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Monday, June 21, 2010

Lipstick Revolution

40 lashes for throwing a sweet 16 party

By Deborah Weiss
Published in The Washington Times
June 18, 2010

In the early years of the Islamic Revolution, wearing red lipstick was considered "an insult to the blood of the martyrs." Indeed, when the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979, the lives of women changed drastically, as they were forced to adhere to Shariah law, including its stringent dress code. Now, some protesters are fighting for their fashion freedom.Tala Raassi is a 27-year-old fashion designer residing in Washington. However, it wasn't always the case that she was able to wear clothes that made her feel sexy or feminine. She grew up in Iran, where the government gave her 40 lashes for her 16th birthday for the crime of wearing "indecent clothes."

Tala's friends had decided to throw her a Sweet 16 party. Thirty boys and girls gathered at one of her friend's houses. Once inside the privacy of the home, Tala wore only a miniskirt and T-shirt. The teens enjoyed some innocent fun, listening to music and chatting. There were no drugs or liquor at the party.

A boy who had not been invited reported the party to the religious police. Without warning, the police barged into the house and started screaming. Tala ran out the back door. The religious police ran after her, threatening, "Stop or we'll shoot you!" Realizing that they meant it, Tala stopped running. One policeman shoved his gun into Tala's back so hard that she fell to the ground. Then he dragged her back to the house and handcuffed her. The teens were rounded up, pushed into a van and carted off to jail.

Once there, the boys and girls were separated. Tala and the other girls were thrown into a rat-infested, barren room. There were no beds, just cement. Already there was one pregnant woman lying on the ground, another woman with her baby and a third who had been dragged to jail straight from her wedding. Tala was informed that one of the women had been raped with a Coke bottle by the other prisoners. She watched the rats run around and listened to the screams of other prisoners being tortured down the hall. She wondered what her future would portend. She slept there overnight and was provided no food or water.

The next day, during the "adhan," or call to prayer, which occurs three times a day in Iran, the guards ordered the prisoners to line up for their lashes. After the prisoners had stood for 40 minutes with no lashes executed, they were told to return to their cells. This routine continued for days.

On the fifth day, Tala and her friends were brought to court. They were not permitted to have an attorney or defend themselves. The court sentenced the boys to 50 lashes each and the girls to 40 lashes each. They were convicted of breaking Islamic rules by wearing "indecent clothes," mingling with the opposite sex and listening to Western music.

Once back in jail, Tala and her friend were called in for their lashes by two middle-aged female guards dressed in black chadors. They were ordered to lie face down on mattresses. The girls were to keep their T-shirts on so that the material would dig into their wounds when bloody and burn even more than if the girls had been bare. The guards dipped their leather whips into water to ensure the maximum sting. Though the lashings seemed to take forever, in reality it was over in 10 minutes. Tala's parents heard her screams down the hall.

Tala graduated a few months later, but she remained depressed and rarely left the house. The experience of being lashed changed her forever. Her parents decided it would be good for her to leave Iran. She came to America and decided to become a clothing designer because, to her, fashion equals freedom.

After arriving in the United States, Tala took a job at a boutique and began designing her own clothes. Five years later, at a party, a gentleman complimented her on her self-made shirt. He liked it so much that he became her first investor and helped her get her business off the ground.

Now Tala has her own line of clothes, called Dar be Dar, which means "door to door" in Persian. She specializes in bikinis and sells her designs to stores in the U.S. and Dubai and also through the Internet. She also had a show at Miami Fashion Week, an event many designers would covet.

Tala is planning to launch a new T-shirt line called Lipstick Revolution. It's inspired by the new revolutionary movement in Iran. It specifically honors women around the world who are fighting for freedom.

Before 1979, women enjoyed a fair amount of freedom in Iran, but after the Islamic Revolution, Shariah law was implemented. The value of women's lives was reduced to half that of a man's; women were stoned for adultery, married at age 13 and held criminally responsible at the same age. It's nearly impossible for women to obtain divorces, though men can do so arbitrarily. Custody and inheritance laws strongly favor men, and gender apartheid is in effect. Women are required to dress covered from head to toe.

Now, after 30 years of Islamic rule, a recently rigged election and massive riots, the protests in Iran continue. Some of the protesters include women who literally are dying for their fashion freedom. Tala Raassi's Lipstick Revolution does pay homage to them.

Deborah Weiss is a lawyer and a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine and the American Security Council Foundation.


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In Defense of Freedom

By Deborah Weiss
Published in FrontPage Magazine
June 10, 2010

Last week, The Heritage Foundation’s second annual “Protect America Month” came to a close. The program was designed to express commitment to America’s national security, advocate for increased defense spending, point out the constitutional basis for government’s role in protecting America, and to examine the threats to the United States. John Ashcroft, former Attorney General of the United States, delivered the closing speech.Attorney General Ashcroft began by asserting his belief that “the defense of America is tantamount to the defense of freedom. And freedom is worth defending.” He astutely reviewed his understanding of the definition of freedom, and how American exceptionalism plays a vital role in contributing and sustaining freedom around the globe.

He rejected the common argument that freedom and national security must be balanced. Rather, freedom is the highest value with no parallel. However, in order to maintain it, it must be secured. Therefore, the two are not counterweights to each other. Rather, national security protects America’s freedom, and ensures that freedom stays intact.

Ashcroft explained that the ability to engage in the pursuit of happiness increases freedom, while the provision of happiness by the government impairs freedom, and often comes at a high cost. In other words, when needs are converted into rights, freedom shrinks. Most importantly, the imposition of that which is not wanted constitutes the denial of freedom regardless of the virtue of that which is being imposed.

Freedom is under attack. Nine years after September 11, 2001, Americans have become complacent. Many have a false sense of security. But the former Attorney General encouraged the audience not to surrender to the terrorist threat, and always be mindful of those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom.

Ashcroft believes that the number one responsibility of the federal government is to protect its citizens. The way he believes national security is enforced is through the rule of law, so that people are on notice of what they can and cannot do.

In analyzing habeas corpus doctrine, the use of military tribunals and indefinite detention, Ashcroft reviewed numerous Supreme Court cases including Hamdi, Quirin, and Eisentrager. He also discussed the DC Court of Appeals case, titled Maqaleh v Gates.

When asked about his positions on specific policy and legal matters, he emphasized the reasoning process that should support these decisions. They included the following:

■Be aware that policies send a message that can deter behavior or invite behavior;
■Determine if the conduct in question constitutes a war crime or merely violates a domestic criminal statute;
■Ensure that all three branches of government are acting within their appropriate constitutional limits;
■Know that the executive branch can make faster decisions to ensure the protection of America’s national security than can the legislative branch;
■Acknowledge the fact that military tribunals, while operating under different rules than federal courts, still result in outcomes that are fair and respect the true facts;
■In deciding whether a defendant should be tried in a military tribunal versus a federal court, determine your objective. If national security information in involved, minimize the release of this information to our enemies;
■If a person with US citizen status is fighting against the US with America’s enemies, perhaps he should be treated as an enemy;
■Laws should be clear and certain. If the geographical location of the occurrence doesn’t provide clear rules, then look to the circumstances surrounding the case;
■America should make sure that she runs prisons only in locations where she can maintain control of what occurs within them;
■Finally, Americans should distinguish between detention for the purpose of punishment and detention for the purpose of removing enemy combatants from the stream of battle.
The former Attorney General also noted that America’s reckless financial conduct will have grave national security implications for future generations who might be unable to finance their defense. Moreover, if America reveals a lack of self-sufficiency to the world by becoming a debtor to the world, it signals America’s weakness. Funding national security should be one of government’s main priorities.

America’s current Attorney General, Eric Holder, appears to have no clear rules guiding his decisions in reference to which defendants go to a military tribunal versus a federal court. His decisions appear to be arbitrary and capricious. Though he is the head of the Department of Justice, national security does not seem to be his paramount priority. He refuses to acknowledge the Islamist ideological threat, favors the closing of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, opposes the Patriot Act (responsible for disrupting numerous terrorist plots in the US) and is critical of enhanced interrogation techniques. Instead, he has stated that engagement in “dialogue” with the Muslim community is a priority for his Department, as is the prosecution of so-called “hate crimes.” Though he is not an expert in Islamic theology, he nevertheless asserts with seeming authority the claim that that those who commit terrorist acts in the name of Islam behave in a way that is “un-Islamic” and contrary to Islam’s actual teachings.

By contrast, John Ashcroft led America through its toughest times after the largest terrorist attack on US soil following September 11, 2001. He made fighting terrorism his number one priority. He reorganized DOJ to ensure that suspected terrorists were prosecuted when the evidence warranted it. Under his leadership, DOJ dismantled numerous terrorist cells throughout the US and over 150 plots throughout the world. Ashcroft’s role in the execution of the War on Terror was one of the most difficult of any cabinet member.

Ashcroft’s speech at the Heritage Foundation expressed a love of freedom, an appreciation of American exceptionalism, an understanding of the threats to liberty, respect for the law, Judeo-Christian values, and a deference to “we the people.” The Left, of course, has consistently expressed its venom toward John Ashcroft and the entire War on Terror. But Ashcroft’s speech reminded me of the time after September 11, 2001, when, however briefly, the country came together to face our common enemies. Our government united us in the cause for freedom and our shared American values. My, how things have changed.

Deborah Weiss, Esq. is a regular contributor to FrontPage Magazine and the American Security Council Foundation. She delivers speeches on the methods radicals use to stifle free speech.


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