Monthly Archives: October 2011

Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr ‘released’

Article copied from BBC News

An Iranian actress who was sentenced to a year in prison and 90 lashes has been released after three months in custody, according to Amnesty International.

Marzieh Vafamehr was detained for appearing in 2009 Australian film My Tehran For Sale, about an actress whose stage work is banned.

Amnesty said the flogging had been overturned and her sentence commuted.

The charity said it was “deeply worrying” that other Iranian film-makers were still in prison.

According to Amsterdam-based Persian language station Radio Zamaneh, Vafamehr was released without bail.

In My Tehran For Sale, which is banned in Iran, she appeared in scenes without a hijab headscarf.

The film, which premiered at the 2009 Adelaide Film Festival, was never intended for release in Iran but is believed to have found its way onto the black market.

Last week, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences led Hollywood industry organisations in calling for the release of jailed Iranian film-makers – including Ms Vafamehr.

According to Amnesty, independent documentary makers Katayoun Shahabi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb remain in prison after they were arrested in September.

House arrest

Producer Shahabi is accused of providing foreign broadcasters, including BBC Persian TV, with material deemed damaging to Iran. Mirtahmasb was jailed after making the documentary This is Not a Film about the life of banned film director Ja’far Panahi.

Film director Mehran Zinatbakhsh is also believed to be being held in Evin Prison. It is not clear what charges he faces.

A fortnight ago, Panahi – a vocal critic of Iran’s strict Islamic law and government system – lost an appeal against a six-year prison sentence.

He was convicted in December for trying to make a documentary about unrest following the disputed 2009 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He has not yet been imprisoned and remains under house arrest.

Fellow Iranian director, Mohammad Rasoulof, was also sentenced to six years imprisonment in a separate case and also remains under house arrest.

Broadcasts from BBC Persian TV have been jammed in Iran amid criticisms of the BBC by the country’s government.

More on The story:

Academy calls for Iran release
Iranian actress faces 90 lashes
Cannes to honor jailed Iranians

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Maid In Egypt

The pray call at the crack of dawn echoing from the next door mosque didn’t wake Abeer from her deep sleep. Yet, the yelling of her mistress shortly after did. It was her daily wake up call. The eleven years old girl jolted on the thin blanket and quickly pulled her skinny body off the kitchen floor where she slept in fear that her mistress would kick her until it hurts. Hardly able to open her eyes, Abeer dragged her fatigued feet to the sink to splash her face with water. She wasn’t much taller than the counter and hardly reached the faucet. To wash the dishes she stood on a stool. Abeer worked for eighteen hours every day, seven days a week and her frail body was already giving up on her. She ironed, mopped  and ran the household errands. and worked in silence. Any complaint would expose her to physical or verbal abuse, depending on the mood of her mistress.

Abeer’s story is not unique. Her unemployed father refused to pay her school fees. When she was expelled he forced her to follow her mother’s career as a house maid, to support him. It is quite common for millions of Egyptian families living under the poverty line to push their minor children into the job market to supplement their income. Exploiting children in unethical, yet families with limited resources don’t think about it from a moral point of view, but from a survival one.

There is a fine line between child labor and slavery. The international Labor Organization defines child labor as work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children. Child labor is also one of the main reasons children drop out of school.

As young as the age of ten, these girls are plucked from the warmth of their family life and thrown into a world of slavery. The slave masters in their cases are their fathers who collect their paycheck which often does not exceed ten dollars a month. With no institutions to protect their rights or to regulate their job conditions, these girls are often thrown into the hands of ruthless and heartless families where they endure continuous nightmares. In these homes they are subjected to physical and emotional abuse, sexual harassment and humiliation. They are overworked, starved and deprived from medical care when needed.

Abeer was sexually assaulted by her mistress’ seventeen years old son. To escape her horrific fate, Abeer ran away, but was severely beaten by her father who depended on her income which was more important than the conditions his daughter lived in.

She changed one job after the other, each time running away only to be forcefully returned back to a new job by her father. At the age of thirteen, Abeer jumped out of the window to escape the torture she endured at the hands of her employers. The girl survived the fall with only a broken leg to tell the story. Her mistress had accused her of theft, but instead of reporting her to the police, she took matters in her own hands. She burned her, beat her, shaved her head and finally ordered a male relative to rape her. After Abeer was transported to the hospital, police opened an investigation and her mistress was arrested and sent to fifteen years in jail.

Her horror stories are not the norm in all households. However, the inhuman treatment the young girls are exposed to with some families had attracted a lot of attention from several NGOs. Azza El-Ashmawy, the director of the anti-trafficking in children unit, in Cairo, announced that she is working on an initiative that aims to propose policies and programs to regulate and improve the working conditions for the domestic workers, especially children, and to punish the employers who exploit them. An idea of forming a union of house maids had even been proposed.

In countries where poverty dominates the society, child labor will never be eradicated. However, in Egypt there are efforts underway that are directed to at least reform their working conditions. It is such a misfortunate that Abeer and thousands of girls like her will never have a chance to go to school and experience childhood.

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Cleopatra: The Last Pharaoh of Egypt

By: Alexandria Kinias

Ruler of one of the greatest civilizations of the ancient world and lover of both the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar and his loyal general Mark Anthony, Cleopatra (69-30 B.C.) was no ordinary queen. The aura of glamour that surrounded her life was only rivaled by her alleged dramatic suicide, after her military defeat, which may or may not have involved an asp. Even without a face left behind to identify her, her legend had flamed the imagination of writers and poets who immortalized her name for two millennia. Her death marked the end of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and Hellenic Egypt fell into the hands of the Romans who killed her son with Julius Caesar, Caesarion. A legend, she was indeed.

There are very limited historical records of Cleopatra’s life. Therefore most of what is known about her has been fictionalized and consequently has not been accurate. Cleopatra who was bred to rule was depicted by historians as a promiscuous enchantress rather than an intellectual politician who spoke five languages.

Ptolemaists were Greeks not Egyptians. They were given Egypt to rule by Alexander the Great, yet they followed in the footsteps of their predecessors. They worshiped the ancient Egyptian gods and adopted their culture and traditions. Under their rule that lasted 275 years (305-30 B.C.), Alexandria became a cultural beacon.

Ancient Egyptian women enjoyed more rights and better status than their peers in neighboring lands. The throne of Egypt was adorned by several women along the various dynasties. Cleopatra, a hybrid of both cultures, was blessed to be born in this part of the world and had several role models to look up to. She was not only the richest woman in the world, but was also allowed to rule at a time when women elsewhere were viewed as nothing but baby makers.

At the age of eighteen Cleopatra ascended the throne of Egypt together with her ten years old brother Ptolemy XIII. Three years later she dropped his name from official documents, removed his face from the coins and went to war against him. At the age of thirty five, Cleopatra had formed an Eastern Mediterranean Empire that included Cyprus, Libya, Lebanon, Syria and coastal Turkey. Four years later she was defeated by Octavian and took her life.

Unfortunately, Cleopatra’s power and competence in ruling her empire, her wealth, command and influence in shaping the history of the ancient world had been reduced in contemporary literature to a feminine role of a seductress.Elizabeth Taylor’s played her role in the movie which carried the queen’s name. The extravaganza of the production, the beauty of Liz Taylor, her sixty five costumes, one of which was made of 24-carat gold cloth and the love scenes between her and Rex Harrison and Richard Burton affirmed the seducing image that writers had portrayed.

Fifty years after the production of Elizabeth Taylor’s movie, Hollywood is getting ready for another Cleopatra. Angelina Jolie was chosen to play the role of the Egyptian Queen. In an interview with the Telegraph, Jolie said that Cleopatra has been very misunderstood. “I thought it was all about the glamour, but then I read about her and she was a very strong mother, she spoke five languages and she was a leader.” Jolie’s movie will be based on the Stacy Shiffer’s book, Cleopatra – A life.

In her book Schiff described Cleopatra, “she convinced her people that a twilight was a dawn and — with all her might — struggled to make it so.” Enchanted by her character, Jolie wants her performance to portray the queen not as a sex symbol, but as a politician, a strategist, and a warrior. All the earlier books about Cleopatra were written by men. Jolie’s movie will be the first story written by a woman.


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