Posts tagged Tehran

The Police Beat

  1. Common ground. Chicago, Illinois; London, England; Tehran, Iran; and Ramat Gan, Israel. It turns out there’s one thing the governments in Iran, Israel, the U.K., and the U.S.A. can all agree on: massive police brutality against political protesters.

  2. Lausanne, Switzerland. World Radio Switzerland (2009-06-09): Perjury claim reopens police brutality case. A cop in the Swiss city of Lausanne stopped a 16 year old Eritrean immigrant twice on New Year’s eve; the second time, they decided to douse him with pepper spray and leave him out in the woods. He tried to lodge a complaint, but the local police wouldn’t accept the complaint. When the case finally got investigated and went to trial, the cop was acquitted in court because his gang-brothers lied for him on the stand. The case is back in the news because it’s been re-opened after a former cop accused them of perjuring themselves in order to cover up police brutality.

  3. Sergeant Naofumi Nomura. Okayama, Japan. A 75 year old woman recently got Served and Protected by Police Sergeant Naofumi Nomura when he stole her purse and about 10,000 yen inside it. He was arrested after two high school boys chased him down on their bicycles. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats.)

  4. Northern Territory police. Darwin, Australia. Tara Ravens, Brisbane Times (2009-06-10): Coroner slams NT police over man’s death. Northern Territory police pulled a former journalist named Greg Plasto off the street and forced him into the hospital for a mental health assessment because they thought he was acting strangely, in their arbitrary judgment, which apparently is good enough to put you in a psychoprison these days; after he had been forced to wait nearly two hours in an ambulance, he got up and said he wanted to go outside. Rather than asking him why he wanted to go outside, or just letting him get up and walk around, a gang of up to six cops tackled Plasto, who, again, had not been accused of any crime at all, then wrestled him to the ground, smashed his head into the ground, and held him down on the ground for four minutes while he turned blue and smothered to death. The coroner who reviewed the case says that the problem is that police need better training.

  5. Officer Joseph J. Rios III. Passaic, New Jersey. (Cont’d.) I previously mentioned the case of Officer Joseph J. Rios III, who was videotaped beating the hell out of a defenseless black man, over and over again, for not having zipped up his jacket on command. (Rios, formerly a counter-insurgency soldier in occupied Iraq, remained on active patrol duty while the incident was being Internally Investigated, right up until after the video evidence was released to the public, at which point the city government’s police department let him keep his job, but put him on a desk job. Then, in response to public protest, Mayor Alex Blanco had the city government’s police department give Rios a [paid vacation](http://www.northjersey.com/breakingnews/Officeraccusedofexcessiveforce_suspended.html instead. Later, in response to ongoing protests, he had it changed to an unpaid vacation.

    Officer Joseph J. Rios III has since come out with a public statement for the press, insisting that he stands by his actions; saying (through his lawyer) that There were communications by Mr. Holloway and the officer as well as an earlier encounter during the day between the men that wasn’t on the tape (apparently thinking that verbal communications might somehow — how? — justify this relentless beat-down); he asserts that he did what was proper and (what he wrongly believes to be the same thing) he did what I was trained to do. Supposing that’s true, what does that tell you about the training?

  6. Well, if you say so …. Botched SWAT raid. Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department. Prince George’s County, Maryland. Radley Balko, Hit & Run (2009-06-20): Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department Declares Itself Blame-Free in Cheye Calvo Raid In which the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department issues a report in which it is reported that the Prince George’s County Sheriff’s Department did nothing wrong in the no-knock, no-evidence SWAT raid on Cheye Calvo’s family home. (This is more or less what passes for investigation when cops commit violence against mere civilians.) Sheriff Michael Jackson says the Internal Investigation’s results are consistent with what I’ve felt all along: My deputies did their job to the fullest extent of their abilities. No doubt.

  7. Oops. Our bad. (Cont’d.) Botched SWAT raid. Mustang, Oklahoma. Six heavily-armed strangers in black bullet-proof vests stormed Terry Speck’s house back in March and, without telling her who the hell they were or what they were doing in her house, told her they were looking for her 20-year-old nephew, Cory Davis. Terrified, she tried to tell them he was in prison. They didn’t believe her, so they ransacked her house for 20 minutes before they left, without ever identifying themselves. The Specks were later able to figure out that they were police by reviewing the tapes from their home security cameras. Cory Davis had in fact been in state prison since November, but apparently when an arrest warrant on new charges was issued, none of the narcs bothered to check where he was, instead of storming first and asking questions later. Of course, for being terrorized at the hands of six heavily-armed strangers for absolutely no reason, Terry Speck got an Oops, our bad from the state. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-14.)

  8. Murderers and batterers on patrol. Officer Jason Thomas Anderson. Big Lake, Minnesota. I’ve remarked before on the connections between paramilitary policing and violent hypermasculinity. So I’ll just mention, here, that it turns out that when Officer Jason Thomas Anderson is not busy shooting teenage Hmong bike-riders in the back (or shooting them five more times in the chest after they’re already bleeding on the ground), he also likes to get himself arrested on domestic violence charges.

  9. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for filming the police. Richmond, Virginia. Richmond police were dealing with a lot of drunks down in Shockoe Bottom at 2:00am last September. Joanne Jefferson decided to observe and film how the cops were handling people in the crowd; so the cops responded by ordering her to leave, then grabbing her arm, slamming her into a wall, and then forcing her down onto the ground and arresting her for impeding traffic. The story is now in the news because the Richmond D.A. has decided to drop the charges against Ms. Jefferson. Even though filming the police on public property is not a crime, and even though the D.A. has determined that the police had absolutely no basis for arresting Ms. Jefferson, let alone grabbing her, slamming her into a wall, and forcing her down onto the ground in order to do so, he thinks that the officers did not act with excessive force. If the appropriate level of force is zero, how is this not excessive force? Nevertheless, the D.A. has stated that he sees no evidence that would support a criminal investigation of a police officer.

  10. Arresting an innocent priest for filming the police. Officer David Cari. East Haven, Connecticut. East Haven cop David Cari arrested a Roman Catholic priest, James Manship, for filming police treatment of Latino immigrants in East Haven. The police report claims that he had to be arrested for disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer because he was holding an unknown shiny silver object in his hand (with the obvious intent to suggest that the cop thought it might have been a gun) and struggled with a cop who tried to take it from him. Turns out that the video footage from the camera shows Officer David Cari asking the priest Is there a reason you have a camera on me? Manship replying I’m taking a video of what’s going on here, and Cari approaching Manship and saying, Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with that camera. The police department’s lawyer says You’ve got to conclude that he was out there with a video camera in an attempt, in my view, to provoke the police to do something. (Well, whatever you want; but if cops just can’t help but do something like arrest an innocent man for a non-crime when provoked by the public they allegedly serve trying to record their behavior, then why should such dangerous thugs continue being cops?) (Via Reason Daily Brickbats 2009-06-01: Caught on Tape.)

  11. Roughing up and arresting an innocent woman for raising her voice at a police officer. Officer Bobby Wright and New Mexico State Police. Española, New Mexico. In New Mexico, a couple of State Police, responding to reports of shots fired in the area, rolled up on Dolores Jacquez, a 17 year old pregnant girl, and her boyfriend, who were sitting in a car minding their own business. They pointed automatic rifles at the two of them and ordered them to stand outside the car with their hands in the air. Her boyfriend has only one leg, which made it hard for him to do what they were ordering. Rather than acting like human beings, and in spite of the fact that neither of these kids had committed any crime, the State Police shoved the 17 year old pregnant girl and her one-legged boyfriend down to the ground. During this absolutely pointless manhandling, Jacquez spoke angrily to the officers, raising her voice while talking to them, using profanity at times; for which the State Police decided that she and her boyfriend ought to be arrested. So they shoved her into their patrol car and called up a city government cop, Officer Bobby Wright, to take her to jail. When she asked what would happen to her boyfriend, he replied Shut up, [expletive]. Then he handcuffed her to a bench at the State Police station, making the cuff so tight that it cut into the skin and left a mark on her wrist for days, refused to let her use the bathroom, and threatened to make the cuffs even tighter if she did not shut up. This complaint makes at least the fourth complaint for brutality or unlawful arrests against Officer Bobby Wright. The State Police never bothered to file any charges, because, of course, cussing at cops is not a crime. But while you can beat the rap, you can’t beat the ride, so they arrested the kids anyway, because they could. The State Public Safety Department has settled the separate lawsuit that Jacquez filed against the two State Police cops for terrorizing her, roughing her up and arresting her for speaking angrily; public servants that they are, the State Public Safety Department will be sending the bill for the settlement to a bunch of innocent taxpayers who had nothing to do with the assault or the false arrest.

  12. Four broken ribs for approaching a police officer. Modesto, California. Back in January 2007, Margaret Shepherd went out to a Modesto bar with her son to celebrate his 21st birthday. One of her son’s friends got thrown out of the bar and a scuffle appeared to break out between the bar’s security guards and some other people in the party. Ms. Shepherd, who had nothing to do with any of this, tried to approach some cops who were in the club to ask them what the hell was going on. So they broke four of her ribs, arrested her for resisting arrest, and then threw her in a paddy-wagon and refused to get her medical attention while she struggled to breathe in the back of the wagon. The story is in the news again because a jury just cleared the cops of any civil liability for this hyperviolent assault on an innocent woman who had done nothing other than try to ask the cops what was going on.

  13. Beating and pepper-spraying a man after he’s been handcuffed for arguing with a police officer. Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams. Valley, Alabama. Amy Weaver, Opelika-Auburn News (2009-06-09): Third claim filed against Valley, police. Valley cops Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer and Officer Danny Williams forced their way into 64 year old Joseph E. Coker’s home. Joseph E. Coker wasn’t accused of any crime; they were looking for his son, Brandon Coker. Joseph Coker and Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer got into a verbal argument, so McBrayer threatened to pepper spray him for arguing with a cop who was intruding into his own home. So McBrayer ordered Officer Danny Williams to handcuff this 64-year-old man; then, after he was already being handcuffed, Lieutenant Chuck McBrayer pepper-sprayed him in the face; then he pried open Coker’s right eye and pepper-sprayed him again, directly in the eye. Then they forced him down onto the ground and, while he was still cuffed and physically restrained, smashed his nose so hard he passed out and had to be hospitalized. After going on this unprovoked hyperviolent rampage against a 64-year-old man in his own home, McBrayer and Williams arrested Coker in the emergency room for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. This is the third claim of police brutality filed against the Valley police department in the last three months. The boss cops in Valley refuse to comment on any disciplinary actions because the incident is being Internally Investigated. (Via @InjusticeNews.)

  14. Bludgeoning a stabbing victim after he was already handcuffed to a wheelchair. Officer William Cozzi. Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago, Officer William Cozzi, a 15-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, was caught on video handcuffing a stabbing victim to a wheelchair, in the hospital emergency room, and beating him with a sap. He was called into the emergency room help the man out after he had been stabbed by a female companion. But his victim was drunk, and Cozzi was busy Investigating, so he got frustrated at the alleged beneficiary of this investigation, and decided to deal with his frustration by shackling the man to a wheelchair and beating him with a sap. Then he made up some complete lies for his police report about his victim having attacked him and hospital workers. After the video came out, Cozzi plead guilty to misdemeanor charges and got 18 months of probation.

    Later, a series of scandals over repeated and unchecked police brutality and corruption within the Chicago Police Department forced Chicago Police Superintendent Jody Weis to refer the case to the FBI for a federal civil rights investigation. Cozzi was just recently convicted and sentenced to three years in federal prison. In response, the Fraternal Order of Police in Chicago has made a public complaint about the fact that Cozzi will go to prison for beating the hell out of an innocent, wounded assault victim who was shackled to a wheelchair at the time, and who Cozzi was supposedly called in to Protect and Serve. Terence Gillespie, Cozzi’s defense lawyer, says that This is a message to all those officers in blue out there that after 15 years on the job you’ll get thrown under the bus.

    (See also the case of Hope Steffey for cops beating the hell out of an assault victim who gets too frustrating while the cop is doing his Investigating.)

  15. Gang-beating a man after he’s been handcuffed. Officer Brian Quilici, Officer Ronald Pilati, and Officer Jerome Volstad. Fox Lake, Illinois. Three off-duty cops — one on the Richmond city government’s police force, and two on the Spring Grove city government’s police force — went to a bar in Fox Lake to get drunk back in April 2005. Along the way they got into a verbal argument with a man named Ryan Hallett. When he tried to leave, the three cops followed him out of the bar, handcuffed him, and then beat him down to the ground while he was cuffed. Then, while Hallet was lying on the ground, one of the cops, Officer Brian Quilici, kicked him in the face so hard that he Hallett suffered a broken facial bone and later had to get multiple surgeries. Fox Lake police who responded to this mob beat-down by their gang brothers recommended that their victim, Ryan Hallet, be prosecuted, until a series of newspaper reports revealed that Officer Brian Quilici had already racked up multiple complaints for harassment, battery and disorderly conduct, somehow without charges ever having been filed against him or his job prospects having been hurt in the least. After the newspaper stories forced their hand, the State Police eventually started their own investigation, and Qulici was eventually charged and convicted of mob action, official misconduct, and obstructing justice, which got him a two-year prison sentence. His comrades-in-arms, Officer Ronald Pilati and Officer Jerome Volstad, plead guilty on misdemeanor charges. The story is in the news again for two reasons. First, because a federal jury recently imposed a $450,000 judgment against Quilici and the city government of Richmond for the beating. (The Richmond city government will, of course, force innocent taxpayers to pay for the government’s decision to keep an out-of-control hyperviolent cop on their police force after multiple complaints.) Secondly, because a state appeals court just threw out Officer Brian Quilici’s conviction, on the grounds that the judge in the original criminal trial should not have confused the jury by telling them that A police officer executing an arrest outside of his jurisdiction has no greater arrest powers than a private citizen executing a citizens’ arrest. Because arrest powers would have made it O.K. to pick a start fight, handcuff your victim, and then kick him in the face while he’s lying on the ground?

  16. Highway robbery. Officer Jonathan Lutman. Slidell, Louisiana. In Louisiana, Slidell Police Officer Jonathan Lutman repeatedly used his police car to pull over Latino drivers (whom he targeted because he thought they’d be less likely to report the stick-up) and then demanded that they hand over their wallets. When he had the wallet, he would rip out the cash and pocket it. Officer Jonathan Lutman stole about $3,000 on these highwayman traffic stops before two of his victims reported him. The story is in the news again because he plead guilty to 12 counts of malfeasance in office in May. If you or I or any other non-cop were convicted of practicing highway robbery (in the most literal sense) while armed with a dangerous weapon, we would be imprisoned at hard labor for not less than ten years and not more than ninety-nine years, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence. But since Officer Jonathan Lutman robbed people using a government-issued weapon and under color of government authority, he plead guilty to a crime that normally carries a 5 year prison sentence. And then the judge suspended the sentence, and gave Lutman probation instead, and ordered him to complete 200 hours of community service. (Via Reason Daily Brickbats: Copping a Plead.)

  17. Corporal Jason King. South Bend, Indiana. After a high-speed chase, Corporal Jason King was filmed on his dash cam beating up the Suspect Individual he was arresting, even though his victim posed no threat and was not resisting arrest. The Chief of Police in South Bend punished Corporal King by giving him a 30-day unpaid vacation and dropping his rank to patrolman.. When even the Chief of Police concedes that he was needlessly assaulting and battering a man who posed no physical threat, why isn’t Corporal Jason King going to jail?

  18. Officer John Mailander and Officer Mersed Dautovic. Des Moines, Iowa. Two Des Moines city government cops were responding to an unrelated emergency call back in September; a car with a black couple in it failed to immediately yield, so instead of driving on to the emergency, the cops stopped the car, screamed orders and pulled the driver, Erin Evans, out of the car, and, when her boyfriend, Octavius Bonds, tried to get them to stop assaulting her, blinded him with pepper spray, and then beat him black and blue with batons, breaking his left hand and his right arm, and cracking his head open with a gash so big it took eight staples to close. Then they lied about it in their police report to try and cover up their brutality. The story is in the news again now because Des Moines Police Chief Judy Bradshaw just recently fired the two cops responsible for this out-of-control assault on helpless victims who had not committed any crime. So, great, they lost their jobs. Why aren’t these dangerous assailants in jail?

  19. Quid custodiet…? Officer Paul Abel. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh cop Paul Abel was an eight year veteran of the police force, and also a former counter-insurgency soldier in the U.S. government’s war on Iraq. He had already racked up three outstanding complaints against him for brutality and filing false police reports on the night he went out to celebrate his wife’s birthday. He decided to drive drunk — after four beers and two shots. Some dude came by and punched him in the face while he sat in his car at the stoplight. So Officer Paul Abel got out, grabbed his government-issued gun, and drove after the suspect. Then, with a blood alcohol level over 0.111, he rolled up on a young man from the neighborhood named Kaleb Miller. Miller says he wasn’t the man who punched Abel; two tow-truck drivers, who were in the area and saw the punching happen, say that Miller looks nothing like the man who did punch Abel. But Officer Paul Abel, drunk off his ass, decided that he had his man, so (out of uniform, at 2 in the morning) he charged up on Miller, waving his gun around, and bellowing arbitrary commands to get down on the ground. Miller didn’t get down quickly enough, so Officer Paul Abel grabbed Miller, pistol-whipped him five times, and then accidentally shot him in the hand. Even the Pittsburgh Police Chief had to publicly announce that The gentleman who was in the physical altercation [sic] is an innocent victim as far as we can tell. The story is in the news now because, when Abel was brought up on aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and DUI charges, he opted for a trial before a government judge (because government cops know that they are much more likely to be acquitted by a government judge than by a jury), and Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning has just recently acquitted him on all charges, even the DUI. Manning himself called the beat-down, pistol-whipping, and shooting inappropriate, imprudent and ill-advised. But Manning chose to dismiss all the charges because Officer Paul Abel is a cop, and therefore (according to Manning) he cannot be held legally responsible for his admittedly inappropriate, imprudent, and ill-advised hyperviolent beat-down against an admittedly innocent man. Because, according to Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning, cops are a class apart, who cannot be held to account for their unrestrained violence in mere civilian courts; or, in his own words, It is not the obligation of this court to police the police department.

    So if the courts don’t police the police, who does?

    The answer is, of course, that most of the time, nobody does. Other arms of the government hardly ever hold government police accountable for abuse because they fob off responsibility to the discretion of their legally-privileged-and-immunized enforcers. The government police hardly ever hold other government police accountable for abuse because they have no incentive to restrain the conduct of their fellow government cops, and a distinct professional interest in giving their colleagues as much latitude as possible in the exercise of unchecked power over their chosen targets. And nobody outside of government can hold police accountable for abuse, because government refuses to recognize the right of any independent person or association to sit in judgment of its own actions, and so has legally declared the State and all its agents accountable to none save God alone. And if you want to know why, week after week, you see the same pattern of rampant, relentless, unchecked, unaccountable, unrepentant, overwhelming and intense violence, committed by government cops against people who are obviously harmless, helpless, or defenseless, in the defense of police prerogatives and inflicted against the very people who they are allegedly being privileged and paid to Serve and Protect — well, that’s pretty much why.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  20. Because the cops we have are already doing so much… Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments, North Las Vegas Police Department, and Henderson Police Department. Carson City, Nevada. Meanwhile, in the capital of Nevada, the bosses of several Nevada police departments — which currently pay the second-highest average police salaries of any state in the U.S. — rolled into the state legislature in the state of Nevada demanding the second half of a quote-unquote More Cops tax, a special tax increase to be inflicted on Nevada taxpayers, in the midst of the state’s worst economic crisis in three generations, solely for the purpose of hiring even more police to go on saturating Nevada city streets and doing all the things that cops do with their time, on our dime, and supposedly in our names.

See also:

Over My Shoulder #28: on women in Iran and the Islamic Revolution, from Azar Nafisi’s The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of, in My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother Guard Your Eyes

Here’s the rules:

  1. Pick a quote of one or more paragraphs from something you’ve read, in print, over the course of the past week. (It should be something you’ve actually read, and not something that you’ve read a page of just in order to be able to post your favorite quote.)

  2. Avoid commentary above and beyond a couple sentences, more as context-setting or a sort of caption for the text than as a discussion.

  3. Quoting a passage doesn’t entail endorsement of what’s said in it. You may agree or you may not. Whether you do isn’t really the point of the exercise anyway.

Here’s the quote. This is from the opening essay of My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes, a collection of essays by Iranian writers, artists, and intellectuals. The essay is The Stuff Dreams are Made Of, by Azar Nafisi (known to you, perhaps, as the author of Reading Lolita in Tehran). Here she talks about women’s struggle in Iran, before, during, and after the Islamic Revolution, including some things that even well-meaning folks in the United States (let alone the bellowing blowhard brigade) tend to forget:

In the fall of 1979, I was teaching Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby in spacious classrooms on the second floor of the University of Tehran, without actually realizing the extraordinary irony of our situation: in the yard below, Islamist and leftist students were shouting Death to America, and a few streets away, the U.S. embassy was under siege by a group of students claiming to follow the path of the imam. Their imam was Khomeini, and he had waged a war on behalf of Islam against the heathen West and its myriad internal agents. This was not purely a religious war. The fundamentalism he preached was based on the radicla Western ideologies of communism and fascism as much as it was on religion. Nor were his targets merely political; with the support of leftist radicals he led a bloody crusade against Western imperialism: women’s and minorities’ rights, cultural and individual freedoms. This time, I realized, I had lost my connection to that other home, the America I had learned about in Henry James, Richard Wright, William Faulkner, and Eudora Welty.

In Tehran, the first step the new regime took before implementing a new constitution was to repeal the Family Protection Law which, since 1967, had helped women work outside the home and provided them with substantial rights in their marriage. In its place, the traditional Islamic law, the Sharia, would apply. In one swoop the new rulers had set Iran back nearly a century. Under the new system, the age of marital consent for girls was altered from eighteen to nine. Polygamy was made legal as well as temporary marriages, in which one man could marry as many women as he desired by contract, renting them from five minutes to ninety-nine years. What they named adultery and prostitution became punishable by stoning.

Ayatollah Khomeini justified these actions by claiming that he was in fact restoring women’s dignity and rescuing them from the degrading and diabolical ideas that had been thrust upon them by Western imperialists and their agents, who had conspired for decades to destroy Iranian culture and traditions.

In formulating this claim, the Islamic regime not only robbed the Iranian people of their rights, it robbed them of their history. For the true story of modernization in Iran is no that of an outside force imposing alien ideas or—as some opponents of the Islamic regime contend—that of a benevolent shah bestowing rights upon his citizens. From the middle of the nineteenth century, Iran had begun a process of self-questioning and transformation that shook the foundations of both political and religious despotism. In this movement for change, many sectors of the population—intellectuals, minorities, clerics, ordinary people, and enlightened women—actively participated, leading to what is known as the 1906 Constitutional Revolution and the effective implementation of a new constitution based on the Belgian model. Women’s courageous struggles for their rights in Iran became the most obvious manifestation of this transformation. Morgan Shuster, an American who had lived in Iran, even stated in his 1912 book, The Strangling of Persia: The Persian women since 1907 had become almost at a bound the most progressive, not to say the most radical, in the world. That this statement upsets the ideas of centuries makes no difference. It is the fact.

By 1979, at the time of the revolution, women were active in all areas of life in Iran. The number of girls attending schools was on the rise. The number of female candidates for universities had increased sevenfold during the first half of the 1970s. Women were encouraged to participate in areas previously closed to them through a quota system that offered preferential treatment to eligible girls. Women were scholars, police officers, judges, pilots, and engineers—present in every field except the clergy. In 1978, 333 out of 1,660 candidates for local councils were women. Twenty-two were elected to the Parliament, two to the Senate. There was one female Cabinet minister, three sub-Cabinet undersecretaries (including the second-highest ranking officials in both the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Industries), one governor, one ambassador, and five mayors.

After the demise of the shah, many women, in denouncing the previous regime, did so demanding more rights, not less. They were advanced enough to seek a more democratic form of governance with rights to political participation. From the very start, when Islamists attempted to impose their laws against women, there were massive demonstrations, with hundreds of thousands of women pouring into the streets of Tehran protesting against the new laws. When Khomeini announced the imposition of the veil, there were protests in wihch women took to the streets with the slogans: Freedom is neither Eastern nor Western; it is global and Down with the reactionaries! Tyranny in any form is condemned! Soon the protests spread, leading to a memorable demonstration in front of the Ministry of Justice, in which an eight-point manifesto was issued. Among other things, the manifesto called for gender equality in all domains of public and private life as well as for the guarantee of fundamental freedoms for both men and women. It also demanded that the decision over women’s clothing, which is determined by custom and the exigencies of geographical location, be left to women.

Women were attacked by the Islamic vigilantes with knives and scissors, and acid was thrown in their faces. Yet they did not surrender, and it was the regime that retreated for a short while. Later, of course, it made the veil mandatory, first in workplaces, then in shops, and finally in the entire public sphere. In order to implement its new laws, the regime devised special vice squads, called the Blood of God, which patrolled the streets of Tehran and other cities on the lookout for any citizen guilty of moral offense. The guards could raid shopping malls, various public spaces, and even private homes in search of music or videos, alcoholic drinks, sexually mixed parties, and unveiled or improperly veiled women.

The mandatory veil was an attempt to force social uniformity through an assault on individual and religious freedoms, not an act of respect for traditions and culture. By imposing one interpretation of religion upon all its citizens, the Islamic regime deprived them of the freedom to worship their God in the manner they deemed appropriate. Many women who wore the veil, like my own grandmother, had done so because of their religious beliefs; many who had chosen not to wear the veil but considered themselves Muslims, like my mother, were now branded as infidels. The veil no longer represented religion but the state: not only were atheists, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, and people of other faiths deprived of their rights, so were the Muslims, who now viewed the veil more as a political symbol than a religious expression of faith. Other freedoms were gradually curtailed: the assault on freedom of htep ress was accompanied by censorship of books—including the works of some of the most popular classical and modern Iranian poets and writers—a ban on dancing, female singers, most genres of music, films, and other artistic forms, and systematic attacks against the intellectuals and academics who protested the new means of oppression.

In a Russian adaptation of Hamlet distributed in Iran, Ophelia was cut out from most of her scenes; in Sir Laurence Olivier’s Othello, Desdemona was censored from the greater part of the film and Othello’s suicide was also deleted because, the censors reasoned, suicide would depress and demoralize the masses. Apparently, the masses in Iran were quite a strange lot, since they might be far more demoralized by witnessing the death of an imaginary character onscreen than being themselves flogged and stoned to death …. Female students were reprimanded in schools for laughing out loud or running on school grounds, wearing colored shoelaces or friendship bracelets; in the cartoon Popeye, Olive Oyl was edited out of nearly every scene because the relationship between the two characters was illicit.

The result was that ordinary Iranian citizens, both men and women, inevitably began to feel the presence and intervention of the state in their most private daily affairs. The state did not merely punish criminals who threatened the lives and safety of the populace; it was there to control the people, to flog and jail them for wearing nail polish, Reebok shoes, or lipstick; it was there to watch over young girls and boys appearing in public. In short, what was attacked and confiscated were the individual and civil rights of the Iranian people.

— Azar Nafisi, The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of, in My Sister, Guard Your Veil; My Brother, Guard Your Eyes: Uncensored Iranian Voices (2006; ISBN 0807004634), pp. 2–6.

Over My Shoulder #14: Robin Morgan (1981), Blood Types: An Anatomy of Kin

You know the rules; here’s the quote. This one has been delayed from Friday to Saturday by the government attacks on women at a International Women’s Day commemoration in Tehran. So in commemoration of those women, and of what they put their bodies on the line for, here’s something on the theme of feminist internationalism, women, and governments. This is bus reading, collected in Robin Morgan’s The Word of a Woman: Feminist Dispatches 1968–1992 (ISBN 0-393-03427-5): specifically, Blood Types: An Anatomy of Kin a meditative discussion on family, identity, sex, and race, written in 1981.

Mary Daly’s turn-the-concept-inside-out phrase, The Sisterhood of Man seems not only a hope but a dynamic actuality—since it’s grounded not in abstract notions of cooperation but in survival need, not in static posture but in active gesture, not in vague sentiments of similarity but in concrete experience shared to an astonishing degree, despite cultural, historical, linguistic, and other barriers. Labor contractions feel the same everywhere. So does rape and battery. I don’t necessarily always agree with many feminists that women have access to some mysteriously inherent biological nexus, but I do believe that Elizabeth Cady Stanton was onto something when she signed letters, Thine in the bonds of oppressed womanhood (italics mine). Let us hope—and act to ensure—that as women break those bonds of oppression, the process of freeing the majority of humanity will so transform human consciousness that women will not use our freedom to be isolatedly individuated as men have done. In the meanwhile, the bonds do exist; let’s use them creatively.

Not that the mechanistic universe inhabited by the family of Man takes notice of this quarky interrelationship between the hardly visible subparticles that merely serve to keep Man and his [sic] family alive. No, such particles are unimportant, fantastical, charming perhaps (as quarks or the fair sex tend to be). But they are to be taken no more seriously than fairytales.

Yet if Hans Christian Andersen characters so diverse as the Little Mermaid, the Robber Girl, the Snow Queen, and the Little Match Girl had convened a meeting to discuss ways of bettering their condition, one could imagine that the world press would cover that as a big story. When something even more extraordinary, because more real, happened in Andersen’s own city for three weeks during July 1980, it barely made the news.

Approximately ten thousand women from all over the planet began arriving in Copenhagen, Denmark, even before the formal opening on July 14 of the United Nations Mid-Decade World Conference for women. The conference was to become a great, sprawling, rollicking, sometimes quarrelsome, highly emotional, unashamedly idealistic, unabashedly pragmatic, visionary family reunion. In 1975, the U.N. had voted to pay some attention to the female more-than-half of the human population for one year—International Women’s Year—but extended the time to a decade after the indignant outcry of women who had been living, literally, in the International Men’s Year for approximately ten millennia of patriarchy. Still, here we were, in the middle of our decade, in Copenhagen. We came in saris and caftans, in blue jeans and chadors, in African geles, pants-suits, and dresses. We were women with different priorities, ideologies, political analyses, cultural backgrounds, and styles of communication. The few reports that made it into the U.S. press emphasized those differences, thereby overlooking the big story—that these women forged new and strong connections.

There were two overlapping meetings in Copenhagen. One was the official U.N. conference—which many feminists accurately had prophesied would be more a meeting of governments than of women. Its delegates were chosen by governments of U.N. member states to psittaceously repeat national priorities—as defined by men.

The official conference reflected the government orientation: many delegations were headed by men and many more were led by safe women whose governments were certain wouldn’t make waves. This is not to say that there weren’t some real feminists tuckd away even in the formal delegations, trying gallantly to influence their respective bureaucracies towards more human concern with actions that really could better women’s lives. But the talents of these sisters within were frequently ignored or abused by their own delegations for political reasons.

A case in point was the U.S. delegation, which availed itself greedily of all the brilliant and unique expertise of Koryne Horbal (then U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women), and of all the groundwork she had done on the conference for the preceding two years—including being the architect of CEDAW, the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women—but denied her press visibility and most simple courtesies because she had been critical of the Carter administration and its official policies on women. But Horbal wasn’t the only feminist within. There were New Zealand’s member of Parliament, the dynamic twenty-eight-year-old Marilyn Waring, and good-humored Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, former prime minister of Portugal, and clever Elizabeth Reid of Australia—all of them feminists skilled in the labyrinthian ways of national and international politics, but with priority commitment to populist means of working for women—who still managed to be effective inside and outside the structures of their governments.

The other conference, semiofficially under U.N. aegis, was the NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) Forum. It was to the Forum that ordinary folks came, having raised the travel fare via their local women’s organizations, feminist alternative media, or women’s religious, health, and community groups. Panels, workshops, kaffeeklatsches, cultural events, and informal sessions abounded.

Statements emerged and petitions were eagerly signed: supporting the prostitutes in São Palo, Brazil, who that very week, in an attempt to organize for their human rights, were being jailed, tortured, and, in one case, accidentally executed; supporting Arab and African women organizing against the practice of female genital mutilation; supporting U.S. women recently stunned by the 1980 Supreme Court decision permitting federal and state denial of funds for medical aid to poor women who need safe, legal abortions—thus denying the basic human right of reproductive freedom; supporting South African women trying to keep families together under the maniacal system of apartheid; supporting newly exiled feminist writers and activists from the U.S.S.R.; supporting women refugees from Afghanistan, Campuchea [Cambodia], Palestine, Cuba, and elsewhere.

Protocol aside, the excitement among women at both conference sites was electric. If, for instance, you came from Senegal with a specific concern about rural development, you would focus on workshops about that, and exchange experiences and how-to’s with women from Peru, India—and Montana. After one health panel, a Chinese gynecologist continued talking animatedly with her scientific colleague from the Soviet Union—Sino-Soviet saber-rattling forgotten or transcended.

Comparisons developed in workshops on banking and credit between European and U.S. economists and the influential market women of Africa. The list of planned meetings about Women’s Studies ran to three pages, yet additional workshops on the subject were created spontaneously. Meanwhile, at the International Women’s Art Festival, there was a sharing of films, plays, poetry readings, concerts, mime shows, exhibits of painting and sculpture and batik and weaving, the interchanging of art techniques and of survival techniques. Exchange subscriptions were pledged between feminist magazines in New Delhi and Boston and Tokyo, Maryland and Sri Lanka and Australia. And everywhere the conversations and laughter of recognition and newfound friendships spilled over into the sidewalks of Copenhagen, often until dawn.

We ate, snacked, munched—and traded diets—like neighbor women, or family. A well-equipped Argentinian supplied a shy Korean with a tampon in an emergency. A Canadian went into labor a week earlier than she’d expected, and kept laughing hilariously between the contractions, as she was barraged with loving advice on how to breathe, where to rub, how to sit (or stand or squat), and even what to sing—in a chorus of five languages, while waiting for the prompt Danish ambulance. North American women from diverse ethnic ancestries talked intimately with women who still lived in the cities, towns, and villages from which their own grandmothers had emigrated to the New World. We slept little, stopped caring about washing our hair, sat on the floor, and felt at home with one another.

Certainly, there were problems. Simultaneous translation facilities, present everywhere at the official conference, were rarely available at the grass-roots forum. This exacerbated certain sore spots, like the much-ballyhooed Palestinian-Israeli conflict, since many Arab women present spoke Arabic or French but not English—the dominant language at the forum. That conflict—played out by male leadership at both the official conference and the forum, using women as pawns in the game—was disheartening, but not as bad as many of us had feared.

The widely reported walkout of Arab women during Madam Jihan Sadat’s speech at the conference was actually a group of perhaps twenty women tiptoeing quietly to the exit. This took place in a huge room packed with delegates who—during all the speeches—were sitting, standing, and walking about to lobby loudly as if on the floor of the U.S. Congress (no one actually listens to the speeches; they’re for the recrd).

Meanwhile, back at the forum, there was our own invaluable former U.S. congresswoman Bella Abzug (officially unrecognized by the Carter-appointed delegation but recognized and greeted with love by women from all over the world). Bella, working on coalition building, was shuttling between Israelis and Arabs. At that time, Iran was still holding the fifty-two U.S. hostages, but Bella accomplished the major miracle of getting a pledge from the Iranian women that if U.S. mothers would demonstrate in Washington for the shah’s ill-gotten millions to be returned to the Iranian people (for the fight against women’s illiteracy and children’s malnutrition), then the Iranian women would march simultaneously in Teheran for the hostages to be returned home to their mothers. Bella’s sensitivity and cheerful, persistent nudging on this issue caused one Iranian woman to throw up her hands, shrug, and laugh to me, What is with this Bella honey person? She’s wonderful. She’s impossible. She’s just like my mother.

The conference, the forum, and the arts festival finally came to an end. Most of the official resolutions were predictably bland by the time they were presented, much less voted on. Most of the governments will act on them sparingly, if at all. Consequently, those women who went naively trusting that the formal U.N. procedures would be drastically altered by such a conference were bitterly disappointed. But those of us who went with no such illusions, and who put not our trust in patriarchs, were elated. Because what did not end at the closing sessions isthat incredible networking—the echoes of all those conversations, the exchanged addresses—and what that will continue to accomplish.

— Robin Morgan (1981): Blood Types: An Anatomy of Kin, reprinted in The Word of a Woman: Feminist Dispatches 1968–1992, pp. 115–120.

International Women’s Day commemoration attacked by rioting Tehran cops

A report on the recent police assault on feminist demonstrators in Tehran, written by Iranian feminists and relayed to Doug Ireland (2006-03-09) via Janet Afray.

Tehran, March 8—The peaceful gathering of women’s rights activists, women’s groups and human rights defenders who had gathered in Park Daneshjoo (Student Park) yesterday, in commemoration of March 8th, International Women’s Day, ended in violence, when they were attacked and assaulted by plain clothes militia, special anti riot forces of the Revolutionary guards, soldiers and police.

Approximately 1,000 women had gathered in Park Daneshjoo on the occasion of the International Women’s Day to emphasize their stance in support of women’s human rights and peace. The ceremony which started at 4:00 pm, and was scheduled to last one hour, was charged by security forces shortly after it began, who relentlessly beat the protesters, in an effort to disperse the group.

The sit-in, which was organized by independent women’s groups and activists, was supposed to be carried out silently, with protesters holding signs reading some of the following statements and slogans: discrimination against women, is an abuse of their human rights; women demand their human rights; women oppose any form of forced aggression or war; Iranian women demand peace; injustice means discrimination against women, etc.

Ten minutes into the protest, after security forces had managed to fully film and photograph the protesters for follow-up and interrogations at a later time, the women were asked to disperse, on the grounds that their assembly was illegal and did not have a permit. At this point, the protesters started singing the Tehranmarch3 anthem of the women’s movement, which again calls for changes in their human rights status. At 4:20 the final statement of the sit in was read, during which the security forces dumped cans of garbage on the heads of women who were seated in an effort to prevent easy dispersal. The security forces then charged the group and began beating the protesters. Even after the protesters had dispersed many were followed by the security forces and beaten. Some of the female protesters were beaten repeatedly with batons, and some male protesters were beaten severely by security forces who administered the beatings in teams.

Ms. Simin Behbehani, feminist poet, who is elderly and has difficulty with her vision did not escape the wrath of the police either. She was beaten by a baton and then kicked repeatedly by security guards, amidst objection by women protesters. Female and male pedestrians passing by the protest also received beatings by the police.

Journalists, including several foreign correspondents, who had filmed and photographed the event, were rounded up, held in custody and released only after their films and photographs had been confiscated.

The security forces were estimated at over 100, with busloads being added during the course of the protest. All carried batons and the women were repeatedly told by the security forces as they administered beatings that they had orders to beat the protesters.

While the Iranian constitutions allows for peaceful gatherings without Irannooseii_6 permit, the government requests a permit for public gatherings. Women’s rights groups have been repeatedly denied requests to hold public gatherings, and so they have chosen to exercise their rights of assembly in organizing peaceful gatherings without obtaining permits.

Iranian women have in solidarity with their sisters internationally been publicly celebrating international women’s day for several years. The pressure has increasingly grown on groups who which to commemorate this event. This latest development is part of a growing pressure on women’s groups Tehranmarch4 and women’s rights activists as well as human rights defenders and civil society leaders in Iran. In June of 2005 thousands of women gathered in front of Tehran University asking for changes in the constitution with respect to women’s rights. Many of the women involved in the protest were subsequently called in for questioning by security forces, interrogated, repeatedly harassed and some organizations were denied permits of operation due to their involvement in the Tehran university protest. Women’s rights activists believe that interrogations, harassments, and pressure on their organizations, including closure and arrests will increase as a result of this latest event.

We hope that the international community, especially women’s groups and human rights organizations will stand in solidarity with Iranian women, to condemn this violent attack of women’s rights defenders in Iran. We especially urge women’s groups in the region and from Islamic countries to protest the violent actions of the security forces against women’s rights activists and defenders.

Human Rights Watch (2006-03-09) has more:

Within minutes, after agents photographed and videotaped the gathering, the police told the crowd to disperse. In response, the participants staged a sit-in and started to sing the anthem of the women’s rights movement, one participant told Human Rights Watch.

The security forces then dumped cans of garbage on the heads of women who were seated before charging into the group and beating them with batons to compel them to leave the park.

As we started to run away and seek shelter, they followed us and continued to beat us. I was beaten several times on my arm, below the waist, and on my wrist, an activist said.

The commander of security forces at the scene, Ghodratollah Mahmoudi, told the Iranian Labor News Agency that this gathering was held without an official permit. The response by the security forces prevented the gathering to take on a political dimension.

Among those present at the gathering was Simin Behbahani, a renowned Iranian poet. According to an eyewitness, Behbahani was beaten with a baton, and when people protested that she is in her seventies and she can barely see, the security officer kicked her several times and continued to hit her with his baton.

The security forces also took several foreign journalists into custody and confiscated their photographic equipment and video footage before releasing them.

On the previous day, March 7, the Iranian interior ministry summoned several women’s rights activists and warned them to cancel the gathering. The activists responded that the event is an annual celebration by many women’s rights groups and that they were not organizing the event.

The attack on women’s rights activists highlights the Iranian government’s consistent policy of suppressing freedom of association and assembly, Human Rights Watch said.

Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August, security forces have repeatedly resorted to violence to suppress peaceful gatherings. In January, security forces in Tehran attacked and arrested hundreds of striking bus drivers who were protesting working conditions.

In February, security forces in the city of Qom used excessive force and tear gas to detain hundreds of Sufi followers who had gathered in front of their house of worship to prevent its destruction by the authorities.