About Roja Bandari

Roja Bandari is a PhD student in electrical engineering at UCLA California. She began her involvement in women's rights through her participation in the One Million Signatures Campaign initiated by women in Iran which aims at gaining gender equality in the legal system.

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Articles by Roja Bandari

This week's guest editors

Iran: human rights lawyers in distress

The Iranian lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh is on a life-threatening dry hunger strike in Evin prison. Silencing Sotoudeh is to silence one brave, talented, and resourceful woman, but also to silence a multitude of civil and political activists

The Iranian Nightmare

 

These past days have been a nightmare. I and my fellow Iranians have been watching the small amount of democracy present in Iran erased within a day. Everything we hear from Iran is heartbreaking but more than anything, I have been anxiously watching the international media. Although some reports are accurate, many huge mainstream media sources still frame the events in a way that really feels as if they are twisting the knife in our wounds.

What media does in this situation can make a difference in saving lives in Iran. If those in power in Iran realize that the western media has become sympathetic to them, they will be as brutal as they desire. I'm asking you to please use all your resources and connections to raise awareness about a few things and spread the word.

Some media are framing the protests as "people whose candidates didn't win are now angry". This is not true. People (including myself) are not angry because Mousavi didn't win. We are angry because we feel the election was stolen. We are in the streets to defend our right to decide a president (at least out of the 4 we could choose from). We are angry because something has happened that is changing our system fundamentally.

The allegations of fraud are portrayed as only brought up by Mousavi or only the reformists. But the other conservative candidate, Mr. Rezaei, has in fact filed a complaint about this election as well, asserting that the vote counts don't make sense. So this is not a complaint among two candidates, or two sides. This is about committing electoral fraud.


Some call the peaceful protests "riots." People are not rioting. Yesterday's protest which ended in killing of innocent people was a "silent" protest. People were walking in complete silence for the majority of the march. We are not hooligans. We are citizens who are very aware of what is happening and we will not stay quiet.

Protesters are portrayed as pro-western and young. While most are young, and many might be interested in improving relations with the west, this is an inaccurate generalization. In pictures of large protests you can see older people, and you see many who seem more religious. It's really not about the west.

If Iranian state media (currently completely in the hands of a certain political segment) post any news in this regard, most mainstream media regurgitate it exactly, amplifying their voice and making it resonate all around the world. Often it is propaganda that gets amplified which is carefully crafted with the aim of crushing the protests.

Most Iranians have no doubt that the results are fraudulent. A president with 24 million votes, does not face such persistent protests with people, whole families even, coming out in the face of blind violence. If you cheat a whole nation people will not accept it.


Maybe there is a subconscious attitude among western spectators that thinks Iranians can not take the results of a democratic election if it's not who they liked most. But we are not savages, in fact that is exactly why people are in the streets. If the right to vote was taken away in the US or Europe, everyone would be protesting. That's why Iranian people are coming out day after day after day.

 

Iran's virtual crackdown

Women's rights activists in Iran have been hit by a fresh crackdown that threatens a vital campaigning tool

A few days ago we hit a new low in systematic filtering of women's rights websites in Iran. Along with the website Change for Equality, 11 other sites and blogs belonging to local branches of the One Million Signatures Campaign in several cities or regions in Iran (Arak, Rasht, Mashhad, Esfahan, Shiraz, Zahedan) were blocked simultaneously. The list of blocked blogs included Men for Equality, set up by male activists in the campaign and those of a few Iranian immigrant populations in other countries (Kuwait, Cyprus, Germany, and the US). Campaign websites in Kurdestan and Azarbaijan had been blocked in April 2008.

How do you turn off compassion?

by Roja Bandari

My recent challenge has been trying to go about life as usual at the university and at home in California. Unfortunately this simple task is becoming more difficult every day because of things that are happening 7580 miles away in Tehran, Iran. For the past nine months I have been a part of the Iranian women's struggles for equality. Iranian women's demand for equality goes back over a hundred years but equality, especially in the law, has remained elusive to this day. In June of 2006, a movement called the Campaign for One Million Signatures was conceived that unified many of the Iranian women's rights groups that were formerly working separately. The campaign has a goal of collecting one million signatures to demand a change in the discriminatory laws. Signatures are collected face to face and with a discussion and a booklet that educates the reader about specific laws that have a negative effect on women's lives. As an Iranian living and studying in the US, my limited involvement has been an educational journey for me; I have been reading these women's writings and listening to their stories and trying to tell them to others.

I have been moved and inspired by the amount of love, support and trust that is in this campaign. Activists in Iran can be easily marginalized by accusations of ties to western countries or to Iranian political groups that work against the Iranian government outside of Iran. It is understandable why many inside Iran are very cautious about any harmless stranger who offers them help or even solidarity. Despite this, my very first email asking about how I could help was replied with an open heart and open arms and I was touched by this accepting behavior which I later found was a general attitude of the campaign. I continued to have email contact with a few of the people who were more comfortable with email and English and who had some time. One of these women was Jelveh Javaheri.

I like Jelveh. I found her to be a very warm and kind girl. She is not very loud and you almost don't expect someone so soft-spoken to be so bold and stubborn in continuing her path. Her articles are published on the Campaign's website and they were among the first articles I read that touched my heart and compelled me to join the campaign. When she writes, there is a certain sorrow in her tone that makes you want to reach across the oceans and give her a big hug.

Iran’s women: listen now!

The courageous voices of the women of Iran's One Million Signatures campaign demand to be heard. Roja Bandari tells their story.

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