UPDATE: Iran: Increased Pressure on Activists Involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign

Despite arrests of activists and repeatedly blocked websites, the Campaign Demanding an End to Discriminatory Laws against Women continues to gather national and international support, through the collection of one million signatures over two years. The petition will then be submitted to the Parliament of Iran along with proposed changes to laws which discriminate against women and men, specifically in the area of family law.
Almost six months have passed since the launch of the 'One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding an End to Discriminatory Laws against Women' by Iranian women activists and civil society members. The Campaign has garned national and international support and media coverage, but also negative reactions from the Iranian state. The seminar to launch the campaign was banned by security forces, activists have been arrested and dismissed from their jobs, and their website has been filtered and blocked on more than one occasion.

Women's efforts in Iran to reform discriminatory laws and fight for their individual and collective empowerment is not new. For the past hundred years, women activists have denounced their legal, economic and political subordination by lawmakers. However, according to Khadijeh Moghaddam, one of the founding members of the campaign, what is new is that this movement was not initiated by elite groups or intellectuals, but rather has sprung from across civil society as a result of concrete needs. She identifies the innovation of the campaign in its emphasis not only on state-level legal reform, but on training and education, which filters throughout the society and culture of the state. She states: "We train and we also learn, in other words we become familiar with the pain and the problems of men and women."

Timeline: This campaign will be ongoing. The first phase of the Campaign will focus on the collection of one million signatures demanding changes to discriminatory laws. It is a fair assessment to claim that the first phase of the Campaign will be carried out over one to two years, after which the campaign will move into its next set of phases focused on proposing new laws.

The Demands of Campaign are not in Contradiction to Islamic Law: The demand to reform and change discriminatory laws is not in contradiction to Islamic law and is in line with Iran’s international commitments. Iran is a signatory to the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights and as such, is required to eliminate all forms of discrimination. Based on these commitments, the government of Iran needs to take specific action in reforming laws that promote discrimination.

These demands are in no way contradictory to the foundations of Islam: In fact, the changes being demanded by this campaign have been a point of contention and debate among Islamic jurists and scholars for some time. Ayatollah Sanei’i and Ayatollah Bojnourdi, to name a few, have for years called for a revision and reform of laws which are discriminatory against women, and have explicitly stated that such reforms are indeed not contradictory to the basic beliefs of Islam. A million signatures supporting changes to discriminatory laws, will demonstrate to decision-makers and the public at large that a large segment of the Iranian population is in support of revising discriminatory laws against women and that these demands are not limited to a small segment of society. This campaign will also demonstrate to law makers that Iranian women are serious in their demands to change current laws.

Implementation of the Campaign: This campaign will rely largely on face-to-face education and contact to achieve its goals. It will be implemented through the following strategies:

Collection of signatures through door-to-door contact and dialogue with individual women.
Collection of signatures in places and events in which women gather, and where dialogue and discussions with groups of women can be carried out. Public locations, such as parks, universities, production centers, factories, health centers, religious gatherings, sports centers, and public transportation centers (metro, buses, etc), where groups of women can be accessed, will be identified by members of the Campaign for the purpose of initiating dialogue about the law and collecting signatures in support of changes to discriminatory laws.
Implementation of seminars and conferences with the intent of raising the profile of the campaign, promoting dialogue, identifying supporters and collecting signatures.
Collection of signatures through the internet. The internet will be utilized to share information about the campaign, including legal educational materials, and those interested in supporting this effort can sign petitions related to the Campaign.

Volunteer Education: In order to successfully implement the Campaign a large number of volunteers will be recruited. Volunteers will receive legal education as well as information on the campaign. Several committees have been established within the campaign, including the “Education Committee” which is charged with implementing educational workshops for all volunteers. All those interested in cooperating with the campaign and collecting signatures will be provided with training on legal issues and laws; the aims and strategies of the campaign; face-to-face and door-to-door education techniques; public education and outreach techniques, etc. All volunteers interested in becoming involved in face-to-face education must participate in the workshops.

It should be noted, that volunteers don’t necessarily need to be experts in women’s legal issues. These workshops implemented by the “Education Committee” will provide an overview for the lay person with respect to legal rights of women.
One Million Signatures Campaign Demanding an End to Discriminatory Laws against Women