←Rapport     Fãrsi فارسی     Svenska     World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters

Leila Qaraee's speech

3rd AMARC Asia-Pacific Regional Conference - Seoul 2-5 Dec. 2013

Delivered on Leila's behalf by Matilda Eriksson 12/3/2013
Written in Farsi. Translated by Aman Kafa

My name is Leila Qaraee and I’d like to introduce and talk about our experiences of our small local radio, “Women's Voice” which broadcasts for only two hours in Farsi in Stockholm, the capital city of Sweden.

I was born in and grew up in worker’s family in Iran. From the very early age, I understood the meaning of poverty, discrimination, suppression and total lack of any rights. Because of poverty, I had to go work while going to school and quickly came to learn the class society and the ugly face of wage labour. My dear father, who was a conscious worker, guided me and made me aware of the root causes of the circumstances that surrounded us and from that time, I chose the path of radical struggle for achievement of freedom, equality, fraternity and prosperity of the whole humanity.

At that time, very much like today, there was a dictatorial and criminal rule in Iran, which responded to any demand for equality and justice with bayonets, prison, torture and execution. However, we people finally took to uprising, and toppled the rulers. The experience of being present and participating a real mass revolution, is one of those great chances of my life and one of my most treasured experiences. After that, there is no one and no view that can shake and weaken my belief in the fact that no force can stand up against and resist the dispossessed masses who consciously and united, jointly act together to change their lives.

Yet, the revolution in Iran was defeated. Despite the sacrifices of people in their struggles for freedom and democracy, the Islamist counter-revolutionaries managed to grasp the power midway from the people and defeat their revolution, through deception of the people, by using their backward beliefs, by having the financial and military aid of their powerful international supporters, by massacre and savage repression of people; and they broke the remaining open resistance of people by waves of arrests and execution of hundreds of thousands. Many of those who had the opportunity and the ability, fled the country. Many millions of Iranians with their families scattered across the globe. Almost simultaneously, the coming to power of Islamists in Iran was similarly followed in Afghanistan. Millions of our brothers and sisters fled from Afghanistan and took refuge in different countries around the world. Suddenly the Farsi speaking community, a community who shared a similar experience of suppression, massacre and murder, particularly of killing of women, were scattered around the world. A community with a population larger than some of the European countries.

In Iran, we fought tooth and nail for the freedom of association and freedom of expression, and on this path we struggled and fell. In Sweden, which by one hand armed Khomeini against us, and with the other, gave my family and I the refugee status, such basic rights were long guaranteed. Here, the rights to organise and freedom of expression are the given rights of citizens. To form a society or a party, to publish a journal, etc, there is no need to get anybody’s permission; moreover, it is the right of any such societies to freely use the local radio and TV stations which the local or central government are legally obliged to provide for the people in order to guarantee the people’s right to expression. Being able to use such rights, is the unconditional right of all of you in all countries.

I had arrived in Sweden alive! More than ever before, I had things to say and talk about. The right to organisation and expression was guaranteed for me. To talk about what I had to say, they had provided me with a radio broadcast for free; and I was hungry to talk to thousands and listen to their views; the same thousands that had similar experiences and sufferings as I did, and whom had now, for the same reasons, come to be my neighbours and living in the same neighbourhoods. I knew what I had to do.

In 1994, when I was a factory-worker in a pharmaceutical company, I set up the Council of Iranian Women residing in Stockholm, which soon found its comrades and renamed as Women's Network. From the start, the local radio of Women's Voice became the central loudspeaker and the back bone of the society. In 1995, in the fourth international conference of women in Peking, when I was promoting a campaign against stoning of women in Iran, I met and made links with other women who had been exiled to other parts of the world. Then, like today, as a revolutionary worker who had witnessed a revolution, I had interest in all inequalities, all suppressions and injustices around the globe. Yet the right of women had become particularly important – the rulers in Iran and Afghanistan had suddenly taken millions of women from 20th century to stone ages, but it was clear that the Islamists were not the only ones believing in women to be lower than men. Along with the exiled Iranian and Afghan communities, despite their swearing against the Islamic rulers, the discrimination against women and young girls, even killing of women had also migrated to the Scandinavian countries. Our radio, the Women's Voice, which like today, produced talk shows and live phone-in shows, concentrated seriously on the critique of inhumane and middle-ages anti-woman traditions. Such activities, on the one hand attracted many of the suppressed women and young girls from the Farsi speaking communities to both seek help from and to give assistance to us, and on the other hand, made the Swedish society, that was now shocked by the scale of discrimination and honour-killings, aware of the importance of the work that we, and other similar societies, were doing. With a network of women and men struggling for the rights of women, for whom the radio was a vanguard, we embarked on different projects for effective help for the victims of domestic violence and similar issues, which were supported by the responsible establishments in Sweden and even attracted their financial assistance.

In the first sentences of the document that introduces the Women's Network it is stated that “the rights of women, is the human rights. Human rights should be held above all cultural differences, dogma and religious sanctities. Breech of human rights, can never be excused because of culture, tradition and religion.” This is the principle of “Women's Network”. “Women's Network” strongly rejects all forms of excuses, and social, religious, economical and political reasoning that intend to hide discrimination and suppression of women and children.

In 2000, the National Confederation of Workers of Sweden, LO, awarded the radio Women's Voice, praised the works of the radio in defence of Iranian, Kurdish and Afghan women, and gave us the opportunity to address their delegates directly in their congress. This radio won the Special award of the Radio-Academy of Sweden in 2002, again for its efforts in defence of Iranian, Kurdish and Afghan women and for its activities to integrate them with the Swedish society. On many occasions, the newspapers – from that of Stockholm homeless to the Humanists of England- have praised and paid tributes to the works of the radio and our society. In 2003, in an official and public letter, the King of Sweden has praised our youth project for its works with the youth in Sweden. In 2007, when Liza Marklund (whose books have been published in many languages, and some of you may be familiar with her literary works) was being awarded the Literary Award of Sweden, she announced that the entire prize money will be donated to the Women's Network in order to help most effectively the migrant women who are victims of violence and 'honour'-crimes.

We were one of the very first Iranian organisations abroad who started a Farsi website. The site was established in 2000, and has a unique feature that in addition to a variety of information, has all our radio programs since its establishment, and has made them available to all Farsi speaking people. You can access further information about Women's network in Farsi, Arabic, Turkish, French, Swedish and English from sedayeZanan.org or kvinnonet.org

With the advent of the Internet, neither this radio nor any other radio is “local”. Globalisation, has broken all local and national borders. With the Internet and worldwide networks, wired or wireless, and pocket computers, nothing is local anymore. The broadcasts from our radio transmitter on the FM, whose waves can only be picked up on a corner of a Stockholm, can now be heard in any part of the world, on the web-radio. This means that our local radio presenter can speak with an Egyptian revolutionary in the Cairo’s Tahrir Square on a Sunday afternoon and ask for their response to a question from a listener in Canada, and be heard all over the world. The radio that only by name is local in Stockholm, can now transmit globally the sound of the protests be it in the streets in Iran, or that of the girl pupils who have fallen ill with the poisonous gas in Kabul, or the innocent unarmed civilians who are killed by the bombs of the US drones, or that of workers in France amassing in the streets in protest against cuts in their pensions by the state and the banks, or the anti-racists who have gathered to prevent the demolishing of the shelters of the gypsies in Paris... Transmitting of the voice of local activists in a locality as vast as the whole world! This is something that is appreciated by all the freedom and justice seeking people across the world – people who themselves unlike centuries before, are no longer residents of their local birth-places. This is not only a particularity of Iranians or Afghans.

In our day and age, it is no longer necessary to go to Santiago to meet Chileans, or go to Damascus to talk to Syrians. Everyone is everywhere around the globe. No matter where your local radio is, if you do care for the people, then you have reporters, analysts, experts, and listeners in all major areas across the world.

A couple of weeks ago, Belquis Roshan shook the foundations of the Afghan parliament with her brave protests. Only two days later we broadcast a 40 minutes frank and friendly interview with her. This is not strange or odd. What was strange was that this Afghan Senator, knew the presenter of our radio, knew of her campaigns in Afghanistan, and called her by her first name, and talked ever so friendly with her, without having ever met her. This is the feature that a local radio has achieved; you can find and link-up with your fellow comrades around the world.

Therefore, recognise the importance of the work that you are doing, and let’s come together and make a promise to each other in this conference, that we all bring together the hands of our brothers and sisters, even though we do not understand each others’ local language, but we are all the children of one mother and that we all live to build a better world, a world that is fair for ourselves and our children – for all humanity.