Cablegate: Iranian Women's Rights Activists: Challenges And

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1. (SBU) Summary: Embassy Berlin Iran Watcher and Embassy
Warsaw Public Affairs Counselor attended a "Women's
Solidarity for Democracy" conference organized by the
Warsaw-based Permanent Secretariat of the Community of
Democracies. The conference topic was the Iranian civil
rights movement and the Iranian women's rights movement.
Iranian panelists focused on the question of how the West can
help and asked (1) that human rights issues be discussed
along with nuclear issues when the West holds talks with
Iran; (2) for more vocal support for human rights activists
and defenders who have been imprisoned; (3) for more Farsi
language material on Human Rights movements and activism; (4)
for opportunities for activists inside the country to
learn/network from those outside; and (5) for help in telling
Iran's story to the outside world. The panelists also
discussed the particular challenges they faced inside Iran
and talked about the importance of campaigns such as the One
Million Signatures Campaign. End Summary.

2. (U) The September 13 conference, which was open to the
media, was hosted and organized by the City of Warsaw in
partnership with the Warsaw-based Permanent Secretariat of
the Community of Democracies (an intergovernmental
organization of democracies launched in 2000 in Warsaw by the
U.S., Poland, and six other co-founders.) Polish FM Sikorski
made a surprise appearance to introduce politician and writer
Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Sikorski's wife, Washington Post columnist
Anne Applebaum, moderated one of the two panels. Panelists
discussed the role of women in democracy movements and what
the West can do to support the women's and democracy
movements inside Iran. The conference was opened by Hanna
Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw, along with Radville
Morkunite, MP European Parliament (Lithuania); Robert
LaGamma, President of the Council for a Community of
Democracies; and Bronislaw Misztal, Executive Director of the
Permanent Secretariat of the Community of Democracies (Note:
Misztal is a close Sikorski advisor seconded from the Polish
MFA). Former Polish First Lady Jolanta Kwasniewska closed
the conference. Also present were about a dozen Iranian
women, all of whom currently live outside of Iran, and fifty
other guests, mostly Polish with some representation from
Russia, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Lebanon, France, and
Germany. One of Kuwait's first female parliamentarians also

How Can the Outside World Help -- Do Not Forget Neda's Eyes
--------------------------------------------- --------------

3. (U) Fariba Davoodi-Mohajer, a journalist and women's
rights activist who had been imprisoned for her activism and
left Iran for the U.S. about two years ago, began the
discussion panel on what the international community can do
to help support human rights and women's rights activists
inside Iran. She received great applause from the audience
when she asked the West to put human rights on the table when
raising the nuclear question with the Iranian government.
She noted that the goal of the Iranian regime is to keep the
women's movement from getting assistance -- and to keep it
isolated. Any criticism from the movement is seen/spun by
the Iranian government as emanating from Western governments
and not from the Iranian people. She called on the Western
media to tell Iran's story -- especially the story of Iran's
women. Western governments and human rights organizations
should put pressure on the Iranian government by highlighting
and following individual cases of jailed activists.

4. (U) Davoodi-Mohajer suggested the West could help Iranians
by facilitating networks between Iranians inside Iran and
members of the international community working in human
rights/civil society fields. She noted that journalists and
activists are scattered outside the country -- they need
structures to get in touch. She asked for financial
assistance for Iranian women to attend worldwide conferences
-- "without money we simply can't attend, but let us decide
if it's too risky." Women in Iran desperately need access to
Farsi language material on human rights movements/civil
society. She asked for more books to be translated into
Farsi and documents to be made available on the Internet.
She said her colleagues need training in Women's Rights to
combat trafficking in persons and harassment against women.
She suggested setting up Farsi language websites to raise
awareness inside Iran and to provide scholarships and
training for young Iranians who have left Iran so they can
contribute when they return. She called on the international
community to do what it can to improve Internet access in
Iran and to block government filters. She concluded her

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intervention with an emotional appeal to the audience to "not
forget Neda's eyes" -- referring to the young Iranian
demonstrator whose death was filmed and broadcast around the
world via Internet. (Comment: Picking up on this theme,
panel moderator Anne Applebaum later authored an editorial
suggesting that the best way to exert leverage with the
Iranian government, even on nuclear issues, would be to
encourage the democratic opposition and raise the profile of
human rights issues. End Comment.) Davoodi-Mohajer
suggested that President Obama show a photograph of Neda at
press conferences.

5. (U) Mahmonir Rahimi, a journalist from VOA, echoed
Davoodi-Mohajer's comments saying that Iranian women urgently
need a platform to get their voices heard both inside their
country and outside. She noted that Farsi-speaking radio is
great for getting the West's story inside Iran -- but no one
is helping Iranians get their story out. She concluded her
presentation with a personal story about the hardships she
faced in Iran when she was denied a divorce by her abusive
husband. She told of her imprisonment, the loss of custody
of her daughter, and her long struggle to be reunited after
many years of separation, thanks largely to the courageous
work of Mehraghiz Kar and Shadi Sadr (Iranian Human Rights
defenders -- both currently living outside of the country for
fear of persecution).

What Can NGOs Do - What Are Irish NGOs Already Doing...
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (U) Mary Lawlor, Director of Front Line, an Irish NGO
working to protect Human Rights activists around the globe
gave a detailed presentation of her organization's efforts in
Iran. Front Line researches international activists' efforts
and lobbies in Brussels and at the UN especially to encourage
countries to take "urgent action" for pressing cases. In
Iran, Front Line has a staff member who is trained to help
send activists to safe-havens should the need arise. They
also translate documents into Farsi about how to save
electronic documents safely and navigate the internet without
being traced. They issue small grants for safety/security
upgrades to facilities and for stress management counseling.
Lawlor said Front Line had already completed 70 emergency
re-locations this year (Note. It was not clear from her
remarks if these were 70 relocations from Iran or globally.
End Note.)

Women in Democracy Movements: Challenges, Opportunities
--------------------------------------------- ----------

7. (U) Maryam Hosseinkhah, an Iranian journalist and member
of the Women's Cultural Center in Iran, who had to leave Iran
after the elections and is currently living in Malaysia,
spoke about the challenges and opportunities facing Iranian
women. She spoke about her role in the One Million
Signatures Campaign and her experiences in prison. She said
the Campaign raised awareness of discriminatory laws and
explained what individuals can do about it. While she was in
Iran she and her fellow activists took their petitions
everywhere; at her wedding she asked guests for signatures in
lieu of gifts. She explained that her colleagues became
subjects of discrimination within their families for such
actions but that they persevered because they felt their
actions helped to connect them to a global society.
Hosseinkhah called on the West to shine spotlights on human
rights abuse cases, especially on those who have been
unjustly jailed. She said that when her prison interrogator
let slip that thousands of people had signed a petition
calling for her release, it gave her the strength to make it
through the ordeal.

8. (SBU) Comment: The conference, organized by the Permanent
Secretariat of the Community of Democracies (CD) with strong
support from FM Sikorski, is part of a Permanent Secretariat
effort to raise the CD's profile and to transform it from a
talk shop into an action-oriented body. Permanent
Secretariat Executive Director Misztal hopes to use next
year's 10th anniversary of the Warsaw Declaration to
"re-launch" the CD. Misztal is also optimistic that the new
Lithuanian Presidency will re-energize the Community of

9. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Berlin.

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