a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Notes from Iran

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 9th, 2003

Via the quietly incredible “Notes from an Iranian Girl,” I learn that the “Iranmania” news site reported on March 1 that Afghan repatriation from Iran nears 400,000:

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced that the number of Afghans who have returned to their homeland from Iran is approaching the 400,000 mark, IRNA quoted the press here on Saturday. The Persian-language daily `Aftab-E Yazd’ quoted the agency’s spokeswoman Laura O’Mahony as saying that 395,752 Afghans had voluntarily returned home since a UNHCR joint program with Tehran to the effect began on April 9, 2002.[…]

Iranian officials have put the number of Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic at two million, saying all will be repatriated in the next three years. […]

Since August 28 last year, Iranian police have been dealing with those Afghans who lack proper papers for residence following an Interior Ministry announcement that Afghan nationals who continue staying in the country after the deadline for voluntary repatriation are no longer subject to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees.

I’m not sure what to make of that last part, and therefore of the story as a whole; “deadline for voluntary repatriation” sort of seems like a contradiction in terms. UNHCR reports like this one make clear that many of the refugees pre-date “Operation Enduring Freedom” and 9/11. On the whole, given fairly upbeat current UNHCR reports on the matter, I’m hopeful this is the good thing the headline makes it appear to be. For her part, “Iranian girl” writes:

I believe that It’s better for both Iranians & afghans, because afghans were not really in comfort & most of them had to work very hard with a little money & also many Iranians were not satisfied that they were here…anyway, today we Iranians that before this though [ed.: thought of] Afghans as poor refugees should envy that they’ll have a nice & free land…

From various entries, I gather that “Iranian girl” lives somewhere in Tehran. Just fascinating stuff: demonstrations in Tehran, photos of women weavers from Northern Iran, lots of links to blogs by Iranians in English, including “Editor: Myself,” by Hossein Derakhshan, whose Farsi log appears to get a lot of traffic.

The photo gallery of weavers, by the way, was via the “womeniniran” web site, where the news includes “Death sentence by stoning will be suspended,” and “Unfolding of an underground abortion center in Tehran“:

After being released from the hospital, Niloufar — the last person to get an abortion — told the judge, “My husband likes to have a son and had told me that my first child should be a boy like the other brides of the family. After sonography when I found out that my child is a girl I didn’t know what to do. I was introduced to Roya by one of my friends and she asked for 300,000 tomans (500 dollar CND) for the abortion.”

An extensive search has begun to find the remaining two members of this band. The judge told our reporter, “These abortion places lack any medical equipment and sometimes women lose their lives at these centers after abortion or they are infected by HIV viruses.”

Worth remembering: when you don’t have legal abortions, this is what you will definitely get. And this is what women’s rights really means in practical terms elsewhere in the world: the freedom to choose, the freedom not to get stoned, the respect not to be considered a second-class child. “Iranian girl” seems like the kind of young woman who will help see to her own rights in the years to come. Good luck to her; you can follow her via a new blog link in my ever-growing collection — or via Moira Breen’s blog “inappropriate response,” where I first noticed her.

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