Tag Archives: Iran

Typified by Oppression, Women in Iran Fight for Essential Rights

By Connor J. Wangler
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Source: TheGuardian.com

As in many countries where Islamic Sharia Law reigns supreme, the rights of women are often starkly different compared to those typified within Western culture. Iran is perhaps one of the most oppressive governments when it comes to women’s and girls’ rights as it is one of the most adherent law systems when it comes to Islamic law.

One area that seems to be a beacon of hope for women in the Islamic Republic, however, is in women’s education. According to Nayereh Tohidi, more than half of the university students in Iran are female, making up at least 70% of those studying engineering and science. Some fundamental conservatives in Iran argue that this will lead to a disparity in education and economic imbalances between men and women. This view hasn’t stopped several universities from encouraging the education of women by creating Women’s Studies programs that go up to the Masters Degree level.

Here is an interesting piece by FreeMiddleEast regarding what they call Iran’s “Gender Apartheid.”

Despite this prospect of advancement in education, women still suffer greatly in their inequality with men when it comes it several areas. One of these areas is female participation in sports. The “Bad Hijab” law, outlawing the exposure of any part of the body other than hands and face, has made it very difficult for Iranian women to participate in the full range of sports. This often leads Iran’s international representation in sporting events, such as the Olympics, to be dominated by men.

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Source: Change for Equality

Even the fight for women’s rights is vilified by conservatives within the country as anti-Islamic and, therefore, morally reprehensible. The “One Million Signatures” campaign is an effort to end discrimination of women in Iranian laws by collecting one million petition signatures. One such law the campaign focuses on is one that gives greater value to male legal testimony over the testimonies of females. The female leaders of this campaign, unfortunately, have been attacked and, often, arrested. Several leaders of the campaign were arrested for allegedly contributing to banned websites.

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Iran Tackles Pollution in the Caspian Sea

By Connor J. Wangler
caspian-sea
Source: http://www.anthropower.com

The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest enclosed body of water, often referred to as the world’s largest lake. It is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Iran. It is also the focus of one of the latest international entanglements that the Islamic Republic finds itself caught up in.

“Over the last two decades, the Caspian has become increasingly exposed to the risk of pollution…” a statement from the UN Information Center says according to Payvand News. Speaking to Payvand News, Reza Pourgholam, the head of the Caspian Sea Ecological Research Institute, claimed that the pollution levels in the Caspian Sea had reached a critical level. According to Pourgholam, ninety-five percent of the pollution comes from Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.

This is why Abdol-Reza Karbasi, Deputy Head of Iran’s Environmental Protection in Marine Environment, said that Tehran would be lodging a complaint in international courts against Azerbaijan. Discussing the matter with the Tehran Times, Karbasi said that a large source of the pollution is the Azeri oil platforms operated by British Petroleum (BP). Iran claims that BP has been dumping oil waste into the Sea for many years and that in the last four months of 2012, twenty-five tons of it were removed from Iranian coasts.

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Source: http://www.PressTV.com

The Islamic Republic, however, is not entirely absolved of blame in this problem. According to a piece done by Payvand News,  Iran is responsible for at least five percent of pollution into the Caspian Sea. Most of this comes from agricultural waste, such as fertilizers and pesticides, running off from coastal agriculture projects.

Here is a piece done by the BBC regarding Iranian contributions to the Caspian pollution problem:

Iranian sewage adds to Caspian Sea pollution

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Source: National Geoscience Database of IRAN

The people tasked with trying to fix this problem, Iran’s Department of Environment, are aware of its severity. Unfortunately, their efforts are fairly recent and their operating budgets are extremely small. One project that the government feels has been quite successful is aimed towards children. The Department of Environment created a series of children’s DVDs aimed at teaching the effects of pollution. Said Fadgepor, an Iranian environmental official speaking to NPR, says the best way to teach adults is to start with their kids.

Another project developed that will help with this issue of water pollution is the Joint Iran-United Nations Environment Programme/Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNEP/OCHA) Environment Unit. This unit is working towards creating a Iranian Environmental Emergencies Centre. The Centre would respond to all kinds of environmental disasters, from natural disasters to manmade emergencies. In this specific instance, it would respond to increasingly dangerous amounts of pollution in the Caspian Sea by directing greater resources from national and international entities to the region.

Challenging U.S. Hegemony: Tehran Stands Defiant

By Connor J. Wangler

Ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has acted as a thorn in the foot of the Western world. It would seem like the main goal of Iranian leaders is to stand in defiance of everything the United States and its allies want to do, especially when it comes to the Middle East. Many claim that the United States has hit a peak in its global power. Is its relationship with the Islamic Republic representative of this? The Iranians, and several others, would like to think so. Source: Zakaria, The Post-American World, pg. 31

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Mohammad Khazaee, Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations, and Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General. Source: http://iran-un.org

Iran is a member of several international organizations that allows its anti-U.S. stance to be presented on the world stage. It was a founding member of the United Nations in 1945, a founding member of OPEC in 1961, and it joined the Non-Aligned Movement in 1979. It often uses its membership in these organizations to disrupt the plans of the U.S. and Israel, the U.S.’s main ally in the region. 

One such example of this is the situation in Syria. Speaking to Iranian FARS News Agency, Expediency Council Chairman and former President Akbar Rafsanjani said, “Support for Syria and Lebanon should continue since these countries are in the forefront of resistance against Israel.” He then went on to blame the United States for the recent chemical attacks inside Syria. Iran has urged its allies in the UN Security Council, Russia and China, to veto any resolution calling for action against Syria.

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Source: http://www.ngoilgasmena.com

Another interesting aspect of Tehran’s defiance towards Washington is the Iranian economy. Despite many years of crippling sanctions place on Iran due to its nuclear program, Iran’s leaders haven’t budged on their energy policies, much to the U.S.’s annoyance. In fact, the Iranian Ambassador to Germany was recently quoted by the Tehran Times as saying, “sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear energy program have failed to achieve their objectives and have rather led Iran to self-sufficiency in oil and gas sectors.” Despite its rhetoric, Iranian oil production and exports have been severely damaged by the sanctions, while U.S. oil production has increased (Source: Bloomberg News).

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Source: http://www.theguardian.com

From a Western perspective, Iran’s identity is one of extreme anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism. As discussed by Manfred Steger, many Westerners associate extremist Islam to be leading a fight against “Westernized” lifestyles. For Iran, this is incredibly accurate; part of the cause of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in the 1970s was western influences in Iranian, and specifically Islamic Iranian, life. Source: Steger, Globalization, pg. 126-130

However, in order to offer a more accurate depiction of Iran’s identity, one must delve into its regional power status. As one of the strongest and most populous countries in the middle east, Iran has immense geopolitical power. There is little in the region that goes on without somehow being affected by Iranian interests.

Below is an interesting piece by RussiaToday regarding Iran’s latest push against the U.S., saying that if Damascus comes under attack, it could lead to an all-out war in the region:

All-Out War? Iran vows ‘immediate destruction’ of Israel if Syria attacked

Islamic Republic of Iran

By Connor J. Wangler

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The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded on April 1, 1979 after the Islamic Revolution ousted the government of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iran stands on the frontier of the Middle East serving as an agglomeration of Middle Eastern and Central Asian cultures. It has one of the largest populations in the Middle East at approximately 80 million people.

The Islamic Republic is led by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei. The President, who leads the country’s domestic and foreign policy, is ultimately responsible to the Supreme Leader and the Assembly of Experts, who elects the Supreme Leader. The current President of Iran is Hassan Rouhani.

(Source: CIA World Factbook)

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Assuming office on August 3, 2013, President Rouhani is being forced to deal with the many effects of the many international sanctions placed on Iran because of its nuclear program. According to Iranian FARS News Agency, the West and its allies accuse the country of trying to build nuclear weapons instead of developing a civilian nuclear energy program. Iran is currently subject to four rounds of sanctions by the UN Security Council for turning down the West’s call to give up its program.

According to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, “These sanctions put people under pressure, but they will not force a change in foreign policy.” However, recognizing the economic strain placed on the Iranian people, the new administration has pledged to do its best to have the embargoes lifted without altering its nuclear policy.

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Official portrait of President Rouhani

Speaking to the Tehran Times, President Rouhani discussed his appointment of Reza Najafi as the new envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). He will lead nuclear program negotiations with the U.N. and other international organizations. These talks are aimed at creating a structured approach document to resolve issues with Iran’s nuclear program, particularly the Parchin military site, which the West suspects of being used to build nuclear weapons. Little progress on this document has been made, however.

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Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran

According to Euronews, however, everyday Iranians care little about the country’s nuclear program. They are, instead, concerned about President Rouhani improving the economy, which has been severely damaged by the effects of the international sanctions.

Below is a piece by Al Jazeera that details the issues that were most pressing during the recent Iranian presidential elections, most notably the sanctions’ effect on the Iranian economy.

Inside Story: Choosing Iran’s Next President