Report on the International Women’s Day conference in Berlin – Part 1
International Women’s Day is an international solidarity day for all women of the world, celebrating the achievements of the equality movement and focusing attention on women’s issues.
The NCRI Women’s Committee sponsored an international conference in Berlin on March 5, 2022, to mark International Women’s Day. The event was entitled, “Women, Force for Change in Iran, Global Peace, and Security.”
The conference in Berlin was connected online with a gathering in Ashraf-3 in Albania and hundreds of other locations around the world.
More than 170 political figures from 37 countries attended the conference, some of whom addressed the conference or sent messages of support for the struggle of Iranian women for freedom and equality.
Dozens of Iranian women, members of the Resistance Units inside Iran, also sent video messages to the International Women’s Day gathering in Berlin.
The conference was also a venue for expressing international solidarity with the women of Ukraine who are fighting bravely to protect their homeland against aggression.
The NCRI President-elect called the IWD this year, “the day of the resistance of the women of Ukraine.”
Two members of the Parliament of Ukraine met a stormy welcome from the audience when they joined the conference from their shelters to speak to the gathering.
In her brief opening remarks, Mrs. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, the Chair of the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, told the conference: “In these days, our emotions and hearts are specifically with the people of Ukraine and particularly the brave women in Ukraine who have taken up arms and are defending their homeland.”
In another part of her speech, Ms. Chitsaz noted the active role of Iranian women in all protests and uprisings in Iran despite the vicious suppression of women in Iran. She said, “Every day, more and more women join the ranks of the Resistance Units. Without a doubt, today, the prospects for regime change are closer than ever. Tomorrow’s Iran will certainly be a free Iran, based on the ideal of equality. This is the true spirit of March 8.”
Many prominent women’s rights advocates, former officials, and personalities also addressed this evening of international solidarity with the women of Iran.
Helle Thorning Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015), was one of the prominent women who addressed the “Women, Force for Change in Iran, Global Peace and Security” conference.
Expressing her support for the NCRI and its President-elect, Maryam Rajavi, Helle Thorning Schmidt said: “You are our inspiration. Your fight will not only change Iran but will inspire women around the world. Your country will begin a new future. You will inspire women all around the world. The female power is enormous. Misogynist leaders are afraid of female empowerment.
“Women and girls in Iran are the prime victims of the misogynist machine. Iranian women have not submitted to the regime. They have turned into a force for change in Iran and know their rights will only be achieved with political change in Iran. Women in Iran participate in resistance for freedom. This participation is unique, not only in Iran but in the whole world.”
She underscored, “It is remarkable that the NCRI is led by a Muslim woman, Maryam Rajavi. Her ten-point plan is a blueprint for the whole world to see that there is a democratic future for Iran. All democrats across the world should support this plan. The international community should stand with the desire of the Iranian people for a democratic, secular republic. We stand with you. The world needs to stand with the Iranian people. I’m here to tell you that you inspire us.”
Urška Bačovnik Janša, the spouse of the Slovenian Prime Minister, was the next speaker. Being a strong supporter of the Iranian Resistance, Mrs. Janša said: “As a Muslim woman, Maryam (Rajavi), has had to overcome extraordinary political, social, cultural, and ideological challenges put in place by the ruling regime in Iran. I commend Maryam’s courage and commitment to empowering Iranian women. Under Maryam’s leadership, women have risen to hold key positions in the Iranian Resistance movement.”
She added, “I admire the work of the NCRI Women’s Committee that I have been following closely for quite some time. Iranian women have been on the frontline of protests against Iran’s Islamic regime. They have shown enormous courage, intelligence, and strength. We, women around the world, can be proud of all of them.”
Mrs. Janša stressed, “I would like to take the opportunity of today’s event to pass a very strong message to my fellow Western women and Western governments. We must stand firm together, against the policies of the Iranian regime that strangles women’s freedoms. Words of western women’s organizations and governments must be put into action. We must be there for Iranian women.”
Dr. Professor Rita Süssmuth, Speaker of the German Bundestag (1988-1998), followed next. She emphasized, “I almost cry when I think about the things those Iranian women are going through. This can’t continue. We must speak inside and outside the parliament. We are all part of one, and in unity with men. Iran is a highly civilized country. You can see it in the women who come from Iran, the women in Ashraf. They survived the regime. They were not weak. Suffering can lead to fresh energy.”
Prof. Süssmuth added, “Maryam Rajavi is a woman that I admire. She wants to achieve freedom and democracy based on the values of Islam. It is important to make each woman strong, make sure she is confident.”
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, German Defense Minister (2019-2021), also addressed a message of support to the gathering in which she said: “We are talking about strong women in Iran. If we talk about women’s rights, we are talking about the rights of half of the Earth’s population. If we accept fundamentalists and their interpretations, then we don’t have human rights at all. This is why your congress is important for women across the world. The international community has clarified that from the beginning of the fundamentalist regime in Iran, the rights of women have been limited systematically.
“It is important to make each woman strong, make sure she is confident. Two-thirds of students in Iran are women, one-third of the workforce is female. If we cannot manifest this politically in Iran and change the fundamentalist system, their successes will be marginalized.
“On the one hand, we see a fundamentalist regime, and on the other, we see women as a force that believes they can change the system. A lot of women fight for their freedom even though they have to lay down their lives for a better Iran. A great example is Maryam Rajavi, who has laid out a plan for the future of Iran that is liberated from discrimination, where men and women are equal, a country that is not a hub of fundamentalism and terrorism.
“We need to help women to achieve freedom and equal rights. We need to fight with the women around the world. We need solidarity.”
Ingrid Betancourt, a Columbian senator, and a presidential candidate for the upcoming election in Colombia said in her speech, “Women’s struggle around the world unites us. We are all freedom fighters. We have learned to resist and never give up. When women are not safe, no one is safe. When we fight for our rights, we fight for a world that respects human rights. Every second, all over the planet, women are fighting against tyranny. Every day, women are risking their lives to defend freedom and equality and to defend their rights and the rights of their children. Our sisters in Iran have lived under tyranny. The new generations don’t have any experience of what a democratic environment means. They are risking everything; these young women have taken up the flag against the mullahs’ dictatorship. They have learned the hard way that tolerance of tyranny is not acceptable.
She reiterated, “Iranian women have reached a very important conclusion: they can only achieve their rights with a change of regime in Iran. Therefore, they must play their role in the resistance against the regime. But they have gone one step further. They realize that to achieve their goal they must take responsibility at all levels, including at the political level.
“Tens of thousands of women of the Iranian Resistance have been tortured and executed. Women have taken responsibility in the organization. But they have gone further and made the presence of women in leadership the new normal. They are offering a new paradigm, a new role model for women and men. It is one of the most impressive achievements of the Iranian Resistance. It would not have been possible without the leadership of Maryam Rajavi.
“Maryam Rajavi transformed the Iranian Resistance into a liberation army that is most feared by the mullahs’ regime. Today, the MEK is recognized and respected across the world. It is at the forefront of the fight for gender equality. Maryam Rajavi brought light to the lives of millions of silenced and gagged Iranian women. We are talking about a generation of women who are now leading the fight for freedom.
“Women are playing a leading role in protests against the regime. It is time for the world community to unite and act. We call on the UN Security Council, the US government, and European governments to change their conciliatory policy toward Iran’s regime. In the case of Iran, the world must end the shameful approach of reaching a nuclear agreement with the regime. It is time to align ourselves with the people. Supporting the Iranian Resistance and the MEK is a duty of the world.”
Mimi Kodheli, Albanian Minister of Defense (2013-2017) told the conference, “The foremost field of bias against women is political leadership. The empowerment of women’s role is an important priority. Discrimination imposed on Iranian women amounts to gender apartheid. Iran is run by a misogynist regime. In the past 40 years, it has imposed extreme pressure on women. Iranian women are totally absent from ministerial positions. This is due to the ruling regime that hinders women’s participation in key fields. It’s not because women are not competent. We see a completely different picture when we look at the role of women in the Iranian Resistance.”
Mimi Kodheli added, “Iranian women are at the forefront of all protests inside Iran. What does that mean for women who are suffering from gender apartheid across the world? Condemning suppression of women in Iran is not enough. We need to support these women in Iran and worldwide.
“I express solidarity with our sisters in Ukraine. We stand by those dears, brave and heroic women who are standing to protect their children, country, and rights. Your Albanian friends will stand and be with you in all your efforts to fight for human rights, equality, freedom, and the rights of women.”
Lisa Yasko, a member of the Parliament joining online from Ukraine, met a warm welcome from the audience. In her remarks to the conference, she said, “In Ukraine, we have a war. Our brothers, fathers, and sons are in the war. Women are working really hard. Lots of us have taken up weapons. Others are doing humanitarian aid. Others are involved in politics to raise attention across the world. If we lose faith, we will never win. It is very important to keep the faith. To everyone who is listening, don’t give up on your country. We’re fighting for all of you. If we don’t defend our freedom right now, history will never be the same. I’m very proud of my nation and I send my love to all of you. We need peace in Ukraine. We need peace in the world.”
Another member of the Ukrainian Parliament who addressed the Berlin Conference was Kira Rudik who spoke from Kiyv. She told a sympathetic audience, “Exactly ten days ago, my life has changed completely. For these ten days, Ukrainians have shown enormous bravery. It’s ten days, and we are still standing. Putin was not able to take any major city of Ukraine. This happened both because of our army. It also happened because of the bravery of the resistance. We will not give it up without a fight. Because the Resistance is the only way to peace. The Resistance is the only way for us to protect our land. And I am so proud that in Ukraine, women are able to do this. I am so proud of the ladies who have joined me in the resistance teams and who are bearing arms throughout the country.”
Dozens of other prominent advocates of women’s rights and political dignitaries also addressed the conference, showing the international solidarity that exists with the cause of Iranian women.
You will be reading more about the Iranian Resistance’s IWD 2022 conference in the following days.