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Global Roundup: Iranian Women Prisoners’ Activism, First Indonesian Superhero, LGBTQ+ Ukrainians in Canada, Dutch Constitution vs Bigotry, Indian Film about Patriarchal Biases
Curated by FG Contributor Inaara Merani
Photo via Iran Wire.
A group of 30 Iranian women political prisoners incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison have published a letter demanding the Islamic Republic stop jailing and executing protesters, amid an ongoing brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrations that began since the death of Mahsa Amini.
We have come together to say 'no' to execution. We defend people's right to live in justice."– excerpt from the letter
In the letter addressed to the Iranian government, the signatories emphasized their concerns about the unjust treatment of prisoners. Signed by Friba Adelkhah, Faezeh Hashemi, Hasti Amiri, Narges Adib, Sepideh Gholian, Gelareh Abbasi, Farangis Mazloum, and more, this letter represents the strength, resilience, and dedication of these prisoners.
We, the political and ideological prisoners in the women's ward of Evin Prison, demand an end to the execution of protesters and an end to unjust sentences of prisoners in Iran. – excerpt from the letter
Four prisoners have already been executed, and two others have been sentenced and are awaiting execution. Over 500 people have been killed so far during this revolution. Thousands continue to protest in the streets of Iran.
A detail of a poster for "Sri Asih," the second film in the Bumilangit Universe of superheroes created by writer and producer Joko Anwar. (Courtesy of Upi Avianto). Photo via Nikkei Asia.
In the 1950s, the first ever Indonesian superhero was born in a comic book. The superhero was a woman, Alana, and her story was articulated in a new movie which was released in November. Titled Sri Asih, the film will tell the story of Alana, the second movie in producer Joko Anwar’s cinematic universe.
Directed by Upi Avianto, Sri Asih will actually be the second film ever created about the superhero Alana’s journey. In 1954, a screen adaptation was created, but the original reels were lost. Additionally, the comic books containing stories of Alana are scarce, which could explain the lack of representation of Indonesia’s first-ever superhero.
I was surprised and amazed to learn that the first-ever superhero in a country with such a strongly patriarchal culture at the time was a woman…Unfortunately, we couldn't watch it because the original reels were lost long ago. – Upi Avianto, director
The film will make its international debut at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in the Netherlands, after garnering around 600,000 viewers in Indonesia. Sri Asih’s international presence will share an important message about women’s rights in Indonesia, at a time when a new proposed law within the country’s criminal code will prohibit women and girls from gaining comprehensive and inclusive information about their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The new law [...] is likely to be interpreted to extend formal legality to more than 700 Shariah regulations imposed by local officials in areas across the country. Many discriminate against women and girls, such as curfews for females [and] female genital mutilation ... and also discriminate against LGBTQ people. – Andreas Harsono, Human Rights Watch
The film will depict Alana’s life and her birth as a superhero. She was born during a volcanic eruption and was then separated from her parents. Growing up, she learns to kickbox, which helps her deal with her rage. She later realizes that she is a reincarnation of Asih, who is an Indonesian fighter-goddess who strives to restore balance to the world.
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Nick Eddington in the Edinburgh Ukrainian art exhibition, summer 2022, Edinburgh, Scotland. Credit: Nick Eddington via Xtra
Last spring, the Canadian government created the CUAET, a program which supported Ukrainians fleeing violence. The CUAET helped Ukrainians come to Canada as quickly as possible, with the option of staying for three years. At the same time, KyivPride Canada was receiving lots of requests from queer people who also wanted safe entry into Canada, but had faced troubles with their requests.
In October, KyivPride created an official call to help queer Ukrainians, who were living in Ukraine and in different parts of Europe, relocate to Canada. The organization gained support from international partners and began helping individuals in a number of ways, such as helping access the CUAET application forms, providing English translations, organizing safe travel to various embassies in Europe, arranging accommodations on their journeys and in Canada, and securing funding for plane tickets. KyivPride was able to help a number of queer Ukrainians enter Canada safely, but quickly reached its capacity to help everyone.
KyivPride put out a call on social media at the end of December asking LGBTQ2S+ Canadians and allies for help; this is what began The Friendly Homes Project. This initiative, started by KyivPride and the We Support LGBTQ Ukraine Fund, was designed to assist queer people fleeing Ukraine before, during, and after their journeys.
The goal of the whole project is to help the person from the moment that they decide that they are going to flee the war to Canada, to the moment when they are finally here, settled, and all is good—to support them along the whole way. – Lenny Emson, founder and senior managing director of KyivPride Canada
Over the last few weeks, KyivPride has received over 100 applications from Canadians who want to help LGBTQ+ Ukrainians in whatever way they can. The organization is hopeful that the Friendly Homes Project will help queer Canadians and allies realize the struggles of queer Ukrainians, and in turn help build a safe space for them to thrive.
Amsterdam’s famous Gay Pride canal parade. Kavalenkava. Photo via The Conversation.
On Tuesday last week, the Dutch Senate approved an amendment to the Netherlands’ constitution making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation or their disability. This change was approved with a 56-15 vote and marks the last step in a years-long process towards this outcome.
Previously, in the Netherlands, it was only explicitly forbidden to discriminate on the basis of religion, philosophy, political preference, race, gender, or any other grounds really except for sexuality, gender, and disability. Although the constitution did not explicitly discriminate against queer people, it also did not explicitly have wording to prevent or ban discrimination from happening.
The government has been given an additional task to permanently improve and strengthen the position of people with a disability not only in law, but also in practice. –Leden(in), Dutch organization for people with a disability or chronic illness
This change has been welcomed by a number of local organizations representing the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies. It is the result of twelve years of activism from coalition party D66, and the PvdA and GroenLinks parties from the left.
A disability, or who you fall in love with, should never be a reason to be excluded. – Habtamu de Hoop, PvdA member
The LGBTQ+ group COC Nederland has also commented, celebrating the win in the Netherlands. The group was founded in 1946 and is considered to be the oldest existing LGBTQ+ organization in the world.
A recently released film in India has received much praise for slamming the patriarchy and everyday sexism that women and marginalized peoples endure in India. The movie, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, explores how we are all complicit in creating a society that objectifies and discriminates against women, all while being entertained and intrigued simultaneously.
In the movie, Jaya’s life is followed from childhood to adulthood. As she grows up, she endures different forms of abuse and violence. The film, however, does not search for a realistic resolution to the issue because there is no simple solution to gender-based violence and smashing the patriarchy. Therefore, the onus of saving oneself from this violence is alleviated – it holds others who uphold the patriarchy accountable for their actions.
Using irony and humour to highlight the injustices that Jaya faces in the movie, the filmmakers were able to craft a story about how Jaya existed yet resisted in a patriarchal world. In the film, Jaya attends university but is later prevented from finishing her degree so she can be married off to her professor. After enduring the abuse for months, she finally is able to fight back and escape her situation.
Although her situation is not like many others who have no escape from their abusive marriages, Jaya’s story serves as an inspiration for all the women and people who are discriminated against under the patriarchy.
Inaara Merani (she/her) recently completed her Masters degree at the University of Western Ontario, studying Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies with a specialization in Transitional Justice. In the upcoming years, she hopes to attend law school, focusing her career in human rights law.
Inaara is deeply passionate about dismantling patriarchal institutions to ensure women and other marginalized populations have safe and equal access to their rights. She believes in the power of knowledge and learning from others, and hopes to continue to learn from others throughout her career.