How Iranian women rise up for freedom and equality in the face of an utterly misogynist mullahs’ regime in Iran was the topic of a global online conference held on Monday, March 8, marking International Women’s Day co-hosted by Women’s Committee of the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), alongside The International Committee for a Democratic Iran, and the British Committee for Iran Freedom.
A distinguished slate of dignitaries joined NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi, the keynote speaker at the event, in providing their take on the struggles of women across the globe, and especially those inside Iran and in the Iranian Resistance as their 42-year struggle against the mullahs continues with the aim of establishing a free, democratic and prosperous Iran where women’s rights are respected equally alongside men.
Women inside Iran are seen playing active roles in ongoing protests against the regime, especially in the numerous rounds of nationwide uprisings witnessed engulfing Iran from December 2017 to this day.
Sarvenaz Chitsaz, Chair of the NCRI’s Women’s Committee
The women of MEK have been fighting against the misogynist regime of Iran. They have always been committed to their people’s resistance and freedom. These struggling women are the real heroines of women’s rights and human rights in Iran. We in the Iranian Resistance are determined to achieve freedom and equality.
Maryam Rajavi has been leading the fight for change in Iran. She is an inspiration for all the women who are resisting against the misogynist rule of the mullahs. Freedom of the Iranian people will be achieved by this determination.
Baroness Verma, former UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development
Ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to speak on this online conference on International Women’s Day today to celebrate this very historic day for us all, all women throughout the world. So, please allow me to greet each and every one of you who are connected today on this online conference. And to all of those who hear my voice anywhere in the world, and particularly to my sisters, in the women of Iran, a very Happy International Women’s Day.
The International Women’s Day campaign for 2021 is Chosen to Challenge. A challenged world is an alert world. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, we can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help to create an inclusive world.
All of this as we battle against the COVID globally, where women have been disproportionately impacted. And that’s why it is important that this conference brings us all together, men and women to see the challenge is already being faced by the women and girls in Iran against a global pandemic. And with this theme in mind for International Women’s Day, let me tell you how privileged I feel to be with you to address women who have already chosen to challenge by being at the forefront of the battle.
Yes, I am talking about my sisters in the uranian resistance movement, those who embody a huge capacity are women shouldering the most difficult tasks, and were taking the highest risks to liberate all Iranian women who are suffering on the gender apartheid, and for so long, have prevailed under the cleric regime, standing up against misogyny, speaking out against oppression and fighting for equality. These women are capable of doing this because they have learned to liberate themselves under gender apartheid. They have put themselves above and before everyone else to make sure that they are the voice to be heard.
They have put aside the self disbelief that many women in our world are accustomed to and have taken on the highest and most serious responsibilities or decision making within the resistance. For decades, that persistence, they have sent a clear message to the Iranian regime and the Mullahs, the situation for women in Iran is unacceptable. Women have chosen to challenge and they will not give up until Iran is free despite the problems and the misfortunes of the Iranian people under such a dictatorship that is hard to bear.
And with such bravery, women in the Iranian resistance have fought hard for the future of Iranian women and Iran. The women who are now the role models for millions of Iranian women have a role model much brighter, much braver for them to adapt to.
It is my honor and my privilege to introduce our keynote speaker. She is a woman of extraordinary courage, supported by women of extraordinary courage, who has chosen to challenge decades ago. She’s a remarkable woman, with perseverance, with honesty, and selflessness.
She has been an inspiration to not just all Iranians, but to women across the world, who are yearning for freedom for human rights for democracy for social justice, and most importantly for gender equality. Under her leadership, women in the Iranian resistance, those who might described a few moments ago, have not only achieved gender parity, they occupy the leading positions of this first democratic movement, which spans from Iran to Europe, to the United States, and of course, to Ashraf 3 in Albania. Ladies and gentlemen, my dearest sisters, please join me in welcoming our dearest sister, the great inspirational figure, a great leader, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of the Resistance of Iran, who will join us shortly online. Thank you very much.
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)
Women’s struggle and sacrifice have been and are the foundations of progress and the guarantee for democracy in our world. And henceforth, a world without injustice, oppression, fundamentalism, and poverty hinges on women’s struggle.
This year, International Women’s Day carries a commitment for Iranian women: Namely, that we can, and we must secure the victory of freedom and equality amid disease, oppression, and poverty.
The outcome of the significant gender gap in Iran is the imposition of extreme poverty on women and the denial of many of their most basic rights.
The misogynous regime wants to preserve its rule through repression. However, Iranian women play critical roles in challenging the regime and pushing the situation towards overthrowing the mullahs.
This is because women have tolerated the most oppression and suppression at the hands of this regime. As a result, they have greater motivation to end this regime.
In five nationwide uprisings, Iranian women have demonstrated remarkable heroism and their qualifications in setting up Resistance Units and enjoying the pivotal role in the organized resistance movement.
Iranian women have put the responsibility to end the catastrophe caused by the ruling theocracy on their shoulders and are prepared to make it happen.
The trampling of women’s rights is the most flagrant aspect of the elimination of the human rights of the Iranian people by the ruling mullahs.
Thus, all those concerned about the threats posed by this regime to the international community must support Iranian women’s resistance.
Efforts to contain and control the regime’s nuclear program will not succeed unless they are coupled with firmness against violations of the human rights of the people of Iran.
Call on your governments to make economic and political ties with the criminal mullah regime conditional upon respect for human rights in Iran, especially women and prisoners’ rights.
There is a long line of women who are resisting in prisons across Iran. And although there is not much talk about them but they are among the most resistant fighters for human rights.
In the name of the equality movement, I urge all advocates of gender equality across the world to support the arisen women of Iran and the Iranian people’s uprising for freedom.
Baroness Harris of Richmond, Deputy Speaker of the British House of Lords
On this very special, International Women’s Day, I send you, Mrs Rajavi and also all the women in Ashraf 3 my very warmest greetings and I thank you for all that you’re doing for your country in bringing sense, compassion, bravery and humanity into the darkness that is Iran today. We know how appallingly women there are treated, and we stand in solidarity with you as you fight the tyranny of the mullahs.
You stand at the forefront of the battle for human rights and for a fair, free and democratic country following Mrs Rajavi’s 10 point plan, which is a blueprint for freedom. We in the west, will be watching carefully what happens in the future, and we hope and pray that when we meet again, your lives will be immeasurably better and that you are be able to live in peace in your own land at last.
Baroness Margaret Eaton
Dear friends, my dear Iranian sisters, and Dear Mrs. Rajavi, it is always an honor to speak and to be part of your events that I have always appreciated. But it’s a double honor to speak on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
My colleague talked about the existence of 27 state agencies in Iran tasked to suppress women specifically, including compulsory veil. Has anyone ever asked why the clerical regime is so desperate to focus its attention on fighting women in every form and shape it can.
The Mullahs regime that’s since its inception, has executed 120,000 of the best and brightest people, including pregnant women has indeed, institutionalized gender discrimination, in law and in practice. Literally speaking, Iran is one of three to four countries that has taken no action in ratifying the convention of elimination of gender discrimination.
By realizing the misogynistic nature of this regime, women took leadership roles to not only fight for their own rights, but to liberate a nation from the darkness of a medieval regime that has rightfully, in my opinion, seen its end at the hands of women. Over the course of my engagement with NCRI, I met many women who have spent time in prison as political prisoners and have seen their relatives and best friends executed, and yet they have endured.
A prime example is Mrs. Rajavi herself. Her younger sister, eight months pregnant, was attacked by the murderous IRGC agents, and killed under torture.
I want to use this opportunity to recommend myself to the cause of freedom and equality in Iran. As I firmly believe, the regime in Iran is a clear and present danger to our security and to the Iranian people, and in particular, Iranian women. For me, the pain that the mother of Iranian wrestling champion, Naveed Ascari, who was executed by this regime just a few months ago and endured is unimaginable.
Naveed’s two brothers also are imprisoned. Can any one of you imagine that pain? How about the brave Reyhaneh Jabbar, who did not give in to the criminal agent who wanted to assault her and her grieving mother? How about the frail mother of Sattar Beheshti, a blogger killed under torture by the regime? And the list goes on. My heart goes out to all these suffering women, as mothers.
In conclusion, what is our role? What should we do? Is it enough just to talk about these atrocities, or as interested representatives of the people, we have a duty to act. These are my recommendations.
One, any relationship with the regime in Iran, if any, must be contingent upon very vulnerable human rights improvements, including women’s rights. As the main operator suppression inside Iran and exporter of terror abroad, the IRGC and as affiliated by sea force, must be prescribed in its entirety. And I’m confident we have a cross-party support for this endeavor.
And finally, we have to recognize that NCRI is our ally, because peace and stability in the volatile region of the Middle East can only be achieved and more importantly, maintained when malign activities of the Iranian regime stops; and that can only be achieved by supporting the Iranian people and NCRI for a tolerant non-nuclear and democratic republic in Iran. Thank you.
Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela, Human Rights Activist and granddaughter of late Nelson Mandela
Program Director, Mrs. Rajavi, Members of Parliament, my lords, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed a pleasure and honor to be invited to talk to you on International Women’s Day about the struggles that Iranian women are waging against the Islamic regime to secure justice, freedom, democracy, and gender equality.
The women of Iran have over the past 40 have been subjected to extreme atrocities for taking principled, brave and legitimate stance against Islamic Sharia laws of the country. It is indeed paradoxical to imagine that while the Iranian constitution, adopted following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, proclaims equality for men and women under Article 20. The reality is since the revolution, Sharia laws have been used to oppress, subjugate, humiliate, abuse, undermine instruct the women of Iran their dignity, just like apartheid did to the black woman of South Africa.
In 1996, my grandfather, Nelson Mandela, established a gender equity task team, headed by Dr. … to look into why girls and women occupy a lower status in our society, and the negative effects it has on our development as a country. They produce a report entitled Issues on Gender in Schools and Introduction for Teachers. The report argued that religions remain one of the most powerful belief systems that is resistant to change.
All major religions believe that people are equal in the eyes of God. Although the form this takes differs from religion to religion. Yet women find that this equality does not apply to them in their own communities, it is in the way in which communities worship their interpretations of the religious documents– the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and so on, and the authority of their leadership that creates this difference.
The religious practice does not live up to their religious theories. Why should this be so?
A critical point the report highlights with regard to religion is most societies are controlled by men whose practices reflect their power over women. These power relations become reflected in religious practices. Also, the religious writings have been compiled and interpreted by men reflecting their ideas and their experience. Just like in the fight against apartheid, the Islamic regime finds its toughest enemies among women. Currently, more than 150 notable women feminists are languishing in prison simply because they are demanding equal rights.
The woman in the struggle against apartheid sacrifice, contributed to ideas and will often subjected to the same brutal treatment as the men received at the hands of the apartheid government– such as a 90-day detention, house arrest and exposed to emotional trauma and being banished from all that was family and their familiars. However, while the state was in the oppression of the women, the South African woman refused to capitulate to the onslaught of the apartheid state systematic brutality.
On 9th of August 1956, the Women’s March took place in Pretoria, South Africa. The marches aims were to protest the introduction of the apartheid pass laws for black women in 1952. The pass laws were amongst the most draconian laws passed by the Nationalist government. The pass laws were a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population, manage urbanization, and allocate migrant labor.
As my grandmother remarked in 1987, “There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has done to me. There isn’t any pain I haven’t known.” During this struggle against the apartheid state.
The rallying cry for the women became, “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo.” You strike the women, you strike the rocks. The banishment of my grandmother, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, to a house in the dusty Afrikaans town of Brantford in the free state, which had no running water, no electricity, no floors, no ceilings, couples were being subjugated to isolation, loneliness, and above all, dehumanizing brutalization was in itself soul destroying torture to my grandmother.
I know that over thousands of women have been imprisoned and many lost their lives. My heart weeps for those who have lost their lives fighting for what they have believed in.
Based on a submission by Justice for Iran on sexual violence in the Islamic public, the October 2013 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Professor Rashida Manjoo of the UN General Assembly, ended the cycle of silence on one of the most traumatic forms of state sponsored human rights abuses aimed at women in custody in Iran, the raping of virgins prior to execution.
As the granddaughter of struggle icon Winnie Mandela, the struggle of the Iranian woman is close to my heart. I witnessed my grandmother, the late Winnie Mandela, stand up to fight against the oppressive apartheid government, tirelessly, relentlessly with dedication to the black people of South Africa.
She was courageous, she was determined, fearless, and managed to be the mouthpiece for the movement she was committed to. She did it despite constant threats, imprisonment and banishment for 10 years to a foreign town, where even there she was able to bring change and reform that surprised the very system that thought banishment was silencer, but it incites her even more to stand up for what she believed in. She was also a mother, a wife and managed to rise against the odds. Many women were killed and risked their lives, but despite this they continue to stand up against the injustice they continuously suffered.
Winnie was the personification of the steely determination commitment of the woman who stood up to the apartheid state at whatever cost and suffering it brought upon them. My grandfather said, “Since my release, I have become more convinced than ever that the real makers of history are the ordinary men and women of our country in the world.” This is our time to demonstrate and spread the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which means, “I am because we are.”
As a Global Village, we are each responsible to stand up and stand together with the women of Iran in their fight against oppression, justices, and inequalities.
Lastly, now I speak on behalf of all the women who fought, struggled, and suffered from South Africa apartheid. …. women of Iran in their fight for freedom, justice, and gender equality. Thank you.
British MP Laura Farris
For so many women around the world, the struggle for equality has barely started. For women in Iran, even their most basic rights have been neglected. It is an honor to stand shoulder to shoulder with women in Iran in their struggle.
It’s a moment to think in the UK about Nazanin Zaghari Radcliffe. I also think about the story of Zahra Esmaili, who was the victim of domestic abuse, and who suffered and died of a heart attack but was still sent to the gallows and executed.
We stand in solidarity with Iranian women, particularly those who have stood at the forefront of protests in the past 40 years. We follow your progress here and stand up for you in parliament and will continue to do so. We commit to make your voices heard.
Lord Alton of Liverpool, Member of the House of Lords
Iran’s women are denied their most basic rights, they have no protection in their own homes and they can’t even choose their own clothing. One of the regime’s most overlooked victims are the mothers of the Iranian activists who have been cruelly executed. Political prisoners and detained activists during the last 40 years, their mothers too, including the 1,500 protestors who were killed in November 2019 when the regime’s Supreme Leader ordered the security forces to crush the nationwide popular protests, all of them have mothers.
On this day, International Women’s Day, we lend our voices to these grieving mothers and their family members. Victims of the regime demand justice and they demand accountability for officials and leaders in Iran who are responsible for the extra judicial killings of their children and the use of widespread torture and cruelty. And we stand with them. We do so by calling on the United Kingdom government and European Union governments to impose sanctions on these perpetrators, including the judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
On this International Women’s Day, we recognize and applaud the many brave Iranian women who are at the forefront of the anti-regime protests in Iran in the last three years and who are leading the organized opposition and resistance that is spearheading the struggle for a free and democratic Iran. We know that NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi has presented a democratic alternative to the current theocracy, summarized in her ten-point platform for a future of Iran. This platform ensures that in the future leaders are elected by universal suffrage and not selected by Khamenei.
I call on the United Kingdom government and the international community to recognize the NCRI and its democratic platform for a future Iran and to support them as the real expression of the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people and to reach out to NCRI President-elect Madam Maryam Rajavi, as a representative of the Iranian people in their desire for change, and working with her for a free and a democratic Iran.
Jennifer Carol McNeill, Member of Dáil Éireann (Irish Parliament) Spokesperson on Equality
We understand the impact of a theocratic regime on the people of a country. On this day, we stand in solidarity with the brave Iranian women who have been standing at the forefront of the anti-regime protests. We stand in thought and practice with the people of Iran and support their struggle for democracy.
Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social Research (India) senior professional in Gender Eqality at UN
To the brave sisters of the Iranian Resistance, I send my greetings. Your determination is a source of inspiration to the women of Iran. The women of Iran have led a brave struggle for freedom in Iran. We are proud to have played a part in this struggle, even if it is small. Today, a new generation of women have entered the struggle. We witnessed the courage of women in the November 2019 protests. Even the regime admitted women had a leading role in the protests. Iran’s prisons are packed with political prisons, including Maryam Akbari Monfared, Fatemeh Mosana, Parastoo Moeini, and many others. We will continue to campaign for their release.
The point is that women of all nationalities and religions and social classes should enjoy equal rights with men. And this is what Madam Rajavi’s ten-point plan represents. I’m confident that it is the women of Iran who will defeat the misogynist regime of Iran. Where does the courage of Iran’s women come from? The resistance is led by a woman, Madam Maryam Rajavi. We are all inspired by your leadership.
We wish a bright future for all the people of Iran. Until that bright future is realized, you can count on us.
British MP Dr. Matthew Offord
The women of Iran deserve our support and greater international recognition in their struggle against the brutal regime of Iran. I want to highlight the case of Nazanin Zaghari Radcliffe. She has finished her sentence and must be released.
The UK must work with our allies to refer the regime’s human rights abuses and terrorist acts to the UN Security Council. By combining nuclear, terrorist, and human rights concerns, the international community can address the regime’s threats. The UN Human Rights Rapporteur must be allowed to inspect Iran’s prisons and meet with prisoners.
Efforts to contain the regime’s nuclear ambitions will not succeed without addressing the regime’s human rights abuses. We must make sure Iran’s people enjoy human rights instead of giving the regime incentives.
Baroness Cox, Crossbench Member of the House of Lords
I want to take this opportunity to express my solidarity with the women in Iran. I also want to thank Madam Rajavi for her explicit remarks. I’m encouraged to hear of your ten-point plan that is completely in contrast to the mullahs’ regime. Iran, under the theocratic regime, is under a gender apartheid. There should be global support for the grassroot movements in Iran. We know the leader of this resistance movement is Madam Rajavi with women being at the front of the anti-government movement against this regime. Women in Iran should enjoy their rights as we do in the West.
The West and international community should pressure Iran to release all foreign nationals taken as hostages. The women of Iran are already committed in a struggle to achieve women’s rights.
British MP and former Minister, Theresa Villiers
Thank you very much, Baroness, for chairing the first part of this conference and for that kind introduction. It’s an honor to be part of this important virtual event hosted by the British Committee for Iran freedom.
It’s great to be able to celebrate International Women’s Day with you. It’s an opportunity for me as so many others have done to pay tribute to the brave women in Iran and around the world who struggle for equality and challenge misogyny.
It’s a privilege to share a virtual stage with NCRI President Elect Maryam Rajavi. We all know Mrs. Rajavi shoulders the monumental responsibility of leading the campaign for democratic change and reform in Iran.
As we all know and as many have said, at this event, the regime in Tehran has reduced women to second class citizens.
They’re prevented from making their own choices on their clothing, their work, their travel, and on so many other aspects of their lives, and they’re left vulnerable to the horrors of domestic violence and forced marriage.
All of this in addition to brutal curbs on freedom of expression, political dissent and human rights, which the regime imposes on all its citizens, men and women.
By contrast, Mrs. Rajavi leads a movement that embraces women’s leadership and has a strong focus on empowering women. I very much hope that one day, we see a realization of Mrs. Rajavi’s ambition that a future generation of girls in Iran will be able not only to pursue happiness and equal opportunities, but also to shape their country’s future and see it take its rightful place amongst the free nations of the world.
This is the theme for International Women’s Day chosen to challenge. On the official website for the day, it explains, “From challenge comes changed. So, let’s all choose the challenge.” Not an easy thing to say.
From the first day, someone has usurped power in Iran by hijacking the revolution 42 years ago. Many women have chosen to challenge the theocratic regime to try to bring about change.
Today, the regime faces growing protests and popular dissent despite all its brutal crackdowns, executions, and mass arrests. And the question for the UK governments and the international community is on which side of history do they want to be?
I would strongly encourage the UK government to engage with the NCRI and Mrs. Rajavi and her 10-point plan for democracy, human rights and equality.
Our foreign secretary should also work with the EU and international partners to put pressure on the regime to release political prisoners and the unjustly imprisoned dual nationals, especially the women who languish in prison unfairly.
And as others have said, any future relationships or agreements with Iran needs to be contingent or real and verifiable improvements in human rights and women’s rights. And I’d also like to see the UK’s new Magnitsky sanctions system applied to regime officials and leaders who are responsible for serious human rights violations.
Clearly, the Mullahs feared the democratic aspirations of Iranian opposition groupings, and they fear the empowerment of already women, who want a democratic future for their country.
British MP Sir David Amess
Madame Chairman, Madam Rajavi, and all those who are online in this conference to celebrate the International Women’s Day, let me start by saying Happy International Women’s Day to all women, and especially the Iranian women.
The truly shocking video that we have just seen really demonstrates it firsthand why this conference is so important today. We believe that throughout the world, discrimination exists against women and girls, and it’s rampant. And in some countries like Iran, it is in fact getting worse. But we also know that equality for women is progress for all.
In that context, the Iranian regime is creating more concern and worries for the world while the Iranian resistance movement is making the world hopeful with its progress.
The clerical regime has an appalling human rights record. It has continued to arbitrarily arrest social and political activists and has been using violent measures to extract false confessions from prisoners, later using them against them.
The conditions of those who have been arrested during the uprising and protests, like the one in November 2019, and the recent one in system Gulistan is outrageous. The regime has also continued torture, and ill treatment of prisoners, particularly political prisoners, and detained protesters who also include women and young girls.
In a shocking report, Trampling Humanity published in September, Amnesty International revealed terrific accounts of torture and execution against the detained protesters of the 2019 uprising.
Amnesty International has investigated the actions of the Iranian authorities against those arrested in connection with the protests and concluded that they committed widespread patterns of serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention and forced disappearance, torture and other ill treatment and also flagrant breaches of the right to a fair trial. And I urge everyone to read the report that has been done on this.
The Iranian regime continued its use of many evil and inhumane punishments in 2020. In September, the regime’s judiciary branch in Urmia northwest Iran sentenced four men to have four fingers amputated, each out dreadful while the IRGC dominates Iran’s economy, the regime plunders the national wealth. The regime’s judiciary issues are sentences for petty crimes, such as thievery.
The Iranian regime’s border forces continued the killing spree against deprived borders, who must carry really heavy loads as the breadwinners of their families. This job is a direct result of the regime’s institutionalized corruption and plundering of the national wealth. In other words, poor Iranian porters are under double pressure, poverty and oppression.
So, it is quite obvious that the clerical regime is at war with Iran’s population, both inside and outside Iran. It extends its human rights violations to outside its own borders.
One such dreadful case was the [foreign] case near Paris, which was planned to blow up a large gathering of the Iranian resistance, as suggested by the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the United Kingdom Parliament. We need a robust policy for the Iranian regime.
Jane Dodds, Leader of Welsh Liberal Democrats
Thank you very much. Madame President-Elect, I bring you greetings from Wales. I am delighted to be able to join you and just share a few words of solidarity and support to you all. Today is International Women’s Day.
We know that the theme is ‘Choose to Challenge’ and we know, and we’ve heard very clearly that the flame of feminism is so alive in Iran. Here in Wales, for women, we have our human rights, so our freedom, education, and choices for our work. We have education and leisure and sports.
And we have our democracy as well. 35% of Welsh women are members of parliament, and in our Senate, our Welsh Parliament 50% are women. However, in Iran, we know how underrepresented women are in positions where they can influence change.
In 2016, on this very day, International Women’s Day, women in Iran were arrested for peaceful protest. We know that women are not allowed to work without permission of their husbands, play sports, embark in democratic processes.
We and we in Wales must do more to ensure that our sisters in Iran are protected, and that we all choose to challenge the oppression of women in Iran.
We are so in awe of your strength and resilience, and your continued creativity to resist the silencing of your voices. We support all you do, and we wish you all the best. Thank you very much.
David Jones, British MP and former Secretary of State for Wales
Mrs. Rajavi, colleagues, and friends, and especially colleagues in Ashraf 3, it’s a great pleasure to be with you today and to join such a distinguished panel of colleagues and prominent women’s rights activists on International Women’s Day.
And I want to add my voice to those of the other speakers today and express my admiration and praise for the brave women of Iran and around the world who continue to fight for freedom, equality and democracy in the face of an oppressive regime.
I want today to remember several brave Iranian women, such as political prisoner, Zara Safari and her daughter, [name], political prisoner Forough Taghipour and her mother Nassim Jabbari, political prisoner Nejat Anvar Hamidi and political prisoners Maryam Afhari… These women have been handed harsh prison sentences for supporting the pro-democracy opposition, the PMOI, on concocted charges of assembly and collusion against national security and propaganda against the state.
Many of them, like many other political prisoners of the regime, have been subjected to torture and in some cases denied medical treatment. On this day, too, we remember those brave women who continue to defy the regime even as they remain in prison under harsh conditions, and they’re an inspiration to us all.
We must and we will continue to advocate on their behalf and the international community to put pressure on the regime to secure their freedom as well as the release of all political prisoners in Iran.
I recently argued in an opinion piece for The Daily Express that Iran is a rogue state. We’ve known that for quite some time, and yet our leaders have consistently failed to adopt appropriate measures against the theocratic regime in Tehran.
The Kingdom should designate and proscribe Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence as terrorist organizations and impose targeted punitive measures against them, against their leadership and those acting on their behalf using the UK’s new Magnitsky style human rights sanctions procedures.
Such measures would limit their ability to export terrorism and enforce the regime regimes oppressive and misogynistic policies in Iran. We must also seriously consider reducing our diplomatic relations with Iran.
The privilege status forged to diplomats was egregiously abused by the regime with the attempted attack on the NCRI’s free Iran rally in Paris in 2018, which was masterminded by a diplomat serving in the Iranian embassy in Vienna. And the United Kingdom should work closely with our principal allies, most particularly the Biden administration to develop a new uniform and robust approach to the regime in Tehran.
To succeed, this policy must include dialogue with the pro-democracy resistance movement, the NCRI and its president elect, Mrs. Rajavi.
The NCRI is the most enduring political coalition in Iran’s modern history and has emerged as the only credible democratic alternative to the theocratic regime.
Anna Fotyga, MEP and former Foreign Minister of Poland
Thank you, Madame Chair. Dear Madame President Elect and distinguished colleagues, we usually in the West, in Europe, in particular attempt to focus on our own efforts.
Yet, we have to know that today in our contemporary times, we face murderers, cruel, extremely cruel regime of more or less predominantly society of Iran, regardless of gender, the greatest victim of this cruel regime.
Yet today, on International Women’s Day, allow me to focus on extremely brave courageous and firm in their actions, women of Iran living there in their own country, tending to their families, and wishing, willing to achieve freedom for their own society facing unbelievable atrocities.
There were women victims of capital punishment in Iran, many of them. There were women peacefully protesting against a variety of intimidating measures that were unbelievably cruelly treated by Mullah’s regime.
Despite COVID-19, they try to pursue their work, those Iranian ladies who stay outside of their country are very outspoken and persevering in their work to enhance the role of society, to modernize society, and to bring Iran once more to the family of free nations.
I pay tribute to the excellent work of Madame Rajavi and I can promise that within the European Parliament, we stay by you, we stand by you, we name every victim of Mullahs regime and try to make the situation of ordinary people in Iran better while exposing the unbelievably criminal role of the current regime in Iran.
Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Minister for Women and Equalities up to 2019; Home Secretary (2016-2018)
The women of Iran endure much, and they are very brave to object. It is remarkable. They have to endure a religious regime that gives them very few rights. They don’t have access to law and welfare that we women in the West take for granted. In democracies, we have a system that has checks and balances to make changes and address inequalities. The public can challenge decisions. Democracy has accountability at its core. In Iran, it is so much more difficult to challenge the regime. Difficult and illegal. But the women of Iran choose to challenge, not only today, but every day.
Challenging the oppression of women is not only for women to do. Men have an important role everywhere in recognizing equality. Iran will only be free when the women of Iran are free.
British MP, Steve McCabe
Sadly, today, Iran is not a place that celebrates women. Iranian authorities have no respect for their own people or other countries. The men in charge of the IRGC, the mullahs who torture, murder, and rape, they don’t respect diplomacy. Concessions are a sign of caving in. We should make it clear that we won’t negotiate with them unless they abandon nuclear ambitions, terrorist activities. We want Nazanin Zaghari to be back home in London.
That is not negotiable. We shouldn’t negotiate until they respect human rights and the rights of women. We salute the brave women who won’t be silenced, and we praise the leadership of Madam Rajavi.
Bob Blackman, British MP, Co-Chairman of the International Committee of Parliamentarians for a Democratic Iran
I express my support for and send my best wishes to the Iranian women who are shouldering the main responsibility and hard task to bring down one of the most oppressive regimes in history and in our time.
Misogyny is the regime’s nature. It justifies and enforces the domestic repression of women by clamping down on women and implementing the repressive and obligatory dress-code against them. The regime has no capacity to reform. In other words, the principle of the velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule) is the pillar of the regime’s constitution, and it cannot be changed even through a referendum.
The regime in Iran acts as a pariah state with nuclear extortion, hostage-taking diplomacy, terrorism and destabilising the region complemented with a brutal domestic crackdown on legitimate protests, opposition, and dissenting voices.
This unacceptable behaviour must be met with maximum pressure and not maximum diplomacy by the UK and her allies in Europe and the US.
The UK, Europe and US need to listen to the people of Iran and apply maximum pressure.
Supporting the Iranian people and the NCRI to free Iran from the grip of this brutal regime is the only long-term sustainable solution to secure and advance human rights, democracy and equality in Iran. This must be the centre and ultimate goal of UK policy on Iran.
Women are standing up to the regime to realise the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people, which today, in my view, converges with both the economic and security interests of the UK and Europe at large.
This is the real win-win policy for the UK and Iran, in contrast to dialogue and the flawed nuclear deal with the mullahs that many civil servants, diplomats and proponents of appeasing the regime claim.
Senator Catherine Noone of Fine Gael (Irish Senate) (2016-2020)
Good afternoon Madam Rajavi, distinguished guests, and all other women, who are with us today throughout the world. Happy International Women’s Day.
It’s an honor for me to speak at this conference to defend the rights of Iranian women who have been strong enough to resist for so many years to finally sweep the misogynistic Mullahs out of Iran, and I wish them well.
Violence against women is something we all wish to address, especially on International Women’s Day. The situation in Iran, as we all know, is particularly vast, at least a decade of foot dragging in the adoption of any law to protect women from violence has placed Iran at the very top of the list of countries with the highest records of violence against women.
They say and imagine this, they say that 66% of Iranian women experienced violence in their lifetime. That’s just staggering. Women’s security and equality, freedom and social justice will never be realized in Iran under the Mullahs misogynistic regime. Why? Because violence against women is effectively sponsored by the government, and it is in the law, it is institutionalized by the law.
Iranian women are smart enough not to believe the empty promises of the regime, instead, as other speakers have alluded to, they spearhead and lead the protest to overthrow the misogynistic regime, and courageously pay the price for doing so.
It’s great to see you, Madame Rajavi, and I’m very pleased to meet you in Paris a couple of years ago. I admire you for the strong resistance you have built up through all of the ups and downs and always moving towards final victory, and you have my full support.
I’ve been informed today of a meeting that our foreign minister attended in Iran. In fact, he’s just back and I spoke to him today, because I, like others, was very concerned to hear about this.
And it’s important to emphasize that that meeting was in the context of Ireland’s role on the Security Council, we’re a new member of the Security Council. And there’s even in the context of nuclear security.
And I think above all, one thing we all want to ensure is that Iran does not become a nuclear power. And this is an agreement that was put in place some years ago that Trump had done away with, and now the Biden administration that is keen to reactivate and reestablish, and it is purely from a security point of view.
For a while, Minister Coveney was there because I, like many other Irish politicians, since I’ve known Hussein and since he’s come to Dublin to visit us, and since we’ve gone to different events in Paris, and other places, we have all emphasized the Human Rights atrocities that we have learned about and that we are so aware of. And he was very mindful of that.
When making his trip, he told me that during his meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister there, that he raised the issue of women and their treatments in particular, and minors and the LGBT community.
So, I was very glad to hear that, and it certainly means that your efforts in working with us politicians throughout the world that they are not in vain and that that message was brought by our minister to Iran to the regime to let them know that it is not acceptable, their treatments and the way that they conduct their regime.
So, I just like to again say a very Happy International Women’s Day to the women, especially the Iranian women on this conference, and women throughout the world. We support you in your endeavors. And it’s an honor to speak with you today. Thank you.
Anthea McIntyre, former MEP from UK (2004-2019)
I find it sickening to see European officials pursuing trade relations, appeasing mullahs, and ignoring their human rights abuses, especially against women. The regime of mullahs’ President Hassan Rouhani has increased restrictions against women. Many women are in prison because they dared to express their opinion.
Let us promise our sisters in Iran that we will choose to challenge and will do everything we can to help bring this change.
Zinat Mirhashemi, member of the NCRI and the Central Committee of the Cherik-hay-e Fedaii Organization (OIPFG)
In Iran we have well-educated women who are challenging the regime, and on the other hand we have a brutal regime that is repressing the people and their freedoms. The rules and laws of the mullahs’ regime support violence against women. The regime has enchained the women in rules that date back to centuries ago.
But facing this regime is the will and determination of the women of Iran. Women are at the forefront of protests and the struggle against the regime. There were many women in the November 2019 protests and are currently in Iran’s prisons resisting against the regime.
British MP, Christian Wakeford
The people of Iran are held back by a brutal regime that has poor views on women and human rights. The women of Iran are ready to thrive, but they are held back. They have strong supporters across the globe. We will do anything we can to help the cause of women in Iran. We need peace in Iran.
Without peace in Iran, we won’t have peace in the Middle East. You will have the support and the means to have your voices heard, because for far too long, you haven’t been heard.
Struan Stevenson, coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change in Iran and a former MEP from Scotland
Young Iranian women are becoming increasingly engaged in the growing opposition to the mullah’s corrupt regime. They are joining the Resistance Units that are springing up in every town and city in Iran.
Today, Iranian women are at the forefront of the resistance to the theocratic dictatorship. Indeed the main democratic opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), is led by a woman, the charismatic Maryam Rajavi. Brave women are now routinely joining their brothers to demand regime change and an end to the misogyny and repression which has terrorized not only the Iranian people for the past four decades but a vast part of the Middle East as well.
The women of Iran are no longer prepared to be silenced. They will be heard and their cry for freedom and democracy will resonate around the world.
Sir Roger Gale, Senior British MP, UK Representative at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
The Iranian people are the victims of the poor choices made by the regime. For the UK-Iran relationship to be meaningful, the UK must build on our values shared with the Iranian people.
The UK government must engage with the pro-democracy resistance movement, the NCRI, and president-elect Madam Rajavi. Women are playing a vital role in shaping protests and the struggle against the regime for the past 42 years.
The UK must not hold a one-sided dialogue that doesn’t respect its own people. We must hear the aspirations of the Iranian people.
The time has come for a more robust approach. We recommend the government to develop cases on human rights abuses in Iran, including those against dual nationals.
The head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, is a prime target for sanctions. Given his role in atrocities, including the 1988 massacre of political prisoners and the 2019 protests, what better way to support the people of Iran than to declare new sanctions against Raisi.
I send my wishes to the women of Iran, especially the brave women leading the resistance.
Senator Erin McGreehan of Fine Gael (Irish Senate)
It is very hard for us as women in the western world to imagine what can be happening to women in Iran. The manner in which the Iranian regime is treating its citizens especially its women is handicapping the progress of the country.
The behavior of oppression and brutality against women who speak out shows that the regime is desperate, and it is the only way it can govern.
Giso Shakeri, renown Iranian singer
We will continue our struggle to overthrow the mullahs’ regime. We will not forget the crimes of this regime.
To the mullahs I say, you are right to fear us because we will bring you down. We will stand. Your overthrow is the first step to reach freedom.
We will do everything we can to help the women of Iran achieve their rights. We will continue to support the women of Kurdistan.
Archbishop Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury
It’s a very great pleasure and privilege to be able to address this meeting and to recognise the presence of Mrs Rajavi here with us. We are celebrating International Women’s Day and whenever we do this, we need to bear in mind the crucial role which the empowerment of women plays in the advancement of any society.
It’s a commonplace recognition now, that raising the status and recognising the skills of women is an essential part of driving forward a society that is more participatory and democratic but also one which is more effective in its education and its healthcare. That is why any regime, any society, in which women’s skills and capacities are systematically denied or oppressed is one that must cause great concern in the global community.
And we know that this is one of the great problems facing Iranian society under its present regime.
It is a very striking fact indeed, that women have been at the forefront of protest and resistance within Iran, especially within the last couple of years and of course beyond its borders in the … community. And the fact that women have played so prominent, and so transforming courageous a role in the politics of Iranian society in resistance to tyranny tells its story. It tells a story of repression and discontent, but also of confidence and hope.
And this event today is not simply about the history of repression but also about the renewal of hope. Hope for an Iranian future which will be good news for all its citizens. A future for the Iranian people in which women can play their full and proper part in developing a society that is sustainable and compassionate and just.
It’s important to say as we think of these things, that this discourse about the rights of women is not some kind of Western agenda, not some kind of foreign imposition on Iranian society. Concern about the rights and dignities of women comes from the deepest roots in that shared Jewish, Muslim and Christian civilization and religious perspective which has so transformed our world.
This is not a stalking horse for alien values. It is an expression of what is most deeply rooted in the values we share and care about. The values which will truly transform human possibilities. So, we are meeting in that hope; the hope of a future where a common vision shared by the great religious and cultural traditions of the region will come to flower.
A future where women are able indeed to play their part. A future where sectarian, partisan and bigoted policies, state sponsored violence, state sponsored untruth will at last be something of the past.
In the confidence and the hope that that just, compassionate and democratic future, I send greetings for this event and assure you and the Iranian people of my continuing prayers and support for a just future. Thank you for the opportunity of sharing this event and speaking to you.
Dignity is not afforded to the 42 million women living in Iran. Discrimination is entrenched in every aspect of their lives. We are undeterred in the face of discrimination and abuse.
We are stronger and more determined than ever. With the leadership of Madam Rajavi and the NCRI, we have a platform to channel our energy toward the change the women of Iran so much deserve.
Lady Val Corbett
I wish for regime change in Iran so that it can be a country of diversity where women can take their right place in their society. Women are at the forefront of the struggle for freedom. Despite the brutality of the regime, these nonviolent protests work.
I send this message from the free women of Britain to the women of Iran: We regard you as the bravest of the brave. Know that we regard you as our sisters. We support your right to be heard. Iran will be free.
Hellen Williams Women’s Rights Activist
As we gather to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements and increasing visibility in these areas, we must not forget that sadly there are so many parts of the world where women struggle to achieve their most fundamental rights, let alone equality. The great country of Iran is sadly at the forefront of that inequality.
On this special day, we remind the women of Iran that their struggle is not theirs alone, but the collective efforts of all of us who care about human rights.
Any system of government which promotes misogyny and oppression is doomed to fail. This is a historical fact. It is also evident, as we’ve been hearing today, that all too often, women and some young juvenile women, are prime victims of the regime and yet they are in the forefront of the calls for change.
The leadership of Maryam Rajavi represents progressive hope for the women of Iran. I am certain that the day will come when the women of Iran are free, enjoying the same rights as men and are able to represent and lead their country. The UK should support these brave Iranian women so that that day will come sooner rather than later. So we must challenge the regime on women’s rights, call out inequality and resolutely support the Iranian women’s struggle for equality and a free and democratic Iran.
Senator Erin McGreehan, Member of Fine Gael (Irish Senate)
The women of the world stand with you. Iranian women have never surrendered to misogynistic policies. I stand in solidarity with the brave women of Iran.