International Women’s Day: March 8, 2011

Mar 8, 20110 comments

About International Women’s Day: International Women’s Day (IWD) was first celebrated in 1911 in four European countries. Today, it’s an official holiday in a many countries, including China, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Vietnam. Thousands around the world gather annually to celebrate the enormous advancement of women’s rights in the last hundred years, as well as to support women in the advancements still to be made. Despite a long history of harassment and intimidation, women have continued to stay at the forefront of human & civil rights efforts, using International Women’s Day as platform for action. For these reasons – and many more – women’s rights advocates throughout the world celebrate and support the women of Iran (and everywhere else!) in their quest to attain not just basic human & civil rights, but also those rights that guarantee women equality in education, health, compensation, divorce, child custody, etc.

A Background on Women’s Rights Advocates in Iran & IWD Since the disputed election  in June 2009, women have only emerged further in the struggle for human rights, placing themselves at the front-line of the disputes and crackdowns, no matter the risks. Women’s advocacy has continued to evolve and grow. For this year’s women’s day, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi called for marches to promote gender equality. In a March 2, 2011 statement, Ms Ebadi said:

“March 8th 2011 (the International Women’s Day) is a special day. On this day, besides the equal rights of women, the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people will also be demanded. We, as women though, should be vigilant, ensuring that in the midst of political upheaval and political developments, we do not forget about our long time demand for ‘equal rights.’ On this day, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers, we will come to the streets to support the popular and broad democratic demands, because achieving ‘equal rights’ is possible only if voiced in a democratic system. But, we must not allow anyone to disregard our demands under the auspices of preventing crisis or avoiding divisiveness… “Those brave women who spoke of equal rights and called for equality, were met with batons and had lashings inflicted upon them by the defenders of the Regime. Some found themselves imprisoned and some were even executed. Eventually though, when someday we celebrate the liberty of humans and not just that of men, the history that our children will write will indeed be different…Iranian women are not starved for political power nor are they demanding decadence. They are simply weary of enduring more cruelty and disparagement. They are in search of justice and equality.” Read the full statement here.

You can also learn more about prominent Iranian women’s rights campaigns by reading last year’s women’s day interview with One Million Signature member, Esha Momeni. Ms. Momeni also works with Gender Equality for Iran, a group of women’s rights activists collecting signatures in agreement with the statement “Freedom & Gender Equality in Iran.” Iranian Women Push Forward After the deaths of Neda Agha-Soltan and Sohrab Aarabi following the brutality of this past summer’s protests, many activists – in addition to the mothers whose children had been previously executed, arbitrarily detained, or disappeared completely – began a group named “Mourning Mothers of Laleh-Park.” This group of mothers gathers in Tehran’s Laleh Park regularly to mourn and demand accountability for the deaths, detainment, and disappearance of their children. They peacefully demonstrate, but not without the same harassment, arrests, and intimidation that all women’s rights advocates have and continue to face. Students engaging in women’s rights advocacy are often also harassed. They are “starred,” which could lead to their right to education is revoked. Despite the harassment, intimidation, and arrests, the women’s rights advocates in Iran continue to demand not only women’s equality, but also, as we’ve seen more and more since the June election, full human & civil rights for all the citizens of Iran. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran details additional women’s rights abuses in a 2008 report entitled “The Systematic Repression of Women”. The report notes that women’s rights advocates have been beaten, harassed, and persecuted for exercising their civil rights, for collecting signatures for the “Million Signatures Campaign,” for publishing articles, convening meetings, and more. The ICHRI report goes on to detail that many of the women activists “have received court summonses, and have been interrogated, ill-treated, kept in solitary confinement, denied access to lawyers and families, and subjected to pressures to confess to spurious charges” and that “Bail amounts have been excessive, forcing many defendants to remain in detention.” In addition to often being charged with “acts against national security,” many women’s rights advocates have been “convicted and sentenced to jail terms… apparently aimed to keep them in a state of isolation and fear, and thus to suppress and repress further human rights activity.”

Support for Iran’s Women

Various videos collected over the past year (some repeats from last year’s women’s day) of support for Iran’s women can be found below.

Women’s Activists from Movements Worldwide Speak to the Women of Iran

Video of Iranian woman at the front line of protests in 2009 (fast forward to 00:30 in the video)