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Women’s Day

Author: Jahanshah Rashidian (Iran/Germany) - March 8, 2008

As a proposition of the Socialist International in 1910, International Women’s Day, March 8, was celebrated for the first time in many industrial nations. It demanded the right to vote and to hold public office, right to work, to vocational training and to an end to discrimination on the job.

Since then, the International Women’s Day is commemorated and is a national holiday in communist countries. It symbolises a long struggle of all women on all continents, with different ethnics, religions, cultures and social classes, who have been deprived from the equal right with men.

International Women’s Day is a symbol of women as integral partner-makers of history. It is a denial of all form of religious gender discrimination considering women less worthy than men. The day is rooted in the historical struggle against the Dark Ages of European Church, a demand for “liberty, equality, fraternity” during the French Revolution.

The International Women’s Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. Nevertheless, the growing international political Islam, which has been strengthened by the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a new serious barrier in the way. Today, despite many coordinated efforts in the world, the international community along with the United Nations practically ignore the fate of hundreds of millions of women who are the conscious or unconscious victims of Islamist misogyny. Today, we know that the struggle for the equality, justice, peace, democracy, secularism and development is not separated from a global struggle against Islamomisogyny.

While 8 March was a secular symbol against the Catholic Church, is now becoming a worldwide struggle against the misogyny of Islamic mosque. Today, the horrendous shadow of Islamomisogyny has spread its wings over our society.

According to the World Health Organization, 85 million to 115 million girls and women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation; this practice is carried out in many Islamic countries, including 28 African countries, despite the fact that it is outlawed and condemned by the international community. More than 90% of women in Egypt suffer from this practice.

In a number of countries, women who have been raped are sometimes killed by their own families to preserve the family’s honour. Honour killings as a legacy of Islamic traditions have been reported in Jordan, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and other Persian Gulf countries.

Rape as a means of humiliation, confession and torture has been used against women in Iranian political prisons. Rape of non-Muslims before execution is systematically committed– Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian Journalist, was a known example among many others.

Since 1979, the installation of the Islamic regime in Iran, a very fast growing majority of the Iranian women identified as “bad- hijab” (mal-veiled) are, in their day-to-day lives, suffering from the atrocity of pro-IRI’s fanatics and recently from the organised Islamic “Morality Police”. Since then, not a day has passed without attack, physical assault, arrest, acid throwing, harassment and psychological pressure of women in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has clearly specified that, for women, no other sort of dress is acceptable except the Islamic hijab.

The first public demonstration of Iranian women was short after the Iranian revolution. On 7, 3, 1979, on the eve of International Women’s Day, Khomeini decreed that all women employed by the government must wear the “chador” (an all-enveloping black veil), an extension of four walls of the home.

Thousands of women filled the streets in protest. For three days they marched and rallied; on the third day staged a sit-in at the Palace of Justice, demanding a legal guarantee for their right to choose what to wear and where to work, at home and in society at large.

The women were attacked by Khomeini’s supporters, armed with knives, who cursed them, yelling “Wear your head or get your head rapped.” They stood at windows along the parade route and exposed their genitals: “This is what you want, you whores!”

And, the last time Iranian women celebrated International Women’s Day was peacefully in front of Iranian parliament on 8, March, 2007. Morality Police attacked a gathering of some 700 women’s rights activists and hit them, while security forces arrested a number of them.

The above examples of women’s rights in Iran show that International Women’s Day is not tolerated by the misogynistic IRI. Furthermore, contrary to IRI’s “reformist” factions which claim that in an Islamic society women and men can have equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities in all aspects of life, a gap remains between their allegations and the reality of women’s rights. Judicial obstacles from the traditional influences cannot be removed in the framework of Islam.

Over the years, conferences, demonstrations and commemorations have been held to reflect on progress made. It is now time to call for what has not been made. International Women’s Day should be now an occasion to a rallying point for effective efforts against Islamomisogyny, which looms to damage the achievements gained in the history of women’s rights.

Although the Charter of the United Nations proposes gender equality as a fundamental human right, the Organisation cannot create standards, programmes and goals to equally advance the status of women worldwide. For example the UN has never condemned the obligation of hijab in Iran.

Of course the Charter of the UN, signed in 1945, was the first agreement to affirm the principle of equality between women and men. However, the Charter was prepared before the advent of the international political Islam. Today, the international community is affected by political Islam and consequently there is a necessity that the UN adopts new resolutions defending the status of women in the Islamic societies. Women in the Islamic societies need international support. The UN, in accordance with the conclusive account of many misogynistic reports and crimes, must now effectively react.

The UN, which fairly condemned the Apartheid regime before, is now expected to condemn the gender apartheid of Islamic regimes by supporting for women’s full and equal right. It is time to internationally challenge the misogynistic Islamists across the world. Violation of basic rights of women in the Islamic world is an issue that has been long overdue but ignored. Safeguarding of the women’s rights is now essential to regaining the sense of International Women’s Day.

Many daily misogynistic examples in Iran show that the IRI by imposing different status for men and women reduced the women’s role to a means of reproduction. Since the regime is aware of women’s backlash against the ongoing misogyny, it has managed that Islamic women’s organisations mushroomed up in the society. Through the tortured sense of women’s freedom and the origin of women’s rights, their real role is to propagate IRI’s misogynistic laws ,especially Islamic hijab.

Soon after the revolution, Mr. Bani Sadr, the first Iranian President, who has lived 15 years in France, was asked by a television interviewer if it was true that women’s hair emits sexually enticing rays and if this is why Islam requires the veil. “Yes, it is true,” was his reply.

His regime responded by forming its own women’s group, which produced a newspaper, “The Moslem Women,” which the main task was to inculcate misogynistic norms and pseudo scientific arguments of gender discrimination into mind of women. The international community must reject and denounce these kinds of state-run women’s organisations in Iran.

These “yellow” organisations are even more hated than the male fanatics who govern– real activists working to defend women’s rights risk their safety to bring about real changes. IRI’s authorities have been harassing, detaining and intimidating them in the last three decades.

In the 21st. century, the international community should not accept that women’s rights be crippled by sharia, Islamic laws. It is time to internationally outlaw sharia because it considers women as the second-class citizens of a male dominated society. It is time to worldwide condemn archaic values of a belief system that reduces women to as half-human with half-right in today’s society.

Promotion of gender equality is not only women’s responsibility, but a social responsibility of all humanity. Not only it is an important participation and an indicator of social and economic national growth, but more effectively, and based on some psychological effects of gender equality, can also result into a factor of normal development of the society. Gender segregation creates frustrations, perversities and aggressiveness with blind obedience, the typical attitudes mostly appeared in the Islamic societies.

On this International Women’s Day, let us re-dedicate ourselves to the hundreds of millions of women who are conscious or unconscious victims of Islamomisogyny. Much should be accomplished to put into place legal foundations to urge the international community to remember that it is the responsibility of all of us to defend the right to live in dignity, freedom and gender equality. 

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