On Sunday 8 March 2015, activists in Washington DC gathered to celebrate 8 March, with special attention to the situation of women in Iran. We employed a bit of street theater to convey our message. As the weather was the first beautiful spring day of the year after a great deal of snow, many people were out and about, and there was a lot of attention and support given to our action by people visiting the area.
Below is the video of the action, as well as the text of the statement that was read. We thank everyone who came out and participated in the action, including those who listened and cheered our statement, those who took photos, and all who stopped by to talk to us afterwards.
Today we are here on the occasion of March 8, International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate women’s equal humanity, and a day to demand women’s legal and social equality.
In particular, we are here to bring attention to the situation of women in Iran. Thirty-six years ago today, in the face of an Islamic counterrevolution to the popular revolutionary movement that overthrew the Shah of Iran, thousands of women – 15,000 women – in Tehran went to the streets to oppose mandatory hijab. They went to the streets to demand equal wages. They went to oppose the threat posed to their freedom by Khomeini.
They said, “Women’s freedom is neither Eastern nor Western – it is universal!” Their chants were “I say it every moment, I say it under torture, either death or freedom!”
As Hezbollahi thugs took to tacking the veil to the scalps of women who refused to wear it, as they shouted at women, “Yaa roosari… yaa toosari!” – “Either the veil, or you take a beating!” – women marched in the streets and shouted: “Without and with hijab, we fought against Shah. Without and with hijab, we will guard freedom.” They said: “We did not have a revolution to go back.”
In 1979, these Iranian women promised a continuation of that struggle. They said “We will continue our struggle until the complete emancipation of women. Without freedom for women, no real revolution can exist.”
This was 36 years ago.
Through torture, rape, gender apartheid, forced hijab, hanging executions from cranes in the town centres, and stoning executions – through all of these barbaric methods, the regime of the Islamic Republic has done its utmost to silence – to eradicate – these demands of Iranian women.
In their efforts to silence women and make them invisible, the Islamic government in Iran forbids women to play instruments or sing in public. The regime in Iran forces women to make themselves invisible under the hijab. Yet every day, women in Iran upload photos and videos of themselves throwing off the hijab, and in doing so they have defeated the regime’s attempt to control their bodies and make them invisible. In Iran, the regime has closed the university doors to women who want to study in 77 different majors, and they have severely restricted women’s opportunity to study in many other majors, because you see, in Iran, the regime sees an educated woman as a dangerous one. Finally, Iran ranks almost last in the world in terms of gender equality, according to the Global Gender Gap ranking.
Yet despite all of this, women in Iran continue their struggle, joining their sisters around the world in their demands for the better world, the equal world that we know is possible.
They join the cleaning women in Greece, who have spearheaded the movement against austerity – an austerity that the previous Greek government tried to establish on the backs of the poorest. These women said, “No more!” and they deposed the regime of austerity in Greece.
And Kurdish women in Syria, the fighters of Kobane, have inspired the world whole and shown us what it means when women stand up againt and defeat Islamic terrorism.
We salute these courageous women, and all of the women and men around the world who raise the demand for equality between women and men, and fight for it.
Long live freedom and equality!
Long live March 8!
The demonstration was organized by Mission Free Iran and Unity for Democracy and Justice in Iran.