Highlights from the NCRI Women’s Committee IWD2023 Conference – Part 1
The NCRI Women’s Committee sponsored a magnificent conference in Brussels on Saturday, March 4, 2023, to honor International Women’s Day. The conference entitled, “Onward to a Democratic Republic, Iranian Women Leading the Way,” featured dozens of prominent female policymakers, former ministers, experts, and rights activists. PMOI women at Ashraf-3, Albania, joined the conference online, and two addressed it.
The conference’s keynote speaker was the NCRI President-elect Maryam Rajavi, whose speech has been published separately.
This is part 1 of our report on this women’s conference and its inspiring speakers. Excerpts of their remarks follow:
Azadeh Zabeti and Mitra Bighan were masters of ceremony. Ms. Zabeti, a lawyer, opened the event. In part of her remarks, she said, “The women of Iran have paid an exceptionally high price for this resistance. These years of resistance have resulted in thousands of political prisoners being tortured and executed.
“During this current uprising that was triggered by the horrific murder in custody of Mahsa Amini, the world was amazed by the courage and bravery of Iranian women and youth as they stood in front of brutal and repressive state forces. The world was stunned, and the mullahs were certainly caught off guard. But as Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, said many years ago, the mullahs will be swept away by women, a force that they have never taken into account.”
Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chairwoman of the NCRI Women’s Committee
Ms. Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chairwoman of the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, started her remarks by saluting Iran’s defiant women and girls who have been leading the way during the uprising, the brave Resistance Units, and women political prisoners. She also expressed her sympathies with the families who lost their loved ones during the recent uprising and her solidarity with the families of girl students who are subjected to the regime’s deliberate chain poisoning of students.
Ms. Chitsaz overviewed the history of struggles of Iranian women, which has come to fruition after many years in the recent uprising and pointed out, “For the PMOI, which was engaged in a war with the mullahs misogynist regime, it was clear that without women playing a role and being empowered and promoted, for which they were fully qualified, it would have been impossible to overthrow the Iranian regime and establish democracy.
“We have turned the issue of equality from mere words and slogans into a reality. And this has been possible because we have linked the fight for women’s rights with a fight against the ruling theocracy. We firmly believe that the political demands of our people cannot be realized without overthrowing this regime and that defending women’s rights requires determination and a commitment to these goals.”
Linda Chavez, former Director of White House Public Liaison
This has been a momentous year in Iran. It’s been a year of unprecedented protests, sparked initially by the brutal killing, the murder, of Marsha Amini, who was murdered simply for being a woman. It isn’t just women who are protesting and who are the targets of this regime. It’s schoolgirls. Girls who are going to school are being literally poisoned throughout Iran.
For decades, there has been an organization and a group that has fought the regime. And that, of course, is the MEK. And it is led by a woman. Maryam Rajavi has been a leader of this organization for decades. And she has been someone who has been fearlessly standing up to the regime in Tehran.
But it isn’t just Mrs. Rajavi who has been a leader. She is the first to say that she isn’t just one person, one woman, but she has dozens, hundreds, thousands of women who are part of this resistance behind her. I think Mrs. Rajavi has made it very clear that the women of Iran want freedom and democracy, the right to control their own lives. And Mrs. Rajavi has said that it is not simply the right of women to either veil or not veil, the right of women to make choices about their own personal life—It is the right of people to be able to choose their own leaders.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, former German Minister of Defense (2019-2021)
The images coming from Iran humble me. I ask myself, would I have the power to take to the streets, to let my children go out and fight against the regime? This strength, especially in the women in Iran, is a sign of humanism and decisiveness that goes far beyond the borders of Iran. You are an inspiration for the world.
We can do our utmost to show Iran’s people support and tell them they are not alone. We are with you.
The international community must stand up. This is our fight. We must stand by their side. Dictators don’t understand appeasement. They only understand one answer: No, no, no!
That’s why we are here. Ahead of International Women’s Day, we are here to say no to a regime that destroys its own future, a regime that does not believe in peace, and a regime that fears people deciding their own politics. We want to say yes to a free Iran, a democratic Iran, and an international policy that supports the people of Iran in words and action.
Dominique Attias, Chair of the Board of Directors at the European Lawyers Foundation
Today, Iranian women are leading the struggle. This is the only revealing part of the long struggle by all women in Iran, of all ages, all regions, generation after generation. The people of Iran are shouting no to Shah, no to mullahs.
Countless people were arrested and tortured. But they were not broken. We admire them and support them. The women of the world will stand by your side. We call on the European Commission to stop talking to the devil. The women of Iran have faced the devil many times in prison cells.
The struggle continues thanks to the women in Iran. I’ve met Maryam Rajavi and these women. They work with incredible efficiency. Maryam Rajavi has persisted in her stance and dedicated her life to this struggle. She has been targeted with assassination attempts but has continued calling for freedom. The women of Iran are marching toward freedom, and no one can stop it, neither the Shah nor the mullahs.
Latifa Aït Baala, Member of the Parliament of Brussels
There is a new trend of democracy in Iran. Iranian people have led a long struggle, and the objective of liberating Iran from theocracy seems to be finally close. We can bring about freedom by fighting for women’s and human rights.
The regime killed 750 people without reason and arrested 30,000 people without a warrant. Even going through these difficult times, even when facing death, the women of Iran keep fighting for themselves and all the people of Iran.
This struggle is not just about the hijab. It’s about freedom and human rights, the rights of minorities, and the end of violence. The protests across the globe and the Iranian people want a democratic state. They want a democratic republic. They don’t want the theocracy.
I want to congratulate Maryam Rajavi for her leadership of the resistance movement. I express once again my support for the men and women who want freedom. We will support you, the Iranian people, and particularly the women leading the way.
Prof. Yakın Ertürk, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (2003-2006)
I have witnessed first-hand how gendered subordination and misogynist laws and attitudes have been woven into the Islamic Republic’s fiber, one of its most distinguishing features.
Iranian women have a long history of resilience and struggle for emancipation from prohibitions imposed by law and misogynist practices. Therefore, today’s protests are, in a way, the outcome of nearly two centuries of struggle for civil rights.
Iranian women are recognized now, no doubt by everyone, as a transformative force not only within Iran but by everyone across the globe.
Hundreds of schoolgirls have been hospitalized due to poisoning in at least 52 schools in ten provinces across the country. Although denied by the authorities, many believe this is a deliberate attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools. Families who are rightfully worried about the life of their children may be inclined to withdraw their girls from school. This will end women’s dream for education because if elementary school and secondary school education are denied to girls, there will be no further educational opportunities.
Kathleen Depoorter, Member of the Belgian Parliament
When I heard recently about a wave of poisoning schoolgirls by toxic gas, I was in shock. We should, under all circumstances, prevent parents from leaving their daughter’s homes out of fear. Education is extremely important.
The strength of the Iranian protesters is admirable to me. I truly admire your strength because you risk your lives to obtain the fundamental rights you deserve.
I would like to express my deep respect to all the families of those who lost their lives for a better future for others. On this International Woman’s Day, I really want to honor you and all the brave Iranian women who played a significant role in the uprising.
But I also want to honor the National Council of Resistance of Iran. Because, yes, with half of its members being women and responsible for many of its committees, you struggle for freedom and equality.
And then I go back to Mrs. Rajavi. What a role model she is. What a woman. She really proves what female leadership is. She takes these women to where they must go to be political leaders to take our future into our hands.
It is a four-decade struggle that you have been leading all these years. And if you are fighting for freedom, equality, and democracy, it was empowered and guided by this distinguished leadership of Mrs. Rajavi. And I really applaud her.
Canadian MP and former Minister Judy A. Sgro
Madame Rajavi’s ten-point plan, and when she says it and reads it out again, it always reminds me that it’s a model for the world, not just for Iran. It’s a model for the world to follow.
The world is aware of the terrible things that are happening in Iran. It is backing Madam Rajavi, the MEK, the NCRI, and all the other movements that are trying to finally get rid of an oppressive group of mullahs that do not deserve to be there.
So, we’re very close to that. I hope and dream and pray that on the next International Women’s Day, we’ll celebrate with Madam Rajavi in Iran with freedom.
Zinat Mirhashemi, Member of the NCRI and the Central Committee of the Cherik-Hay-E Fedaii Organization (OIPFG)
Women’s rights have always been a challenge for this regime. Regardless of which faction of the regime is in power, discrimination against women has remained in place. The liberation of society depends on the liberation of women. We must emphasize that freeing Iranian women is only possible through regime change.
The regime has institutionalized discrimination against women in its constitution. At the same time, the remnants of the Pahlavi dynasty are trying to change history and pretend Shah’s regime did not force women to remove their hijab. The women did not have any rights under the previous regime.
We have seen in the movement of Iranian women and teachers who are in the streets every day that their demands are not something that the Shah’s regime can respond to. They can’t steal the hundred-year struggle of the Iranian people. The remnants of the Pahlavi dynasty can’t divert the course of this revolution. They are taking advantage of women to change their turban with a crown.
The NCRI is the democratic alternative to this regime. Women’s participation in this movement’s leadership guarantees the ten-point plan of Maryam Rajavi.