“Structures that are difficult to change”

2011/03/09

English translation of an interview with Iranian women’s rights activists Parvin Ardalan, published in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet on Tuesday, 8 March 2011.
Source (Swedish): http://www.svd.se/nyheter/inrikes/strukturer-svara-att-forandra_5991247.svd
English translation kindly provided by Anusche Noring

43-year-old Parvin Ardalan, the Swedish city of Malmö’s current Guest Writer under the Cities of Refuge scheme, is threatened with imprisonment in her home country of Iran for her activities that include fighting for women’s rights.

8 MARCH | Parvin Ardalan, a resident of Malmö and a leading figure of the Iranian women’s movement

Today, women in countries such as Egypt, Iran and Lebanon are going out to protest. Their demand is to be able to move around freely in the streets and public places. Women in these countries are aware of their rights, says Parvin Ardalan, a resident of Malmö and a leading figure of the Iranian women’s movement.

The uprisings in Northern Africa and the Middle East have an inspiring effect. On the eve of International Women’s Day, young feminists in countries such as Egypt, Iran and Lebanon launched a call on the Internet to draw attention to the situation of women. Today, they intend to take to the streets.

“Women in these countries are becoming more and more aware of their rights, they know that these are universal rights and they need to start demanding them, says Parvin Ardalan, journalist and writer and one of the leading figures of the Iranian women’s movement.

For almost a year now, she has been living in Malmö as the city’s Guest Writer under the Cities of Refuge scheme, and she plays an active part in the struggle for women’s rights in the Middle East. In 2007, she was awarded the Olof Palme Prize for her work.

What is the most urgent issue for women in the Middle East?

“Domestic violence and violence against women in public environments is a huge problem. The power structures in many countries of the Middle East are extremely patriarchal, and we need to change that”, Parvin Ardalan states.

In order to be able to do that she believes that women need to participate actively in the process of democratisation – and push for anti-discriminatory legislation at a very early stage. At the same time, Parvin Ardalan thinks it is important to ensure that the image of women changes and that gender issues are given a greater role.

What does the future of women in the Middle East and North Africa look like?

“The voices that are being raised in favour of democracy are neither islamist nor fundamentalist. They are about basic human and social rights, and they apply to women too. People are now willing to change their society. But the problem is that many countries have had dictatorships for a long time and structures can be difficult to change. The most important thing is that we must not go back to the old system.

Original article written by Karin Eurenius and published in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet on 8 March 2011.

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