The following is Soraya Shahabi’s speech on women’s right at IWP Rally. Rally was held in Ottawa, Canada on March 10th. The theme of IWD this year is “Women pushing the boundaries” and “celebrating women’s achievements” Let me share with you one of the most recent achievement of women’s struggle for freedom in Iran.
I am not talking about raising the rate and the number of women in Parliament or any increase of women in high positions in Iran, I am not talking about getting some funds or resources for women in Iran, I am not talking about the minimal changes that for ages we used to struggle hard for a better life for women. I am talking about a tremendous change in women’s lives in Iran. That is going to happen soon and I am here today to get support the women’s liberation movement in Iran. Women in Iran are fighting a whole systemic anti women regime. Women in Iran are – not only pushing they are over stepping the boundaries. They will demolish and overthrow the whole system that fails to recognize women as equal citizens with equal rights. Something good is happening to women in Iran. Women in Iran are going to cross all boundaries, all anti women laws, compulsory veiling and gender apartheid. 8 years ago I wrote an article named “what is happening to women in Iran” I am going to read a part of its foreword. It says: “If you are travelling to Iran cut your hair short and hide the hump of your breasts to conceal your being a woman. If you are not a woman, be grateful for your accident at birth, even though for men as well life is less than bearable in a society where half of the population is in bondage. Bear in mind that you’re heading for a country in which the system of sexual apartheid reigns. In the eyes of Islamic Republic a woman is politically suspect simply because of her sex. Unless she is controlled, she can turn into a social criminal. She is capable of calling in question the entire political system of the Islamic Republic by slightly pushing back her veil, by a friendly greeting with a male colleague, or by sitting in the bus seats allocated to men. In this geography reigns the regime of the enslavement of women, where being a woman is itself a crime. The law and the government of the Islamic Republic accuses the women of being the source of corruption and the agent of leading men astray. For this crime she is controlled and punished from early childhood to the moment of death. If you are traveling to Iran conceal all signs of femininity. Not because you would be forced to hide them anyway, but to avoid living a woman’s life under the reign of Islam even for a short period of time. Here is a chance denied some 40 million girls to adult women who have been living under sexual apartheid for the last 23 years. … Compulsory veil and the disenfranchment of women in Iran have for 23 years been inscribed on this country’s national flag. … Did you know that in Iran women are legally the inferior sex and according to Islam doctrine this inferiority is rooted in the nature of women? - Women in Iran are “legally” deprived of the right to choose their clothing and are forced to cover themselves in a special cover called “Hejab” (the Veil) while passing the streets or being in public. The Cover is designed to reduce physical activity to the minimum, cover the body from head to toe, makes one look more like an object than a person … - Men and women are segregated in buses, restaurants, public means of transport, cinema, parks, sport areas, offices, day care centers, schools, universities, beaches, swimming pools, mountains, libraries, and all public places- men always having priority in using the minimal facilities that already exist. … - Did you know that every year thousands of women and children are victimizes and penalizes for having violated these laws and regulations and many men and women are punished for expressing their protest against them. “ Let’s remember some of them. - 1991, a school girl who was found in possession of the photo of a “banned” actor during the body search by school authorities committed suicide for fear of punishment, humiliation, and shame when they threatened to inform her family. - 1992 Sara Vafaee, a 13-year-old girl who had disrespected the “Hejab” was running from the squads fell down a 5-story building and was killed. - 1993, The chair of the judiciary committee called on all presidents, managers and the people in charge of government department to fire all the “bad Hejabs” (women with improper Islamic dress code). - 1994, a seventeen year old girl (Bahareh Woujdani) was murdered by a “pasdarad” (Islamic police) while she was talking in a public phone booth, because of her improper Islamic dress code. - 1994 (Roya Ansarie), 24 year old woman, had acid thrown in her face by agents of the Pasdaran (Islamic police) during a campaign against veiling in “Isfahan”. She lost her sight. - And since Islamic Republic has enforced a systematic harassment of women and implementation of sexual apartheid, many, many women were stoned to death because of having voluntary sexual relationship. And after two decades of terror and brutality, still in the west world, cultural relativists say that it is their religion and must be respected. This should be consider as a big shame. Cultural relativism serves these crimes. It legitimizes and maintains savagery. * Those were just a few aspects of the world women in Iran live in. It is now twenty-three years since the Islamic Republic has enforced a misogynist system based on organised violence and complete disregard of their rights in Iran. Sexual apartheid and compulsory veiling (Hejab) are brutally imposed by the state on women and girls. Compulsory veiling is one of the founding pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Hejab” is not a kind of “clothing” that some one chooses to wear. It is a symbol of women and girl’s slavery and rightlessness and it is a serious injustice to their free participation in social, economic and political domains. Its enforcement has been one of the regime’s dilemmas. I said before that after 23years of the tragedy of women’s lives in Iran, something good is going to happen. What is that? After 23 years, the resistance and struggle of the women’s liberation movement foiled the initial plans of the Islamic Republic to confine and conceal women and girls. Hejab has become a serious issue for the Islamic Republic. There exists a massive social movement of resistance against the compulsory veiling, which the authorities themselves have been forced to admit. The struggle against compulsory hejab and women’s defiance of reactionary laws and regulation has been an important aspect of the struggle against the Islamic Republic, particularly in recent years. Millions of women in Iran are crossing the boundaries every day by pulling their compulsory veils back and by breaking Islamic laws and regulations. This ongoing and daily struggle is the government’s big political crisis. This defiance is going to overthrow the whole system of gender apartheid in Iran. The most recent news from Iran says: hundreds of women in Iran could celebrate March 8th , they shouted “Neither Veil no smacking” and more than 50 women in the front line of the demonstration took their veil off for an hour and some burned their veils. Women of Iran in their fight need support. This is why today I am here. I am here to show my solidarity and ask for support. I do not wear compulsory hejab, which I had to when I was in Iran to survive. But today for supporting women in Iran I wear it and I throw it away. Long live International Women’s Day Long live Equality of women and men, Long live Equality of all people