In the latter half of the year 2009, Iranian women and Iranian men stood together on the front lines of a great struggle against the repression and abject violence of the Islamic Republic against people in Iran.
There is a reason why Iranian women distinguished themselves at the fore. It is because after nearly 32 years of repression, rape, forced hijab, sexual apartheid in all aspects of life from the workplace to the university, and all of the daily indignities associated with being a woman under a regime that has codified women’s second class status into the constitution and penal codes, Iranian women had no other choice than to lead this struggle. They were the first to come under the lash of oppression by the counter-revolutionary Islamic regime, they have lost more rights than any other group of people under this theocracy, and they have the most to gain by fighting for a free and equal Iran.
People around the world watched women on the front lines in Iran, and finally understood – many for the first time – that Iranian women do not now nor have they ever accepted the subordinate status imposed on them by the Islamic Republic regime through the use of “legalized” barbarities such as stoning and execution, forced hijab, and rape.
As a result of the message that Iranian women sent out to the world in the post-election uprising of 2009, although we were not able to stop the United Nations from handing the Islamic Republic a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women in April 2010, we stood up and protested loudly. And the protest against that travesty has continued until this moment.
Iranian women told the world their story when they targeted charging basiji thugs with stones during the protests of December 2009. And so when the Islamic Republic retaliated in July 2010 by attempting to stone a woman to death on the absurd charge of “adultery,” the entire world rose up in defense of Sakineh Ashtiani and thousands like her. The world shouted in furious opposition to the brazen misogyny that has characterized the Islamic Republic’s posture towards Sakineh from the first days of her lashing and imprisonment up until the present moment. The world announced that it will no longer stay silent in the face of the daily brutalities, large and small, visited upon women in Iran.
And as a result of our increasingly intimate understanding of the lives of the Sakineh Ashtianis, the Zeinab Jalalians, the Nasrine Sotudehs, the Hanieh Shotorbans, and the Elnaz Babazadehs of Iran, today, November 10, 2010 we, humanity worldwide, used the power of our collective voice to force compliance with our unequivocal demand: the Islamic Republic must have no place on the board of the new UN women’s organization.
We can see that between the spring and the autumn this year, a new movement has grown up, developed, and is beginning to mature. It is an unprecedented international movement that has quintessentially humane demands. It is a movement that forces governments and international bodies to comply with the will of humanity, and not the other way around. We should recognize the significance of what we have done, and continue with our work in this way. Because there is more to do.
Preventing the Islamic Republic from joining the board of UN Women was a success. But we cannot ignore the fact that another equally anti-woman state, Saudi Arabia, whose misogyny is also codified into their legal and penal system, was handed a seat on the board of UN Women, with neither contest nor comment. We cannot ignore the fact that the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which participated in the rape of 15,000 women last year alone has now ascended, uncontested, to seats on both the UN Commission on the Status of Women and on the board of UN Women. As long as these kinds of regimes have any decisionmaking authority whatsoever over the functions and direction of UN organizations whose sole declared purpose is to work for gender equality and women’s empowerment, those organizations will continue to have no legitimacy. We emphasize that we have not forgotten that the Islamic Republic still holds a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and we will continue our demand for their removal from that post at our protest in front of the United Nations on December 11.
It should also be noted that the United States of America, along with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sudan, and Somalia, Qatar, and 3 island nations are the only 8 countries in the world that have not ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The United States has also never passed the Equal Rights Amendment, which would ensure equal treatment under the law for women in the US. Although the United States led the charge against one of the world’s most misogynist regimes and helped to ensure that the Islamic Republic did not obtain a position on UN Women, it is not itself a bastion of women’s equality in the world. People of the United States, and supporters of women’s equality worldwide, must also press for gender equality in America.
Mission Free Iran, as the only organization that has from Day One stood against the Islamic Republic’s participation on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and has campaigned continuously for the removal of the regime from the Commission, applauds people around the world for their fantastic work in ensuring that the Islamic Republic could not attain membership on the Board of UN Women. We have achieved a great deal, and we have begun to show the possibilities of all we can achieve together. Let us continue our work for the humane society that we envision – for all of us.