The abolishment of the suppression of women, including the compulsory veil, and for the immediate release of all political prisoners were the topics discussed. The speakers called for the guarantee of freedom of speech and assembly in Iran.
Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), paid tribute to the women who started the protests in Iran at the end of December. She saluted the people around the world who have stood behind the Iranian people. She also the commended the bravery of the women of Syria and said that they must not be forgotten.
Mrs. Rajavi pointed out that women were chanting “Be scared, we are together” during the recent protests and urged the mullahs to pay heed to this, as women across the world stand together with their sisters in Iran. She declared that internal and international unity will be the downfall of the regime, to a huge eruption of applause and cheers from the audience.
The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei once said that women’s equality is a Western notion. Mrs. Rajavi said that the belief that women are unequal has no place in Iranian society and for this reason alone it is necessary to overthrow the regime — this oppression must not continue.
Regarding the compulsory veil, Mrs. Rajavi said that this is based on nothing because the Koran states that there is “no compulsion in religion”, therefore imposing anything on women is contradictory to Islam.
Urging each and every person in attendance to ensure the uprising continues, the leader of the Resistance concluded her speech.
The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women until July 2015, Rashida Manjoo, said that despite the brutality the women of Iran face, they are still fighting for equality and social and human rights. She pointed out that the incarceration of women in Iran is for arbitrary reasons and that the rape of political prisoners, forced marriage, beatings and torture are prevalent in the country. She also called mental abuse to extract false confessions an outright violation of human rights.
Silence from the international community is one of the biggest challenges according to Manjoo. Silence equals complicity, and allows these human rights abuses to continue.
Renowned academician and social activist Ranjana Kumari has won numerous awards for her efforts in empowering women and girls. She said that when women rise, nations rise. Kumari discussed the role of social media and explained that there are 47 million people in Iran who use social media sites. She said that the international community can use the power of the internet to help the women of Iran defeat the Iranian regime.
British politician, Baroness Verma, member of the House of Lords and the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development and Ministerial Champion for tackling Violence Against Women & Girls Overseas, said that she will make great efforts to ensure that her government takes action with regards to the human rights abuses in Iran. She emphasized that there is no place on earth where violations should be accepted and called on Parliamentarians across the world to ask their governments what they are going to do to challenge what is happening in Iran. She also called on politicians to ask their governments why protesters are being arrested and why people in Iran are going missing. She made it clear that when you are electing someone to represent you, it is essential that they disclose how they are going to deal with human rights abuses. “Let us not have one Madam Rajavi, let us have millions,” the Baroness said.
Linda Chavez, who was the highest-ranking woman in President Ronald Reagan’s White House, urged international governments to stop allowing the regime to continue its crimes. Repression in Iran is unacceptable, she said, and added that if one half of the population is repressed, the whole of society is repressed.
Susana Medina, President of the International Association of Women Judges and a judge in the Supreme Court of Argentina, said that “we should build bridges of knowledge and solidarity all over the world against the injustice in Iran.”
Deputy Attorney General in Portugal, Maria Candida Almeida, spoke about the bravery of the women of Iran who risked everything to take to the streets to protest for their rights. She thanked Mrs. Rajavi for her leadership, tenacity and determination and affirmed that “nothing will stop Iranian women.” She continued, “To the women of Iran, we are with you in your just demand to restore freedom and democracy. We will be your voice in the international organization. One day, the people of Iran will be free and there will be justice for all people who were mistreated and abused.”
Ingrid Betancourt, former presidential candidate in Columbia, said that the women of Iran risk everything to challenge the Iranian regime.
Former First Lady of Algeria, Anissa Boumédiène, spoke about the crimes of the Iranian regime, highlighting that it acts in violation of international law. She drew comparisons between the women of Iran and the women of Algeria who fought against a similar regime. She said that the martyrs there are still being mourned.
Aude de Thuin, President of the Women’s Forum for Economy and Society in France stated, “Iranian women have dared to defy power and put their life at risk. For western media, the only right for women is taking off their veil. They do not ask what women want for their countries. Women are the key element of the movement for deep change in their own lives and in their own country. It is time for the world to see and admire the courage of Iranian women. This is why I am here, for freedom of Iranian women, freedom of speech, freedom to live free. We need to encourage and admire the women of Iran. We must reach out and help them.”
Hoda Badran, Chair of Network of Arab Women from Egypt, said, “Women were always at the forefront of this fight. Today, we see in this new revolt, that women have been extremely courageous. And they are fighting against the police and encourage others not to fear anyone. They call on everyone to be on their side. Women want their freedom and rights. Supporting these women is a duty for freedom loving people.”
Najat Al Asttal, Palestinian Member of Parliament, said, “We are proud of standing with the Iranian Resistance. We salute your struggle and your fight for democracy and dignity. The revolution of Iranian women and standing for a sovereign Iran, means they are standing for democracy and demanding their own and their people’s rights.”
Suheir Atassi, member of the Syrian Opposition Coalition and former Vice Chair of the Council declared, “During the last 7 years, we have had the exceptional opportunity to discover the women’s energy. They ask for freedom and construction of democracy. They want to take the dictatorship to court… We want the world to help stop this daily torture and killing by the Assad regime… Mrs. Rajavi is a pioneer among Iranian women. She is an icon for you and also for us. She is working to free Iran and also Syria from the clutches of the clerical regime. We also believe in her ten-point plan for future of Syria.”
Rama Yade, former minister of human rights in France stated, “Never doubt that a small group of conscious, committed individuals can change the world. We are proud more than ever before to support you. The people of Iran have risen up for freedom. They want regime change. We must support them. The protesters are risking their lives. This is a fight for history, for the world. It is all our lives that is determined in the streets of Iran. We are grateful to these courageous people. Thank you Mrs. Rajavi.”
Najima Thay Thay, former Minister of Education and Youth- Morocco said, “The cause of Iranian women does not concern only Iranian women but is a global cause. Iranian women led by Mrs. Rajavi are fighting against extremism.”
The conference was a bright spot for the future of Iranian women in the run-up to International Women’s Day