Women’s Power is Greatest Challenger to Islamic Fundamentalism
Excerpts of speech by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) at International Women’s Day conference held in Berlin on March 7, 2015 attended by over a hundred women personalities from five continents:
In the past two centuries, our world has time and again reached new heights in large measure due to women’s equality movements. I mean women’s landmark movement for suffrage, their efforts to obtain individual rights and freedoms, including the right to education, to property, to divorce, to inheritance, to equal pay, increasing participation quota of women in economic and political institutions, and their selfless struggle in the framework of liberation movements which have fought against dictatorship.
Regrettably, however, the advancement of the ideal of equality has today come face-to-face with a formidable barrier, Islamic fundamentalism. While endangering the whole region and world through genocide, terrorism and discrimination, this phenomenon is most hostile to women. For this reason, today, women’s plight in the Middle East is entirely entwined with insecurity, oppression, homelessness, murder and servitude.
Far beyond the Middle East, fundamentalism is now threatening Europe and other regions across the globe.
Nevertheless, I want to say that there is a way to defeat and overcome this destructive force and there is a solution…
: Women’s power is the greatest challenger to Islamic fundamentalism.
Indeed, the solution is being offered by a resistance movement which believes in the power and leadership of women, who are leading this fight.
At the outset, allow me to explain how fundamentalism came into being.
The emergence of fundamentalism stems from a multitude of factors, including social and historical circumstances, as well as policies pursued by the international community.
Major developments in the twentieth century in their own right impacted the formation and rapid advance of fundamentalism. But none has been as determinative as the rise to power of the reactionary mullahs in Iran. This is particularly the case because the ruling regime in Iran offered, for the first time, a model for fundamentalist groups to follow, the very groups who have now become the source of terrorism and war in the Middle East region and elsewhere.
But is the emergence of fundamentalism, as some assert, a face-off between the Islamic world and the West; or more specifically, is this a confrontation between Islam on the one hand, and Christianity and Judaism on the other?
Indeed no! In reality, the crux of the conflict is not between Islam and Christianity. Nor is it between Islam and the West, and nor between the Shia and the Sunni. The conflict is over freedom versus subjugation and dictatorship, between equality on the one hand and oppression and misogyny on the other.
Indeed, why do more than all others, fundamentalists direct their vengeance and violence towards women? First, because their backward nature has rendered them misogynous. And second, during the 1979 revolution in Iran as well as in social movements in other Middle East countries, the fundamentalist were challenged and are being challenged today with an immense yearning for freedom and equality, which pivots around women’s emancipation.
For this reason, misogyny lies at the core fundamentalist mindset, which by suppressing women oppresses and intimidates society as a whole.
I must, however, emphasize that fundamentalism is a defensive reaction to the freedom and equality movement and can certainly not withstand the determination of Middle East nations to move forward and attain freedom and equality.
Confronting fundamentalism requires a comprehensive solution, including a cultural response.
By invoking the name of Islam, fundamentalism uses this religion as a weapon to go on the offensive.
Thus, the answer is in Democratic Islam, the antithesis to fundamentalism.
I must therefore emphasize that these two phenomena are diametrically opposite one another.
One is a dictatorial ideology and the other is the religion of freedom, which recognizes sovereignty as the most important right of the people.
One defends religious discrimination; the other is an Islam which defends equal rights for the followers of other religions.
One is monopolistic and dogmatic; the other is a tolerant Islam, which promotes respect for the belief in other ideas and religions.
One is a religion imposed through force; the other is an Islam which rejects any compulsion in religion.
One practices misogyny; the other promotes gender equality.
By underscoring this reality half a century ago, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) challenged Islamic fundamentalism.
Speaking about these two Islams, the Resistance’s Leader Massoud Rajavi said that one interpretation of Islam “is the harbinger of darkness while the other is the standard bearer of freedom, unity and emancipation. But the battle between these two, which is at the same time, a battle of destiny for the Iranian people and history, is one of the most important tests of contemporary humanity.”
Now, we must answer this question: politically speaking, what is the solution to fundamentalism?
Today, in Asia and Africa, different fundamentalist groups are engaged in destruction and terrorism under the banner of Islam. Their atrocities, having spread to Paris, Brussels and Copenhagen, have endangered human society.
How can this danger be thwarted? Where is the core of this danger, which if destroyed, would mean the end of fundamentalism?
We must find the answer in challenging the religious dictatorship ruling Iran, because this regime is the heart of the problem and its support for Bashar Assad’s dictatorship in Syria and Maliki in Iraq led to the emergence of fundamentalist militias and ISIS.
As such, silence vis-à-vis the Iranian regime’s meddling in Syria, Iraq and other regional countries, let alone collaborating with it under the pretext of confronting ISIS, represents a strategic mistake. It would be delusional to ask the arsonist to put out the arson. To the contrary, the correct policy is to evict the mullahs’ regime from Iraq and Syria.
The Iranian regime is the founding state for most of the atrocities and evil which fundamentalist groups have perpetrated and are perpetrating by using the mullahs’ rule as a role model.
Indeed, who made stoning to death an official practice in the last two decades of the Twentieth Century?
Who enacted in law eye gouging and limb amputation as punishment?
Who massacred the largest number of political prisoners since the Second World War?
Who issued a fatwa to murder a foreign author?
Who revived and used a reactionary caliphate as a role model?
Indeed, it is the velayat-e faqih regime, the godfather of terrorism, the enemy of Middle East nations and the primary threat to global peace and security.
As we mark the International Women’s Day, I must say that Khomeini and his cronies have perpetrated many heinous crimes and assaults against women most of which have remained untold even now.
The reality is that the shocking and heart wrenching crimes committed by ISIS in recent months are only a small part of the catastrophe the Iranian people have had to endure for the past 36 years.
It was the mullahs’ regime which initiated terrorism under the banner of Islam. Fortunately, leaders of Western powers have unequivocally distinguished between Islam and fundamentalism. Chancellor Merkel recently said that terror under the banner of Islam was an insult to God.
Indeed, the Iranian regime serves as the founder, the patron and the guide for fundamentalism in the world today.
For this reason, bringing down this regime, which acts as the godfather of ISIS, is an urgent imperative, not only for the Iranian people but for the Middle East region and the world at large.
The international community cannot defeat fundamentalism, unless and until it targets the epicenter of fundamentalism, namely the mullahs’ regime in Iran.
Western policy of appeasement is at fault because the West has not only failed to seriously confront fundamentalism, but has chosen the path of conciliation with its state sponsor, the regime Iran, and partnered with it in clamping down on the alternative to fundamentalism.
Indeed, why are Western governments confused over how to deal with ISIS and extremism under the name of Islam?
Why have they failed to correctly identify the reality of fundamentalism, its threats and its profound weaknesses?
Because they are immersed in appeasing the fundamentalists.
We tell them to stop appeasement and separate your ranks from the epicenter of fundamentalism, namely the regime in Iran.
Similarly, I want to warn that offering concessions to this regime during the nuclear talks runs counter to the highest interests of the people of Iran and the region and undermines global peace and security. It is also tantamount to sacrificing the human rights of the Iranian people.
Just three days ago, simultaneous with nuclear talks, the mullahs hanged publicly and secretly dozens of prisoners including six Sunni Kurdish political prisoners who had been on hunger strike. Their execution was a bid to conceal the regime’s impasse and prevent popular uprisings. We hail those martyrs and stress that silence and inaction over these inhuman crimes under the pretext of nuclear negotiations only embolden the mullahs to continue such atrocities and persist in their bomb-making projects. The mullahs came to the negotiating table out of utter desperation. But the policy of appeasement has emboldened the mullahs. Such a feeble policy amounts to encouraging fundamentalism. So Western powers must end it.
There is a solution because the Iranian people have at no time remained silent vis-à-vis the ruling religious dictatorship. In the past three decades, they have worked to form a democratic alternative against it.
This alternative has at its core a movement that believes in genuine and democratic Islam and embraces the separation of religion and state. It is a powerful alternative and the harbinger of women equality in all spheres, especially in political leadership and governance.
This movement owes it perseverance and advancement to its belief in the ideal of equality.
The presence of women at all levels of this movement and their steadfastness at the front line of the battle amid the most intense pressures and killings has created a new level of commitment to the ideal of equality and by extension endowed this movement with a new level of strength and perseverance.
Indeed, a movement which finds fulfillment in its own ideal and is not deterred by the balance of power endures, advances, remains invigorated and refreshed and creates new values, which provides it with the power to persevere today and to rebuilt tomorrow.
These values include giving primacy to love, affection, friendship and putting one’s fellow colleagues first. Such values are the mirror image of rivalry, envy and eliminating others. It is in a word, love in place of hatred.
They include not losing hope and not succumbing to hardships, despite the difficulties and the length of this struggle.
I must say that these values do not belong to Iran’s pioneering women and men. They are key to progress and liberation wherever there is oppression and inequality. This is a path and a mantra which urges hope and continuing struggle. It promotes steadfastness and perseverance.
Liberated women in Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Europe and America and elsewhere around the world, I call on all of you to form and expand a powerful front against Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and barbarism under the name of Islam.
The presence of anti-fundamentalist men in this front is of course of special significance.
When the murder of our children in Pakistan is tolerated;
When the abduction of our daughters in Nigeria and the murder and widespread homelessness of women and children in Syria become routine;
When there no one expresses outrage at the execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari and splashing acid on the faces of our sisters in Iran,
It is the force and power of women which can and must rise to the occasion. It is the voice of women, the cries of protest by and unity among women that can and must stop this catastrophe from continuing.
Because of this historic responsibility, changing the status quo is our duty and commitment and we must all work together to realize it:
Whether it is women’s rights to equality in all spheres, or the right to choose one’s clothing, or abolishing compulsory veiling, or equal participation in political leadership.
Indeed, we must create a world based on justice, freedom and equality. The creation of such a world by women is certainly possible.
To all my sisters across Iran, to valiant women who persevere in prisons at this very moment, to young women whose voices are the loudest outcries in Iran today, to women teachers, who took park in teachers’ protest movement in large numbers in these past few days, and to my sisters, who are workers, employees and nurses, who study at universities or high schools, I say, today all of you carry the mantle of liberating Iran.
You have the several generations of martyred women as role models. Fatemeh Amini, Ashraf Rajavi, Azam Rouhi Ahangaran, Marzieh Oskouii, and the bright stars of Camp Ashraf, Zohreh Qaemi, Giti Givehchian, Saba Haftbaradaran, Mahdieh, Farideh, Razieh Kermanshahi, and 1,000 vanguard women in the ranks of the Mojahedin at Camp Liberty.
Let us join voices and tell the world community, the U.S government, the European Union and the United Nations that the largest movement comprised of pioneering women in Camp Liberty is the source of hope and inspiration for Iranian women and is a treasure for equality movement everywhere. You must not ignore their protection.
And let me say aloud that if you are not going to guarantee the protection of the PMOI in Camp Liberty, you must at least return parts of their personal weaponry so that they can defend themselves in the face of assaults by the terrorist Quds Force and the Iranian regime’s militias.
Otherwise you are feeding the beast of fundamentalism.
So, I say to you freedom-seeking women and men throughout the world to strengthen this anti-fundamentalist front in order to protect the rights of the PMOI in Camp Liberty and to fight against the religious fascism ruling Iran.
Indeed, a moment in history is looming that despite darkness and despair, the world will be rid of the nightmare of fundamentalism and the nations of the Middle East will be saved from this evil spell. And with no doubt this will be realized with our unity.
We can and we must!
Hail to all of you.