International Women’s Day – March 8th, 2010: Support the Iranian women at the forefront of the human & civil rights movement

Mar 1, 20100 comments


  About IWD 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. The United Nations theme for IWD 2010 is “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for all.” Every year the UN designates a theme, but many organizations and groups often choose themes endemic to their own causes and activist efforts. As the IWD website reads, “It is completely up to each country and group as to what appropriate theme they select.” 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 are organizing their own theme for International Women’s Day. Groups will gather to celebrate and support the women of Iran 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, and prevents such barbaric practices as stoning. [See the U4I Event Calendar here]

IWD Events In New York the week of March 1st, the Women Intercultural Network, US Women Connect, the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, Women’s Learning Program, and others are  hosting a series of conferences on women’s rights and gender equality that will see such notable speakers as Noble Peace Prize Winner, Shirin Ebadi, and many more. [Learn more about the series of conferences here.] Another event in New York, hosted by RAHA, will feature a film screening of two documentaries that examines, among other things, the Million Signature Campaign. Orlando’s Florida for Human Rights in Iran is also coordinating a round-table discussion and film screening to explore the issues important to women both in and outside of Iran. A group in Malaysia is similarly organizing, as are advocacy groups across the world, including in Northern California and on-going Vienna-based Mourning Mothers demonstrations meant to show support for the Mourning Mothers of Laleh Park. One of the female advocates from the Vienna-based Mourning Mothers support group explains (in the video below) why they continue to support the female activists of Iran: “The events in Iran are not specific to men, [these issues] belong to both men and women.”

In Phoenix, AZ, women’s rights advocates are gathering to hear speeches chronicling the women’s rights movement in Iran. The event will include a ceremonious dove-releasing to honor the women’s rights advocates in Iran who have lost their lives and a tree planting to commemorate and show support for the women continuing the struggle in Iran. You can find events (not necessarily Iran-related) near you on the IWD website at IWD events that focus on the human & civil rights of Iranian women can be found on the U4I event calendar: /event-calendar/ More events are in the works, and we will update the event calendar as they come in, so make sure to check it frequently!

A Background on Women’s Rights Advocates in Iran & IWD On the eve of International Women’s Day in March 2007, authorities arrested 33 women’s rights activists who had gathered outside a Tehran court to show solidarity with five activists who had organized protests in June the year before.

One Million Signature Campaign Logo

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.” Since the disputed election back in June 2009, women have only emerged further, placing themselves at the front-line of the disputes and crackdowns, no matter the risks. Women’s advocacy has continued to evolve and grow, as obvious by the influx of mothers demonstrating. 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.”

Mourning Mothers arrested in Jan 2010 for demonstrating

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. Only last month, authorities arrested (and a few days later released) over 30 “Mourning Mothers” in an excessive show of security force. Students engaging in women’s rights advocacy are often also harassed. They are “starred” and once they’ve hit “three strikes” their right to education is revoked, as was the case with women’s rights advocate and Million Signature Campaign member, Somayeh Rashidi late last year. Early last year, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi’s sister was also arrested (and later released), in an attempt to silence the Nobel Peace Prize winning activist. 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.

Check out 30 seconds into the video below to see just how the women of Iran have risen to meet the increased threats to their human & civil rights.


International Women’s Day – Official Site International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran Report – “The Systematic Repression of Women” (2008) 30 Members of Mourning Mothers Detained (Jan 2010) No Information About Detained Women’s Rights Activist (Jan 2010) Widespread Arrests of Women’s Rights Activists, Female Journalists and Relatives (Jan 2010)