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July 2005
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Nothing rude about expressing opposing views

On Golbarg Bashi's "They know best":

Dear Golbarg,

As you have chosen Iranian.com to send your reflections on the Iranian Women's Studies Foundation (IWSF) conference in Vienna and not let's say to IWSF website (but it hasn't got a section for reflections has it?) I am going to make a brief comment as far as my recent experience with the Vienna team (Zoroastrians?) of organisers is concerned.

Like you I have great respect for Golnaz Amin and I really intended to leave my point of view at rest as it was not such a big deal after all. But there you go. Your article begs for other reflections which Iranian.com has put under the title of 'debate' obviously with delight.

As you have been to this year's conference you are in a better position to judge if the selection of the speakers was a balanced choice representing all different opinions along the spectrum. If this was the case then it seems that tolerance is as always still an issue with the Iranians who have been subjected to the education system in Iran.

On the other hand you mention radicalism as if it was synonymous with rudeness. Not tolerating a conservative speaker is in fact missing the opportunity to attain and exercise a virtue necessary for democracy. As tolerance is indeed a virtue particularly well exercised by those who have been exposed to the UK education system in big cities.

However if no platform were given to any contrasting opinions then this chaos as you described would be the inevitable destiny of any conference selecting elite to represent the interests of the half of a nation.

As for my personal experience with this year's organisers: I was sent an e-mail (for the first time) announcing the dates for proposals. I applied for a performance as well as for a reading. As outlined for them in a page for the reading, my approach would have been more in the line of exploring the reasons why feminism within the framework of Islam as the fundament of an ideology would not be possible and exploring the ways to survive within this disparity.

I never received a reply via e-mail (which I hope you agree is not a big deal). They may argue that there were too many applications. But for a conference with a maximum of 400 women attending how many applications would you expect? Let's be unrealistic and say 400 applications.

When dealing with a organisation concern with women issues the least I expect is a round letter to everyone concerned starting with 'dear colleague/women' and announcing the fact that the selection has taken long, due to high number of applicants and unfortunately 'you' have not been selected on this occasion etc. blah (yes I am patronizing. But some behaviour calls for patrons if not matrons).

I would have let my disillusionment with the IWSF management in Vienna at rest if you had mentioned for instance that a wide range of opinions were represented on the platform. Now, were they? If your answer is yes, then I have absolutely no interest in this letter appearing in the Iranian.com.

Warmest regards

Vida Kashizadeh

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