Massoud Rajavi believed that the solution must come from the top, with the participation of women in the leadership. Some concurred; others believed that the solution must come from below, with women's increased participation in executive affairs.
I became preoccupied with this problem. For years, ever since I had become politically active, I always thought about how we could pave the way for women's emancipation. I think this inevitably captures the mind of any woman, but sooner or later she may give up thinking about it...
Massoud Rajavi believed that the solution must come from the top, with the participation of women in the leadership. Some concurred; others believed that the solution must come from below, with women's increased participation in executive affairs. I became preoccupied with this problem. For years, ever since I had become politically active, I always thought about how we could pave the way for women's emancipation. I think this inevitably captures the mind of any woman, but sooner or later she may give up thinking about it, because it is just too much, too complicated.
This issue was the subject of debate within a nationwide Resistance movement, and from various angles, I could appreciate the need for this step. When I was nominated for the joint-leadership of the Mojahedin, I was weighed down by the task, and the decision to go ahead was very difficult and quite intolerable. Only one thing removed my doubts: the need I felt existed beyond my own personal attitude for such a step to be taken. The requirements of the Resistance movement were absolutely genuine, and if we wanted to move forward, we had to respond to this need. In addition, during those several months of meetings, I felt that my own and other women's emancipation and ability to realize our full potential, depended on my taking up that responsibility.
None of us anticipated what actually happened. This change - a woman in the leadership - brought about a major internal revolution in our movement. For women, it acted like a spring board. The organization's annual report for that year indicated that the percentage of women in the central council rose from 15 to 34 percent, more than double.
The impasse on women accepting responsibility had been overcome, and it was just the beginning. This leap forward and the new atmosphere it brought to the organization allowed us to carry on a revolution in outlooks, for we did not intend to stop there. The movement's primary goals, democracy and growth, had become entwined with this drive to emancipate women. We were a movement which believed, body and soul, that any progress and development depended on the women's movement. Therefore, we were poised to go to the end of the line: total rejection of the male-dominated culture. This required a revolution in our thinking. As women gradually occupied key positions at the top and in command, their male subordinates felt as if their world was shrinking. It was difficult for them to believe in the women, and their hidden resistance revealed itself in a lack of interest in their responsibilities. Most difficult for the women was their problem, from time immemorial, of not believing in themselves.
It took me several years and thousands of hours of discussions, in small and large groups, to convince these women and men - none of whom ever denied that in theory men and women are equal - to enter this new world in practice, as well. Indeed, to abolish double oppression, you must double your efforts.
Then, gradually, our movement began to see the fruits of its labor in practical terms, and went forward, step by step. In addition to my everyday interaction, I regularly convened meetings to examine individual problems. These meetings were followed up by the officials in charge of each section or department. Three years later, the number of women in the National Liberation Army's general command staff neared 50%. Seven of the 15-member general command were women.
Over these years, the misogynous mullahs closely followed these internal developments and the promotion of our women. Alarmed, they tried in vain to slander our movement, accusing us of feminism and all sorts of moral corruption. The mullahs were terrified of the impact of this movement on Iran's women and the escalation of their resistance. Finally, in 1988, one of the regime's suppressive organs, called the "Central Komiteh," admitted in an internal report to Khomeini that our revolutionary emancipation of women had in fact strengthened and expanded our movement, and served as a major attraction for Iranian women. One passage of the report read: "The Mojahedin's internal revolution has become a means of proving the organization's advocacy of equal rights for women and men... and it has resulted in more women being attracted and loyal to the organization." Elsewhere it said: "They used attractive methods, mixed them with practical application and examples, and achieved their objectives."
We organized our movement in a way that allowed women into all of the sections, departments and fields traditionally reserved for men, giving them access to that expertise. Women began to participate in large numbers in military matters and conquered the most masculine field of work and responsibility. They received training up to the command level. Simultaneously, their sisters began to move up the ladder of responsibility in management and politics.