Panelists at last week's press conference discuss Iran's Family Protection Bill.
From left: Ann Harrison, Amnesty International; Rouhi Shafii, International
Coalition Against Violence in Iran; Roya Kashefi, Association des Chercheurs
Iraniens; and journalist Masih Alinejad.
The Iranian government calls it the Family Protection Bill, but activists call it the “Anti-Family Protection Bill.”
It would give men the right to take a second wife without the permission of the first, and it would enshrine a man’s right to have an unlimited number of temporary marriages, which can last from 10 minutes to 99 years. Those arrangements come from Shariah law and have always existed in Iran, but the Family Protection Bill would make them official.
Two groups -- the International Coalition Against Violence in Iran, and the Association of Iranian Researchers -- arranged a press conference in London last week to raise awareness of the issue. Amid the upheaval in Iran right now -- the hardship associated with sanctions, and the political strife -- they question why such a law, which has been winding its way through Iran’s government for several years, even needs to be on the table.
Women opposed to the articles in the bill that pertain to polygamy went on a brave and creative odyssey more than a year ago to confront it, traveling around Iran to talk to women whose lives have been adversely affected by their husbands taking second wives.
The women wrote their stories on pieces of cloth; if they were illiterate, they had someone else write them down. Then they sewed the pieces together into a quilt.
The quilt is still in Iran, but a digital image was smuggled out.
“Most of the stories are from around Iran, not from Tehran. They are sad stories,” said Rouhi Shafii of the International Coalition Against Violence in Iran.
Here is a translation of one of the stories:
“A few years after my marriage, my husband started telling me, jokingly, that I looked like an old woman. I was five years younger than he. He began beating me and broke my hands several times. When he talked of taking up another wife, I took it as a joke. He wouldn’t do that, I thought. We have two children. But one day he married a young girl and wanted to get a two story building to bring his bride to live with us. I made him swear on the Koran not to do that, and he took his child bride elsewhere. He forgot about us and spent all his earning enjoying his bride. I was providing for the children by working at people’s homes or hairdressing salons. My younger son says: ‘when I grow up, I will kill my dad.’”
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