypes of Iranians through photo and film.
Translated by: Sudi Farokhnia
*Note: This article was written by Esha Momeni in the Summer of 2007. Esha Momeni was arrested on October 15, 2008, while on travel to Iran visiting with family. During this trip Esha worked to complete her Masters thesis project on women activists involved in the Campaign. To this end, she conducted a number of video interviews. She was arrested and taken to Evin prison in relation to her masters thesis, where she remains still. Read the news about her arrest.
I am dressed in white, head to toe. I am aware that the serenity and peacefulness of white does not represent my city, but when I am dressed in white I feel like a dove that is free, one that has not been earmarked and was never kept captive. As I stroll along the streets of my city, I feel like a bride, a bride that is walking towards a new promise, the dream of equality.
Iran and all that makes it unique - steep streets, narrow alleys and unmarked homes - is still the land of promise that we hold dear to our hearts. The women of this land are peacefully writing a glorious end to the bitter long story of inequality and injustice. Iran is still the covenant to those hands that would like to wash the mud of distress from the yarns of this land in the stream of peace and unity. Only then we can resurrect equality and knit white wings for the dove that represents unity. Meanwhile, behind every closed door, a young girl dressed in white is making history so that she can embrace the future with pride and honor.
My grandmother everyday practices her signature, as evidence of her existence and her uniqueness. Here in Iran, I, you, and our mothers are all brides dressed all in white, and with our peaceful approach we dance in the alleys from house to house so that our promise of equality and unity transforms the sounds of the chains on our feet to the melodies of an anklet.
Los Angeles, Mehregan Festival, 2007 (1386)
We plan to wear white. I would like to wear a white shawl but then I change my mind. Dressed in white pants and a long white shirt that covers my waist line, I look in the mirror and take account of my imperfections; I should go on a diet.
After a 45 minute drive, I arrived at the OC fairgrounds where the festivities are to take place. The volunteers of the California chapter of the Campaign have raised a small amount of funds and have been able to get a booth in the not-for-profit section of the Bazaar. They want to target the large group of Iranians attending the festival in order to collect signatures for the Campaign’s petition. I volunteered to help.
Next to the Campaign’s booth, an organization offers people the chance to become guardians of orphans and poor children, of course only financially. There is an album of children’s pictures to choose from, like a catalogue for furniture. I am so curious to know how people decide which child to sponsor, is it gender, color, size…? Of course the children return the favor by occasionally sending a letter of appreciation or pictures that can be displayed on the refrigerator. It will remind the sponsor of what a good hearted person they are.
I pick up a few petition forms and step out of the Bazaar in to the main ground. It is very crowded and I can hear a song by the Black Cats playing: “Delo har ja mikhay mibari,…. “ People who are walking away from the music are still dancing and shaking. On the other side is the bridal booth, full of businesses that offer services one would need at their wedding – from limousine rental to Persian threading for hair removal, from hair stylists to belly dancers. Some young women are dressed in wedding gowns and they walk around the booth. I scan the people to see who would be most receptive to what I have to say. A young lady with Channel eye-glasses is standing right outside the bridal booth:
"Excuse me, but may I have a few minutes of your time?"
There is no reaction so I continue.
"Have you heard of the One Million Signatures Campaign?"
She shakes her head as if to indicate “no” (at least I know she understands ¨Persian).
"Would you like to know?"
This time, she doesn’t even move her head so I continue:
"The One Million Signatures Campaign ….. inside Iran..."
She interrupts me: "I don’t travel to Iran."
A couple of meters farther on, a female artist is discussing the work she has for sale. Self-assured, I walk towards her and it doesn’t take long before she says: “bring me the petition that fixes the root of the problems, these things won’t do the job” and then she walks away.
I attempt to talk to a few others, I get some smiles which have various meanings embedded in them: "forgive me I can’t", caution, skepticism, pity…
I walk back to the Campaign booth inside the bazaar. I see my imperfections, I feel as if I have forgotten how to speak Persian or I can’t find the right words, or maybe words don’t have the same meaning in different parts of the world. Of course, I did manage to collect many signatures, and each person had their own personal reasons for signing. However, I couldn’t stop thinking: I, my mother, my sisters, Marjan, Azadeh, Maryam,… we were all just images, just like pictures that one quickly browses through in a furniture catalogue.