Iranian headscarf campaigner calls for vote boycott
Anti-headscarf campaigner Shaparak Shajarizadeh once believed in the potential for change in Iran but is now so despondent she is calling for a boycott of Friday’s parliamentary elections in the Islamic Republic.
Shajarizadeh became a dissident in 2018 when she was arrested for repeatedly removing her headscarf in public and waving it on the end of a stick, as part of a women’s rights protest that caused a social media storm.
“The Iranian people lost their hopes... I was among those who had some hopes. But now it is like choosing between bad and worse,” the 44-year-old women’s rights campaigner told AFP in Geneva, where she was attending an annual conference for human rights activists.
Shajarizadeh said the supposed political choice in Iran between reformist and conservative politicians was like picking between “two faces of the same coin”.
Thousands of reformist and moderate candidates are in any case being barred from contesting the elections -- something that critics say could turn the vote into a choice between conservatives and ultra-conservatives.
Iranians “lost their hopes,” particularly after a bloody crackdown last year on fuel-price protests, she said.
Shajarizadeh calls President Hassan Rohani, who was first elected in 2013 and again in 2017 and was once seen as a possible force for change, a “so-called reformer”.
Escape on foot
The protest movement against Iran’s Islamic dress code began when in December 2017 when a woman, Vida Mohavedi, stood on a pillar box on Enghelab Avenue in Tehran without the mandatory long coat and raised her veil on a stick.
Enghelab means revolution in Farsi and the square and avenue are among the busiest areas in the capital.
Movahedi’s move sparked similar protests by other women like Shajarizadeh and they soon won recognition as “Dokhtaran-e enghelab”, or the Girls of Revolution Street.
“Young women are back in the streets,” she said -- a reference to other demonstrations in recent years which have seen women taking a leading role.
During her visit to Geneva, Shajarizadeh received a prize for her defence of women’s rights in Iran but she talks about herself as an ordinary person whose life changed completely when she decided to join the protest.
She was arrested three times and beaten for her defiance.
She decided to run away, crossing the mountains into Turkey on foot with her head covered to avoid detection.
She now lives in Toronto in Canada with her husband and their 11-year-old son, from where she is still campaigning against the obligation of wearing the hijab.
The BBC has listed her as one of the world’s most influential women and she has written a book about her story with Canadian journalist Rima Elkouri.
Her lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, is a leading women’s rights campaigner in her own right and is currently in prison.
Shajarizadeh said “targeted sanctions” on the government could help change the situation in Iran but these should be designed “not to put more difficulties on the people”.
Ultimately she thinks the best agents of change are civil society movements like her own and the “real heroes” are the women who decide to show their hair in public.
A scorching heat wave, the worst in six decades, sweeping China has dried up rivers and reservoirs, threatened crop yields and forced industries to shut down and ration electricity. One of the regions hit badly by the heat wave is China's southwestern Sichuan province, which has shut down factories for six days to ease a crippling power shortage.
Liz Truss led Rishi Sunak by 32 points in the latest survey of UK Tory members by the ConservativeHome website, suggesting she remains on track to win the race to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister. Some 60% of the 961 Tory members polled by the influential website said they favored Truss to become the Conservative Party's new leader, while just 28% backed Sunak, ConservativeHome said on Wednesday.
Having made significant investments in the conflict-prone Pakistan-Afghanistan region as part of its hugely ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, China is planning to protect its interests in the two countries by stationing its own forces in specially created outposts, according to top diplomatic sources. Pakistan, where according to some estimates the Chinese investments have risen above USD 60 billion, is largely dependent on China not only for financial but also military and diplomatic support.
Cheney will now be forced from Congress at the end of her third and final term in January. Far, US President Donald Trump's has helped install loyalists who parrot his conspiracy theories in general election matchups from Pennsylvania to Arizona. With Cheney's loss, Republicans who voted to impeach Trump are going extinct. Democrats across America, major donors among them, took notice. Trump earned nearly 70% of the vote in 2016 and 2020.
Former US president Donald Trump on Wednesday said that the department of justice and the FBI returned his passports seized during the raid at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida last week. Trump said on Tuesday in a statement in a Truth Social post. On Monday, he alleged that the federal law enforcement agency “stole” three passports, one of which he said was expired.