PSA: Free Esha Momeni

by matttbastard

Update: Be sure to sign the official petition calling for Momeni’s release.

Change For Equality:

Esha Momeni, women’s rights advocate and a member of the Campaign from California was arrested on Wednesday October 15, 2008, while on a visit to Tehran. Momeni who is a photographer and graduate student was arrested in an unusual and illegal manner after being pulled over on Moddaress highway, by individuals who identified themselves as under cover traffic police on the pretense that she had unlawfully passed another vehicle while driving. Esha was arrested and taken to Section 209 of Evin Prison, managed by the Intelligence and Security Ministry.

Prior to her transfer to Evin, security officials searched her home and seized property, including her computer and films which were part of her thesis project. The security officials had an arrest warrant and court permission to search the home and seize property.

While Esha’s friends and colleagues were insistent about announcing the news of her arrest immediately, based on requests from her family this news was announced with delay. Security forces had promised Esha’s family that she would be released quickly if news of her arrest was not published.

Esha’s parents went to the Revolutionary Courts today, on the fifth day of her arrest, to follow up on the case of their daughter. Court officials told the Momeni family that they should not come to the courts again, and that their questions will not be answered until the investigation of Esha’s case comes to a close.

Esha Momeni is a graduate student at the School of Communications, Media and Arts at California State University, Northridge. Esha had come to Iran two months ago to visit with her family and to work on her Masters thesis project, focused on the Iranian women’s movement. To this end, she had conducted video interviews with members of the One Million Signatures Campaign in Tehran.

Women’s rights activists object to the unusual manner in which Esha was arrested, as well as the irresponsible treatment of her family members by security forces. Further they strongly object to the unjustified and unwarranted arrest of this women’s rights defender.

A weblog in support of Esha pressing for her release has been established, which includes interviews with her professors… . The weblog as well as the site of the Campaign, Change for Equality, will continue to provide news on developments about Esha’s case. Take a look at the blog For Esha.

Take action now–please write to the following contacts:

* 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, Email: / /;
* President, His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Presidency, Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98.21.649.5880, E-mail:;
* Head of the Judiciary, His Excellency Mr. Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, Ministry of Justice, Park-e Shahr, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: +98.21.879.6671 / +98 21 3 311 6567 / +98 21 3 390 4986, Email: /;
* Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mr. Manuchehr Motaki, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdolmajid Keshk-e Mesri Av, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98.21.390.1999, Email:;
* Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran, His Excellency Mohammad Javad Larijani, C/o Office of the Deputy for International Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Justice Building, Panzdah-Khordad (Ark) Square, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, Fax: + 98 21 5 537 8827
* Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28, 1209 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 7330203, Email:;
* Ambassador Mr. Ahani, Embassy of Iran in Brussels, avenue Franklin Roosevelt, 15 A. 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium, Fax: + 32 2 762 39 15. Email:

– [express] concern at the arrest of Esha Momeni, and [urge] on the authorities to treat her humanely in detention, and protect her from torture or other ill-treatment;

– [ask] the authorities to ensure that while in detention she is granted immediate and regular access to her family, a lawyer of her choice, and any medical treatment she may require;

[express] concern that her arrest was apparently in connection with her peaceful activities in support of equal rights for women in Iran and in the context of her graduate research;

– [urge] the authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally if she is not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and brought to trial promptly and fairly

h/t Vanessa @ Feministing (via Feminist Daily News); more from CNN, DKos, Melissa Wall, and David Blumenkrantz. Also see this article on the 0ne Million Signatures Campaign, written by Momeni in 2007.

Previous Change for Equality PSAs:

Background: More on the still-ongoing One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality from Change For Equality (more here) and Ms. Magazine.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to add your name.


Update: Be sure to sign the official petition calling for Momeni’s release.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Equal Opportunity In Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai-Lead Opposition Dissolves Women’s Assembly

by matttbastard

Gender equality is critical to our national development. The MDC, which evolved out of civil society organisations, including women’s groups, is committed to making gender equality a reality. We will eliminate all barriers that prevent women from playing an equal role in society and enjoying equal rights.

The empowerment of women is fundamental to the MDC’s vision of creating a new Zimbabwe in which there is equal opportunity for all.

– Lucia Matibenga, Without gender equality, Zimbabwe on road to nowhere

The Morgan Tsvangirai-lead MDC leadership has recently forsaken this fundamental component of its equal opportunity vision, as eloquently outlined by Matibenga. Lance Guma reports that “[t]he MDC…has dissolved the 24 member Women’s Assembly executive led by trade unionist Lucia Matibenga.” The suprise move may have come as a result of more internal power struggles within the MDC:

Those displeased with the decision say it’s an over-reaction to minor disagreements that are being fanned by people plotting to overthrow Matibenga. It has already been suggested that Theresa Makone, the wife of Ian Makone, is being lined up to replace Matibenga. Her husband Ian recently spent over 4 months in remand prison over cooked up terror charges before a judge freed him accusing the police of manufacturing evidence. Another point raised is that the standing committee has no power to dissolve the women’s assembly executive and was only supposed to make recommendations to the National or Executive Council.

More from Zim Daily:

Impeccable sources say the dissolution of the women’s assembly was preceded by a vote of no confidence passed by provincial chairpersons of the women’s assemblies of the MDC’s 12 provinces at a meeting held at the MDC headquarters at No. 44 Nelson Mandela Avenue in Harare two weeks ago.

Women’s assembly chairperson for Chitungwiza Province Lilian Chinyerere-Mashumba confirmed that provincial chairladies had passed a vote of no confidence in the national assembly led by Matibenga in a move likely to fuel factionalism and worsen emerging divisions in the party.

“We passed a vote of no confidence in the national executive because as provinces we are not happy with way things are going on between the chairperson and the secretary.

“We are convinced now that their personal differences will take us backwards instead of taking the struggle forward”, said Chinyerere-Mashumba who added that 8 out of 12 provinces had voted for the dissolution of the national assembly.

Harare Province women’s assembly chairperson Rorina Dandajena said the Matibenga led assembly was being accused of non-performance, factionalism, and abuse of party funds among other allegations.


A veteran trade unionist who fought in from the same corner with Tsvangirai during the ugly row and final split of the MDC in 2005 Matibenga said provincial chairpersons had no power to pass a vote of no confidence in the national assembly on their own as they did not constitute the required quorum.


Those sympathetic to Mativenga suggest that the fact that members of the dissolved executive will be allowed to contest for re-election means the move is not meant to deal with the differences between Mativenga and Masaiti or their non-performance.

They claim it a strategic ploy by a powerful clique in the MDC to reshuffle the women’s assembly and replace Matibenga at the helm with Makone or [women’s assembly secretary general Evelyn] Masaiti who are closer to the top leadership.

A modest politician Matibenga who is popular with the grassroots structures is not known to have powerful allies in the top leadership of the MDC.

As intimated by Zim Daily, the MDC has a contentious history, most famously evidenced by a 2005 post-election schism that split the party into two independent factions–a move that, at the time, some said “undermined its challenge to President Robert Mugabe’s 26-year rule” and has since made Mugabe “stronger than ever.” Earlier this year, both factions (represented by Tsvangirai, who founded the MDC, and Arthur Mutambara respectively)established an uneasy working relationship with the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, voting together to pass a constitutional amendment over strident objections from civil society and co-drafting a new constitution.” (More on Constitutional Amendment 18 from Zimbabwe Journalists.)

Perhaps to mitigate what could further dilute the Zimbabwean opposition, the Tsvangirai faction is convening “a special congress of the women’s assembly on October 28.”

Via LabourStart, in preparation for the October 28th congress, a solidarity campaign in support of Matibenga has been undertaken:

Dear Friends of Lucia,
An injustice to one is an injustice to all of us.
You strike a woman. You strike a rock.

‘I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is, I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.’ Rebecca West, Suffragist, 1913.

What has Lucia not been through? She has survived several March 11ths. She has survived the horrors of Zanu PF’s tyranny and brutality. She has been a source of our inspiration our leader, the voice of reason that has refused to be cowed out of the peoples struggle. She has remained consistent and steadfast that people and especially marginalised women are who this struggle is all about and for. Lucia is also the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU, first Vice President and the regional President of the Southern African Trade Union Council.

As part of the ongoing campaign by many of us who understand the unfortunate removal of Lucia Matibenga from the national chairpersonship of the MDC Women’s Assembly, we have formed the ‘Friends of Lucia Campaign.’ If you believe in fairness and justice you can be one of us.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has set the date for the illegal women’s congress to be held on the 28th of October. While Mai Mati or Lucy has received nominations and overwhelming support from the grassroots in the party, going into that election without her support base firstly knowing how flawed the process of removing her was, and secondly why she is constantly attacked by MDC patriarchs, would be a gross omission on our part.

Why are they so frightened of Lucia?

Lucia will not benefit from silent support, those who claim to be her friends have to say, enough is enough. Democracy in the MDC will not benefit from silent solidarity. The assault on the Women’s Assembly chair should be viewed within the broader context of women’s liberation and emancipation.

Comrades in South Africa have started to write in support of the MDC women’s struggle, well done to Philile the South African daughter of the slain anti-apartheid activist Siphethelo Mbokazi. Others have sent in heart warming e-mails and text messages. We know we are not alone.

How can you help?

We believe if everyone is encouraged to use the tools and resources within their means, we can run a very effective campaign. To demand the respect for women like Mai Mati. Your solidarity costs nothing just be principled.
What are the objectives of this campaign:

  • Put the women’s agenda back on the agenda.
  • Link up, nationally, regionally and internationally, with other activists, feminists, politicians who share the same aspirations as the female politicians in Zimbabwe.
  • Campaign that women in politics be recognised as grown adults.
    Demand their rightful place in leadership not as a favour but a right.
    Invigorate activists who have endured the backlash from both the patriarchy in their midst and the Robert Mugabe dictatorship.
  • Campaign for an end to all forms of violence against women in politics and Zimbabwe at large. Especially the attack on female politician’s sexuality.
  • Build solidarity with like minded men who are not threatened by what Zimbabwean female politicians stand for.

Grace Kwinjeh, deputy secretary for international relations in the MDC, puts the controversy–and the role of women in the struggle against Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF government–in perspective:

Even before the MDC was formed eight years ago, Zimbabwean women made great strides in fighting for their emancipation. We took on Mugabe before the boys even woke up to their own oppression.

The women’s struggle was led by women like Everjoice Win, Shereen Essof, Priscilla Misihairabwi, Nancy Kachingwe, Yvonne Mahlunge, Isabella Matambanadzo, Thoko Matshe, Janah Ncube, Lydia Zigomo, Rudo Kwaramba, and Sekai Holland, fellow torture survivor and head of the Association of Women’s Clubs. Our first fight was for recognition as equal human beings to our male counterparts.

The Legal Age of Majority Act now recognises us as adults, we can vote, open bank accounts and even marry should we choose to – none of which were possible without the consent of a male connection, be it brother father or uncle. We were perpetual minors.

The Matrimonial Causes Act now recognises our right to own property, independent of our husbands or fathers. After we challenged physical abuse, Parliament passed the Domestic Violence Act. This background made some of us suitable candidates for leadership in the MDC.

At what point, then, did we women become minors once again, answerable to male authority, becoming subjects of agendas that have nothing to do with our empowerment or liberation for that matter?

With the MDC’s attack on its Women’s League, we are relegated once again to second class citizen position. The first contact women like Lucia Matibenga (former head of the MDC women’s league), Sekai Holland and myself have with our bodies each morning after we wake up and take a bath, is the scarring inflicted by Mugabe’s police.

These scars are deep, physical and psychological, but their political significance is that they can be the source of our liberation. They are our badges of honour, marking us as comrades who have been on the frontline facing the enemy head on.

To quote Brownfemipower, “Follow the women. They know the way.”

Flashback: the Mail & Guardian and the AFL-CIO with background on the brutal September 2006 assault on and torture of peaceful ZCTU demonstrators (including Lucia Matibenga) by Zimbabwe security officials; more on the immediate aftermath of the March 11th police crackdown from the NY Times and Human Rights Watch.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers