Maryam Rajavi trailblazing the road to gender parity in a free Iran
October 22, marks the anniversary of the announcement of the election of Maryam Rajavi as President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran for the transitional period when sovereign power is transferred to the people of Iran after the overthrow of the clerical regime.
Her election kicked off the Iranian Resistance’s strategic, cultural, political, and ideological campaign against the misogynous ruling mullahs of Iran.
Maryam Rajavi became the face of the movement which is totally the opposite of what the mullahs are, and the face of the future free Iran.
Shattering the glass ceiling
Thirty-four years ago, the Iranian Resistance experienced a major overhaul in thinking and practice by investing all its assets in the leadership of women. On October 18, 1989, Massoud Rajavi, the sitting Secretary General of the PMOI, passed on his mandate to Maryam Rajavi who had already shared the post as joint leader since 1985.
In appointing her, Massoud Rajavi said, she had proven to be “uniquely qualified” to take on the leadership of the main Iranian opposition movement with 120,000 martyrs and 20 years of struggle against two dictatorships.
Maryam Rajavi’s rise to the leadership of the PMOI/MEK was a response to the sacrifices made by tens of thousands of brave PMOI women who had taken great risks, withstood horrendous tortures, and given their lives to defend their people’s rights. At the same time, it was a declaration of war on the mullahs’ misogynous culture and fundamentalist vision and practices.
In this capacity, Maryam Rajavi overhauled the whole structure of the organization, paying the price of offering equal opportunities to women in all realms of struggle which were previously occupied only by men. In this way, women found the possibility to believe in their own power and gain experience. At the same time, men needed to totally change their attitudes and outlook towards women, something that was gradually realized in the organization as women proved their qualifications and competence in every field.
On the other hand, women’s participation in leadership could never be realized without the cooperation of emancipated men.
Women’s active engagement and leadership in all the arenas of struggle enabled the PMOI to introduce new methods and practices that improved its adaptation to the sophisticated struggle against the mullahs’ regime.
Major overhaul as the force for change
Four years later, during its plenary session on August 28, 1993, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition whose members include a number of Iranian opposition organizations and prominent personalities, elected Maryam Rajavi as the President-elect for the period of transitioning power to the Iranian people. The election was made public on October 22, 1993. The NCRI acts as a parliament-in-exile and a legislative assembly.
As the President-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi has launched an extraordinary political, social, cultural, and ideological challenge to the ruling fundamentalist mullahs in Iran.
Over half of NCRI members are women. They occupy various political, diplomatic, social, and cultural positions of leadership and management in the Resistance. Relying on the guidelines of Maryam Rajavi, the competent women of the Iranian Resistance have gained remarkable victories for the movement in some of the most challenging legal and political battles.
Maryam Rajavi has been particularly focused on the real message of Islam, i.e. tolerance and democracy, contradicting the reactionary and fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. She believes that one of the most important differentiators between these two entirely contradictory views of Islam focuses on attitudes toward the status of women.
Among her published works are: “Tolerant Islam vs. Extremism,” “Women, the Force for Change,” and “Women against Fundamentalism.”
After her election as NCRI President-elect, Maryam Rajavi relegated all her previous responsibilities in the PMOI to an all-woman Leadership Council that took charge of all affairs in the organization.
Gender equality organically tied to the democratic struggle
In 1994, during a speech delivered at the Oslo city hall, Mrs. Rajavi warned about the octopus of religious tyranny and Islamic fundamentalism whose heart beats in Tehran. She said: “Fundamentalism has turned into the greatest threat to peace in the region and the world.” This is what the world has just recently come to realize is the truth.
During a June 21, 1996 speech in London entitled, “Women, the Voice of the Oppressed,” Maryam Rajavi said, “The issue of women and the equality movement is linked to the struggle against reactionary ideology and fundamentalism. For women are not only pioneers in the equality movement but also the main force for progress, peace, and social justice.”
She addressed the mullahs and said, “You have done your utmost to humiliate, suppress, torture, and slaughter Iranian women, but rest assured that you would receive the blow from the very force you discounted, the very force whom your reactionary mindset cannot allow you to take into consideration. Rest assured that these knowledgeable and free women would dismantle your oppression everywhere.”
In December 2004, during a speech at the European Parliament, Maryam Rajavi introduced her Third Option, rejecting both war and appeasement in dealing with the clerical regime, and proposing change at the hands of the Iranian people and Resistance.
“I have come here today to say that there is a third option: Change brought about by the Iranian people and the Iranian Resistance. If foreign obstacles are removed, the Iranian people and their Resistance are prepared and have the power to bring about change. And this is the only way to prevent external wars. No concession is going to dissuade the mullahs from continuing their ominous objectives.”
Over the years, Maryam Rajavi has pioneered the struggle for democratic change in Iran. She has introduced a Ten-point Plan for a free and non-nuclear Iran where the death penalty is abolished, and also a Ten-point Plan on women’s rights and freedoms calling for women’s participation in leadership of the future Iran.
Maryam Rajavi has led a global movement comprised of some of the most celebrated political, social, and military personalities from the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, attaining significant victories in support of regime change in Iran through recognition of the Iranian Resistance.
Overcoming major obstacles
Maryam Rajavi led a major campaign to remove the PMOI/MEK from terrorist lists in Europe and the U.S. These efforts led to the delisting of the PMOI in the United Kingdom in 2008 and the European Union in 2009, as well as the dismissal of terrorism charges in the June 17, 2003 dossier by a senior French Investigative magistrate in May 2011 and the revocation of the MEK’s terrorist designation in the United States in September 2012.
Maryam Rajavi also launched a 14-year international campaign to protect 3,000 defenseless and unarmed PMOI/MEK members in Ashraf and Liberty who had suffered more than 100 deaths and some 1,000 injured in ground and missile attacks by the Tehran regime.
Meanwhile, Maryam Rajavi’s women led the 14-year steadfast perseverance of the PMOI/MEK under the most difficult conditions when the organization was under siege. These relentless efforts eventually led to the safe relocation of all PMOI/MEK members out of Iraq, a process which was completed on September 9, 2016.
In August 2016, Maryam Rajavi called on the people of Iran and all Iranians around the world to join the movement calling for justice for victims of the 1988 massacre in Iran.
The movement called for the prosecution of all perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, demanding a list of all victims and their mass graves, as well as a list of everyone involved in making decisions or carrying out the executions.
The Call for Justice movement compelled the regime’s leaders to speak up about this horrible crime against humanity after 30 years of silence
The role of women in the vanguard opposition force has exerted its impact on women’s social struggles. The world has seen Iranian women playing a more prominent role in the protests from 2009 to 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022. Under the mullahs’ misogynistic rule, women have turned into compressed coils, leaping forward when conditions allow.
The clerical regime officials and leaders have acknowledged that the protest movement is organized by the PMOI/MEK, and women have a leading role in it.
Today, regime change in Iran is looming on the horizon. This would have never been accomplished if the movement did not enjoy a clear-eyed vision of gender equality, empowering it to mobilize all the energies, intellect, and potential of its members toward toppling the mullahs’ regime.
Maryam Rajavi bears the credit for initiating and leading this revolution in the outlooks, hearts, and minds of the movement’s men and women who are equally effective in the struggle against the Tehran mullahs and their inhuman gender discrimination which has subjugated the society.