Presentation at the University of Wyoming
By invitation from the University of Wyoming’s Gender & Women’s Studies School of Culture, Gender & Social Justice, Dr. Sofey Saidi delivered her talk on March 9, 2023, on the Iranian women’s leadership of the current uprisings. Below is a summary of her remarks:
Iranian Women’s Revolution; Past, Present & Future
The uprising has entered its 7th month and is moving forward toward dismantling the theocratic clerical regime. The spark that was ignited after the brutal death of Mahsa Amini spread to 284 cities & all 31 provinces of the country. Students from 204 universities, 1700 high schools, and more than 100 elementary joined the uprising.
So far, 750 protesters, including 84 women and 70 children, were killed by government security forces. 30,000 protesters have been arrested and subjected to torture. We must emphasize that women’s uprising and leadership did not happen overnight. It is the result of a century of active participation and struggles to attain freedom and equal rights. Iranian women’s historic participation has been prominent in 3 major historical events:
- The Tobacco Revolt and Constitutional Revolution (1906-1911)
- The Nationalist Revolt of (1950-1953)
- The Anti-Monarchy Revolution (1978-79)
Unfortunately, women’s efforts and sacrifices were ignored in all historical phases. When the ruthless clerical dictatorship took power after the 1979 anti-monarchy revolution, they implemented the policy of gender apartheid. Hence, the double subjugation of Iranian women was initiated.
On the other hand, within six years following the 1979 revolution, the opposition organization MEK elevated a woman, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, to a leadership position in 1985. Over the years, the MEK has proven they are committed to women’s leadership at all levels. Below are some of the main reasons:
- Women are the primary victims of the ruling clerical government
- Women bear the brunt of repression and suffer under gender apartheid in Iran
- The regime considers women as an existential threat
- To overcome Tehran’s religious dictatorship, the Resistance must cast aside all remnants of fundamentalist ideology and culture, including male domination.
- Women’s leadership in the MEK/MEK is not about some women replacing men to continue in their footsteps with the same values and methods.
Consequently, women’s participation in the leadership inspired a major cultural transformation in the ranks of the Resistance and among women across the country who faced gender apartheid in all realms of their lives.
More recently, the experience of women in the MEK organization resulted in the active organization of Resistance Units in Iran. The Resistance Units are a network of activists associated with the MEK.
Beginning in 2014, the MEK started organizing the Resistance Units inside Iran. While affiliated with the organization, the Resistance Units are ordinary citizens with regular ties and communication with others around them, in the workplace, in offices, hospitals, and in society in general.
One of the essential features of Resistance Units is that their members are integrated into the broader society. Most are students, employees, workers, or have other occupations. Despite the severe repression and widespread arrests, the regime has not been able to eradicate the Resistance Units. The trend of the formation of Resistance Units has seen a rise throughout the country. The number of Resistance Units was estimated at 1,000 in July 2021. By late July 2022, their numbers grew to 5,000, unveiling a %500 growth in the number of these units despite the regime’s brutal reign of terror and repression.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) (where MEK is a member organization) is committed to bringing about a democratic, secular, and pluralistic government in Iran. This vision of the future is even more tangible with Mrs. Maryam Rajavi at the helm of the NCRI, including her 10-point plan and the majority membership of women in this resistance.
General James Jones, former US National Security Advisor expressed his view of Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan as the “Jeffersonian Principles that every freedom-loving member of the human race can embrace and every form of tyranny fears.”
Most recently, in March 2013, H. Res. 100 a United States Congress’s bipartisan resolution with a majority of 223 votes, recognized Mrs. Rajavi’s 10-point plan for the future of Iran. This resolution also pointed out the Iranian people’s rejection of monarchy and religious dictatorship, evident in their slogan “Death to the Oppressor whether it be the Shah or Supreme Leader.”
Ultimately, the future of Iran rests at the hands of the Iranian people. They have shown incredible courage and resilience in their ongoing struggle for political change.
In order to provide support, the international community must stand with the Iranian population and support their efforts to defend themselves in the face of a brutal dictatorship. The international support can be materialized by placing the Revolutionary Guards Corps on the sanction list, expelling the regime’s terrorist diplomats, closing their embassies, and prosecuting Khamenei and Raisi for crimes against humanity.
These steps will provide tangible support for Iranians to dismantle the dictatorship and build a democratic and prosperous Iran. Only then can Iranian people realize the full potential of their rich history and culture. Thus, they can contribute to the progress and stability of the wider Middle East region.
Dr. Sofey Saidi (Ph.D. International Relations), is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the National Council of Resistance of Iran. As a fluent Farsi and Spanish speaker, Dr. Saidi specializes in the Middle East, Latin America, and Global Politics. She has taught courses on Ethnic and Cultural Conflict and International Relations at the University of Baltimore’s School of Public and International Affairs.