Maryam Rajavi underlined the importance of women's role in political leadership on Women's Day, in an international women conference in Paris where she addresses the danger of religious fascism posed by Tehran. The topics of her speech are as follows:
- The urgent danger posed by religious fascism in Iran
- Three options for the Iranian problem
- The capacity for democratic change
- Guarantee for democracy
- The vital role of women leadership in economic progress
- The experience of the Iranian Resistance
- Women's leadership is the source of the Resistance's power and cohesiveness
- Emerging Capabilities and the Human Jem
- Progressive Ideals
- Definitive defeat of Islamic fundamentalism
Text of Mrs. Rajavi's Speech
Speech by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi
President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran
Paris - 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I offer my greetings to you all. It is indeed a pleasure to be with you. Your gathering radiates with hope for realizing the ideals of the equality movement. Hope for building a new humane world and for removing the obstacles that have shackled humanity today in one form or another.
A few days from now, we will mark International Women's Day, which symbolizes this hope. I therefore take this opportunity to congratulate you and all my sisters across the world on this occasion. I also salute the heroic women who have suffered and sacrificed for the ideal of equality. Pioneers and unsung heroines, who despite their relentless sacrifice, history has failed to acknowledge because of the primacy of male-dominated culture.
Indeed, we must have hope and struggle for a progressive, humane ideal. Tens of thousands of brave women have given their lives for this ideal in the struggle against the ruling fundamentalists in Iran in the past 27 years. A true pioneer and leader among them was Ashraf Rajavi, who was slain by the Revolutionary Guards 24 years ago in Tehran.
I salute all those women who by their sacrifice are the pride of the global equality movement.
Last year, people in four countries - Germany, Chile, Liberia and Finland - chose a woman to lead them. Theirs is an achievement for all women across the world.
In the past few decades, women worldwide have accomplished much. But the evil of inequality still reins, and violence, humiliation and hatred against women continues. To these problems, we must add Islamic fundamentalism. This phenomenon has nothing to do with true Islam and Prophet Mohammad's religion of mercy and tolerance. With the backing and direction of the religious fascism ruling Iran, Islamic fundamentalism has not only endangered women's achievements, but all of humanity's.
Today, therefore, I would like to talk about the solution to this crisis and the role women can play in its resolution.
The urgent danger posed by religious fascism in Iran
Let us first review the scope of this crisis.
The religious dictatorship ruling Iran, which has massacred 120,000 political opponents, is on the verge of obtaining nuclear arms. It has also acquired long-range missiles that can carry nuclear warheads and can reach Europe. Nuclear weapons in the hands of a violent dictatorship, whose terrorist tentacles have reached many parts of the world, including Buenos Aires, Paris, Berlin, Beirut, Riyadh, Manila, Istanbul and Baghdad and instilled fear and perpetrated atrocities in those countries, is quite dangerous. But, there is even a bigger danger: The mullahs' vigorous efforts to install a despotic empire under the banner of Islam.
To this end, they have infiltrated Iraq and aim to dominate that country. They are opposed to peace in the Middle East and have formed a front of fundamentalist forces in the region to confront change in Iran.
The Iranian regime's President, appropriately likened to Hitler by the German Chancellor, says, "The waves of Islamic Revolution will soon sweep the world." He threatens everyone and despite the referral of the Tehran regime's nuclear file to the Security Council, he repeatedly calls for stepping up activities to acquire nuclear weapons.
Thus a lethal mix has emerged, of nuclear arms and fundamentalism. Drawing from my experience with Khomeini, who propelled fundamentalism to power in Iran, and from my reading of the ruling mullahs' regressive value system, I know that they have no limits in perpetrating horrific killings and mass destruction. Recent terrorist assaults have made this plain to everyone. Therefore, at issue is a crisis that is deepening exponentially because of the mullahs' belligerence and hysterical threats and is pushing the region toward the precipice.
Three options for the Iranian problem
The fundamental question before the world today is what are the options? What can one do about the evil of fundamentalism that according to its president is bent on setting the region on fire to preserve itself?
Perhaps, you have come across many view points, positions and articles, each of which have offered an option in dealing with this threat. We can sum them up in two major categories: Appeasing the mullahs' dictatorship or war and foreign military intervention.
Appeasement was justified by its supporters as an approach that could moderate the regime. Western governments claimed that they were appeasing the Iranian regime to thwart a war. But it was proven that it was appeasement which actually gave rise to war: 16 years of appeasement led to the ascension of Ahmadinejad. Three years of dialogue by the EU-3 pushed the mullahs closer to the bomb. War is not the solution to the Iranian problem either. Therefore, two years ago, on behalf of the Iranian Resistance, I announced the third option: Democratic change by the Iranian people and Resistance.
As far as this solution is concerned, two fundamental questions arise:
1. How can women's active and equal participation in political leadership provide the necessary capacity and impetus to realize this option?
2. How can the Iranian Resistance guarantee that this option is democratic?
The answer to these questions accentuates the decisive and emerging factor in the Iranian Resistance’s success. The experience of the past two decades, especially the successful perseverance through the hardships of the past three years has proven this. That factor is women's leadership. In this segment, I wish to explain that the serious presence of women in the leadership is the source of the Resistance's power and capabilities. It is the guarantee for democracy. It is the source of the Resistance movement's resilience in the face of fundamentalism and ensures its decisive defeat.
The capacity for democratic change
The Iranian Resistance has the necessary political and social capacity to realize democratic change in Iran. It relies on a vast popular base, a capable force near the Iranian frontier, an organizational structure and a legitimate and progressive ideal. But the spirit that transforms these underlying potentials into reality is women's leadership.
Because they have been historically exploited and suppressed, women possess an enormous motivation and high perseverance in the struggle in order to make up for their lag. In the confrontation with the mullahs, we realized that women resemble a compressed spring that when released from the shackles of discrimination and faced with responsibility, they take giant leaps forward. The extensive presence of women in the anti-monarchic revolution in 1979, their heroic role in the confrontation with the clerical dictatorship, including their astounding resistance to torture in the regime’s prisons, and the invaluable role they have played in the organized Resistance, prove that women are the growing force of our times. This growing force of women in the Resistance inspires women in Iranian society on a large scale to aspire to democratic change and transforms them into a major force to liberate Iran. Thus, it is the fundamental pillar of the Iranian Resistance's power.
Women's active participation in leadership also turns men into a force for change. It means eliminating exploitative thinking. For this reason, men who have become alienated due to the male-dominated culture, attain their human identity. This is a development that is a true awakening and cultural change that leads to liberated human energies.
On the surface it appears as though that when men accept women's leadership, they become pacified and take a back seat because they have lost their hegemony.
But the experience of the Iranian Resistance demonstrates that when men choose this path consciously, their sense of responsibility increases much more than when they were in charge. This is so because they have been liberated from the inhumane thinking and culture that has acted as an obstacle to progress and creativity.
Guarantee for democracy
The other important question is how does the decisive role of women guarantee democracy?
Creating democratic capacity in a government that would replace this regime is only possible with the active and equal participation of women in political leadership. Limitations and obstacles to women attaining a political role, not only denies them their democratic rights, but also undermines democracy. For in its most basic definition, democracy rests on human rights. Democracy does not mean political rights for male citizens only and it should not in any way be discriminatory in its application. When half of society cannot share power, democracy would also be lacking and fragile in the other half.
This reality sheds light on the state of all societies across the world today as it shows that the extent of women participation in political leadership of any society is the litmus test of the progress of democracy. When the issue of women sharing in and particularly leading, the political process is raised, despotic set of relationships that rely on the male-dominated culture will be forced into retreat.
Women's participation in leadership is a new perspective and approach that is based on empowering others instead of eliminating and humiliating them. It means accentuating positive attributes and strengths in others rather than highlighting their weakness and negative points. It means loving others instead of resenting them; team work as opposed to individual work. These are all the necessary elements of democracy and a political life based on understanding.
The vital role of women leadership in economic progress
Women's presence in political leadership plays a vital role in economic development. Today, giving more power to women is described as the "engine of development." Development programs in recent decades have had a downward spiral in many areas. They have not only failed to have any success in improving the general state of society, but have also exacerbated poverty in underdeveloped countries. Of course, women have been the victim of poverty everywhere. According to United Nations officials, today only one percent of the world's revenues belong to women. Such standards as transparency and accountability among government officials as well as the efficiency of government services have plummeted. Instead, violence, corruption and lawlessness have dramatically increased.
The reality is that in the current circumstances, where the balance of power does not favor women in different societies, development is advanced by relying on a worldview of despotism, corruption and anti-environmental policies of wasting human and material resources. The way out of this impasse is to recognize the role women could play. Because it not only combines women's tremendous force with the force for progress, but sweeps away barriers and obstacles to such progress, namely the male-dominated culture.
Gender equality as a human right was at the heart of the United Nations' development plan for the third millennium. The platform stresses, "Having an equal voice in political decision-making, from the family to the highest government levels, is a key element to empower women."
In the 1990s, some of the greatest world economists took a step forward in saying that economic development requires freedom. They also stated that "from the point of view of political economy, no issue is more important that recognizing the need for women's political, economic and social participation and their leadership."
The experience of the Iranian Resistance
My point about the impact of women's active and equal participation is not simply a theoretical appraisal of the current situation. It is a reality we realized and came to espouse in our confrontation with the ruling mullahs.
In the struggle to bring down the ruling theocracy, our movement realized that it was impossible to cast aside the obstacles to achieving democracy and freedom with the same tired and old motivations of past campaigns in past centuries. The political and international situation had created such limitations that not only the movement's advancement, but preserving its survival required a tougher and more costly struggle. Our movement recognized that it had to elevate its ideals, and thinking. Thus, it found the role of women in leadership as an imperative to democratic change in Iran. This became the source of a major cultural change in the ranks of our Resistance. If I were to offer a brief report on this process, it would simply be a recounting of the history of women's progress and their accepting key positions of responsibility. Indeed, this marked an escalation in our struggle with the religious dictatorship and the fundamentalists ruling Iran.
From the onset of this change, we came across several crucial junctures. Each time we had to make a definitive choice: either let go of the ideal of freedom and democracy and liberation of the Iranian people, or sacrifice even more and take up the challenge before us more vigorously to preserve the movement and advance its goals.
And every time, we realized that meeting that challenge required the decisive role of women. In other words, the ultimate logic for internal change in the ranks of the movement 20 years ago, which evolved step by step, was that achieving democracy and freedom could only be facilitated with the participation of women in leadership.
The reason was that we were facing an Islamic fundamentalist regime that rests on misogyny. Thus, the force that could defeat it had to be devoid of misogyny.
Contemporary political and economic processes confirm this reality. In the face of outdated solutions, the qualitative role of women offers a new solution. Thus, when it comes to the three options I mentioned earlier about the Iran crisis, we are not condemned to choose between appeasement and war. These two choices are ultimately of the same quality. They have a common substance and represent choices determined by the already-existing models, models that could only be realized through force and violence and by destroying enormous possibilities and resources. But they are alien to humanity’s endless spiritual capabilities, and incapable in the face of obstacles to humanity’s progress. When we realize the fallacy of this thinking, we recognize that the impasse that forces us to choose between the status quo and war is not genuine. Accepting appeasement or war is to surrender to inevitabilities. The real solution is the democratic and humane solution which is the by-product of active participation of women in the leadership of this movement and in running the affairs of Iran's future society.
Women's leadership is the source of the Resistance's power and cohesiveness
Now, we want to see how the role of women in the Iranian Resistance was tested and how it faired under difficult circumstances. You have heard reports about attacks and conspiracies in recent years against the Iranian Resistance. But many are unaware as to how the Resistance endured these difficulties.
The bases of the Iranian Resistance along the Iran-Iraq frontier were bombed during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. This was despite the fact that the Resistance had declared neutrality in the conflict. The mullahs demanded and conspired to ensure the bombing of the Mojahedin by the US and Britain. The Resistance forces were also attacked and ravaged by the regime's agents. The mullahs then set in motion an expensive and major plan to destroy the Resistance movement. Ashraf City, the Mojahedin's main base, was surrounded and put under tremendous pressure. Under such circumstances, women in the leadership of the movement had to thwart the conspiracies and remain focused on its struggle against the regime. They had to preserve the organization under their command and advance the movement.
I have repeatedly lauded the role of pioneering women in Ashraf City, because I could see that they took charge of the leadership of the movement at the time when they seemed to have no prospects for success. The balance of power in Iraq and in the region did not favor the Resistance movement. They had nothing going in their favor, yet they led the movement in an extremely volatile situation without any prior experience.
They took responsibility and persevered in all stages of this struggle through vigilance, a clear vision, correct decisions, risk taking and sacrifice. The leadership of women that was tested in Ashraf City was nothing short of a courageous and spirited journey into the heart of difficulties and hardships.
The men in the movement, who had attained dramatic achievements in the course of the struggle against the male-dominated culture, played a crucial part in this perseverance and carried out their responsibilities alongside the women.
Emerging Capabilities and the Human Jem
The rise of women to leadership positions in the Iranian Resistance movement was of course a difficult feat. Once it was accomplished, however, its further development led to a recognition and discovery of new potential in every single member of the Resistance, especially in female members. They went through a process of dramatic change in which passivity and evasion of responsibility gave way to the formation of a resolute and independent temperament and personality.
The exemplary traits they showed were:
• Patience in the face of hardship and unforeseeable situations,
• No distress over personal mistakes or setbacks and the desire to learn from mistakes,
• Acceptance of unconditional responsibility. Their acceptance of responsibility was not limited and they were not intimidated by it. They willingly and eagerly accepted all the risks and consequences,
• Acceptance of the worst case scenario instilled in them a great degree of power and capability,
• Belief in that any hardship or complex problem has a solution. The enemy wishes to portray everything as impossible, all doors as closed, and you as weak and incapable. This is why their enemy, the ruling mullahs in Iran, is terrified of them.
• When differing points of view arise, it is of prime importance for them to avoid knee-jerk reactions, and instead, to identify the problems and arrive at a solution.
They have achieved a high degree of humanity and moral fiber such that when faced with the most negative behavior or comments from their fellow sisters, friends, or colleagues, they maintain self-restraint and avoid reacting negatively. Instead of giving importance to another person’s negative characteristics or behavior, they show patience and tolerance so they may identify the root causes of issues, that when left unresolved, create problems in a team environment and lead to friction and disputes.
This represents a long step forward in the development of social relations and if it is transformed into general behavior, a vast and new world of human harmony and solidarity will develop. Fortunately, this trait has also developed among the men of this movement as well.
• The women of this movement have strengthened their compassion for their own sisters. In their daily work, before all else, they think about how they can help a growing number of their sisters to overcome the complex problems of performing solemn and important duties.
They have been able to organize a harmonious and united community of women to tackle the most difficult responsibilities in any field, because they have espoused these values. This is truly a new phenomenon in the evolution of social relations. This is a phenomenon that is necessary for the development of democracy and growth in every society, even the most advanced. The reason is that the core issue of all social development is the inherent conflict between the interests of the individual and the interests of society. This is an issue that has no set formula or standardized solution. In every individual case, one must determine which one should give way to the other.
The women of this resistance movement have learned by experience that in each collaborative effort, the correct method of problem-resolution is to give priority to the interests of their sisters as opposed to their own. In this way that woman can participate in the decision-making process at all levels of society.
• Indeed, they believe deeply in liberation and aspire to their people’s prosperity and freedom, and strive to build a new phase in the history of their country.
What is meant by women’s active and equal participation in leadership?
In addition to achieving new management roles, this also means a change in male-dominated viewpoints, work habits, and cultural values and their replacement with new human values.
To address this issue, I raised earlier the Iran crisis that is a very critical issue in the world today, to show the profound difference between the various solutions that are presented for dealing with it. On the one hand, all proposed solutions, whether based on conciliation and appeasement, or on war and foreign intervention, seem to lead to an impasse and a gloomy outlook, as if no other option exists. That is to say, if we do not accept the status quo - despotic, regressive and barbaric fundamentalism - then we will have no choice but war. We reject this fait accompli. We have not and will not accept being confined to prevalent modes of problem-resolution that offer no hope for human liberty. Proposals and strategies that stem from exploitative thinking cannot offer a way out of this crisis. The mindset that stems from women leadership, however, rests on human resources and has an endless vision before it.
The leadership we are referring to is the result of a matured human development that rests on humane relationships. This is a major rebellion against male-dominated society and a regressive culture that should be negated.
This is why when women took responsibility of leadership positions in the Resistance movement, this change was not a mere change of managerial posts for us. The goal was rather to eliminate gender discrimination. It was not as if men left their posts so women could occupy them and manage the same set of relationships with the same methods. It was not as if women walked in the footsteps of their male predecessors or became part of a male leadership club, not at all. The main issue was casting aside the outdated relationships based on a male-dominated culture and replacing them with humane relationships.
Women's leadership in our movement did not eliminate or pacify men. On the contrary, it helped them free themselves of the burden of male-dominated culture that had shaped their thinking, will and affections. They shared their experiences with women and learned a great deal from the women who offered a new vision.
Thus, this is how we look at women leadership: As a progressive human ideal
Definitive defeat of Islamic fundamentalism
How could Islamic fundamentalism and misogyny be defeated? How could one prevent the death of democracy in countries under the influence of Islamic Fundamentalism?
The answer is this: You have to eliminate the male-dominated culture as an inhumane culture, through women leadership.
Accordingly, the establishment of democracy without the active role of women in society's leadership is impossible or at best retractable.
And this is how we respond to the Iranian regime which by exporting Islamic fundamentalism and trying to arm itself with nuclear weapons is threatening humanity.
In today's discussion, I referred to the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, which has alarmed all human beings. But when I think of the ideal of equality and the struggle we are vigorously pursuing, I am hopeful. A realistic hope that we can turn today's gloom into a bright future. We can tear asunder the shackles and attain emancipation and freedom.
Although considered as nothing, women must become everything. Fundamental changes in women are not a simple dream. Neither is the hope for the freedom of humankind. The only conceivable solution for emancipation is liberation based on a theory where human beings consider other human beings as the most exalted and thus adhere to the ideal of equality. This is the vision before us and I am sure we will triumph.
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