Mission Free Iran thanks Washington DC’s Iranian Left Unity organization for inviting us to speak at their Celebration of March 8, International Women’s Day. This event was held on March 13, 2011, and featured a number of inspiring speakers, artwork, as well as films depicting the history of the March 8 celebration. A video clip showing highlights from all of the speakers is embedded below, as well as a clip (in Farsi) showing the history of the 1912 Women Workers Strike (Bread and Roses).
The prepared statement given by Mission Free Iran at this celebratory occasion was as follows:
Last year at this time, in celebration of March 8, and in honor and recognition of the leading role Iranian women have taken as the standard-bearer in the struggle for gender equality, not only in Iran but worldwide, we issued a statement. We said, here, Iranian women have taken the lead, and the rest of the world must follow.
One year later, we see that the distinguished presence of Iranian women on the front lines of the 2009 uprising – and in all of the manifestations of the ongoing protests since then – have indeed had their effects:
– In the Iranian context, it is no longer acceptable for public figures to demand “women’s rights” in Iran – nothing less than a demand for full equality can be accepted.
– When Egyptians went to the street on January 25, it was Iranian women who had paved the way so that the first comment that the world had about women’s participation in the Egyptian revolution was not, “Wow! There are women in Tahrir Square!” but rather, “Why don’t we see MORE women in Tahrir Square?” Iranian women have re-set global expectations for women’s participation in revolutionary movements worldwide.
– Iranian women’s demands for equality have held up a mirror to the situation of women worldwide, forcing women in the east and in the west to confront the question of whether women are equals in any of our societies. And recent Republican attacks on women and reproductive rights demonstrate clearly that right here in the United States, women are far from social equals.
These demands for equality are rooted in a 32-year-long fight against a regime that depends on misogyny and gender apartheid as much as it depends on execution to maintain its grip on power. That 32-year-long fight was first made manifest on March 8, 1979, when Iranian women poured into the streets of Tehran shouting, “We did not have a revolution to go back!” Thousands of women that day made sure that the world understood that Iranian women will not accept anything less than total gender equality. They not only said no to hijab, they demanded equal pay, equal rights. Gender equality was what they wanted not only for themselves but for the whole world – they said, “Women’s right to equality is not Western, it is not Eastern, it is Universal.”
And for 32 years, Iranian women have paid the highest price for what naturally belongs to them.
It is ironic that 32 years ago, the Islamic counterrevolution broke the spine of the peoples’ revolution by pinning hijab onto the skulls of Iranian women, lashing, raping, hanging and stoning. And all the while, this barbarity was neglected, ignored, the plight of Iranian women brushed aside and justified by outrageous excuses and ridiculous theories by all political tendencies, from the so-called feminists of all shades, to the cultural relativists; from the pseudo-left of the United States to the right of Swedish politics.
Yet today, 32 years later, the same women – these same ones who never accepted submission to Islamic reaction – are the major force behind a revolution that is going to break the spine of inequality everywhere. These are the women who have set the social and political agenda of the revolutionary developments that started in Iran in 2009 and are connecting to Tunisia, to Saudi Arabia, to Pakistan, to the United Kingdom and the United States.
It was said, 32 years ago, by a group of French feminists, that when Iranian women come to the streets, it means equality and emancipation for women throughout the world. It was true then as it remains true today. And so today, and every day, we honor and stand in solidarity with Iranian women, these heros of social revolution in Iran, and worldwide.
Washington DC Iranian Left Unity: Highlight Clip from 13 March 2011 Celebration of International Women’s Day
1912 Women Workers Strike (Bread and Roses)