For Amir, who wants women to be his equals
I know many men who consider women small; men who enjoy degrading women and view them only as tools for satisfying their urges; men who sum up their virility in stoning women. I know men who consider their vicious treatment of women a trait of champions and heroes; men who proudly describe their abuse of women to their friends. I know men who present themselves as open-minded types in public, but beat their wives in private.
I know male judges who—free from “female sentimentality”—push many Zahra Kazemis (an Iranian-Canadian reporter who died while in custody in Iran. Reports say that she was tortured and beaten to a point where she lost consciousness; trying to hide the signs of torture, the judge ordered her body to be thrown down the stairs to appear like an accident) down the stairs. I have heard of men in charge of safety and security, who hang Zahra Bany-Yaghoubs (a distinguished young medical doctor who was arrested by the moral police for walking with her fiancé. While in custody, officials reported that she committed suicide by hanging herself. Her family assert that this was murder). I have seen commanders who arrest women and take them to the morality police stations every day; these are the same men who seduce six women in the blink of an eye. I have seen men who advertise gender discrimination; those who—under the guise of art—promote polygamy (although polygamy is culturally taboo in Iran, Iranian TV stations have recently adopted several programs that advertise having multiple wives); actors who glorify having two wives as a virtue.
Yes, many times have I heard of violence, rape, and torture perpetrated by men against women; of governing officials who are fond of such men and praise them. They train them in schools and in military camps, these men who bolster inequality. The governing officials want men to be violent because men who are good at dictating orders are the same ones who are good at following orders; and soldiers who attack well, are the same ones who obey well. While chanting the slogans of “justice and kindness" (the slogan of the current Iranian administration) the officials promote discrimination and fight those seeking equality.
Yet I also know Amir Yaghoubali. He wants women to be his equals and he is working hard for this equality. He sees his humanity, his freedom, and his victory as consisting in the equal treatment of women. Amir does not chant slogans of justice, but he acts justly. He is working to change discriminatory laws against women; he talks to people about the laws and records their signatures to demand this change.
I like Amir Yaghoubali and I admire him. I have known him for a few years now: a 20-year old who in the streets and at the university is struggling to improve people’s lives; A kind person whose heart beats for the oppressed. Amir is a role model for me and for many men who seek equality; men who are discontented with the discrimination against women, and who consider women’s suffering their own suffering; men who strive for equality.
For seeking equality, Amir was suspended from his university for two terms and he is not allowed on campus premises. For seeking equality, Amir was arrested and detained for a month. And today, for seeking equality, for the crime of talking to the men and women of this land to eliminate discrimination, for the offense of collecting signatures, they have sentenced Amir to a year in prison. They want to discipline him in a “manly” way.
This article was first published in Farsi here, and was translated by Roja Bandari
(pictured, Amir Yaghoubali)
Also in 5050 on the One Million Signatures campaign: Roja Bandari, Iran's virtual crackdown; Rebecca Barlow, Iran's real women; Roja Bandari, Iran's women, listen now!; Roja Bandari, How do you turn off compassion?