Maryam Rajavi: The equality movement should engage in an all-embracing and multi-faceted struggle
International Women’s Day speech to 1,000 women gathered in a conference in Paris
“I ask you and all my sisters in Europe and the United States who endeavor for the expansion of the peace movement to rise up and not allow the mullahs to take advantage of your efforts to preserve their regime in Iran. With every slogan for peace, we must chant “no nuclear arms in the mullahs’ hands,” said Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the Iranian Resistance, to one thousand women gathered in a conference in Paris, on March 3.
They came to Paris to celebrate the Women’s International Day, and listen to Mrs. Rajavi and many eminent speakers coming from United States, Canada, Norway, Italy, Great-Britain, France, Algeria, Spain as well as representative from the Iranian Resistance. Sponsored by dozens of NGO and women associations, the conference was organized by the International Federation of Women against Fundamentalism and for Equality.
Here is the speech of Maryam Rajavi:
Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
I congratulate you and the activists of the equality movement on International Women’s Day.
On this day, which rekindles the great hope for equality, we hail all women who are fighting for the realization of this ideal and think of all women who have fallen victim to oppression, discrimination and violence.
On this day, we also commend such great women as Clara Zetkin and Olympe de Gouges, each of whom took giant stride to advance the ideal of equality.
We also pay homage to Fatemeh Amini, Marzeih Ahmadi Oskoui, Mehrnoush Ebrahimi and other brave women who fell in the path of the struggle against the Shah’s regime.
We laud Ashraf Rajavi, who was slain 25 years ago by the Revolutionary Guards and who today is the source of inspiration of a great resistance where the Iranian Resistance is headquartered.
We salute thousands of heroic women who have been either hanged or murdered under torture in the struggle against the fundamentalists ruling Iran in the past 25 years.
We laud the courageous women in Tehran, who on two occasions last year, on March 8 and June 12, ignored the mullahs’ savage repression and staged a daring demonstration in the heart of the capital, chanting “the cry is freedom and the voice is a revolt for awareness.”
We salute especially the brave women who this very day staged a demonstration in Tehran to protest against the oppression and crackdown by the Ahmadinejad regime. Some 15,000 dignified teachers, including many of our sisters, displayed their anger and disdain for the religious theocracy by staging a protest outside the mullahs’ Majlis. They warned the regime’s leaders that they will get nowhere with murder and clamping down on voices of opposition.
We also commend our suffering and bereaved sisters in Iraq, and especially the brave Iraqi women who played a special role in organizing the campaign to publicize the declaration by 5.2 million Iraqis against the Iranian regime’s meddling in Iraq.
And we salute 1,000 pioneering women in Ashraf City, who lead the resistance against religious dictatorship and for freedom and equality.
In honoring the International Women’s Day, we have gathered here to say that equality is women’s right. And I have come to say that across the world we have many responsibilities, far beyond women’s rights, which we must carry out. Otherwise peace, security and democracy in our world would be endangered.
March 8, puts the spot light on women, their achievements and future responsibilities. I think that women’s movement has come a long way.
By the end of the 1920s, the equality movement won the right to suffrage for women. By the end of 1960s, this movement had major advances toward attainting legal equality for women.
And in the final decades of the past century, the equality movement has struggled against obstacles in the path of women’s freedom and equality in various ways.
The question, however, is that what objective should the equality movement pursue today. And why there is the need to ask this question in the present era.
Today, major global developments have brought many opportunities and threats for the equality movement: the opportunity to play a role in the future course of the world and the threat of denigration of the equality movement to a lower position.
Now, the fundamental question is that what status the equality movement is searching for.
Do we want to share power as isolated individuals and submit to the continuation of the status quo? Or do we want to suffice by engaging in some reform in women’s rights?
A profound observation of the current circumstances faces us with another strategy. We must overcome this crossroads and assume our role to change the world.
This strategy means an active participation in the political struggle in order to cast aside the obstacles to equality and freedom.
The equality movement must not limit itself to the present objectives. Only through advancing toward higher horizons can freedom be achieved.
In her book, “the Second Sex,” Simone de Beauvoir considered this reality so important that she stressed that any time advancement is confined to the status quo, there has been a downward spiral.
Therefore, although owing to women’s struggle in the past decade, much has been achieved, but nothing is permanent. No social progress, even when drafted in law, could be definitive because discrimination and oppression continues to affect women as the dominant culture of our world today.
Indeed, history has taught us that nowhere the oppressors voluntarily give up their privileges. Neither do they voluntarily respect women’s privileges and true position.
So far, all of us agree on the fact that women’s entry into the realm of an active political struggle is inevitable.
But the main question which this premise immediately confronts us with is that in which direction women’s struggle in this era should be pointed.
Should the present campaigns for the right to employment, against violence and aggression and against victimizing children and women in sex-slave trade be expanded?
Should the campaign for abortion and defending the rights of oppressed women be promoted to the next level?
Or is there another objective in the works?
These campaigns are, of course, quite valuable and must continue. On International Women’s Day, all such activists must be commended.
In reality, however, in the current circumstances, a cyclone of blood, bombing, terror, rape and poverty which is destroying the lives of the people in the Middle East, should compel the equality movement to engage in an all-embracing and multi-faceted struggle.
Today, the Middle East is burning in the inferno of fundamentalism. The dangers of this ominous calamity have gone beyond the Middle East and from time to time victimize innocent people in Western countries.
This enormous calamity does not leave us with many choices.
Should we surrender to it and allow the achievements of mankind, especially the accomplishments of the equality movement, to be sacrificed under its feet? Or should we rise to resist it with all our might?
Here, the question in everybody’s minds is that while the fundamentalists target women’s freedoms and rights in countries with Islamic orientation, how could women elsewhere in the world, including in Europe and the United States, be affected by them?
In response, I offer three reasoning:
First, the fundamentalists’ devastation in Islamic countries, especially regarding the rights of women, benefits the global patriarchal culture. Three decades ago, Susan Brown Miller, the distinguished American feminist, explained an important fact about violence and rape [against women]. She said that because of any violence and rape against a woman, the domination of men who have not themselves taken part in that violence, is strengthened. Similarly, even women who have not been the target of that violence will be intimidated.
In my view, this is an important rule from which one can understand the retrogressive impact of fundamentalism on the equality movement the world over.
Second, fundamentalism in Muslim communities of Western countries has emerged as a challenge whose dimensions are spreading by the day.
Third is the spread of the fire of terrorism and the danger of a nuclear war around the globe?
The criminal explosions in different countries which have victimized many innocent people represent the first flames of a huge fire raging in the Middle East at present.
When the mullahs, equipped with long-range missiles and nuclear weapons complete their domination of the Middle East, the fire of this ominous calamity will have engulfed European countries as well.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me draw two major conclusions from these arguments.
First, women’s involvement in a serious political struggle to remove the obstacles to equality is an imperative that could no longer be ignored.
Second, in the present circumstances, the substance of this struggle is confronting the fundamentalist wave that has been roaming the Middle East today.
With these preliminary remarks, today we want to reply to a fundamental question. Has the equality movement done what is necessary in the struggle against fundamentalism? Has it assumed its pioneering role? We will get the answer in due course.
Here, I would like to elaborate on different aspects of the fundamentalist onslaught which at the same time forms different dimensions of today’s struggle.
1. Suppression of the Iranian people, especially women;
2. Efforts to acquire nuclear weapons;
3. Dominating Iraq and Lebanon and warmongering in other Islamic countries;
4. The West’s policy of appeasement acting as the de facto ally of fundamentalism.
Let us see what atrocities the fundamentalists have committed against women in Iran.
In truth, the people around the world have been informed of a very small portion of the tragedy that has affected women in my country. As you might know, misogyny is distinctive to the fundamentalist ruling Iran.
No one but Iranian women have experienced body and soul this misogyny.
The mullahs’ rule came down on women’s rights, liberties, culture, family and private lives like a huge avalanche.
– Executing thousands of female opponents, which is unprecedented anywhere in the world;
– Torturing tens of thousands of women political prisoners;
– Executing pregnant women, the torture of mothers in front of their children;
– Degrading women’s social and economic standing to second class citizens;
– Imposing gender apartheid;
– Controlling women’s presence in the streets;
– Imposing compulsory veiling, controlling the color and forms of women’s attire;
– Lacerating and splashing acid on women’s faces because of their clothing and make up.
– Systematic assault on women in prisons;
– Denial of the right to divorce and the right to custody of children;
– Promoting polygamy and temporary marriage, justified by the mullahs’ disgraceful Sharia;
– Applying medieval and painful punishments such as stoning, whose victims are primarily women;
– Injustice and discrimination in economic participation, employment and education;
– The sale of small children by impoverished families and their trafficking to other countries by the mullahs’ criminal gangs in a country as rich as Iran;
– Selling innocent girls’ body parts due to impoverishment, hunger and many other calamities;
Indeed, these are only parts of the tragedy women have been experiencing under the rule of the fundamentalists. I must emphasize that these come at a time when the Iranian Resistance movement has been waging a relentless struggle against this regime for 27 years. Imagine what the fundamentalist mullahs would have done to women if this resistance did not exist.
The struggle to end these appalling conditions that have prevailed for 28 years relates to the equality movement across the globe and presents us with the question that I mentioned earlier: Has the equality movement done what is necessary in the struggle against fundamentalism? And has it assumed its leading role?
Here, let me tell my sisters across Iran that although the pain of inequality, humiliation and insult is crushing your very existence, and although the mullahs have trampled upon your individual, familial, social and political rights and freedoms, and are hell-bent on denying your human identity, you, nevertheless, possess such power that has turned Iranian women into the force that will overthrow the mullahs.
When you rise up in the heart of Tehran, when in any gathering you target the mullahs’ nuclear deception and shout that nuclear program serves the rule of the Velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical supremacy), when you say that liberty and minimum means of subsistence are the undeniable rights of the Iranian people, you shake the mullahs’ regime to its foundations.
Your resolve will realize the demands of the Iranian people and you are Iran’s future.
The mullahs’ enmity and crimes against you is because they are afraid of you. Iranian society is thirsty for a new way of life and for change.
The force of change in Iran is compressed in you as the pioneers of this struggle. You can definitively defeat fundamentalism. You are Iran’s future.
Indeed, the one thousand Mojahed women in Ashraf City, Iraq, have arisen from your ranks. They are the embodiment of your resolve for equality and freedom. They have proven that you will shape the future of Iran.
I salute you and all free-thinking men who are standing with you shoulder to shoulder in this struggle.
Let us address another important issue: the urgent danger of the regime obtaining nuclear weapons.
You already know that the clerical regime is working rapidly to obtain the atomic bomb.
The mullahs’ fundamentalist regime can only preserve its survival through warmongering and export of terrorism. The moment the mullahs acquire the bomb is the moment when an uncontrollable war will begin.
We are living at a critical juncture. A sense of urgency surrounds us.
Let us close our eyes and go back to 1938, on eve of the Second World War. Assuming that we knew of the tragedy that was in the offing, would we have spared any sacrifice and effort to prevent such a war then? Our reply to all of this is definitely no.
It is common knowledge that the mullahs’ regime, its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are the source of warmongering. Yet, simultaneous with building nuclear weapons as well as meddling and perpetrating atrocities in Iraq, the mullahs regime projects itself a an advocate of peace. This is where the importance of women’s movement becomes apparent. Women are the main force of the peace movement. You have the power to engage in campaigns throughout the world to block the path of the mullahs to nuclear weapons and demand that your governments not stand with the fundamentalists ruling Iran.
The mullahs’ biggest deception is that they portray defending peace as defending their own regime.
The mullahs and their allies are saying that you must support the Iranian regime or war would be inevitable.
In the face of this, the Iranian Resistance has put forth the Third Option. Meaning, neither appeasement, nor foreign military intervention is the answer. Change by the Iranian people and Resistance is the viable option. This is the very solution that is intrinsically compatible with the equality movement, for which reason women have a decisive role to play in realizing that option.
I call on movements which advocate peace and human rights, especially the equality movement’s activists to support this solution.
I ask you and all my sisters in Europe and the United States who endeavor for the expansion of the peace movement to rise up and not allow the mullahs’ to take advantage of your efforts to preserve their regime. With every slogan for peace, we must chant “no nuclear arms in the mullahs’ hands.”
I ask my dear sisters here with us today to use the peace movement to rise against the mullahs’ crazy insistence to acquire nuclear weapons.
Together, we can stop the outbreak of an ominous war and stop the bloodshed in the Middle East and the barbaric theocracy ruling Iran.
Allow me here to address the situation of a wounded Iraq, where millions of human beings around the world are distressed when witnessing the occurrences in that country.
Today’s world has the painful experience of Iraq before it. As part of the appeasement policy, the Coalition forces bombed the centers of the Iranian opposition at the behest of the mullahs. They paved the way for the mullahs’ rapid penetration into Iraq. The horrific consequence of this policy is now seen in the bombings which are tearing apart Iraq.
The vast portion of the 650,000 Iraqis murdered in the past four years have been murdered by the mullahs’ death squads. Iraqi democratic parties and even the insurgents who vehemently oppose the US presence in Iraq are saying loud and clear that the mullahs’ regime is the main occupier.
I want, in particular, to draw your attention to the painful plight of Iraqi women. Thousands of female Iraqi students have quit their studies because of the attacks and threats by the Iranian regime’s operatives. Girl schools are completely shut down. Many women have become impoverished and homeless. The gang rape of Iraqi women by the militias on the mullahs’ payroll, one example of which was revealed on February 19, dismayed everyone.
As far as the plight of Iraqi women is concerned, we are again faced with the basic question: Has the equality movement done what is necessary in the struggle against fundamentalism? Has it assumed its pioneering role?
Ladies and gentlemen,
Here, I would like to draw the attention of the equality movement the world over, and especially you free thinking women, to another issue, namely a major obstacle in the path of change in Iran: the policy of appeasement.
First, let us see how this policy has blocked the path of the movement for freedom and women’s equality movement in Iran. The issue is simply this: shackling a movement that is seeking freedom and democracy by including it in terrorist lists.
At the behest of the mullahs, Western governments included the Iranian opposition movement in their terrorist lists. For many years we challenged the decision of Council of Ministers of the European Union.
The terrorism allegation was completely unwarranted and targeted the main opposition movement.
We organized a major social, political and legal campaign in the course of this challenge.
Our several-years-long struggle finally achieved a historic victory when in its ruling last December, the European Court of Justice annulled the terrorist label against the People’s Mojahedin. Surprisingly, in line with appeasing the mullahs’ regime, the EU Council defied the court’s ruling.
Therefore, we have before us an obstacle: the policy of appeasement. I want to elaborate on this issue as it has been the practical policy of the West in recent years. The policy of appeasement has four components:
1. Taking part in the crackdown on the opposition and preventing change in Iran;
2. Paving the way for the spread of fundamentalism and terrorism;
3. Providing political opening for the mullahs to go nuclear; and
4. Violating law, democracy and trampling upon justice in Western countries.
Having referred to these components, I want to explain why the struggle for appeasement should be placed on the agenda of the equality movement urgently.
The policy of appeasement, which supports religious fascism, impedes the struggle of Iranian women for freedom and equality. If in the distant past pioneering women, who held aloft the flag of resistance for emancipation and equality, were few in numbers, today, 1,000 brave and selfless women are advancing a progressive movement which espouses noble demands and objectives and is the focal point of the face-off with religious dictatorship ruling Iran.
The policy of appeasement has blocked the path of these women. By paving the way for the mullahs, their headquarters in Ashraf City is encircled and under an assortment of conspiracies. Today, they face the threat of expulsion, quid pro quo and various restrictions and shortages.
We need a movement that would rise up across the world and support the bastion, where the flames of resistance for freedom and equality are burning, and herald something new to the world.
We expect that when Iranian women confront religious fascism, you, free-thinking women in Western countries, challenge the policy of appeasement and policy makers who support the mullahs’ religious fascism. This is a humanitarian and conscientious responsibility.
Institutions such as the Council of Ministers of the European Union that pursue the policy of appeasement are directly at fault in solidifying religious dictatorship in Iran and in the spread of terrorism and fundamentalism.
They say officially that the Iranian opposition was placed on the terrorist lists at the request of the clerical regime. When they ignore European justice and allow this designation to continue unlawfully, when they deny the opposition movement the right to the freedom of expression in European capitals, they are allowing the values and demands of the fundamentalists have primacy.
In the face of such blatant injustice that has made a mockery of European values, has the equality movement done what has been necessary in the fight against fundamentalism? Has it assumed its pioneering responsibility?
I ask you, my dear sisters here, and all equality movement activists across the world not to allow Europe’s fundamental values, which your societies cherished and upheld, to become the victim of deals which strengthen fundamentalism.
Let us join hands in the face of European government’s totalitarianism and institutions which crush the achievements of humanity, especially those of women.
Naturally, when we compel the dictatorship in Iran to give way to the rule of freedom and democracy and when Iranian women achieve freedom and equality, we will see a giant leap for the equality movement worldwide, especially as a challenge to the fundamentalists.
Today, we and you and our sisters in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia, Afghanistan and other countries are facing a single danger. We must form a united front in the face of fundamentalists and appeasers.
The issue is not merely an expression of sisterhood with oppressed women in Iran, Iraq and other countries in the region. The matter goes far beyond that: it has to do with world peace and security.
Activism on the part of women’s movement is not complementary to the fight against fundamentalism only. The fact is that without the pioneering role of women, we cannot overcome this monster.
Allow me, here, to thank courageous women who have in all these years have been the leading force in the anti-fundamentalist front. I mean Madam Elizabeth Sidney and my dear sisters in the Women’s International Federation Against Fundamentalism and for Equality. I also thank the efforts of women parliamentarians and organizations in different countries around the world.
The reality of women’s leading role in the struggle against fundamentalism has been proven manifestly in the history of the Iranian Resistance in the past quarter century. Without women’s determining role, our movement lacked the capacity to survive against religious fascism.
In truth, the more the fight against religious dictatorship grew more serious and more profound, the role of women became more imperative. The need for greater perseverance and a more hardnosed and serious struggle made women’s assumption of responsibility more indispensable.
This is what our era dictates. This is an era that the solutions and thinking which solidify the male-dominated regime have come to an end. This era requires a new solution based on the values of equality.
With this mindset, 1,000 courageous and selfless women in Ashraf City, the headquarters for the Iranian Resistance, 50 kilometers from the Iranian frontier, have persevered against the mullahs’ regime.
Ashraf City, which has withstood enormous conspiracies in the past four years has been led by brave women such as Mojgan Parsaii, Sedigheh Hosseini and hundreds of other women in positions of responsibility.
This thinking in the Iranian Resistance is the source of many achievements and advances each of which require lengthy discourse.
Women in the Iranian Resistance have put into practice many ideals of the equality movement. These experiences could only be defined as a “new birth”, “creating a new culture” and “human epics.”
They have overcome women’s historical lack of disbelief and fragility. In theory and in social and political praxis, they have come to believe in women’s enormous capabilities.
They have shed the fear of failure and weakness in the face of difficulties. Instead of breaking apart, they learned to develop the power to overcome failure. Instead of hopelessness, they opened their eyes and discovered the opportunities and solutions for victory.
When they recognized the extent to which their independent and responsible role offers a breakthrough in the struggle against dictatorship, they stepped into the world of responsible women who assume the leadership of a struggle with all its implications from the world of irresponsibility, passivity; the world of women who have to lean on the other (gender).
When they took charge and had to employ all their ability to attain their goals, they realized that they had to change, learn and teach constantly; that they must discover new solutions and new methods.
They had entered into a world with new set of rules and laws that was not static. Any stoppage was tantamount to returning to the previous world.
They had stepped into a world where if they did not grapple with all its contradictions and difficulties everyday, they would have gone backwards. Thus, from fragility, they attained steadfastness. They turned the struggle against difficulties into their constant spirit.
These women have pledged that under no circumstance and in no way, would they give up the ideal of freedom, democracy and equality and that they would challenge to the very end any form of dictatorship and pay whatever price it requires, be it their flesh and blood, their emotions, family, father, mother, husband, children or even changing the culture and even the archaic system of patriarchy.
This is that new phenomenon, the new creation and a generation that has a wealth of experience; a generation that has overcome many difficulties in traversing this long and historic path with astounding speed; a generation that has turned into a treasure trove of experience for the people of Iran and especially for all free-thinking women in the world.
Allow me, as unusual at it may be, to laud a generation of men in the Iranian Resistance movement, who believed firmly in the ideal of equality and distanced themselves from the patriarchal culture and created unmatched values. Those, who by looking at women as equal human beings, attained their true human identity.
Women possess a tremendous, yet untapped, capacity to change the world toward freedom and equality; an evolutionary capacity that steers mankind toward genuine freedom.
When women rise up in this struggle, they discover their forgotten powers.
We can only recognize our real power to the extent that we engage in a serious struggle.
This is the path to attaining new status and new births.
In this path, women will overcome the devastating disbelief in themselves and realize that they are not only worthy in this struggle, but that it is they who could be the leaders and the guiding light for freedom.
With this vision, we can now respond to the main question: Does the world need the equality movement to enter the vast spheres of the struggle with fundamentalism?
Yes, indeed, because women are the leading force in the fight against fundamentalism. Without women’s participation, the world cannot overcome the danger which threatens humanity. The crux of the matter is that the defeat of fundamentalism could only be achieved with the leadership of women.
– Indeed, the equality movement is the source of our power and the basis of our unity in an active struggle.
– It is a movement which enflames the resistance and restores the dignity of human living.
– And it is a movement that constitutes the force of progress, today’s victory and tomorrow’s hope.
So, let us all rise up together and assume our idealistic and historic responsibility. This is our duty, it is within our capacity. Today’s generations and those of the future expect us to realize those ideals.
Thank you all very much