Belgian, EP parliamentarians support Iranian women’s struggle

IWD Conference in Brussels – March 2017

On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, a meeting was held on Wednesday, March 8, 2017, at the Belgian Parliament to discuss the plight of Iranian women under the theocratic rule of the mullahs. Belgian MPs, MEPs and a delegation from the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, headed by Sarvnaz Chitsaz participated.

Anthea McIntyre, Member of European Parliament and Vice-Chair of the British Conservative Party; Anna Zaborska, Member of European Parliament from Slovakia; Els Van Hoof, member of Belgian Parliament and Chair of the Women’s Section of CD&V; Nele Lijnen, Member of the Federal Parliament in Belgium from the Liberal Party; and Fatoumata Sidibé, (DéFI) Member of the Parliament of Brussels, addressed the conference which was covered by the official news agency of Belgium, Belga.

In her opening remarks, Ms. Els Van Hoof drew attention to the unequal treatment of women in Iran and said, “Under the so called moderate President Rouhani, around 3000 people have been executed which makes Iran the number one state-executioner in the world per capita. Human rights situation in Iran under Rouhani has not improved but deteriorated after nearly 40 years of executions. The notion in the West that he might bring any changes proved to be nothing but an illusion. Indeed, even after nuclear accord, nothing has changed.”

She added, “Women are jailed because they struggle for freedom, democracy and equality. Some of them are mothers who have young children and they are jailed without any real judicial process. The supreme leader of Iran Khamenei has even banned women from riding bicycles.”

Sarvnaz Chitsaz pointed out, “Iranian women have made great sacrifices. Tens of thousands of women have been executed, imprisoned and tortured. They have been at the forefront of protests and demonstrations against the regime.

They played a major role in the 2009 uprisings. And above all, they have taken key roles in every level in the Iranian resistance, leading the struggle for freedom… Islamic fundamentalism whose heart beats in Iran is a threat to the Middle East and the whole world. It particularly targets women and their achievements. Therefore, confronting the regime in Iran must be one main objective of women’s struggle in the whole world. Sisterly solidarity of women across the world calls for a solid support for confrontation against the regime in Iran.”

Anthea McIntyre recalled, “A few days after coming to power in February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini forced women to wear the Hijab. The following month, we saw the first and sadly last International Women’s Day rally in Iran on the 8 March 1979. That was 38 years ago. I find it interesting that the thousands of the women supporters of the opposition PMOI, who are Muslims and choose to wear the traditional scarf, took part in the rally against the forced veiling. They insisted that a woman has the right to wear what she likes and this shows the important role of the Iranian resistance in the battle against Islamic fundamentalism. It is also really very significant that the main opposition in Iran has a woman as its leader. And I believe it is a very good indicator of how democratic a party, a parliament or a country is. It is by the way they treat women and the role the women would play.”

Anna Zaborska reviewed the plight of women in Iran, “According to government sources, there are more than 2000 women who live in the streets in Tehran. Women are forced to abide by the dress code and must wear compulsory headscarf. Women cannot attend sport matches in stadiums. Women are banned to ride bicycles and many of them have been arrested for this. There are also a number of women political prisoners who did nothing except expressing their opinion. I can mention Maryam Akbari Monfared who has 2 young daughters. She has been imprisoned for eight years without a single-day leave.”

She added, “I have had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Rajavi during her several visits to the European Parliament. I can say that in the dark days of Islamic fundamentalism, not just in Iran but in other Muslim nations where women are regarded as second class and badly treated, we have an opposition movement and a leader who has called for equality and women have very senior responsibilities. This gives us a lot of hope. In the European Parliament, this movement enjoys a lot of support. I believe the women in Iran have a role model to look up to.”

Fatoumata Sidibé noted in her remarks: “Today women in Iran are suffering more than most of us can imagine. They are ruled by a misogynist religious dictatorship. No other country in the world has executed so many women as the regime in Iran in contemporary history. Women are banned from many social, athletic and professional activities just because they are women. Many women are sitting in jail just for demanding their basic human rights. During the nearly four years of the presidency of the so-called moderate president Hassan Rouhani in Iran some 75 women have been hanged.”

Nele Lijnen also addressed the conference. In part of her speech, she said, “Women play the very important leading roles in the Iranian resistance movement which is very unique if we compare to other parts in the Middle East region where women are quite absent. I have met the Iranian opposition leader Mrs. Maryam Rajavi and I fully share her vision that the key for the democratization of Iran, and the whole Middle East is the emancipation of women. Women are the forces for change. They are the ones who should stand up against Islamic fundamentalism that has ruined the Middle East region and the rest of the world. The women of the Iranian Resistance have surely proven that they are very competent and capable of leading the resistance throughout all the hardships. This is a message to the women in Iran that they, too, can and must stand up and fight for their rights for freedom, democracy and equality. It is also a clear signal to the mullahs that their days are numbered.”