Albania, July 14, 2019 - At the “Free Iran” women’s conference in Ashraf 3, where women’s rights activists and dignitaries from around the world attended to express support for the Iranian Resistance, and to defying the misogynist regime ruling Iran, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, NCRI, welcomed the guests to Ashraf 3, home to members of the Iranian opposition, People’s Mojahedin of Iran, MEK.
She then addressed the conference. The following is the full text of her speech
My dear sisters from Albania, European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, Asia and Arab countries who are attending this summit.
I would also like to salute my dear sisters, members of the big family of Resistance. Welcome to Ashraf 3.
And I hail the members of the Central Council of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the majority of whom are participating in this gathering.
Such an assembly usually takes place on the International Women’s Day, but anywhere women come together to discuss their mission for freedom and equality, and for the emancipation of society in general, that day becomes a day for women.
This is particularly true for the women of Iran since they are defying and resisting against a fundamentalist and reactionary regime which is characterized by misogyny as one of its most prominent features.
Before the current regime seizes power in Iran, women participated in the uprisings in large numbers. This indicated a transformation in the status of women and their role in the democratic struggle. Women’s widespread participation in the anti-monarchic revolution had significant precedent in Iranian women’s past struggles. Specifically, in the 1970s, female vanguards actively participated in the revolutionary struggle against the Shah. Some of the most prominent among these pioneering women were Fatemeh Amini, Marzieh Oskouii, Azam Rouhi Ahangaran, and Ashraf Rajavi. The made great sacrifices to open the way for the revolution.
The regime which took over, however, is a misogynous theocratic regime. In 1979, when it seized power, it acted as a barrier or a wall in front of the roaring river of Iranian women’s progress and advancements.
I remember many of its days and moments. It seemed as if two hostile forces were face-to-face on the battlefield. The mullahs’ enmity against women and women’s abhorrence of and distrust in the new regime started on the very day Khomeini took power.
As soon as the revolution was high jacked and the mullahs seized power, they began their clampdown on women with the motto of “either the veil or a hit on the head.”
At the same time, women also started their resistance against this regime, a resistance which has continued to this date.
I would like to briefly review the status of Iranian women from a few different angles:
As for political participation, I must say that women have no role in the ruling regime and in its decision making at any level of its hierarchy.
Another issue is depriving women of their personal and social freedoms and their right to free choice. Women have been deprived of their rights to travel, marry and have a private life, choose their occupation, and the most pervasive of all, their free choice of clothing.
Another issue is the existence of hideous inequalities and discriminations against women under the rule of the clerical regime.
Drastic inequalities in job opportunities, in wages, in families, in education, in testimony before a court, in having access to medical services and insurance, in their share of the inheritance, in access to sports fields and stadiums, and a long list of denial of rights in every realm.
Such discrimination in any society, at any juncture in history, would mean subjugation of the people, suppression, plundering, and deprivation of political rights.
Another issue is promoting violence against women.
Women of Iran do not feel safe anywhere, not at the workplace, not when they commute in the streets, and not even in their families. The regime enforces this clampdown through a countless number of patrols, security forces and police tasked with offending and insulting women and arresting them.
Inhumane treatment of women in prisons is common practice. Since Hassan Rouhani took office as the regime’s president, some 90 women have been hanged by the regime.
A deeper look into the reason for the mullahs’ savagery towards women reveals that misogyny is the driving force and the essence of the regime’s suppression of the society in general.
I must also underline the rampant poverty and destitution in today’s Iran most of whose victims are women.
Over 62 percent of women above 10 years old are housewives. Those who have a job, are considered the world’s cheapest workforce. Women make up half of the workers of brick kilns in Iran.
The average economic participation of women in the Middle East is 22 percent. But this rate is only 12 percent in the cities of Iran. This rate has not changed for over five decades.
In reviewing the status of 200 countries, the International Labor Organization announced that Iran is among six countries at the bottom of the list, namely among the war-stricken and shattered countries such as Syria and Iraq.
You must have heard the spin doctors of the regime claiming that if the mullahs were to be overthrown, Iran would experience chaos and disaster. This is while Iranian women are currently living in conditions reminiscent of an even worse than war-torn countries, and they are suffering from poverty, destitution, unemployment, and homelessness.
Look at the meager wages of young female workers and their agonizing work environments.
Young women with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees are working for salaries of 10 to 20 dollars a month.
In fact, women are not only cheap laborers in Iran’s Job market but they are working under horribly oppressive conditions.
We believe that the common answer to all these problems is freedom and equality. Not just equality and not just freedom. But both freedom and equality. This is the answer to the liberation of women. This is why I have always emphasized that women not only free themselves but free their societies at large.
This is our mission and we are determined to carry it out.
My dear sisters,
A few minutes ago, I pointed to women’s widespread participation in the struggle against two dictatorships. Let me add that they have always been at the forefront of the struggle since the outset of the mullahs’ theocratic rule, and more significantly, they have been the trailblazers and leaders of this struggle.
Those days, women faced numerous problems compared to men for joining the democratic struggle. Young Muslim women, in particular, faced greater problems since there was no trend of Muslim women in the struggle against dictatorship before the emergence of the Mojahedin. So, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran broke a taboo.
Later on, the PMOI’s struggle against Khomeini, as a religious authority, and against reaction and fundamentalism, under the leadership of Massoud Rajavi was characterized among others by widespread participation of Muslim women all across Iran.
They wanted freedom, equality, and democratic Islam. But the regime continued to impose further restrictions and pressure on women and increasingly deprived them of their rights.
The history of struggle in the past four decades against religious dictatorship is notable because of the leading role of PMOI women.
These days, you have seen an exhibition (at Ashraf 3) that shows parts of the history of the Iranian people’s resistance over the past 40 years. The exhibition reminded us of the tortuous and bloody path paved by women of the Iranian Resistance. You saw the images showing cages where prisoners were detained. Some of the women who were imprisoned in these cages for a long time, are now sitting here among you.
You have seen images of the torture chambers called the residential units, where female prisoners were sadistically mistreated and harmed 24 hours a day.
You can see survivors of the 1988 massacre.
In this gathering, you can see those who have come through such dreadful conditions and are now proudly fulfilling their duties in our struggle.
They have written a number of books on women’s struggle and resistance in the mullahs’ torture chambers, about a few of the tens of thousands of women who have been tortured and executed over the past 40 years, from Fatemeh Mesbah who was only 13 to Mother Zakeri who was 70 at the time of her execution. Nevertheless, I’m sure that the true story of these women’s resistance still remains an untold story.
Parts of the story about enduring vicious torture, resisting the brutal behavior of interrogators and the Revolutionary Guards, resisting in order to preserve their collective fighting spirit in prison, struggling and overcoming all the hurdles for rejoining the Mojahedin, their efforts to form new resistance cells, …
All of these were epics of the perseverance of these women.
These women have proven their capabilities in the military field as well.
The hardships and complexities involved in the participation of women in the ranks of an army, which is also at war with the enemy was another chapter. How they formed their combat units, how they were trained, and how they learned to command.
How they struggled during 14 years of perseverance at camps Ashraf and Liberty, fighting all the obstacles and did not give up resistance.
Now, you can see 1,000 pioneering women in this place. One thousand women who come from various cities in Iran. They come from universities in the U.S., Europe, and Iran. Some have given up their jobs and families for freedom of their people and country and have joined the Mojahedin. What you see here are three generations of women sitting side by side. In fact, the most senior body that is leading this movement is made up of only PMOI women.
This accomplishment is the fruit of the path the Mojahedin have paved from the beginning under the leadership of Massoud Rajavi with conviction in freedom and equality.
I should point out that two months after Khomeini took power, the Mojahedin issued a 15-point declaration explaining their expectations from the new regime. In article 6 of this declaration, they have reiterated the need “to respect full political and social rights of women” and specifically, they stressed on “equal pay for equal work” for female workers.
A few months later, when Massoud ran for the presidential elections, he offered a ten-point plan which started with the formation of councils with the participation of people to run the country’s affairs. Again, the seventh article of this plan emphasized the equality of women and men.
There were other articles on the rights of ethnic groups, freedom of parties, freedom of opinion, freedom of the press, and equality of Shiites and Sunnis which were widely embraced by women and youth, by ethnic groups and followers of religions other than Islam. Virtually, all political groups and parties endorsed the plan. This is what terrified Khomeini and compelled him to make a disgraceful decision against his own promise which removed Massoud from the list of candidates.
In such a tortuous struggle, there was a generation of young women and girls who became increasingly informed every day and widely participated in the anti-fundamentalist struggle and in the fight for freedom and equality.
One of the most important chapters in this brilliant struggle were young women, young teenagers who waged the strongest resistance against the revolutionary guards and torturers. Among them were heroines like Homeira Eshraq, Zahra and Kobra Ebrahimian and Sorayya Abolfathi. Their names are etched in the history of women’s struggle forever.
Their first encounters with politics and democratic struggle happened when they first got to know Massoud Rajavi and believed in his cause which was freedom. Every one of them became a pioneer on this path. Today, young women are joining the units of rebellion and continuing their path. Therefore, when we speak of members of the PMOI’s Central Council, we are talking about women who have
Firstly, conquered prisons and opened their way into battlefields.
Secondly, they have opened their way in the overall struggle by fighting two horrific ideologies. One of them is the ideology of gender discrimination, and the other the ideology of negative individualism.
I deliberately use the word negative, to distinguish between this subjugating ideology and evolutionary or positive individualism which leads to the spiritual growth of human beings.
These women have shouldered a heavy responsibility. They have chosen to hold firm onto their commitment in every defeat or victory, in every turmoil, and in all the ups and downs.
The imperative that compels these women to accept responsibility and lead the movement, is the liberation of the entire Iranian society. This is our responsibility. We must respond to the most fundamental sufferings and challenges in our communities.
Issues like poverty and discrimination, homeless children, homeless people, environmental disasters, and most importantly, political and social participation of all individuals, the right to free choice, and of course, ridding all women and men from gender discrimination.
All of these are our responsibility.
I must emphasize that equality and emancipation of women would be genuine only when it is accompanied by the emancipation of men.
This is the achievement of our movement, namely the human growth and progress of pioneering men who have rebelled against gender discrimination and patriarchy to build truly equal relationships. And on this path, they have emancipated themselves.
If our movement was not deeply against exploitation and all of its political, social, theoretical, and cultural components, women could not have held such positions for a long time.
Women’s progress in the resistance movement is before anything else indebted to a consistent struggle against reactionary and oppressive thoughts.
The prevalent thought among mankind is that women are second-rate citizens and that they are incapable of doing many things. This thought is as old as the history of mankind.
But the women of this resistance have fought this thought and this is a struggle that is ongoing. The more these women push back negative individualism, and improve the inter-relations they have with one another, they achieve higher levels of efficiency and capability in shouldering more responsibilities, and the road for their advancement become smoother.
This means moving from living an isolated life to a social life which is the product of human evolution on the highest levels of human relationships, which of course requires a constant struggle.
Women can and must lead and have a pioneering role on this path.
This is why today the women of Iran are the answer to the overthrow of the religious dictatorship. And tomorrow they are going to be harbingers of peace and construction of Iran.
Fortunately, today, the emancipating message of the PMOI, and specifically the message of gender equality, has been embraced by young women and men in cities across Iran.
The units of rebellion have expanded over the past two years. They are greatly impressed by the role model of women in this Resistance.
A young woman from Khorramabad wrote: “I am a leaf on the PMOI’s robust tree. I'm alive, and I fight. I am a Mojahed, therefore I am."
And these are the words of a woman by the name of Mina, also a member of a Resistance unit: “I dream about blossoming of the flowers of my hope and a voice that tells me, ‘Although the night is dark, be confident that the dawn is near.’ In the depth of night, I am dreaming of becoming a butterfly.”
These enlightened and brave young women and men have been and continue to be inspired by four decades of sacrifice and perseverance of the PMOI. For them, the Mojahedin’s conviction in and adherence to the cause of freedom and equality is a living example which directs them in the struggle against the ruling tyrannical regime.
At this point, I would like to salute Iran’s political prisoners especially my sisters who have been resisting and defying the regime in Khamenei’s jails in various cities.
In addition to opposition to dictatorship, they have committed the unforgivable crime of being a rebellious woman.
To be a woman and not surrender, to be a woman and persevere in the struggle, to be a woman and instead of thinking about yourself, think about the liberation of a people in chains, this is something that has driven the mullahs insane.
And finally, please allow me to address my sisters in Iran, especially the conscious young women who are fed up with the intolerable circumstances prevailing Iran.
The present circumstances are extraordinary. The regime is at an impasse. The society is like fire under the ashes. The country’s economy is totally paralyzed.
The clerical regime is endeavoring day and night, to compel Iranian women into submission.
But Iran’s enlightened women and rebellious girls inspired by the 1,000 women of Ashraf, are following the tradition of an emancipating struggle. This is a role model devoid of all gender-based discriminations in outlook, standards, mentalities, and values. This is a role model where women have arisen, determinant, and capable of having an impact and opening the way. She believes that the political fate of her country and society is equal to her own fate.
She believes that it is her duty to save Iran from dictatorship, poverty, and retardation, to save millions of hungry and homeless children, to save so many unfortunate women whose lives have been tainted with misery.
This is how an enlightened and rebellious woman goes into the battlefields of emancipation. This is how she makes the goal of gender equality realized.
I thank you all very much.
The international conference on women in the Iranian Resistance at Ashraf 3