Speech at the international conference for women’s day at Paris
We all know that women’s equality depends on their struggle to overthrow dictatorships and active participation in building a genuine democracy.
Equality is a living, ebullient and combatant ideal.
Because, every day and every hour, inequality and humiliation are busy lashing women across the globe.
Because the vast majority of women still do not even own their body, their life, their emotion, their thinking and their destiny.
Because in the 21st Century, the most important means to humiliate, eliminate and marginalize women are patriarchal and reactionary accusations and profanities.
And because a destructive mindset and cynicism continue to block the path to women’s advancement.
For this reason, we must remove the obstacles and barriers.
We must break the glass ceilings one after the other.
We must not be satisfied with our achievements and conquer the peaks one after the other.
Otherwise, so long as the dominant model and order prevail, women will continue to be denied and deprived of that they deserve: They will be prevented from controlling their own destiny, their society and country.
Indeed, the ideal of equality is alive, but no just because of depravations, humiliations and oppression. Because a generation of women has arisen to overthrow dictatorships in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq; women who are intent on toppling the religious dictatorship ruling Iran.
The ideal of equality is alive because of women who have found their mission to be the founding of a world based on freedom, democracy and equality;
It is alive because of women who arose 150 years ago in Iran, especially after the Constitutional Revolution, to fight for the freedoms and rights of Iranian women.
And because of women in many countries the world over who endured suffering and opened the way for today’s struggle.
In the past century, there was a time when women were fighting for universal suffrage.
There was a time when they were fighting for eliminating inequalities in the family and in the work place; they were fighting for respect for natural differences between human beings.
But today, far beyond all objectives of equality movements, women have arisen for a profound and comprehensive transformation [of the old order].
That modern liberation movement which is indispensable to the advancement of human society in the 21st Century has at is core the force of women. That movement which causes rebellion in the closed circle of indolence and submission, unleashes energies and shatters the chains is the force of women.
The force which will eliminate fundamentalism from Iran, region and the world is women’s force.
Indeed, women are the force for change.
And here, we must pay homage to women whose memory has kept International Women’s Day alive and proud: from Olympe de Gouges to Clara Zetkin, from Fatemeh Amini, Marzieh Oskouii, Azam Rouhi Ahangaran, Mehrnoosh Ebrahimi. To Ashraf Rajavi, Mahin Rezaii, Batool Rajaee and tens of thousands of women who were martyred in the course of struggle against the ruling mullahs. Women and girls such as Neda Agha Soltan, who were shot by the Revolutionary Guards in the 2009 uprising to brilliant stars such as Zohreh, Giti, Jila Mitra, Fatemeh, Maryam, Pouran, Kolthum and Roya, who lost their lives in Camps Ashraf and Liberty in Iraq.
We salute them all.
35 years ago a fundamentalist regime came to power in Iran and erected a system of gender apartheid based on eliminating and subjugating women.
In opposition to it, however, a profoundly democratic movement, which believed in equality and was the antithesis to the fundamentalist order, rose up to overturn and overthrow it.
At issue was how could the wound of Khomeini’s betrayal of the people’s hope and trust be healed and how could the path of revolution towards freedom be opened.
Massoud Rajavi offered the answer: unilateral and countless sacrifice, which he himself pioneered.
We faced a dilemma: submission to fundamentalism or moving forward despite an extremely unequal balance of power.
And we chose to move forward. We chose the path of transforming the prevailing culture and the mindset. We embarked upon a revolution which shed the reactionary and exploitive thinking and inevitably led to a transformation and emancipation of men as well. This is how we increased our capabilities in the struggle to topple the regime.
The pioneering women in this struggle arose to reject the subjugating thinking and found a new belief in themselves as equals. These diligent women never duck nor submit to problems no matter how difficult.
In the path of emancipation and casting aside the restrictions, these women have found the power and capacity to accept commitments hundred times greater.
They are the vanguards of accepting heavy responsibilities and are role models for collective management; they have made any trace of ambition and the “me first” mentality a red line.
For this reason we are witness to a new experience in the struggle for liberation.
The presence of these responsible women does not mean the elimination of men, but nurturing a generation of emancipated men who, through their active participation in restoring the values of equality, have entered into a new world as it relates to responsibility, creativity and capability.
Indeed, instead of knee jerk reaction in their interactions, these women taught themselves the ability to hear the criticisms and opposing views. In a nutshell, they learned to listen to others – a noble human trait.
And they learned that in order to respect others, they had to sacrifice for them.
This is how love and compassion replace parsimony and humiliation.
Differences of views and the diversity of methods do not waste energies, but become the source of power and progress. Errors and mistakes do not result in elimination and dejection, but become a source for education and improvement; they become a capital for taking the next steps.
The free expression, the most important means of expressing one’s self, is a fundamental principle in the internal relations of this movement. Members of the resistance have turned the active and unconditional expression into an enduring trait in their interactions.
So, these women inter-relate by criticizing, listening, fighting against the obstacles, not giving up, correcting the errors, changing, moving and leaping forward.
These women, who give primacy to the advancement of their sisters, are the harbingers of a new message. This message, far beyond any words, has been embodied in a generation of women whose ideal is sacrificing for their fellow sisters instead of putting themselves first.
I gain my confidence from such a generation; a generation which in the darkness of cruelty, jealousy and rivalry, has obtained the power of self-sacrifice for other women; a generation that, despite all the differences, can act as one in the struggle for freedom.
With this same logic, the men in the Mojahedin have learned from the women. Instead of negating and eliminating each other, this generation of men and women has stepped into the path of being multiplied together.
With such emancipated and advanced relationships, the enemy’s attacks and pressures, albeit severe, offer an opportunity for greater struggle instead of causing despair and despondency.
Thus, in critical turning points, all roads lead to higher commitments, stronger bonds, a utopian choice and a resistance hundred times more fierce.
So, we cannot say that the vanguard women of Ashraf are only 1,000, because they have been multiplied, at least 1000 by 1000.
And along with their sympathizers around the world they have formed a row which reaches to Tehran.
Indeed, these women are not individual, unique and exceptional stars, but a generation of capable and vanguard women through whose leadership, the religious dictatorship will be overthrown and Iranian women can and must lead the building of a democratic, pluralist Iran, which heralds peace, liberation and equality.
The beast of darkness and wickedness, which thrives on inequality and continuously causes oppression and discrimination, is Islamic fundamentalism, whose heart is beating in Tehran under the rule of the mullahs.
The mullahs have dispatched herds of Revolutionary Guards to Syria. They have sent their proxy groups from Lebanon, Iraq and other countries, whether Shiite or Sunni, to massacre the people of Syria and are poised to destroy the Syrian people’s revolution.
The ruling theocracy in Iran and Bachar Al-Assad are responsible for the massacre of 140,000 Syrian women, men and children.
Similarly, the bombing and the massacre of Iraq’s defenseless citizens in Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdad, Mosul, Diyala and Hillah are commanded by the Quds Force and carried out by Iraqi forces.
In Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan, the political and social future and livelihood of the people in those countries has become hostage to terrorism and fundamentalism directed by the Iranian regime.
Thus, there is hardly any country in the Middle East and in the Islamic World that has been spared the Iranian regime’s provocations and terrorism. Similarly, the regime has threatened global peace and security by trying to build nuclear weapons.
In truth, because of their regime’s weakness and vulnerability, the mullahs have resorted to waging war on the people of region and the world community.
Therefore, if the regime were to abandon misogyny – and the export of terrorism and religious discrimination, the ruling theocracy would collapse.
Thus, neither Khatami nor Rouhani, who launched a charm offensive of reform and moderation, did not and do not even get close to easing the oppression and subjugation of Iranian women. Because doing so would mean the beginning of the end of the regime.
For this reason, the very bills which Ahmadinejad had submitted to the Majlis to intensify gender inequality are now being declared as law by Rouhani.
They say that Iran under the rule of the mullahs is the epicenter of fundamentalism. But, we say, owing to the Iranian people’s intellectual and cultural history, and by relying on the resistance of the People’s Mojahedin, Iran is the epicenter of liberation from fundamentalism and, at the same time, is the epicenter of women’s emancipation and equality. This is a bright prospect which Iranian women will bring about.
One can see this competence in a galaxy of martyred and vanguard women.
Let me tell you about one of these stars. My sister, Zohreh Gha’emi, who directed the historic battle at Camp Ashraf on September 1, 2013, was a 35-year veteran of the struggle against the mullahs. She still carried the scars of torture and the whip while spending five years in prisons of Khomeini. When he was commanding the resistance of Ashrafis during the July 2009 assault by the Iraqi forces, she was shot in the leg and suffered serious injury.
At the scene of the massacre at Ashraf on September 10, Zohreh and Giti Givechian, truly represented the dignity and bravery of Iranian women in the face of the ruling theocracy. She was leading her sisters and brothers. The assassins targeted her and other sisters first and fired at her face at point blank range. What did the killers see in her steadfastness and in her resolute face and look, which they could not tolerate? They saw their own desperation, despondency and defeat.
And in this way, Zohreh became a blood-soaked shield for the other 42 Ashrafis who survived that horrific massacre.
Nevertheless, the most important scene of Zohreh’s struggle was her fight for a lofty ideal, for emancipation, equality and freedom. In this path, she had become a role model owing to her sense of responsibility and her willingness to put others first, in particular when working collectively. In the most recent elections within the Mujahedin-e Khalq, the MEK members elected her as joint-Secretary General.
Saba, Asiyeh, Mahdiyeh, Nastaran and Fa’ezeh, Fatemeh, Shahnaz, Marzieh and other Ashrafi women who were martyred on April 8, 2011, were among this enlightened generation who had all been nurtured by Zohreh.
Among the martyrs of Ashraf massacre, Jila Tolou also stands out. As the pictures and the video clips show, in her last moments, she had used her body as a shield to protect Zohreh by hugging her. Indeed, this is the real sisterhood, love and solidarity, which heralds a new historical identity.
Indeed, the life and martyrdom of each and every one of them is in and of itself a telltale of a ferocious battle this generation has waged to liberate Iran.
And their collective backgrounds and experiences herald the victory of Iranian women in the struggle for freedom and equality. This explains why the mullahs and their allies are so enraged. This why they slander these women with a litany of allegations in a bid to offset their profound impact among women in Iran and elsewhere in the world.
But neither massacre nor allegations can prevent the brilliance and advance of this generation.
For this reason, defending the vanguard women at Liberty is an urgent responsibility for equality movements.
They and their male comrades are not only denied access to security and protection provisions in the face of successive missile attacks, but are deprived of the minimum humane, medical and health standards by the puppet government of Iraq.
I ask you and my sisters around the world to rise to help the combatants of Iran’s freedom at Camp Liberty and urge the United Nations and the U.S. government to adhere to their commitments to protect the residents of Camp Liberty and to ensure their quick resettlement. They should particularly put on their agenda the release of the seven hostages and refer the file on this crime to the Security Council.
The fundamentalists’ ruthlessness and malfeasance are in principle the self-protective reaction by backward forces in the face of progressive and enduring forces. In our epoch, women are the main component of this progressive force.
The ruling theocracy, whose constitution and all of its laws and policies are rooted in discrimination and misogyny, has adopted new misogynous laws and waged war against Iranian women. They include:
– Forcing families to have more children;
– The shameful bill that allows men to marry their adopted daughters;
– Setting quotas and applying gender segregation at the universities; and
– Preventing women from studying 77 fields of study at universities and may more prohibitions.
If you look everywhere in Iran, you will see that Iranian women are targets of oppression, injustice and crackdown.
In Baneh, her name is Avin Osmani, 17, who was murdered by the Revolutionary Guards.
In Tehran, her name is Somayyeh, with a six-year-old daughter, Ra’na, both victims of an acid attack.
In Baluchistan, they are girls under 15 years of age, subjected into forced marriages.
And they mothers and women who have gathered outside Qezel Hessar Prison or the Majlis to protest against the execution of their loved ones.
And they are enraged Bakhtiari women in Dezful, Majid Soleiman, Aligoodarz, Azna, Doroud, Izeh and Isfahan, who rose up against the mullahs’ oppression and insults two weeks ago.
And they are our brave and resistant sisters who have brought the henchmen to their knees in prisons.
To them, and to my sisters and daughters across Iran, I say, stand strong and persevere. This misogynous regime is on its last legs.
At this juncture, Iranian women and all women in the region must move from being hopeless to being hopeful. They have to move from simply being angry to becoming inspired to change and to bring about change.
They must move away from grief and dejection to nurturing new energy for moving forward.
Martin Luther King once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Undoubtedly the Iranian women and the women of the region justice will obtain freedom and equality.
Indeed, rest assured that ultimately, these oppressed women will overthrow the ruling theocracy in Iran.
We seek democracy, a democracy based on freedom, equality and the separation of religion and state.
We want individual freedoms for all, pluralism, abolition of death penalty, equal rights for women in freedoms, in fundamental rights, before the law, in the economic arena, in the family and in having freedom of choice in all spheres, including attire. And we emphasize women’s active and equal participation in the country’s political leadership.
Indeed, we seek a new order and are intent on overturning this antiquated and reactionary order in its foundations.
For this reason, we renew our pledge; the pledge to expand the battle until there would be no trace of gender-based, class-based and religion-based slavery.
Hail to arisen women across the world and in Iran.
Hail to 1,000 vanguard women in Liberty
Hail to freedom
Hail to all of you.