IRAN: Literary magazine faces charges as Islamic dress controversy for women continues

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Morality police women Iran
In 2011 a modern Iranian woman faces the ‘Morality Police,’ one holding a baton another a walkie-talkie two-way radio transceiver, who themselves are wearing the black chador as they walk the streets of Tehran in search of women in ‘inappropriate dress’. In November 2013 Iran’s President Rouhani relaxed the policy of arresting women because of their dress. Now the issue has been brought back into controversy in Iran through a poem that has caused the Iranian Press Court to press charges against a well loved Iranian literary magazine. Image:

(WNN) Tehran, IRAN, SOUTHERN ASIA: Conservative Islamic dress for women inside Iran is on the plate this month as a long-standing literary magazine, known as “Bukhara,” working out of Iran’s capital city of Tehran, is under Iranian government scrutiny.

Under charges of going against ‘Islamic values’ Iran’s Press Court with the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has charged the journal’s publisher with publishing materials that denigrate what is considered ‘proper modest dress’ for women in Iran, the black chador.

Mr. Ali Dehbashi, publisher, literary scholar and editor for the well-loved journal since it began in 1998, has kept his magazine afloat by focusing on Iranian history and culture, instead of politics, under the days of President Ahmadinejad. He will now be facing court appearance under the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani,  in a legal action that has been described by Iranian activists in the diaspora as ‘Iran’s long history in denial of freedom of the press’.

“Since my youth I have been devoted to respecting and observing Islamic values, and have sought to bring that sensibility to the work published in Bukhara,” outlined Dehbashi in a public statement after the charges were made. “It should be needless to say that I was raised by a veiled, faithful woman and that many women of my own family wear the hejab, and as such, am regretful for what inadvertently and negligently has passed. I extend my apologies to the faithful women readers who comprise part of Bukhara’s readership,” he continued.

The magazine’s material under scrutiny by the Iranian government is a poem written by poet Mr. Mansoor Oji that compares a woman dressed in a black chador to a raven.

“There are many spaces where black is invoked in a way that is abhorrent. If my poem conveys the color black as constricting my heart, it is because of this, not because of the Islamic hejab (headscarf),” said Oji after legal charges were made against Bukhara’s publisher.

Current laws governing the press in Iran are working, as Iran’s constitution itself describes, “to fight against the manifestation of colonial culture,” the culture of the West. The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance Press Affairs office, now headed by Mohammad Jaafar Mohammadzadeh, has been given the authority through the press courts to impose criminal penalties on individuals as well as to order closures of newspapers and periodicals.

“The press have the right to publish the opinions, constructive criticisms, suggestions and explanations of individuals and government officials for public information while duly observing the Islamic teachings and the best interest of the community,” states Article 3 of Iran’s Press Law.

Since taking over the presidency of Iran in June 2013 President Rouhani barred women from being arrested for what is considered by hard-liners as ‘inappropriate dress’ in public. The President did this in an attempt to keep an election promise, but the more relaxed policy may not stay in place as the issue of dress for women in Iran is not completely decided by higher authorities than the office of the presidency.

In early December 2013 two Iran based poets, 28-year-0ld Ms. Fatemeh Ekhtesari and 38-year-old Mr. Mehdi Mousavi were arrested and taken away to Evin Prison. Under a literary culture exchange bringing Fatemeh to Sweden bringing the work of six Iranian poets together with six Swedish poets in a project called, “Resistance At My Writing Desk,” Fatemeh worked to help translate Persian Farsi into Swedish for the project. When she returned from Sweden in this her Facebook page was blocked in Iran. Her blog was also taken down.

As part of the underground post-modern poetry movement inside Iran both Ekhtesari and Mousavi had been under scrutiny in Iran. Today they are considered prisoners of conscience by activists and human rights organizations.

In the first two weeks of January 2014, under the watch of President Rouhani, over 50 people have been executed by authorities. 32-year-old Arab-Iranian poet and human rights activist Hashem Shaabani is also one of those who was executed under a court sentence as ‘an enemy of God’. Shaabani was founder of the Dialogue Institute, an organization in Iran’s Khuzestan Province that promotes the understanding of Arabic culture and literature in Iran.

In 2013 625 people, including 28 women were executed. This is 100 more than the year before, said Ahmed Shaheed, United Nations expert in monitoring human rights in Iran to The New York Times on January 22.


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