Third Year Anniversary of the Campaign
Focus on the Campaigner: Aida Saadat
Interview by: Sussan Tahmasebi
Friday 4 September 2009
Aida Saadat, 35, has been a civil society activist since 1997. In the beginning, her activism concentrated on children’s laws and journalism and now she is considered a human rights and women rights activists who writes for the Campaign’s website – Change for Equality.
Three years have passed since the start of the Campaign, how would you asses the accomplishments of the campaign over the past three years?
The One Million Signature Campaign has experienced three bittersweet years. Although these three years involved unpleasant clashes with the State, in parallel it brought hope for change. In these three years, we [the volunteers] grew along with the Campaign and we also gained valuable experiences. We at the Campaign learned not to shiver in fear when facing harsh encounters and continue to pursue our requests through peaceful methods. We learned to dream of a better future and in difficult times, use innovative techniques for communicating our rightful requests. Through the Campaign, we learned to enter in two way conversations with the general public and to document both our experiences and theirs. We learned at the Campaign that changing the anti-women culture and law, even in the midst of pressure from security forces, is possible.
Three years of experience and activism in the Campaign taught all of us that through simple yet effective methods, we can inject the maximum amount of capacity and capabilities in to our civil action. Without a doubt, if this movement had not met with such resistance by security forces, by the time of its third anniversary, it would have achieved many of its goals. However although these pressures slowed down the process, they resulted in new methods and more innovation. The Campaign, in these three years, has stepped out of the closed circle of traditional civil activism in the women’s movement, and with reliance on educating the public on the discriminatory laws; it has communicated it’s demand for change with the public.
The legitimacy and its non-hierarchical nature have placed the campaign at the center of the attention of the women’s movement around the world. In addition, its effective method of networking and group decision making has made the campaign a model for replication by other social and political efforts.
What do you foresee for the future of the Campaign? Do you feel that it can or should continue along its path?
The simple and transparent requests of the campaign and its deep roots in the heart of the people, has changed the view of the general public in regards to civil activism in the area of gender inequality and the quest for equality under the law and within our cultural beliefs. The Campaign is no longer a group, rather it is an effective network that has grown beyond geographical boundaries and its motion will not stop until gender inequality is realized in our society. It will be naïve to think that by collecting one million signatures, we can remove all forms of gender inequality from society but through the Campaign and through the exchange of ideas between social activists and the general public, we have implanted a seed in society, which will bear fruit in a not so distant future.
How do you view the impact of the developments in the larger social and political context on the Campaign?
The loyalty of Campaign members to the path they have chosen, has influenced political groups and activists as well as people in power, with respect to the Campaign’s demands for equality. Even those who generally had different thought processes and political views from the Campaign, decided to use the Campaign’s demands as part of their programs in order to attract the public’s attention and this itself is considered a major accomplishment for the Campaign. The simplest examples of this fact are the programs presented by the recent presidential candidates, who proposed changes to discriminatory laws in their election platforms. .
During the presidential races and in election meetings and street rallies, the campaign activists and other women’s rights activists and groups tried to convey their message and communicate their demands to the candidates through a variety of methods. Equality activists involved in the Campaign and in women’s rights, were involved in post election protests and paid a price as a result of clashes with the public. Some were arrested and interrogated.
The civil and political climate of Iran following the elections has seriously changed. It appears that, civil activists in the near future will pay an extra and heavier cost for their social activism. However in our normal day-to-day life, demands that led to the creation of the Campaign are still in existence. The Campaign is capable of recreating itself in the midst of these circumstances and will continue its path in a new format.
What has been your motivation for involvement in the Campaign?
The difficulties of being a woman in Iranian society, forces women to open their eyes to the truth and reach a minimum level of understanding with respect to the circumstances, and in turn work to the level in their capacity to change and improve the situation. In so doing they continuously search for effective and appropriate methods to fight discriminatory laws and to change cultural beliefs.
The demands that Campaign has expressed, are demands which have been a part of Iranian society for years. The coming together of the women’s rights activists from different backgrounds and schools of thought to push forth the demands of the Campaign resulted in the creation of a wave around the demand for equality. Before the Campaign was formed, we discussed the issues and topics related to the women in a much smaller circles. On the one hand, the Campaign served as the point of convergence between these demands and the public, and on the other hand, it served as the venue for collaborative efforts of various public and political activists, as well as an effective step that made the struggle for achieving equality in the law more possible. As such joining the Campaign for me was equivalent to taking an effective step toward achieving my visions. Being in the presence of other civil activists has increased my motivation and capabilities and has fueled my will so as to continue on this path—so much so that the Campaign has become an important part of my life.
Given all the pressures on Campaign activists, what have you given up during your involvement in this effort and what do feel is the most important contribution the Campaign has made to your life?
Activism for Campaign members such as me, in the past three years, has had its ups and downs. The Campaign activists have continuously been willing to pay the price imposed or their involvement this effort. Even when they are arrested their time in prison has been spent in trying to improve the conditions for female prisoners. Activists have also used the opportunity to begin a discussion on the Campaign’s demands inside prison. Many campaign members have gone to prison during the past three years and the fact that they face pending court cases and severe interrogations has created difficult circumstances for them. For many activists such as me involvement in the Campaign has led to loss of employment and financial instability. The living condition under the current security measures is difficult but strong motivation and the cooperation of other campaign members has helped ease the pain and allows me to stay loyal to my core values.
Translation: Translation Group of the Campaign in Southern California