International Women’s Day – Paris 2012
Dear friends, my dear sisters,
I am delighted to join you here at this conference on International Women’s Day and see such a distinguished gathering of elected representatives of different nations, thinkers, advocates of the equality movement and defenders of human rights.
The presence of my sisters from Afghanistan, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Syria, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and France makes this conference more fruitful.
International Women’s Days brings to mind women’s struggle and perseverance.
Thus, before all, we must congratulate women who today and at this very hour are engaged in the struggle.
So, I congratulate my dear sisters in the blood-soaked epicenters of the uprisings by the people of Syria, in Homs and Baba Omar, Rastan and Der’a, the astounding scenes of a heroic resistance in the face of “crime against humanity.”
This year, the United Nations has appropriately named International Women’s Day as the Day for Syrian women.
So, let us all rise and applaud for one minute as a show of solidarity and to commend the sacrifice of women in Syria.
We also hail the courageous women in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
And hail to the women in Ashraf, who defeated the onslaught of Iraqi Humvees and armored carries with empty hands on April 8, 2011. Let us honor Saba, Asiyeh, Shahnaz, Marzieh, Fatemeh, Fa’ezeh, Mahdiyeh and Nastaran, who were murdered in cold blood by the invading Iraqi forces.
And hail to the arisen women who are resisting in prisons of Khamenei in Iran, in Evin, Gohardasht, Vakil Abad, Sanandaj, and Orumiyeh.
And hail to my young daughters across Iran who are laying the groundwork for the uprising for freedom.
In the past 11 months, according to international sources, at least 300 brave Syrian women and more than 500 children have been murdered by the Assad dictatorship.
Women, men and children in Syria have been fighting with tooth and nail against the alliance of evil and darkness.
The axis of this sinister union is the religious dictatorship ruling Iran, which is terrified of expanding revolutions, especially by the people of Syria who are fighting to gain their freedom. This is so because the fall of Assad would shatter the mullahs’ regional alliance. It would also disrupt the balance of power within the Iranian regime to Khamenei’s detriment.
And similar to February 14 uprising last year in Iran, it prepares a suitable basis for the eruption of uprisings in Tehran and other cities.
This is particularly so because the fall of the Syrian regime will create a schism that will extend to Khamenei’s regime.
The springs of the Middle East and North African signal the desire of the nations of these regions for freedom and equality. These movements have grown out of a fundamental conflict.
In reality, for advancement and evolution, societies in that part of the world require a set of relationships based on freedom and democracy. Yet, the faltering dictatorships, which cannot rule without repression and terror, have blocked their path.
As the Iranian Resistance’s Leader Massoud Rajavi has said, “The path to industrial growth and capitalism in these countries, without political freedoms – indispensable to the path of economic and social development – has reached a dead end. The pre-capitalist fundamentalist regime in Iran faces this impasse far more than others, for which reason the alarms over its overthrow have began to sound.”
I must emphasize that these movements, by their nature and in their essence, are antifundamentalist. Nevertheless, with the overthrow of tyrannies, they face the risk of being derailed by the fundamentalists.
To destroy the Arab spring, the mullahs are waiting in the wings with the sinister motto of “Islamic awakening.” This is all the more case because inside Iran the mullahs have reached an impasse and in order to maintain power they need to take hostage the fate of the Arab Spring.
For this reason, many warily asked will these revolutions culminate in the ascension to power of the fundamentalists as it happened in Iran 33 years ago. And will the women who have so courageously taken part in the uprisings not become its biggest losers?
Is the ultimate fate of our nations anything other than dictatorships or theocracies?
Have the struggle for change and the movement for freedom reached a deadlock?
No. It is never that way.
Because today we have an answer; an answer which offers a breakthrough for freedom and equality. It is an option which steers society toward genuine progress and development.
This answer is women’s assumption of responsibility and their active participation and leadership.
Allow me to refer to the experience of the Iranian revolution. While it the revolution was stolen by Khomeini, a magnificent resistance emerged to challenge it. This resistance heralds freedom and democracy for Iran’s future and hinges on women’s leadership role.
Fundamentalists begin with the oppression and degradation of women in order to erect the pillars of their power. Nevertheless, fundamentalism will be defeated by the struggle and the uprising involving these very oppressed women.
This reality is the essence of what our resistance movement has experienced. This experience testifies to the fact that as the struggle to attain freedom and democracy becomes more difficult and the face-off with religious fundamentalism becomes more profound, gender equality and women’s participation, particularly their leadership role, in the struggle becomes more indispensable.
Here, I want to elaborate on what women’s leadership means in practice and what its outcome has been.
Does it mean the men are marginalized and that resistance should only be carried out by women?
Does it mean that men have to hand over the management of the resistance movement to women?
No, not at all? This phenomenon has neither come to eliminate others, nor to compete with the existing status quo. But, it is seeking to build a set of relationships based on freedom, equality and democracy.
For this reason, in the resistance movement led by women, men have not been marginalized. To the contrary, they have become more emancipated and responsible and more resolved and enduring in the struggle for freedom. For women’s assumption of responsibility rests on free choice and expression as well as on women’s genuine participation alongside men.
Isn’t the most urgent and necessary response to the problem of youths their participation in all aspects of society’s economic and political undertakings?
So, an alternative approach is needed which would guarantee women’s genuine participation; a set of relationships based on taking into account and hearing out the people; a set of relationships based on tolerance and lenience. Thus, women are the answer.
Indeed, we have stepped into an era where the responsibility to liberate human society from the yoke of oppression, despotism and exploitation rests on the shoulders of women.
Women are worthy of this responsibility and are undoubtedly capable of assuming that role.
The pivotal role of women in the Iranian Resistance is the result of waging a complex and enduring struggle against the world’s most vicious tyranny.
Iranian women have withstood major challenges and, at the same time, have provided human society with major accomplishments.
The most brilliant achievement of our resistance is the decade-long perseverance in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, under the mullahs’ unrelenting pressure aimed at destroying them.
The regime has not only benefitted from its client government in Iraq, but has at times enlisted the cooperation of 12 different governments against the resistance movement.
Nevertheless, the women in Ashraf overcame two horrific massacres in July 2009 and April 2011. They crushed the mullahs’ major conspiracies to shatter the ranks of the People’s Mojahedin. And they have preserved under a ruthless siege in the past three years.
This is the by-product of their commitment to the ideal of freedom and a leader who rejects exploitation.
In this way, a new set of relationships based on equality, with women taking responsibility and assuming the leadership has become a possibility.
These set of relationships, free of exploitation, enable women to express their human character.
These set of relationships are based on self-sacrifice, giving priority to other’s interests over one’s own interests and making up for the weaknesses and shortcomings of others; a set of relationships based on active outreach to others, which elevates human beings to their greatest human asset.
Such humanity has enabled the women in the resistance to withstand highest pressures and most difficult circumstances, not to feel despondent and desperate and not to become passive.
To the contrary, the greater the difficulties and the harder the conditions became, the greater the effort undertaken by the women in the resistance in opening the way and advancing forward.
And this has given women such faith that they do not look to chance, or the will of this or that power. Instead of becoming hopeless and desperate, they rely on their own power and on the power of solidarity with their own people in order to further step up their struggle.
Indeed, not surrendering, not giving up, not being content, taking risks, failing time after time, but rising up again, constantly yearning for new ways and ideas, discovering and realizing the slightest human attribute and demonstrating tolerance are what characterize women.
These are the sources of what can be done in the face of what must be done.
I would like to refer here to the effective presence of women in the ranks of the Iranian resistance that has also resulted in major accomplishments in exposing the reactionary interpretation of Islam. Women have demonstrated that Islam is not a religion that enslaves women. It is not a misogynous and discriminatory religion. It is not a religion of deception, monopoly, repression, whipping, executions and stoning to death. On the contrary, they have shown that Islam is a religion of equality, of women’s emancipation and taking on responsibilities. It is a religion of tolerance, compassion, love and mercy. It is a religion in which there is no compulsion.
Women in the Iranian Resistance have created a movement without borders based on a new level of human solidarity. This is a movement comprised of noble human beings who are the embodiment of faith in democracy in their own countries; those, who have set aside partisan interests and politics, and have risen to defend the resistance for the Iranian people’s freedom.
In this regard, I must refer to the formation of a global front against fundamentalism and religious dictatorship, which you, my dear sisters, have played a worthy role in its formation. In this struggle, you are standing alongside 1,000 pioneering women in Ashraf and in the ranks of the resistance as a whole, including those in Iran’s prisons. You have the most effective role in the equality movement.
Women will build the 21st Century and the future is in your hands.
Women’s struggle is totally against appeasement. For this reason, pushing back the policy of appeasing religious fascism on the international scene has been their accomplishment.
The political and legal campaign in recent years, which succeeded in breaking the shackles of the terrorist listing, is part of this struggle. This campaign has first and foremost confirmed the right of the Iranian people to resist and to enable regime change.
The active and responsible presence of women in all levels of the resistance turned the movement into an impactful political force which can turn the international balance of power in favor of the Iranian people. For the first time, it has turned a moral force into a source of political power.
Let me summarize,
In a world facing a threat such as the religious fascism ruling Iran;
In a world, where western policymakers out of geopolitical and commercial considerations are submitting to religious fascism;
In a world where resistance and sacrifice for freedom is being demeaned, and thus independent and freedom-seeking movements find no room to survive;
Iran’s pioneering women have created a genuine and unstoppable resistance, which is the answer to the new era. It is the response by women and youth for progress and liberation. This resistance overcomes the deadlocks from which other movements and revolutions have suffered.
The women and men at Ashraf have charted a new era in the history of our resistance and nation through their perseverance and steadfastness.
Three days ago, the second group of the residents of Ashraf left for Camp Liberty. The enemy wants to turn Liberty into a prison for the residents of Ashraf. Nevertheless, despite all the difficulties and shortages, the combatants of Iran’s freedom have stepped up their resistance against the mullahs.
Instead of guaranteeing humanitarian and human rights standards, the Iraqi government has flooded with armed forces and with an assortment of surveillance cameras and eavesdropping equipment. It has denied the residents freedom of movement, free access to doctors, lawyers and family members. In short, the new camp lacks the most basic living conditions such as drinking water and electricity.
Nevertheless, in order to give the peaceful solution another chance and neutralize the conspiracies of the Iranian regime, the second group of Ashraf residents demonstrated utmost flexibility and sense of responsibility and relocated to Liberty.
Now is the time that the US government and the United Nations guarantee the implementation of the minimum assurances and ensure that the residents enjoy all their rights in Liberty. Otherwise, the failure to sign an agreement or implement these guarantees by the Iraqi government will prevent the further movement of the residents from Ashraf to Liberty.
Guaranteeing their basic rights puts important realities before the world community, including the UN’s commitment to its responsibilities to protect victims of crimes against humanity. It also demonstrates the US compliance with international law and upholding its commitments to protect the residents of Ashraf.
I am sure that you, the participants in this conference, and those of you in sit-ins in Geneva and Washington, DC, and all supporters of Ashraf around the world will, through your perseverance, realize these objectives.
My dear sisters,
The steadfastness of the Mojahedin in Ashraf and the Iranian Resistance reflect the overwhelming desire of Iranian society to attain freedom and overthrow the ruling theocracy.
They have arisen to build a democratic society, a republic based on the separation of church and state, respect for human rights, abolition of death penalty, annulling the mullahs’ Sharia laws, gender equality, active and equal participation of women in political leadership, ensuring all individual and social freedoms, including the right to choose one’s clothing and spouse as well as to divorce and custody of children and the prohibition on violence and exploitation.
Now the fundamental question is this:
Iranian women have a 150-year history of struggle for freedom and equality; they enjoy a rich and forward looking culture; they have had an unrivaled role in the resistance against religious fascism; they have been at the forefront of the uprisings; and they are a majority among Iran’s university students.
Why then have their freedoms and rudimentary rights been trampled upon by the misogynist mullahs?
Why is their livelihood being devastated by violence and humiliation?
Why are they considered second class citizens in the home, in the work place and in educational centers?
Why do they have such a small share in employment and economic activity?
Why are they treated as second rate in laws and policies?
Why have they been prohibited from participating in running the affairs of their country?
Why so many prohibitions, so many privations and so much equality? Why?
Why compulsory veiling, compulsory living and subservience? How long is this going to last?
The cause of all this suppression, indignities and crimes is the religious dictatorship in Iran. This degrading situation must be completely overturned and we will overturn it.
Iranian society deserves and needs freedom, democracy and gender equality. And it shall be so.
Iranian women deserve equal participation in the country’s political leadership. We shall achieve that right.
Accordingly, I say to the leaders of the misogynous regime,
You should not think for a moment that you can forestall the overthrow of your decadent and fragile rule, which hinges on torture, violations and intimidation!
You should not think that you can shackle Iran’s spring more than you already have!
The tremendous force for freedom and equality is poised behind the wall of repression.
This wall will be broken. It will be torn down.
These very enlightened and resistant women will build a free and democracy society on the ruins of the mullahs’ misogynous regime.
So, to my sisters in Baluchistan, Khuzestan, Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Gilan, Mazandaran, or Tehran, Khorassan, Isfahan, Kerman and all across Iran, I say,
Look at the women in Ashraf and rise to assume your responsibilities. You have the responsibility to attain freedom and equality and establish democracy in Iran.
It is you who must overthrow the ruling religious fascism. You have the task of freeing your people and your nation.
In this struggle, women who led the struggle in Iran’s history in the years past have come to your aid. Women such as Marzieh Oskoui, Azam Rouhi Ahangaran, Merhnoush Ebrahimi, Fatemi Amini and Ashraf Rajavi.
The tens of thousands of heroines, tortured and executed by the mullahs’ regime in the past 33 years, Sediqeh Mojaveri and Neda Hassani, with their bodies ablaze, and Neda Agha-Soltan, the symbol of Iran uprising.
Indeed, freedom and equality are within reach,
The oppressed will triumph,
Iran’s religious fascism will be toppled at your hands, and freedom will dawn on the Iranian nation.
Thank you all very much