Among the participants: Pari Esfandiari of IranDokht.com, a web site that describes itself as “an online media platform that connects the global community to Iranian women”; Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of Iran’s parliament (2000-2004); Nayereh Tohidi, a Cal State professor; Norma Moruzzi, a professor from the University of Illinois, Chicago; and Jaleh Lackner-Gohari, from Vienna, a physician, activist, and vice president of innerChange Associates.
The moderator was Haleh Esfandiari of the Wilson Center, whose 2007 arrest in Iran made headlines around the world. So strong is the women’s movement that a web site linked to Iran’s intelligence ministry has begun referring to “woman commandos” in describing post-election protests, according to Haleh Esfandiari, who added that there are reports that Zahra Rahnavard, Mir Hossein Mousavi’s well-known activist wife, is the leading voice behind the scenes urging Mousavi not to accede to pressure to halt his campaign against the election results. (So well known is Zahra Rahnavard that, when Mousavi became prime minister in the 1980s it was said in Iran that “Rahnavard’s husband was named prime minister.”)
The panel answered a lot of questions about the role of women in Iran today — and left some questions hanging.
Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, who quit her term in parliament in 2004 to protest against the Guardian Council’s peremptory banning of hundreds of political candidates — including not less than 80 members of parliament! — in that year’s election, described women in Iran as being on the “front lines” of the Green Movement and the election battles. Often, she said, they protected men from being beaten in the streets, and they formed ad hoc groups such as Mothers in Mourning or Peace Mothers to demonstrate at places like Evin Prison, where many protestors are being held.