Iranian woman looks to flee after years of battling regime
March 12, 2008
Malekzadeh wanted to test
came from the Interior Ministry, formally disqualifying her for failing
small, one-bedroom apartment in central
exhausted from years of run-ins with the authorities, Malekzadeh, 38,
says her vocal stance on women's issues in
lost almost everything," she says. "My job, my future,
everything," the medical nurse adds.
can't do anything in this country. The government tells us how to dress,
whether we can see boys and what we can say ... I want to go to Canada
where I can have freedom."
lecturer and author with a Masters degree in medicine now spends her
days reading and pleading her case for asylum.
not a criminal," she says, sipping tea. "It is my choice
whether I want to wear a chador."
per cent of
for Malekzadeh, however, the Iranian government did tell her how to
dress – and refusing to listen cost her a chance to run for political
a letter from the Interior Ministry disqualifying her from standing for
office for failing to adhere to
story is not unique. As
Up for grabs
are 290 seats in the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, in an election many
see as a referendum on the hard-line administration of Mahmoud
100 political parties are registered in
are frustrated with the system ... There really isn't much choice in
this election," says a professor at
don't have faith in either the reformists or the conservatives.
one hand, you have conservatives who are completely paranoid of anything
or anyone they deem un-Islamic.
other hand, you have reformers who are often dishonest and unwilling or
unable to make change . .. . If you are a true reformer, generally
speaking, you are kept from political office and can even be
says her open criticisms of the government have landed her in prison.
Being banned from the 2008 elections was the final straw, and she says
she is trying to leave
major run-in with authorities was in 2004 when she published an article
on women's rights in a reformist newspaper. The article argued that
women deserve equal status in
slapped with a 15-day prison sentence and says she was beaten while in
kicked me in the head until I passed out. I had to be hospitalised for
head injuries and a broken nose," she says.
later, she was jailed again for an article on women's rights, and one
exposing drug problems in
says even though she is out of jail, being labelled a dissident has
destroyed her career and hurt her family.
government orders, her university fired her from her lecturing job, and
she has been forced to give up her house and move in with her sons in a
in medicine and her strong track record as a lecturer at one of
the authorities are against you in this country – they can take
everything," she says, showing two books she published on medicine.
ordered me not to go to the campus again – so I can't work anymore. My
son was also kicked out of high school because of me – they are
hitting me from all sides."
job or political future, Malekzadeh has applied for refugee status in
application is currently being reviewed by the embassy.
elections only days away, many Iranians are often eager to express
similar frustrations, but unlike Malekzadeh, they usually refuse to give
their full names.
are a joke," says Ali of the elections, standing with his
government has hand-picked the candidates and wants to put on a show for
the world – it is a joke. Believe me – if these elections were free
and fair, the hard-liners wouldn't even get 20 per cent of the
expressing their discontent through mainstream political lines, many
young people say they simply disobey the conservative Islamic laws in
secret and with the help of modern technology.
McLeod is a Canadian freelance journalist.
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