Iran Feature: The Week in Civil Society --- Sanctions and the Regime's Restrictions, From Medicine to Education for Women (Arseh Sevom)
The Supreme Leader promotes himself via Instagram
Arseh Sevom, the NGO promoting civil society and human rights in Iran, posts its latest weekly review:
We would be remiss if we did not start this week's review with congratulations to Iran's Olympic team. Meanwhile, the head of Iran's Hemophilia Center reminds the world of the unintended consequences of the sanctions: blocked payments for life-saving medications. Girls and women are told they can no longer study a wide range of subjects from engineering to educational studies, while the Supreme Leader posts his first images using the popular social photo app Instagram.
We get a reminder of Iran's National Internet project, which is now scheduled to be unveiled in phases beginning in September. In another seeming reversal of long-standing cultural norms, polygamy is promoted on a television program in Qom Province. Imprisoned journalists challenge heads of the Non-Aligned Movement to visit them in prison while in Iran for their summit, as more Baha'is are arrested throughout the country.
Film star Leila Hatami finds herself in the limelight again with an award for Arts and Letters from the French government. Iran's Environmental Organization searches for solutions to growing pollution and the depletion of Lake Orumieh. Maybe they can find them at Iran's first TEDx conference slated for January of next year.
The head of Iran’s Hemophilia Center has sent an open letter to the director of the Global Hemophilia Federation warning that the economic sanctions to contain the Iran’s nuclear program have critically endangered the lives of hemophiliac patients by creating obstacles to provision of their medicine. The main problem, according to the letter, is the blocks on Iran’s banking system, which have made payments for medications nearly impossible.
The Hemophilia Center of Iran has a history of 45 years working as an NGO with no political record.
Women may be able to represent Iran in any number of Olympic events, but Mehr News Agency reports that a new ban will prevent female students from pursuing an education in any of 77 university majors spread over 36 institutions of higher education around the country. The banned programs include subjects such as accounting, educational studies and consultation, repair of historic buildings, and pure chemistry. The report notes that the highest number of banned subjects is in the field of engineering, from civil engineering at Isfahan University to natural resources engineering at Shahid Raja’ie University in Tehran.
Minister of Communications Reza Taghipour told Fars News that the “National Internet” will be launched in three phases, the first of which will be implemented and launched this Septermber. Taghipour added, “As for house Internet connections, the ISPs provide users with connections as per regulations” Taghipour has insisted that “there are things that are not defined in our network such as watching video clips".
The Supreme Leader decided it was time to join the “hippest of them all” and post his first photo, sporting his black turban and cloak , on Instagram.
Following Ayatollah Khamenei’s decision to stop family planning in Iran and the ensuing budget cuts (covered in our review last week), State television’s local channel in Qom has aired a programme depicting a “happy bigamous family” where both wives get on well with each other.
A comment under this report on Bahar News website, asserts, “Islam dictates that there should not be single men or women in the society. However, polygamy used to be frowned upon in the past." Another person responded, “This is an offense to the status of women and reduces them to the level of a sexual commodity. It’s been so many years we have been moving backwards.”
Three weeks before the summit of the Non-Aligned Movement to be held in Tehran, a group of Iranian political prisoners, most of them journalists, has sent a letter inviting heads of state to visit Iranian prisons. They began their letter by asking, “Do you remember me?” and continue, “I am the same journalist who interviewed you or took a news photo from you at the UN, or during an international or local event....I am now incarcerated in the horrifying prisons of Iran on the charge of being democratic, for defending human rights, for asking 'Where is my vote?' So if you are not embarrassed, remember to visit me during your visit to Tehran at Evin prison in Tehran, Rajaie Shahr in Karaj, Karoon in Ahwaz and in other prisons in Iran.”
Leila Hatami Honored by French Embassy in Tehran
Tehran Times reports that France has honored the celebrated Iranian actress Leila Hatami with an Ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal. This happened a short time after a high-ranking police commander in Iran criticised Hatami for the way she was dressed at international venues.
France’s Ministry of Culture and Communication awards the Order of Arts and Letters, established in 1957, to recognize eminent artists, writers and scholars for their efforts in promoting the awareness and enrichment of French cultural heritage throughout the world.
Last week news came from Iran confirming that more than ten Baha’i citizens were arrested in the cities of Isfahan, Shahin Shahr, Vila Shahr, Yazd and Arak.
The World Health Organization has rated four cities in Iran as among the ten most polluted worldwide. Much of the particulate in regions like Khuzestan is the result of dust storms originating in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
In related news, Radio Zamaneh reports that Iran is attempting to get Armenia on board to help save Lake Orumieh, which is drying up at an alarming rate. The two countries recently signed an agreement to cooperate on environmental projects.
Will TEDx be a success in Tehran?
TED talks are known for their compelling delivery and big ideas. Now local organizers in Iran are trying to bring that combination to Tehran for a TEDx conference to be held in January of 2013. On the TEDx blog, the organisers discuss Iran’s past accomplishments, asking:
“[But] what about present day Iran? With much…mixed press
coverage about Iran, what can Iranians showcase; what ‘good thoughts,
good words and good deeds’ are taking place in present day Tehran and
Iran? Who are the deep thinkers and leaders, from all different
fields, from the sciences to the arts to business, with creative and
stimulating ideas worth spreading?”
We’re asking ourselves that too. Watch this space for more information.