There’s only one ‘virtual’ woman left running for president in Iran

Jun 3, 20130 comments

(WNN) San Francisco, California, UNITED STATES, AMERICAS: The presidential election is coming soon in the Islamic Republic of Iran on Friday June 14, 2013, but one of the most important election candidates is not included as one of the 5 male candidates who are running as they try to find a stronger political base. This candidate is a different kind of candidate, a woman named Zahra, who instead of following the current political protocol, is now standing out in front of the world. Zahra is the invention of 3 talented men – one an Iranian writer and human rights activist; another an Arab multi-media artist and cartoonist; and another an award-winning Jewish American book editor. Known to those who watch innovation in global publishing, author Amir Soltani, along with graphic book artist and illustrator Khalil, worked closely together in 2009 to create a new platform that would enable the voices of everyday people in Iran to jump out into the world. On the way book editor Mark Siegel worked closely on the project to help it become a New York Times best-seller chronicling the life of Zahra. The book called Zahra’s Paradise was officially brought to the public as an online graphic web book series in 2010. It was also offered through in-print publication, to the delight and excitement of a waiting public. From the beginning the telling of Zahra’s story was personal. It came in part from witnessing friends and loved ones in the ongoing conditions for human rights activists in Iran. With the coordination and efforts of the men who created the book,  joined by Iranian-American campaign manager and publicist Firuzeh Mahmoudi, co-founder and executive director of United4Iran, the story of Zahra began to enter the hearts of activists and non-activists worldwide. Through insight and focus Mahmoudi’s work as a human rights activist herself has been pivotal to the development of the illustrated book series. “Like Mause and Persepolis …Zahra’s Paradise puts a human face on a time of grief and unrest. Unlike those books the time in question is now…,” said NPR – National Public Radio (U.S.) when the comic series first premiered in 2010. Named by its creators after the largest cemetery in Tehran, also named Zahra’s Paradise, the title of the book has a double meaning. Zahra is also the name, in the Islamic Holy Book of the Quran, as Fatimah Zahra, one of Prophet Mohammed’s daughters. Outlining the story of a beautiful, proud, and virtual Iranian mother, Zahra has lost her young nineteen-year-old activist son Mehdi after he left home to protest for democracy on the streets of Tehran in 2009. This was during the tumultuous days following the 2009 Iranian presidential election. The story unfolds as Zahra looks everywhere for her missing son, but she cannot find him. As one of the Mourning Mothers, known also as the Mothers of Laleh Park, Zahra faces corruption, police diversions, intimidation and physical danger. As she searches for her missing child without wavering, she continues in her journey to find her “special Mehdi” as she begins to realize that deep corruption inside her “beloved Iran” has reached epidemic proportions. Covering issues of injustice and legal transparency, government corruption, freedom, human rights and democracy, as well as women’s rights inside Iran, the new 2013 series sequel called Zahra for President 2013 is now working to show the true heart of Iranian society. This story may be fiction-ous, but the topics are not fiction and the characters are more than memorable, they are loveable and horrible. As a graphic book character Zahra is only one of the many intelligent women inside Iran today. She is outspoken, strong and loyal in her fight for social justice. Of course if given the chance she would want to run for the office of Iran’s presidency. As one of the Mourning Mothers she is steadfast in her efforts to ‘seek and know the truth’. No matter how hard it gets, Zahra continues to push forward. For her there is no turning back. She must continue and jump into her presidential campaign to stand up for the rights of her missing son and all the silent ones who have been left inside Iran with little to no recognition or human rights. Today as the real election in Iran nears, as Iran’s religious fundamentalistCouncil of Guardians has blocked all women candidates in Iran from running for the office of the presidency, Zahra’s virtual campaign is not something the ruling religious leaders of Iran bargained for. It is without measure. As a graphic book series online, Zahra’s campaign to become the first woman president of Iran is now reaching the widest global corners of the cybersphere. We all no know, if Zahra were standing in person before us this moment she would shout, “Let freedom ring!” #513-IRAN_VirtualCandidateZahra_Color_Poster_Azadi Poster for the virtual presidential campaign Vote4Zahra says “Zahra for President 2013.” Image: United4Iran As a virtual candidate Zahra can speak her truth openly as the first woman given the chance to run for president in Iran. She speaks candidly from her virtual podiumwithout censor. This groundbreaking candidacy is now being elevated throughout the media through the efforts of United4Iran. “For you and the Council of Guardians to deny the Iranian people the right to choose women as their president is violence,” outlines Zahra in the newest part of the graphic series called Zahra for President 2013. “It is not only about disqualifying women, it is a way of denying millions of Iranians the right to vote for the most qualified, compassionate and capable of presidential candidates, regardless of gender. Whether as president, or virtual candidate, I have only one choice and that is to defend the dignity, accomplishments, and aspirations of all Iranian women,” Zahra adds in her candidacy for presidency. “It is in their name that my campaign rejects discriminatory fatwas and rulings that promote prejudice, ignorance and violence against Iranian women.” Today as the Mothers of Laleh Park continue to morn for their children who have gone missing or presumed dead or suffering from enforced arrest without cause, they are also working for the revocation of the death sentence for Iran’s ‘prisoners of conscience’. Many of these prisoners are incarcerated today inside Iran’s prison system on nebulous and vague sentences. These prisoners include humanitarian educators, human rights defenders, rights attorneys, religious minorities, legal advisors, students and activists. In a recent one-on-one interview with special reporter from Iran for WNN – Women News Networkreporter Elahe Amani talks with Firuzeh Mahmoudi up-close about the work it has taken to boost the online campaign for virtual character known as Zahra, and the effect this woman, and her presidential campaign, has had on her creators and the public. Read the original article here.