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Women’s Day

By Jahanshah Rashidian, 8 Mar. (IPS) Iran Press Service  

In 1910, International Women's Day (March 8) was celebrated for the first time in many industrial nations. As a proposal of the Socialist International, the day demanded the right for women 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 several countries around the world. 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, as stipulated by Islam.

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 conscious or unconscious victims of Islamist misogyny. Today, we know that struggle for equality, justice, peace, democracy, secularism and development is not separated from the struggle against Islamomisogyny.

While 8 March was historically a secular symbol against the dominance of Catholic Church in the West, it should now become a worldwide struggle against the current misogyny of Islamic Mosque. Today, the horrendous shadow of Islamomisogyny has spread its wings over a sphere of our world, where hundred of millions of women are to fall into its clutches.

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 nations, despite the fact that it is outlawed and condemned by the international community. More than 90% of women in Egypt are the victims of 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, Turkey 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 women before execution is systematically committed, presented as a “humanitarian aimed at “freeing the sinner from her sins”. 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 IRI’s fanatics and recently from the organised Islamic “Morality Police”.

Iranian women protests for equal rights with men.

Since 1979, 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 lived after the Iranian revolution. On 7 March 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 some reformists of the regime, who claim that women and men have equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities in all aspects of life, a gap always remains between Islam and the reality of women's rights. Many 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.

Rape as a means of humiliation, confession and torture has been used against women in Iranian political prisons.

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 avoids condemning the forced 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 demands the UN to adopt 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, 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 misogynous 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 mean of reproduction. Since the regime is aware of women’s backlash against the ongoing misogyny, it has demagogically managed that Islamic women’s organisations mushroomed up in the society. Through the tortured sense of women’s freedom and origin of women’s rights, their real role is to propagate the IRI’s misogynistic policy, especially to impose Islamic hijab on Iranian women.

Soon after the revolution, Mr. Abolhassan Banisadr, 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.

The 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 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 shari’a, a series of 14-century old Islamic laws. It is time to internationally outlaw shari’a 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.

Mrs. Shirn Ebadi, human rights campaigner and lawyer is the first Iranian women to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Award .

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, can also result into a factor of normal development of the society. Gender separation creates frustrations, perversities and aggressiveness with blind obedience, the typical attitudes appeared in the oppressed 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. 

Safa Haeri adds:

The sister of Ms. Parvin Ardalan, a human rights campaigner fighting for equal rights for Iranian women, accepted Thursday the prestigious Swedish Olof Palme Prize on her behalf, as she had been prevented Iranian ruling ayatollah from attending the ceremony.

Mikael Näve, a secretary at the Olof Palme Memorial Fund, told the French News Agency AFP that Shirin Ardalan had accepted the prize in the presence of about 150 people.

A figurehead of the Iranian women's movement, Parvin Ardalan, 36, had been due to accept her award in person but Iranian authorities ordered her off a flight preparing to take off from Tehran for Stockholm at the weekend.

The last time Iranian women celebrated International Women's Day Morality Police attacked a gathering of some 700 women's rights activists and hit them, while security forces arrested a number of them.

Ardalan was honoured for her women's rights campaign in Iran.

She founded a women's cultural centre in the 1990s and in 2005 published the first online newsletter on women's rights in Iran -- "Zanestan", which had been banned by the authorities.

She was sentenced to three years in jail in April 2007, alongside of more than 20 other Iranian rights activists and declared a threat to national security for criticizing the state of women's rights in Iran.

She was arrested a year ago during a demonstration by hundreds of women calling for their rights and again early this year after organising a rally in front of the Islamic Revolution tribunal, urging the release of fellow women under arrest.

Tens of other women were arrested alonside of Ms. Ardalan, all accused of “endangering the security of the State“, because of organising a one million campaign in favour of Iranian women, humiliated and segregated under Islamic laws.

“A regime must feel very unpopular and very fragile if affraid of demonstrations by hundred of women“, one Iranian political observers pointed out.

Ms. Ardalan has appealed the verdict and has yet to serve time in prison.

The award is named after Palme, a popular Swedish prime minister who was gunned down by a lone attacker in February 1986, shortly after leaving a Stockholm cinema.

Created to promote peace and disarmament and combat racism and xenophobia, the prize consists of a diploma and $75,000 dollars.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt criticized the Iranian authorities travel ban imposed on Ardalan.

"The work of Ms Ardalan and her colleagues is of particular importance to the situation of women in Iran. Unfortunately, this is but one of a number of examples showing that respect for human rights in Iran continues to deteriorate", Bildt said in a statement. ENDS WOMEN’S DAY 7308  

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