Iranian opposition: Maryam Rajavi International Women's Day speech
NCRI - "If the Iranian regime were to abandon misogyny the ruling theocracy would collapse. Thus, neither Khatami nor Rouhani, who launched a charm offensive of reform and moderation, do not get close to easing the oppression and subjugation of women," Mrs Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance said in a speech at the international conference held in Paris on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.
A great number of prominent political, social and art figures, as well as human rights and women’s rights activists from five continents and delegations representing dozens of Iranian women’s associations and organizations throughout Europe and the United States attended the conference.
Bellow is the full text of Mrs Rajavi's speech in the conference held in Paris on March 1, 2014, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day:
We have gathered here today to honor International Women's Day.
There is little doubt that women's equality depends on their struggle to overthrow dictatorships and to actively participate in forming a genuine democracy.
Equality is a living, shining and rebellious ideal.
This is because the forces of inequality and humiliation are busy lashing women across the globe every single day and every hour;
Because the vast majority of women still do not even have ownership of their body, their life, their emotions, their thoughts and their destiny.
Because in the 21st Century, the most important means to humiliate, eliminate and marginalize women are patriarchal and reactionary accusations and profanities.
And because a destructive mindset and cynicism continue to block the path to women's progress.
For these reasons, we must work to remove obstacles and barriers. We must break the glass ceilings one after the other. We must not be content with our current achievements and work harder to achieve more.
Otherwise, so long as the dominant model and order prevails, women will continue to be denied and deprived of what they deserve: They will be prevented from controlling their own destiny, and running the affairs of their society and country.
Indeed, the ideal of equality is still alive, but no just because of the depravation, humiliation and oppression that women continue to encounter; the ideal of equality is still alive because a generation of women around the world has arisen to overthrow dictatorships in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. They are joined by women who are intent on toppling the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.
The ideal of equality is alive because of women who consider their mission to be the founding of a world based on freedom, democracy and equality;
It is alive because of women who arose 150 years ago in Iran, especially after the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, to fight for the freedoms and rights of Iranian women.
Finally, it is alive because women in many countries around the world have endured tremendous suffering and have blazed the trail for the advancement of the struggle that is raging today.
In the last century, women fought for universal suffrage.
They also fought for overcoming inequalities in the family and in the work place. They fought for respect for the natural differences among human beings.
But today, in addition to the objectives of equality movements, women have arisen to herald a fundamental and comprehensive transformation of the old order.
The modern liberation movement which is indispensable to the advancement of human society in the 21st Century has at its core the force of women. The force of women creates uproar in the lifeless pond of submission, unleashing stored energies and breaking apart the chains. The force of women will ultimately rid Iran, the region and the world from fundamentalism.
Indeed, women are the force for change.
We must pay homage to women whose memory has kept International Women's Day alive and proud: from Olympe de Gouges to Clara Zetkin; from Fatemeh Amini, Marzieh Oskouii, Azam Rouhi Ahangaran, and Mehrnoosh Ebrahimi in Iran, to Ashraf Rajavi, Mahin Rezaii, Batool Rajaee and tens of thousands of other women who have been martyred in the course of the struggle against the ruling mullahs; women and girls such as Neda Agha Soltan, who was shot dead by the Iranian regime's Revolutionary Guards in the 2009 uprising, and shining stars such as Zohreh Gha'emi, Giti Givehchian, Jila Tolou, Mitra Bagherzadeh, Fatemeh Tahouri, Maryam Yousefi, Pouran Najafi, Kolthum Serahati and Roya Doroudi, who lost their lives in Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq.
35 years ago, a fundamentalist regime came to power in Iran and erected a system of gender apartheid based on marginalizing and subjugating women.
In opposition to it, however, a profoundly democratic movement, which believed in equality and represented the antithesis to the fundamentalist order, rose up to defeat and overthrow it.
Khomeini betrayed the people's hope and trust. So, the question was: how could this wound be healed and how could the path of revolution towards freedom be paved?
Massoud Rajavi, the Leader of the Iranian Resistance, offered the answer: through endless sacrifice, which he himself pioneered.
We were confronted with a choice: either submission to fundamentalism or marching ahead despite suffering from an extremely unequal balance of power.
We chose to march forward. We chose the path of transforming the prevailing culture and mindset, embarking upon a revolution which shed a reactionary and exploitive outlook and inevitably led to a transformation and emancipation of men in the movement's ranks as well. The movement's capabilities were thus realized in the struggle to topple the regime.
The pioneering women in this struggle rejected the outlook that subjugated women and started to see themselves as equal human beings. These hardworking women never evaded or surrendered to difficulties and challenges.
In the path of emancipation and casting aside constraints, these women have found the power and capacity to accept commitments and responsibilities that are a hundred times greater.
They are the vanguards of accepting heavy responsibilities and are role models for collective management; for them, any hint of self-serving ambitions and the "me first" mentality represents a red line.
We are thus witnesses to a novel experience in the struggle for liberation.
The presence of the Iranian Resistance's responsible women does not mean the purging of men, but rather nurturing a generation of emancipated men who, through their active participation in restoring the values of equality, have entered into a new world as it relates to responsibility, creativity and capability.
Indeed, instead of a knee jerk reaction in their interactions, women in the ranks of the Iranian Resistance taught themselves the ability to listen carefully to criticisms and opposing views. In a nutshell, they learned to really listen to others, which is a lofty human trait.
They have also learned that in order to show their respect for others, they have to make sacrifices for others.
This is how love and compassion replaces parsimony and humiliation.
In this model, differences of opinion and the diversity of methods do not squander energies, but instead become the source of power and progress. Errors and mistakes do not result in exclusion or gloom, but instead present an opportunity for training and further improvement, and serve as a basis for taking the next steps.
Freedom of expression, the most important means of presenting self-identity, is a fundamental principle in the internal relations of the Iranian Resistance movement. Members of the resistance have turned active and unconditional expression into an enduring trait in their interactions.
The motto for women's novel interactions is: criticize, listen, overcome obstacles, do not give up, fix errors, and keep changing, moving and taking leaps forward.
These women, who give primacy to the advancement of their sisters, are the harbingers of a new message. This message, far beyond any words, has been embodied in a generation of women whose ideal is sacrificing themselves for their fellow sisters instead of putting themselves first.
I gain my confidence from such a generation; a generation which has pulled itself out of the darkness of cruelty, jealousy and rivalry, and has instead obtained the power of self-sacrifice for other women; a generation that, despite all the differences, can act as a united body in the struggle for freedom.
With this same logic, men in the ranks of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) have learned from women. Instead of negating and eliminating each other, this generation of men and women has stepped into the path of working together to multiply their success.
With such emancipated and advanced relationships, the enemy's attacks and pressures, albeit severe, offer an opportunity for greater struggle instead of causing despair and despondency.
Thus, in critical turning points, all roads lead to higher commitments, stronger bonds, a choice in defense of ideals, and a resistance that is hundreds of times stronger.
So, we cannot say that the vanguard women of Ashraf only number up to 1,000, because they have been multiplied, at least by 1,000 more.
And along with their sympathizers around the world they have formed a human chain which ends in Tehran.
Indeed, these women are not individual, unique and exceptional stars, but a generation of capable and vanguard women through whose leadership, the religious dictatorship will be overthrown and Iranian women can and must lead the building of a democratic, pluralist Iran, which will herald peace, liberation and equality.
The beast of darkness and wickedness, which thrives on inequality and continuously causes oppression and discrimination, is Islamic fundamentalism, whose heart is beating in Tehran under the rule of the mullahs.
The mullahs have dispatched herds of Revolutionary Guards to Syria. They have sent their proxy groups from Lebanon, Iraq and other countries, whether Shiite or Sunni, to massacre the people of Syria and intend to destroy the Syrian people's revolution.
The ruling theocracy in Iran and Bashar al-Assad are responsible for the massacre of over 140,000 Syrian women, men and children.
Similarly, the bombing and the massacre of Iraq's defenseless citizens in Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad, Mosul, Diyala and Hillah are commanded by the Quds Force and carried out by Iraqi forces.
In Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the political and social future and livelihood of the people have become hostage to terrorism and fundamentalism directed by the Iranian regime.
Thus, there is hardly any country in the Middle East and in the Islamic World that has been spared the Iranian regime's provocations and terrorism. Similarly, the regime has threatened global peace and security by trying to build nuclear weapons.
In truth, because of their regime's weakness and vulnerability, the mullahs have resorted to waging war against the people of region and the international community.
Therefore, if it were to abandon misogyny – and the export of terrorism and religious discrimination - the ruling theocracy would collapse.
Thus, neither the regime's former President Mohammad Khatami nor its current President Hassan Rouhani, who launched a charm offensive of "reform" and "moderation," did not and do not even get close to easing the oppression and subjugation of Iranian women. Doing so would mean the beginning of the end for the regime.
To this end, the very bills which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had submitted to the regime's parliament to intensify gender inequality are now being declared as law by his successor Rouhani.
It has been said that Iran under the rule of the mullahs is the epicenter of fundamentalism. But, we say, owing to the Iranian people's intellectual and cultural history, and by relying on the resistance of the MEK, Iran is the epicenter of liberation from fundamentalism and, at the same time, is the epicenter of women's emancipation and equality. This is a shining prospect, which will be realized by Iranian women.
One can see this competence in a galaxy of pioneering women who have been martyred.
One of them, my sister, Zohreh Gha'emi, who directed the historic struggle at Camp Ashraf on September 1, 2013, was a 35-year veteran of the struggle against the mullahs. She still carried the scars of torture and lashes as a result of spending five years in the Iranian regime's prisons. When she was commanding the resistance of Ashrafis during the July 2009 assault by Iraqi forces, she was shot in the leg and suffered serious injuries.
At the scene of the massacre at Ashraf on September 1, Zohreh and Giti Givehchian truly represented the dignity and bravery of Iranian women in the face of the ruling theocracy. She was leading her sisters and brothers. The assassins targeted her and her other sisters first and fired at her face at close range. What did the killers see in her resilience and her determined eyes, which they could not tolerate? They saw their own desperation, misery and defeat.
And in this way, Zohreh became a blood-soaked shield for the other 42 Ashrafis who survived that horrific massacre.
Nevertheless, the most important scene of Zohreh's struggle was her fight for a great ideal, for emancipation, equality and freedom. In this path, she had become a role model owing to her sense of responsibility and her willingness to put others first, in particular when working collectively on tasks. In the most recent elections within their organization, MEK members had elected her as joint-Secretary General.
Saba, Asiyeh, Mahdiyeh, Nastaran and Fa'ezeh, Fatemeh, Shahnaz, Marzieh and other Ashrafi women who were martyred on April 8, 2011, were part of this enlightened generation who had all been nurtured by Zohreh.
Among the martyrs of the Ashraf massacre, Jila Tolou also has a story that stands out. As the pictures and the video clips show, in her last moments, she had used her body as a shield to protect Zohreh by jumping in front of her. Indeed, this is the real sisterhood, love and solidarity that define a new historical identity.
Indeed, the life and martyrdom of each and every one of them is in and of itself a telltale sign of a ferocious battle that this generation has waged to liberate Iran.
And their collective backgrounds and experiences promise the victory of Iranian women in the struggle for freedom and equality. This explains why the mullahs and their allies are so enraged. This is why they slander these women with a litany of allegations in a bid to offset their profound impact among women inside Iran and around the world.
But neither a massacre nor such allegations can prevent the shining example and the progress of this generation.
For this reason, defending the vanguard women currently at Camp Liberty is an urgent responsibility for equality movements.
They and their male comrades are not only denied security and protection in the face of successive missile attacks, but are deprived of the minimum humane, medical and health standards by the puppet government of Iraq.
I urge my sisters around the world to rise up and to help the combatants of Iran's freedom at Camp Liberty, to urge the United Nations and the U.S. government to adhere to their commitments to protect the residents of Camp Liberty and to ensure their quick resettlement. They should in particular take measures for the release of the seven Ashrafi hostages and to refer this crime (the massacre at Ashraf on September 1, 2013) to the UN Security Council.
The fundamentalists' ruthlessness and evil are in essence the self-serving reaction of backward forces in the face of progressive and enduring forces. In our era, women are the main component of this progressive force.
The ruling theocracy, whose constitution and all of its laws and policies are rooted in gender discrimination and misogyny, has adopted new misogynous laws and waged war against Iranian women. They include:
- Forcing families to have more children;
- The shameful bill that allows men to marry their adopted daughters;
- Setting quotas and enforcing gender segregation in universities; and
- Preventing women from studying 77 fields of study at universities, and many other prohibitions.
Iranian women are targets of oppression, injustice and crackdown all over Iran.
In Baneh, Avin Osmani, 17, was murdered by the Revolutionary Guards.
In Tehran, Somayyeh, along with her six-year-old daughter, Ra'na, were both victims of an acid attack.
In Baluchistan, girls under 15 years of age have been forced into marriage.
Mothers and women have gathered outside Qezel Hessar Prison or the regime's parliament to protest against the execution of their loved ones.
Enraged Bakhtiari women in Dezful, Masjed Soleiman, Aligoodarz, Azna, Doroud, Izeh and Isfahan, rose up against the mullahs' oppression and insults two weeks ago.
Brave and resilient women in Iran have brought henchmen to their knees in prisons.
To them, and to my sisters and daughters across Iran, I say, stand strong and you will persevere. This misogynous regime is on its last legs.
At this juncture, Iranian women and all women in the region must move from being hopeless to being hopeful. They have to move from simply being angry to becoming inspired to change and to bring about change.
They must move away from grief and dejection to nurturing new energies for marching ahead.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
Undoubtedly, Iranian women and the women of the region will obtain freedom and equality.
There is no doubt that ultimately, oppressed women will overthrow the ruling theocracy in Iran.
We seek democracy, a democracy based on freedom, equality and the separation of religion and state.
We seek individual freedoms for all, pluralism, abolition of the death penalty, and equal rights for women; equality in freedoms and in their fundamental rights before the law; equality in the economic arena, in the family, and the freedom of choice in all spheres, including the choice of attire. We emphasize the need for women's active and equal participation in the country's political leadership.
Indeed, we seek a new order and are intent on uprooting this antiquated and reactionary order in its entirety.
For this reason, we renew our pledge to expand the struggle until the last traces of gender-based, class-based and religion-based slavery are gone.
Hail to arisen women across the world and in Iran.
Hail to 1,000 vanguard women at Camp Liberty.
Hail to freedom
Hail to all of you.