An Interview with Shabnam Hamzeiy conducted by Hemn
- Please express your definition and knowledge of the phenomenon of systematic violence and harassment of women as well as types!
When we talk about the system, we know that in its general term and concept, it is often used to mean political power. But in my opinion, a systematic thing alone is not carried out by power and must be accompanied by the people. In other words, the people are part of this systematic exercise of power. But when we see that something or a subject or a systematic phenomenon in a closed society is enforced by the power, its main origin undoubtedly goes back to the type of education and training that tries to follow according to its mechanism and guidelines as well as the costs it pays through the media. Impose it on society or implement it. That’s why I consider this distinction, which I want to address the role and impact of this society as well. In other words, it is not only the government that is involved in violence against women, but also society and the people are influential in creating this phenomenon in some way.
In connection with your question and how and in what ways the government of the Islamic Republic is involved in this matter, I must say that in society we have different types of harassment and verbal, physical, mental, and other violence. Here I want to talk more about one of these types of violence, which is called non-verbal or silence. In this case, the victim is not seen or in other words is not noticed at all and is pushed to the margins. Ultimately, this also leads to severe psychological damage to the victim, and there are undoubtedly many examples of this in society. It is true that all these kinds of violence are seen to some extent in the whole world and even in industrialized and developed countries, but with the difference that it has not reached the level of a phenomenon in these countries and is in several cases.
In the Iranian society and its neighbours, unfortunately, this issue has become a phenomenon. In relation to the issue of violence and sexual harassment in our society, we must seek a solution through law and social custom. And this is in contradiction with the law and custom in Iran because law and custom themselves have a major role in creating this phenomenon.
- What is the role of people in such cases in particular?
Our society has a variety of customs. Many times, I see that there is a suitable law and solution in dealing with this issue and it supports women, but in this case, considering the traditional customs and traditions of this society, it is not possible for women to realize this right. So, we see that sometimes this society and its people are the cause and founder of this kind of speech and verbal and sexual violence or are its main supporters. As a result, the government and the traditional fabric of society are complementary in this regard, and none of these factors alone can accomplish the systematic process of this ominous phenomenon.
- 3. We talked about rules and customs. In your opinion, what is the benefit of this issue for the government of the Islamic Republic?
Undoubtedly, the Islamic Republic is trying to violate women’s rights not only in this way, but also in many other ways. Many of these acts of violence in the Islamic Republic have become legal. In most legal texts of the courts and women’s affairs, we use the word “obedience”. This word means complete satisfaction and obedience of woman to their husband.
For example, when a woman goes to a family court in Iran to assert her rights, the judge first tells her, “My sister, you must be ‘obedient’ to your husband.” In fact, “obedience” means the unquestioning obedience and satisfaction of women towards men. Even girls are given to their husbands at a young age. Women are deprived of the right to travel and many other rights. It all comes down to the issue of obedience. And a patriarchal society trample on the rights of adolescent girls and women by using the sharia’s so-called “obedience.” In the case of the killing of women in such a society, due to the same religious and backward laws, we see that women are killed with the justification of defending honour and morality, and in the same context, murderers are imprisoned by the courts with the least amount of imprisonment and condemned.
- In this case, in Iranian society, to what extent is this violence and loss of rights if we want to make a comparison between men and women?
Here I must refer to the structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we all know that this structure is deeply patriarchal. In my opinion, all this violence and harassment of women is a kind of political motivation in them. Government officials are looking at this issue from a strategic perspective. Under the pretext of corruption and prostitution, they are trying to bring women back to the corners of their homes. It is true that there is a phenomenon of prostitution in Iran and the age of prostitutes has dropped a lot. I do not want to look at these problems like feminists. On the other hand, the regime is increasingly seeking to force women not to enter society and engage only in housekeeping, childcare, etc., with the deceptive slogan of the sanctity of mothers.
Another issue is the demonstrations and protest rallies of people and women during the month of ABAN(November). In this regard, repressive forces arrested and tortured a number of these women. And they even got TV confessions from them.
These attitudes reflect the thinking of the government towards women and their rights. While the government is constantly claiming corruption and prostitution, it accuses and condemns women libertarians on these false charges.
Another issue is overpopulation and the prevention of abortion and the like.
- 5. Ms. Shabnam, you also mentioned the November protests and the role and influence of women. Can the government stop the women of Iran and Kurdistan from exercising their rights?
We cannot look at this in an absolute way, the government may have been able to defeat the people and women by exercising power and repression in some cases, but the November protests showed that especially women from the active and living class. They are a community. And they continue to fight for their rights. Regarding the role of women in Kurdistan, it is appropriate to say that Kurdish women, despite national oppression, are still active and agile in terms of gender and women’s rights.
- How do you view the mandatory hijab, given that some say that the struggle and activity of women in the centre is different in some ways from the struggle of women in Kurdistan, and that does not matter in big cities! So, can we say that the issue of compulsory hijab is not very important and a priority for the government in Kurdistan, or how the central government has treated Kurdish women in this regard?
I think we need to deal with this a little more sensitively. We should look at the obligatory hijab as one of the most obvious cases of violence and violation of the rights of women and girls, not as the most important case in this regard. Because we see that in some families where the obligatory hijab is not seen, other types of harassment and violence have occurred. In my opinion, the main type of violence against women is to look at them as commodities and to look at them only as sexual instruments to satisfy men. Women are also seen more as housewives. In Iran, too, this kind of patriarchal and discriminatory discourse is seen in abundance in society. Therefore, hijab is not the only form of violation of women’s rights and their main one. Let me give you an example here. In the news, we read that a woman is killed by her husband. A few days ago, we saw her at a wedding without a hijab, and many thought she was a happy woman. But in the case of their murder, we must look deeper, and so it turns out that the obligatory hijab is not the main cause of the killing of women, and we must look at the other roots of this case as well. But that I say is not the main factor should not discourage us from fighting against the obligatory hijab. Rather, this method of struggle must also take place. Women in Iran and Kurdistan face all kinds of violence and harassment from birth to death. Mandatory hijab is one of the obvious examples. In Iranian society, men respect women more because they are women and useful not because of their belief in women’s rights. As I mentioned, the main view about women is instrumental, and they are seen more as a commodity. In this context, it should be noted that Kurdish women should not be misunderstood by comparing images of partisan women without headscarves with women without headscarves in major Iranian cities. The issue of violating women’s rights is deeply rooted in the entire Iranian society. In this case, all women are oppressed. But Kurdish women must also fight national oppression.
If I want to refer to the campaign history of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, I must talk about the period when the party was fighting in Iranian Kurdistan. At that time, the party was trying to fight and eradicate the marriage of children, as well as the runaway of girls and the backward tradition of women to women, given the traditional and religious context of society, to some extent.
- We hear or read a lot about the suicides of women and girls these days. Do you think most of these suicides are in response to sexual violence and the like? I would like you to comment on this.
Yes, this is one of the main reasons. It is also a kind of dissatisfaction with this absolute waste of rights by the Islamic Republic. If I want to give a clear example of this, I can refer to the story called the “blue girl”. The girl, who was interested in football and a fan of one of the teams, will be sentenced in court. Eventually she ended his life as a dissatisfied with this system. Recently, a Revolutionary Guards official raped a woman, but the court defended the rapist and convicted her. Again, this woman becomes a victim and kills herself.
Apart from this type of oppressive courts, the Islamic Republic is constantly trying to impose men in a society in which women and girls are always controlled. Even in this regard, the police and law enforcement forces are officially engaged in enjoining good and forbidding wrong in the streets and public places. Whereas if the government had a modern and advanced law, we would very rarely see such crimes and violence.
- 8. You also have a teaching background, from this perspective, how does the Islamic Republic interfere in the education of students in schools and through Islamic texts and manners and has negative effects?
The Islamic Republic has tried all kinds of ways to violate women’s rights. It is institutionalized in the structure of the system and is taken from the institution of leadership and the president to the executive institutions and so on. In this regard, it is noteworthy that the Revolutionary Guards have been seen in many cases commanding women to do good and forbidding wrong. While officially this is not the duty of this military body. The entire system uses all available capacities, such as schools, the press, Friday prayer speeches, and the through Assembly to narrow the field to women, and the, parliament through which the people and women voted, to become one of the Repressive institutions have been involved in drafting and enforcing oppressive laws against women’s rights.
In the textbooks we see that the place of mother and women is empty and only refers to men, for example, the first lesson that students learn is called “Father gave water, father gave bread.” is. There is no course or text devoted to the role of women. Topics of death, violence, etc also abound in the content of textbooks. Has education made any effort to include the principles of human rights and women in some of its texts and programs? The answer is no. They have been more and more in the effort to brainwash children and teach them religious, backward, and traditional subjects, to tell them the difference between men and women, and to teach them the superiority of men. Thus, we see that the existing system uses its educational capacities to the fullest to implement its traditional and patriarchal ideas, and from an early age student are taught that women are half men and do not have the ability to do many things. As a result, they cannot have equal rights with men. Recently, one of the Friday Imams of a large city addressed the President of Iran (Raeisi) saying that textbooks for girls and boys should be separated and that political content, etc., should be for boys and men, and that content related to women should be about
housekeeping and cooking these things. In the same context, they removed the design on the cover of one of the elementary school math books in which a girl was seen on a tree. According to the regime’s education officials, girls should not be in a higher position than boys. In this regard, I have noted some points about educational discrimination: For example, it is said that out of all the names (3029) used in the books, only 16% are women and the rest are all men. Of the total number of characters, personalities (782) only women are 37 devoted for women. Out of a total of 1170 images of human beings in these texts, only 3.4 % are dedicated to women. Of all the pictures of the famous person (122), only one is of women. From the sum of 1859 gender words, 106 words belongs to women. From this only 6% belong to women, of which the same 6% are all words about mother. To write Persian books in schools, 88 authors have been used, of which 22 are women and the rest are all men. These are the facts and figures of one of the university students, and we clearly see egregious gender discrimination in this area as well.
- What should be the ways to deal with this extreme violence and the violation of women’s rights? In this case, if you have any solutions, please let me know.
The first and most important solution is not to be silent. Another way is to raise the awareness and level of knowledge of women in this field so that they are aware of the changes that occur in society. At the same time, men need to be made aware of women’s rights as much as possible. In this case, women will only fight against the ruling system and will spend their energy and abilities on this kind of struggle. Of course, it goes without saying that the issue of women’s unity will also play a major role in this. In conclusion, it should be noted that no part of the struggle, should be sacrificed to another part of the struggle, and all of them should be used in their place in the struggle.