World’s Women’s Day – OpEd


March 8th, International Women’s Day, is a grim reminder- as it has been in past 40 years- for Iranian women that their human rights have been violated on so many levels . For Iranian women after four decades of a painful experience with the  misogynistic mullahs’ regime, International Women’s Day has a clear message: the struggle will not stop until they fulfill their dreams. The clerical regime since day one made sure that women have no role in the society. From the likes of former Iranian president Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -an ill-founded discovery of the first “reformist” by the West amongst the rest of “hardliners” in the country’s ruling class, to the last of them President Hassan Rouhani dance to the same tune; the principle of Velayat-e faqih (absolute rule of clerics). There is no room in such a mind-set for women other than raising “good children.”

Many in Iranian regime consider former president Rafsanjani as the father of Iranian “reformism.” He opined on the shortcomings of women in a prayer sermon: “A man’s brain is larger. Women mature too fast. The breathing power of men’s lungs is greater and women’s heartbeats are faster . . . . Men heed reasoning and logic, whereas most women tend to be emotional . . . . Courage and daring are stronger in men.”

On March 7, 1979, Khomeini imposed the compulsory veil on female employees. Rouhani was then tasked to implement the new law-for the first time- on the Army’s female employees nationwide. That set the precedence for later suppression of women not only in work places but throughout the country.

Let us not forget that these are the icons of so-called “moderates” and “reformists” in the theocratic regime in Iran. By far the “hardliners” are worst when it comes to women’s rights. A hot news item in Western media is of course pictures of young Iranian women line up outside stadiums struggling to push pass security forces in hope of finding a way inside.

Last year’s “Girls of Revolution Street” was another milestone in Iranian women’s decades long fight for their basic rights under clerical regime in Iran. Over the years compulsory Hijab has been a one of more visible sources of struggle between the regime and Iranian women. The nationwide protests of early 2018 provided much more room for Iranian women’s potentials in fighting with the regime and laid the ground for brave women to prove their leading role in the protests. There has been hardly any picture of last demonstrations that does not show women on the front lines and sometimes face to face with Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

Women biking in public has been a direct confrontation to Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s fatwa banning young women from participating in outdoor activities is another visible sign of protests which often grab more media attention than serious issues women have had with this regime which on top of the list is total gender equality in all aspect of life. It is no secret that women in this regime have been treated as last than equal. scratching the surface, Sharia laws, clearly state that women have no rights independent of their patriarchal figures overlooking and dictating their lives every step of the way. It could be thier husbands, fathers or brothers.

Desire for change

Obviously women have been in the front lines of demonstrations which rocked Iran for days in the past year. Many have been arrested and some are spending time under inhuman conditions sometimes for an undetermined amount of time in such places as Garchak Prison in southern Tehran.

It is obvious that women around the world despite making good progress have a long and hard battle ahead to achieve full parity. In Iran, especially after 1979 revolution, for women it has been an uphill struggle. Despite having more than a fair share of serving unjust prison sentences or executions, they were still in shades.

Opposition leads the way

Having discovered the flaw, the People’s Mojhaden Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) as the opposition organization took the lead. The organization was completely transformed in fall of 1989 and women gradually filled all leadership positions formerly belonged to men.

It is hard to picture an underground organization on the run from the most savage security force in Iran: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and risk such major organizational changes. The PMOI did not give up and went forward full throttle after its new plan; and changed it did.

The architect of this new and galvanized organization was none other than a humble woman, Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). She had maintained all along that it could not have happened had it not been for men and women who believed in themselves and their final goal which has been a democratic and free country for all Iranians.

Many seasoned politicians from five continents meeting her, have noticed her positive approach to the most complicated problems such as making the final decision to move all Liberty Camp residents to Albania in September of 2016.

They have found her to be encouraging and bring out the best in people. Although she had graduated from the most prestigious engineering school, Sharif University of Iran, she took the helm of the Iranian opposition movement at the most turbulent times of the country.

Last around this time, there was an international conference in Paris marking the International Women’s Day. It was titled: “Women Force for Change: Iran Uprising and the Role of Women.”

Speaking about the claims by the Iranian regime that women should be deprived of the freedom to choose their own clothing through the compulsory veil, Maryam Rajavi said that this is based on nothing because the Quran states that there is “no compulsion in religion”, therefore imposing anything on women is contradictory to Islam.

The Iranian women have been deprived of their rights twice as much as men. It makes perfect sense for them to take the lead in bringing down the regime.

Reza Shafiee

Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.

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