Live Report From Women's Rights Panel on Day 4 of the Free Iran Convention at the MEK's Headquarters
An international conference is underway, with the theme: "Women in the Iranian Resistance - Defying the Misogynist Regime, Paying the Price of Freedom". Women’s rights activists and dignitaries from across the world are attending the conference in Ashraf 3, home to members of the main Iranian opposition group People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK) in Albania. These prominent figures are voicing support for women of Iran, who have been leading the struggle for freedom in the past decades. The event's keynote speaker is Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi. Attendants are expressing support for Maryam Rajavi's 10-point plan for a future free Iran. We'll be covering the event live as it unfolds. See below for updates.
16.05: The first and keynote speaker of the event is Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
The common answer to all these problems, ranging from poverty and discrimination to lack of free choice, lies in freedom and equality. Not just equality and not just freedom. But both freedom and equality. #FreeIran#Iran pic.twitter.com/dt91ncFzsb— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
Discriminations against women in #Iran and in any society, at any juncture of history, have meant to subjugate the people, to suppress them, to plunder them and to strip them of their political rights. #FreeIran— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
You might have heard claims that if the mullahs were to be overthrown, #Iran would experience chaos, disasters and destitution. But aren’t Iranian women living in conditions even worse than war-torn countries? Aren’t they suffering from poverty, unemployment and homelessness? pic.twitter.com/aupp8eCpg1— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
You can see 1,000 pioneering women at this place coming from various cities of #Iran, from Khomeini’s prisons, or from universities in the U.S.,Europe & Iran. You see 3 generations side by side.They are members of the Central Council of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran pic.twitter.com/TOVMH8Lv0L— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
Most of the victims of rampant poverty and destitution in today’s Iran are women. Over 62 percent of women above 10 years are housewives. The average economic participation of women in the Middle East is 22 percent, but only 12 percent in the cities of #Iran #FreeIran— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
If our movement was not deeply against exploitation and all of its political, social, theoretical, and cultural conducts, women could not hold such positions for a long time. #Iran #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/7TaW0riFUF— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
To be a woman and not surrender, to be a woman and persevere in struggle, to be a woman and instead of thinking about yourself, think about the liberation of your enchained people, this is something that has driven the mullahs crazy. #Iran #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/Qe0pwxXD6m— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
Inspired by the 1,000 women of Ashraf, this is a tradition that Iran’s enlightened women and rebellious girls are following, which is an emancipating struggle. #Iran #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/Jp97NlkcPJ— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) July 14, 2019
16.55: Sarvenaz Chitsaz, Chair of the NCRI Women's Committee, is now addressing the women's rights activists gathered at Ashraf 3:
“Every activity you did meant a lot to us. We are very grateful. You are members of the large family of resistance. At the exhibition and testimonies, you heard part of the stories. Each of their experiences add to the history of perseverance. Every woman in the resistance has made her own choice. They have set examples with their resistance in the dungeons of the mullahs. This is an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of the Iranian women,” said NCRI Women’s Committee Chair Sarvnaz Chitsaz.
“This is why women are at the forefront of the battle against the regime and leading protests in Iran. They see the history of the women in Ashraf and they are inspired by their resistance. This is why the regime targets Iranian women to such an extent,” she added.
Sarvnaz Chitsaz, Chair @womenncri: "Every woman in the Iranian Resistance has made her own choice. They've set examples w/ their resistance in the mullahs' prisons. This is an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of Iran's women"#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/INJcAXnC5H— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“The mullahs’ incessant savagery toward women is the driving force of the regime in its suppression of the Iranian society,” Ms. Chitsaz concluded.
Senator Ingrid Betancourt
17.00: Senator Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian Presidential candidate, says:
“When you will be in Tehran, and it will happen soon, you will face a tremendous challenge. You are the only real organization where women are consistently at the top. You will be confronted by the fact that taking power in a country like Iran, with 80 million inhabitants, a big country in the Middle East — it’s not a small challenge. Whatever you do will reflect in the whole world,” Sen. Ingrid Betancourt, former Colombian Presidential candidate.
“The impact you will have, because you have a woman leader, because it’s in a country that has been ruled by a misogynist regime, the impact will be like an atomic bomb. This is a very serious responsibility,” she continued.
Ex Colombian Sen. Ingrid Betancourt: "The MEK & the NCRI are the only real orgs where women are consistently at the top. You have a woman leader. Since Iran is ruled by a misogynist regime, your impact will be like an atomic bomb."#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/Tx8ufHNDnG— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“One of the dangers we have as women is we want to be part of this world with men. We don’t want to enter a gender war. To have the intelligence and emotional skills to use the right words and attitudes to make it understood this isn’t about taking the place of anyone, it’s about cooperation with the world — that’s a big challenge,” Sen. Betancourt continued.
"Another challenge is religion. When religion is involved, it becomes very personal to women. One of the things that we have to be aware of is that this system of patriarchy, it’s a mindframe that we all have in ourselves, man and woman. We have to be conscious about it and we have to fight it in ourselves and others. You will have to deal not only with the clergy but also with women and men who are not ready for this change."
“The third challenge is the need to embrace and bring to work this labor force, half of the country. It’s an amazing opportunity… One of the challenges we need to face is how to give women confidence to embrace their capacities, to be different than men but be equally capable. You are different. I’ve never seen an organization that combines military discipline and philosophy, and aims to put an end to a dictatorship that is a misogynist regime. You have achieved something that is very unusual,” Sen. Betancourt further stressed.
Dr. Ranjana Kumari
17.15: Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research in India, says: "
“I have been with you, the NCRI, for years and I’ve written about your struggle. I’m sure that you are going to get there. The time is coming. However, something that is very important for us in the women’s movement and gender equality, when you see all that you’ve explained in your exhibition and everything you’ve gone through, it’s really moving. You have my full admiration for that,” said Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social Research.
.@ranjanakumari: "Women's rights are human rights. I’m very happy to see the NCRI's leadership has underlined there will be no compromise on gender equality in a future Iran … When women take leadership, they can move mountains."#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/OhXswN0egX— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“Whenever we’ve seen these struggles, one thing that is important to keep in mind is that women are in the line of fire. So many struggles where women have fought in the front lines. However, when the power came, women were made to go back to the kitchen. I’m so happy this is a unique organization where women are in top positions. You’re already involved in different levels of governance, you know how to exercise power,” she added.
“Women's rights are human rights. I’m very happy to see your leadership has underlined there will be no compromise on gender equality… When women take leadership, they can move mountains,” Dr. Kumari concluded.
Maria Candida Almeida
17.25: Maria Candida Almeida, Deputy Attorney General of Portugal, says:
“We must thank Mrs. Rajavi for finding the solution to save the members of the movement, and thank yourselves for keeping the flame of the movement alive. Let’s not forget those who are fighting inside Iran for freedom, democracy and women’s rights. You are my example,” said Maria Candida Almeida, Deputy Attorney General of Portugal.
“The ones who must defend the people’s rights have uptaken killings, massacres and suppression. Horrible things are happening in Iran today, such as the killing of pregnant women. The international community must not accept this. This is why your cause is my cause. I am with you,” she continued.
“Your movement is an example to all of us. Your leader is courageous and strong. She is an example for all people and for me. In the past few days, I was encouraged to work harder for you when I return home. I hope you accept me as your messenger,” Ms. Almeida added. “Our next goal is to see all of you—and me too—in a free Iran.”
Dr Maria Ryan
17.30: Dr Maria Ryan, CEO of Cottage Hospital, says:
“I’ve never seen misogyny as a culture as it is in Iran. It is systematic. You also have oppression that is happening to all people. Since I’ve come across this, I’ve tried to understand it. But until this time in Albania, where I talked to you and observed, you’re regimented and organized,” said Dr. Maria Ryan.
Dr Maria Ryan, Cottage Hospital CEO: "I’ve never seen misogyny as a culture as it is in Iran. It is systematic. In 50yrs, books will speak about your Resistance & @Maryam_Rajavi. I put Mrs Rajavi up w/ the forefathers of my country"#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/6YxoVkeYRY— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“As we move the regime out from Iran, it’s going to take a lot of work. This is where your strength becomes significant. I learned from you and your optimism. It’s impressive that you can overcome adversity and look to the future and what needs to happen,” she added.
“You are part of the living history. Fifty years from now, books will speak about you and President Rajavi. I put Madam Rajavi up with the forefathers of my country,” Dr. Ryan concluded.
Italian MP Giuseppina Occhionero
17.35: Italian MP Giuseppina Occhionero says:
“Your struggle for civil rights is an honor for all the world, especially for me since I’ve been with you in the past few days. Mrs. Rajavi, your deep views for human rights — we will take the same responsibilities,” said Italian MP Giuseppina Occhionero.
Italian MP @Giusepp97262183: "You women are the force of change in Iran. Your struggle for civil rights is an honor for all the world, especially for me. @Maryam_Rajavi's deep views for human rights adds to our responsibility"#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/WwraBWmuoG— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“Today, we see that we can unite and we can struggle against inequality. You women are the force of change in Iran, and it is very important that you are not part of the inequality. We all have to take responsibility and work in different fields. And we have to keep our femininity. You are the answer. To all the women who have paid the price of freedom, I thank you for this,” she added. “Change will come through the fulfilment of women’s rights.”
17.40: Zinat Mirhashemi, NCRI member and the editor in chief of Nabard-e-Khalq review, says:
“I’m proud of the generation of PMOI (MEK) women who have shown their determination. The achievement I see today is the achievement of Mrs. Rajavi, and I praise you,” NCRI member Zinat Mirhashemi said.
“I want to tell you about three PMOI (MEK) generations. I have had the opportunity to become familiar with different PMOI (MEK) generations. Before the 1979 revolution, there were many women who were my idols. I had the honor to be in contact with PMOI (MEK) women who opened the way in those days, such as Mrs. Ashraf Rajavi. The mutual experience we had in our separate organizations was that, when women were imprisoned, it wasn’t simple. Families couldn’t understand this that we were taken from school desks to prison. The families felt ashamed,” she added.
NCRI's Zinat Mirhashemi: "In the 120 yrs of struggle for freedom in Iran women have had a major role. In this movement, men & women are fighting together for a common cause. Where women have a significant role, victory is assured."#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/6bkMeob6P4— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“But now, women who are in prison, we are proud of them. The freedom fighting women and the women of the PMOI (MEK) opened the way in those days. And now, many doors are open,” Ms. Mirhashemi continued.
“In the 120 years of struggle for freedom in Iran, women have had an important role. In previous generations before the revolution, the face of the struggle for freedom and equality was not just the face of men. They showed to the world that women have a significant role in this fight,” she explained.
“And now we have reached a time when we see women’s roles in the highest ranks in such a struggle. This is the assurance of this organization’s future and that women’s equality will be fulfilled, because these women are leaders,” Ms. Mirhashemi stressed.
“In this movement, men and women are fighting together for a common cause. Where women have a significant role, victory is assured. The future is ours… The women who are in prison are our pride. Our movement for justice in Iran has a wealth of women from across Iran,” she concluded.
Moroccan MP Khadija Ziyani
17.50: Moroccan MP Khadija Ziyani says:
“Today I’m here and I believe in you more than I did before. You have shown who you are. The world will remember you for what you have shown as women who strive for freedom. What you’ve accomplished in 18 months in building Ashraf 3 from scratch is something that we are proud of. If you were in your own country, you would have achieved a lot more,” said Moroccan MP Khadija Diyani.
Moroccan MP Khadija Ziyani: "I’m very optimistic that you'll obtain freedom in Iran, not for power, but with hearts that don’t give up. You have high human values. I’ve never seen such determination as I’ve seen in @Maryam_Rajavi."#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/G9rTWwpxLj— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“I’m very optimistic that you will reach freedom, not for power and with power, but with hearts that don’t give up and are determined. You have high human values,” she added.
“I believe you will reach what you are fighting for because you have high determination. I’ve never seen such determination as I’ve seen in Mrs. Rajavi,” the Moroccan MP concluded.
17.55: Olfa Jouini Hamza, Member of Parliament from Tunisia, says:
“Women have always been the main victims of oppression. The role of women in the Iranian Resistance and their perseverance against the fanatic and corrupt regime in Iran in order to achieve freedom has allowed Iranian women to be a force for change in society. Iranian women in Mrs. Maryam Rajavi’s movement have found their true role in liberating their homeland and people."
Olfa Jouini, MP from Tunisia: "Women 's role in the NCRI & their perseverance against the fanatic/corrupt regime in Iran in order to achieve freedom has allowed Iranian women to be a force for change in society." #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/NQlRWwckwb— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
Former Romanian MP Maria Grecea
18.00: Former Romanian MP Maria Grecea says:
“I hope in the near future, I will meet you in Ashraf 4, i.e. in a free Iran. We are at a critical and sensitive moment in Iran's history because the mullahs’ regime is at a political and social dead-end and we the supporters of the Iranian Resistance must help the people. History has proven to us that some things will change and the fascist dictators of Iran must fall,” said former Romanian MP Maria Grecea.
Former Romanian MP Maria Grecea: "Iran's regime is at a political & social dead-end. We the supporters of the NCRI & MEK must help Iranian ppl. History has proven that things will change and the fascist dictators of Iran will fall"#FreeIran #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/asqF50gt9z— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“This is important not only for the people of Iran but for the world because an exporter of terrorism will be eliminated. Your persistence was seen when the PMOI built international support for Iranians, especially for the popular uprising of 2017-18. The international pressure and the ongoing protests have put the regime in a difficult situation,” she added.
“The future prospects are very positive. Mrs. Rajavi has a 10-point plan for the alternative to the mullahs’ regime and for building a democratic Iran,” the former Romanian MP concluded.
18.10: Edit Bauer, former MEP from Slovakia, says:
“As a woman, what makes your resistance special to me is the key role played by women in the struggle for freedom in Iran. Mrs. Rajavi has educated and trained a generation of women who are capable of leading Ashraf residents through ups and downs, but also a generation of men who can cooperate with women in building their nation,” said Edit Bauer, former MEP from Slovakia.
Edit Bauer, ex-MEP from Slovakia: "The key role of women in the struggle for freedom in Iran makes your resistance special to me. @Maryam_Rajavi has educated/trained a generation of women who are capable of leading Iranians to a #FreeIran." #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/vgK4zhhiBI— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“You have confronted fundamentalism in a way that no other movement has. You have proven the failure of the mullahs’ ideology in practice. I’m seeing the strengthening of the support for your movement around the world,” she added.
“Mrs. Rajavi, I stand by your side and you have my support until the women of Iran have equal rights in every field,” the former MEP concluded.
Dr. Somaya Al Jowder
18.15: Dr. Somaya Al Jowder, former Bahraini MP, says:
“From you, I learned about being patient and giving to others. I learned from you that endurance is the answer to everything, and how we can add to our belief and our faith,” said Dr. Somaya Al Jowder, a former member of the Bahraini Parliament.
“I have seen the perseverance of your men. They don’t fight to be first. We hope that our men in our country will do the same. I saw in Ashraf things I did not believe. I went to Iran in 2008 and saw Iranians who were suffering so much. I said that Iranian youth have to make change,” she added.
Somaya Al Jowder, former Bahraini MP: "From you, the MEK & NCRI, I learned about being patient and sacrificing. I learned from you that endurance is the answer to everything, and how we can add to our belief and our faith" #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/RBuPqPq2E5— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“In 2014, when I saw Iran again, I was surprised to see that the situation had become worse. Iran’s uprising and rebuilding of Iran will be done by you, the PMOI (MEK) women. I’m sure that next year, all of us will be celebrating democracy in Iran,” Dr. Al Jowder concluded.
Iranian human rights activist Flore Ram
18.20: Iranian human rights activist Flore Ram says:
“When Mrs. Rajavi called for national solidarity, I felt that I had found something important, and I joined along with my husband [Emad Ram],” said Flore Ram.
“When I was young, I couldn’t leave my country without the permission of my husband. If a father died, the mother didn’t have the right to raise the children. When the mullahs came to our country, they ruled like ISIS. They imprisoned and raped women. There was nothing for the people of Iran. But standing against that is the Iranian Resistance and the women of the MEK,” she continued.
Iranian human rights activist Flor Raam: "@Maryam_Rajavi has been digging the mullahs' cancerous tumor out of Iran. Her 10-point plan for a future #FreeIran will ensure 100 percent equality between men and women" #IStandWithMaryamRajavi #WeSupportMEK pic.twitter.com/ghwXTem0WP— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) July 14, 2019
“Mrs. Rajavi has been digging this cancerous tumor out of Iran. I’m very proud of you. I wish everyone could get to know you like we know you. This is the reality,” Ms Ram added.
“This ten-point plan that Mrs Maryam Rajavi has shown to the world is a declaration that will be something of a very big change for Iran. With this ten-point plan, there will be 100 percent equality between men and women. I’m sure during this time, anyone who wants to fight for freedom and wants to get rid of this regime will join us," she concluded.
18.30: Concetta Giallombardo, President of the Association of Female Jurists from Italy, says:
“Struggling for the equality of men and women is something that we must pay the price for. In your struggle and resistance, this has been reviewed. There’s a mindset that is different about the relationship between men and women. The relationship is about knowledge and understanding.”
“I would like to congratulate you for your mindset and how you view the relationship between men and women. I hope that under your viewpoint, we will see a new society,” she concluded.