March 8 marks International Women’s Day, an occasion to consider the situation of half of the world’s population and the progress of the equality movement. While in many countries, women have made considerable progress in achieving acquiring equal rights and enjoying fundamental rights, Iranian women have been fighting for over a century to attain equality.
Iranian women have paid an immense price for equality and freedom, earning them the leading role in Iranian society, particularly in the revolution in the making to topple the ruling misogynous regime.
Thus, their eventual victory will be a major breakthrough for the women’s rights movement and activists globally. This point was highlighted during an international conference on March 4 in Belgium, where renowned female politicians and women of high accomplishments attended to share their thoughts and experiences.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, former German Minister of Defense (2019-2021), praised the Iranian women’s power, describing it as “a sign of humanity, of determination that goes far beyond Iran’s borders.”
“You are an inspiration to women around the world and especially to us who are allowed to live as women in a free world. It is not about giving women a little more freedom. It is not about abolishing the obligation to wear a headscarf,” she said, rejecting this claim in the West that Iranian women’s demands are limited to the abolishment of mandatory veiling or whether Iranians want to replace the clerical regime with the deposed monarchy, who also regarded women as second-class citizens. “It is about something very fundamental, about the right of every human being, whether male or female, young or old, whether they belong to a minority or a majority, to shape their life the way they want. It is a human right, and it is inalienable. It is not about replacing one dictatorship with another,” she added.
Other speakers joined former Germany’s Minister of Defense. Rama Yade, former French Minister of Human Rights, underlined that it would be naïve to reduce the Iranian women’s “resistance to the veil. They fight to be free to be whatever they want. Despite the risks, they are fighting for a profound change in society in Iran.”
Latifa Aït Baala, Member of the Parliament of Brussels, joined other speakers in emphasizing, “The struggle of Iranian women and the entire Iranian society is not limited to the question of the compulsory hijab. It is a fight for freedoms and fundamental rights, for gender equality, the rights of minorities, whether ethnic or not, and the end of the violence by a regime for the physical integrity and morality of a whole people.”
She also noted that Iranian “Women will overthrow this most misogynistic regime in the world! It is no coincidence that for four decades now, women have found themselves in this fight alongside Maryam Rajavi for her political leadership in the Iranian resistance movement.”
Prof. Yakın Ertürk, the former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, referred to the decades of the Iranian women’s struggle for freedom, underlining their role in both the anti-monarchial revolution in 1979 and the revolution in the making in the country. “Women of all standings were at the forefront of the 1979 revolution in anticipation of a free Iran.,” she said, reminding the audience that “Change cannot come without the Iranian woman. The regime is well aware of the increasing power of the women’s movement, particularly now that it is its cause has converged with protests over economic and ethnic grievances. Iranian women’s cause and their destiny have a bearing on the destiny of women around the world whose lives are threatened in fundamental ways, in remarkably similar ways around the world. Therefore, the struggle of women in Iran is relevant and is the cause of woman’s struggle globally.”
Dominique Attias, President of the European Law Society Federation, also underlined that if Iranian women are at the forefront of the fight is “indicative of a long and painful struggle waged by women of all ages from all regions of Iran.”
“They have carried the torch of struggle generation after generation. Now, supported by courageous young Iranians who also yearn for freedom, they come to say: enough, enough; Neither Shah nor mullahs! No more dictations. Iranian women must be free to choose their clothing, including wearing or not wearing the veil. Down with the law on compulsory veiling! Down with all these laws that violate women’s rights, that judge and enslave them,” Ms. Attias added.
The conference’s keynote speaker was Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the first female secretary-general of Iran’s principal opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) from 1989 to 1993. Mrs. Rajavi has paved the way for female members of the MEK to take leading positions in the movement.
Hon. Candice Bergen Harris, a former Canadian Member of Parliament, and the Leader of Canada’s Conservative Party (2022) referred to her encounter with the women in MEK, whom she described as “have sacrificed so much, their own family, some of their own hopes and dreams, some of the things that make them a woman, the nurturing, and the joys that they could have had, but they have sacrificed that for a greater joy, a greater calling. They are not competing with each other. They are not trying to get ahead so many times.”
“The women who are serving for this incredible, incredible not just cause, but purpose, Mrs. Rajavi, have your spirit, and that is the spirit of sacrifice, of lifting each other up,” she added.
Linda Chavez, former White House Director of Public Liaison, also referred to the leading role of the MEK women and their impact on the Iranian women’s struggle against the misogynous regime. “There has been, for decades now, an organization and a group that has fought the regime. And that, of course, is the MEK. And it is led by a woman. And Mrs. Rajavi has said that it is not simply the right of women to either veil or not veil, but 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. “
Maria Grecea, former Romanian MP, also praised Mrs. Rajavi’s leadership and “her decades-long efforts in informing the international community to bring human rights and women’s rights to the forefront for an effective and firm policy against the religious dictatorship in Iran. Women are the force for change.”
In a country where human rights are violated systematically, Iranian women have been fighting for their rights for over a century, inspiring women globally. The international community must support their cause, as it is a fight for the freedom of all human beings. The world community must stand with Iranian women and their resistance against the misogynistic regime that is even threatening world security and peace.