The California Chapter of the One Million Signatures Campaign
A Different Experience
By: Esha Momeni
Tuesday 21 October 2008
Translated by: Sudi Farokhnia
*Note: This article was written by Esha Momeni in the Summer of 2007. Esha Momeni was arrested on October 15, 2008, while on travel to Iran visiting with family. During this trip Esha worked to complete her Masters thesis project on women activists involved in the Campaign. To this end, she conducted a number of video interviews. She was arrested and taken to Evin prison in relation to her masters thesis, where she remains still. Read the news about her arrest.
I am dressed in white, head to toe. I am aware that the serenity and peacefulness of white does not represent my city, but when I am dressed in white I feel like a dove that is free, one that has not been earmarked and was never kept captive. As I stroll along the streets of my city, I feel like a bride, a bride that is walking towards a new promise, the dream of equality.
Iran and all that makes it unique - steep streets, narrow alleys and unmarked homes - is still the land of promise that we hold dear to our hearts. The women of this land are peacefully writing a glorious end to the bitter long story of inequality and injustice. Iran is still the covenant to those hands that would like to wash the mud of distress from the yarns of this land in the stream of peace and unity. Only then we can resurrect equality and knit white wings for the dove that represents unity. Meanwhile, behind every closed door, a young girl dressed in white is making history so that she can embrace the future with pride and honor.
My grandmother everyday practices her signature, as evidence of her existence and her uniqueness. Here in Iran, I, you, and our mothers are all brides dressed all in white, and with our peaceful approach we dance in the alleys from house to house so that our promise of equality and unity transforms the sounds of the chains on our feet to the melodies of an anklet.
Los Angeles, Mehregan Festival, 2007 (1386)
We plan to wear white. I would like to wear a white shawl but then I change my mind. Dressed in white pants and a long white shirt that covers my waist line, I look in the mirror and take account of my imperfections; I should go on a diet.
After a 45 minute drive, I arrived at the OC fairgrounds where the festivities are to take place. The volunteers of the California chapter of the Campaign have raised a small amount of funds and have been able to get a booth in the not-for-profit section of the Bazaar. They want to target the large group of Iranians attending the festival in order to collect signatures for the Campaign’s petition. I volunteered to help.
Next to the Campaign’s booth, an organization offers people the chance to become guardians of orphans and poor children, of course only financially. There is an album of children’s pictures to choose from, like a catalogue for furniture. I am so curious to know how people decide which child to sponsor, is it gender, color, size…? Of course the children return the favor by occasionally sending a letter of appreciation or pictures that can be displayed on the refrigerator. It will remind the sponsor of what a good hearted person they are.
I pick up a few petition forms and step out of the Bazaar in to the main ground. It is very crowded and I can hear a song by the Black Cats playing: “Delo har ja mikhay mibari,…. “ People who are walking away from the music are still dancing and shaking. On the other side is the bridal booth, full of businesses that offer services one would need at their wedding – from limousine rental to Persian threading for hair removal, from hair stylists to belly dancers. Some young women are dressed in wedding gowns and they walk around the booth. I scan the people to see who would be most receptive to what I have to say. A young lady with Channel eye-glasses is standing right outside the bridal booth:
"Excuse me, but may I have a few minutes of your time?"
There is no reaction so I continue.
"Have you heard of the One Million Signatures Campaign?"
She shakes her head as if to indicate “no” (at least I know she understands ¨Persian).
"Would you like to know?"
This time, she doesn’t even move her head so I continue:
"The One Million Signatures Campaign ….. inside Iran..."
She interrupts me: "I don’t travel to Iran."
A couple of meters farther on, a female artist is discussing the work she has for sale. Self-assured, I walk towards her and it doesn’t take long before she says: “bring me the petition that fixes the root of the problems, these things won’t do the job” and then she walks away.
I attempt to talk to a few others, I get some smiles which have various meanings embedded in them: "forgive me I can’t", caution, skepticism, pity…
I walk back to the Campaign booth inside the bazaar. I see my imperfections, I feel as if I have forgotten how to speak Persian or I can’t find the right words, or maybe words don’t have the same meaning in different parts of the world. Of course, I did manage to collect many signatures, and each person had their own personal reasons for signing. However, I couldn’t stop thinking: I, my mother, my sisters, Marjan, Azadeh, Maryam,… we were all just images, just like pictures that one quickly browses through in a furniture catalogue.