Message to the International Women’s Day Gathering – 08.03.2022

No to Violence Against Women

In Iran, 43 years of theocratic rule, intent on justifying its medieval outlook, passing misogynistic laws, and then normalising their practice in the society, has brought with it violence in many forms. Legislation that degrades women as second-class citizens has culminated in the violence that is the promotion of child marriage – one of the most destructive outcomes of Islamic Republic’s rule.

In recent months ever more vicious methods of violence against girls and women have started to make disturbing spectacle in the media. The beheading of a teenage child bride is one of many. As an example of the general condition, according to one human rights organisation, the number of deaths in Kurdish cities in Iran, have seen a 30% rise in the murder of women. In the last year 41 women have been murdered, mostly by a male relative. At least two women were killed for having refused an offer of marriage. Last year at least 94 women, in Kurdish cities, took their own life. The statistics include 3 girls under the age of 13.

The theocratic regime claims that ‘gender equality is contrary to Islamic law’ and Iran is one of only four in the world that has not joined the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. 

The regime’s laws have deprived girls and women of the right to education, inheritance, custody of their children, choice of spouse, and very importantly equal rights to employment opportunities. The economy is devastated by years of privatisations and corruption, exacerbated by crippling US-led sanctions. Poverty has soared, while women’s access to viable employment has become even more limited.

Recognising the destructive consequences of women’s lack of access to employment,

in the early years of the twentieth century, Clara Zetkin wrote in the magazine “Equality”, organ of the International Socialist Organization of Women, “Women’s employment allowed women to stand on their own two feet economically and to break the economic bond that made them [male] dependent”. In Iran, restrictions and discrimination against women in education and employment have perpetuated poverty and hardship for women and their dependents.

The regime’s reactionary nature and its violation of women's human rights is evident in the recent Law on Population Youthfulness, Forced Childbearing and the Prohibition of Abortion, which makes it a crime for women to control their own bodies. 

Despite all the restrictions in the Islamic Republic, Iranian women continue to make their powerful presence felt in social, economic, scientific and artistic fields, as well as in sports and media. Women are active in all areas of struggle, in the strikes of the contract workers of oil and gas industries in June 2021, the strikes of the Haft Tappeh sugar cane mills, to the farmers’ protests at water shortages in July 2021, in the protests in Isfahan, Khuzestan and Lorestan, and in actions by environment activists. Their presence in the protests of 1996 and 1998 exacted great human cost but has not deterred women from taking their rightful place in the protest movement.

Over the past year, the arrests and court rulings against women, trade union and labor activists, journalists, students, and even against the families of victims and plaintiff mothers have continued. Women such as Zeinab Jalalian and Maryam Akbari Monfared continue their resistance in prisons alongside other fighters for social justice. The mothers of Khavaran (the victims of mass executions) and the plaintiff mothers during these dark years of tyranny, not only carry the banner for their slain children, but are themselves pillars of the struggles of our people against dictatorship and have an important role in the general protest movement of our country. Iranian women know that by organizing and linking their legitimate demands with the demands of the popular movement and in action with the popular forces, they can pave the way for fundamental and democratic change.

Our region has seen violence in the form of foreign occupation and war, devastating the lives of millions of women, men, and children, depriving them of a future – Iran-Iraq war, occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Today we are acutely aware of further bloodshed by a new war, this time in Eastern Europe. The people of Ukraine and Russia must not become victims of further bloodshed. The war in Ukraine which has displaced a large part of the population in Ukraine must end immediately.

On the occasion of 8th of March, we reaffirm our mission for peace, freedom from exploitation and for social justice.

We call for the release of all political prisoners!
Long live the struggle of women worldwide for equality, the elimination of gender discrimination and oppression, and for the protection of the environment!
Azar Sepehr
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