By Leva Zand (translated by Tara) posted in Radio Zamaneh website in Farsi on November 2, 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.”