By Connor J. Wangler
Many in the West may find it difficult to think of humanitarian groups finding Iran a suitable home. This thinking, however, reflects the “human distance” between our two cultures. One of the many non-government organizations operating in the Islamic Republic is the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation. The foundation, established in 2004, focuses on empowering young women in Iran who suffer from “abuse, neglect, and disadvantage.” Many of the women and girls who come to the Tehran-based center suffer from mental trauma caused by sexual abuse and exposure to drugs. The Omid center in Tehran began with one location supporting fifteen girls but now operates two locations support 200 young girls and women.
One of the young women the center helps to support is Ladan. When she was just nine years old, her mother and brothers began forcing Ladan into sexual relations with other men in order to support their drug addictions. This often included her own brothers forcibly raping Ladan. After being married off at the age of 15, authorities became aware of the situation. One would expect this to be a ray of hope and justice for Ladan; however, Ladan was charged with committing incest and sentenced to death. Fortunately, Omid-e-Mehr was there for Ladan and persuaded the judge to turn her over to the center’s care. Ladan now works for center-associated projects and has even completed her eighth grade education certificate.
The foundation, in order to increase fundraising efforts, has created two associated foundations in the United States and the United Kingdom. Omid Foundation USA was founded in 2008 and is responsible for increasing awareness of Iranian Women’s issues in the United States and serving as a fundraising hub for the foundation. Omid Foundation UK was founded in 2006 and operates the foundation’s awareness and fundraising campaign throughout the rest of the world. One of the foundation’s proudest, and most successful, efforts has been the 2008 production The Glass House, a documentary detailing the foundation’s efforts and the problems facing women in Iran. CNN recently detailed the documentary in a piece by Asieh Namdar:
One way the work of the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation, and other NGOs, has made an impact is in depictions of violence in Iranian television and film. In August 2011 the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) issued an order “forbidding all domestic networks from screening brutal violence scenes.” According to the Tehran Times, many social analysts have warned the government of the increase of domestic violence in the country.
To learn more about how to get involved with the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation, visit the “How To Get Involved” section of their website.