Just before International Women’s Day 2016, many prominent political and human rights figures attended a conference in Paris along with Mrs. Maryam Rajavi on Saturday, 27th February 2016. The topic was “Pledge for Parity: Women United against Islamic Fundamentalism”.
The event was a gathering of support for the fight towards parity. Many of the speakers concurred that the voice of women was essential in overcoming Islamic fundamentalism. Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Centre for Social Research in India and a leading figure in Indian politics said that women should be “encouraged to be at the forefront”.
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi said that fundamentalism is a “proliferating cancer” and it is essential that we get to its epicentre in order to uproot it. Again, she stressed that women should play a part in this. Mrs. Rajavi also spoke about Khomeini’s role in the persecution of women in Iran and condemned the terrible violence that women are subject to under his rule.
With regards to the alarming level of executions in Iran, Mrs. Rajavi remembered some of the female victims, some of whom are Fatemeh Mesabah, 13 when she was executed, Mojgan Jamshidi, 14 when she was executed, and Noushin Imami, only 16 years old. These executions, along with the numerous other executions of women, were carried out as punishment for petty crimes. This is what we must remember, she said. These injustices will make women fight harder for the equality they deserve.
Mrs. Rajavi ended her speech by talking about what she hopes to achieve in the future. She aims to abolish the death penalty, separate religion and state, create a democracy based on freedom and equality, and achieve equal rights for women in “all areas”. She wants to see women participate in politics so that they have equal participation in political leadership. She emphasised that this is completely possible - the PMOI practice this already, and have been for years. The PMOI is composed of many women who work alongside men in the struggle for equality in freedom.
Linda Chavez, former Director of Public Liaisons for the White House, spoke of the “so-called elections” taking in place in Iran yesterday in which women were denied the vote. She said that although we do not know the outcome of the election, the result does not matter – nothing will change in Iran until there is regime change. She also deplored the fact that half of the population of Iran is denied the most fundamental of rights. She claimed that this speaks volume about the men of the country – they are “weak” and have “no self-control”.
Rita Sussmuth, German politician and former President of the German Federal Parliament, along with many other speakers, applauded the women and men who are risking their lives every day for the freedom of Iran. The Camp Liberty residents who have undergone appalling persecution were mentioned in particular by many of the speakers.
The theme of silence reappeared many times during the course of the conference. Ms. Sussmuth and Rashida Manjoo, former UN Rapporteur on Violence against Women from 2009 to 2015, both said that if we remain silent, we are perpetuating the evil that is affecting so many women in this world.
Silence is something that is forced upon many women around the world, and Gisoo Shakeri, exile, protest singer, women's activist, poet and writer, paid tribute to the women who have lost their voices – women who have been executed, woman who have been imprisoned and women who have had their voices silenced. Marjan, a famous Iranian singer, once imprisoned in Iran, also performed as the “voice for the voiceless”.
Mrs. Rajavi, the Iranian Resistance, and all the women who fight around the world for the same struggle were praised for not staying silent. Baroness Betty Boothroyd, British politician, commends all Muslim women for not staying silent. “Your struggle for freedom and human rights in Iran has not been easy”, she said. It is now time for international communities to pledge their support.
Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian politician and presidential candidate, said that we have a duty to ensure that we all have the same rights despite our very different cultures and backgrounds. “Parity is the cornerstone of all freedom, democracy and human rights”, she highlights. It is “not a cultural issue”, rather it is something that every human being is entitled to.
Ms. Betancourt described Khomeini as a “supreme dictator” and highlighted that Mrs. Rajavi is presenting a new model, an alternative that represents the change that is greatly needed in Iran. She said that the fight of Mrs. Rajavi is our fight, “my fight” and “we need Mrs. Rajavi to succeed”. It is the duty of the women on the stage and in the audience to get involved. Najima Thay Thay, former Minister of Education and Youth from Morocco, claimed that Mrs. Rajavi is a “success for freedom, for the Quran and for women”.
Anissa Boumediene, former first lady of Algeria, lawyer and specialist of Islam, expressed her anger at the ill- treatment of women who are denied equal rights. She denounced the men, and even the women, who justify the persecution of women in the name of Islam. As a specialist who has studied Islam in detail, she is appalled that this religion can be used to condone violence against women.
Many potential solutions were presented throughout the day. Kirsty Brimelow, Queen’s Counsel Chairwoman of Bar of Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, said that the way forward is obvious. Firstly, the constitution needs to be changed. It is not acceptable to have a constitution that is rooted in medieval times. Secondly, she said that restricting females as judges needs to be changed, for obvious reasons. And thirdly, with regards to Camp Liberty, the United Nations needs to take urgent action. They need to recognise Camp Liberty as a refugee camp, not a detention centre. This, she claimed, is not even a big step as the UN already recognise the residents as persons of concern.
Beatriz Becerra Basterrechea, Spanish Member of European Parliament, said that the violations against women are quite simply a crime, and crimes should be prosecuted and punished. It is unacceptable that in 2016 women are still denied their civil and individual rights in Iran.
The conference concluded with a performance by the Albanian Orchestra and a closing speech by Linda Chavez. She said: “We must keep up the fight, and in Mrs. Rajavi’s words, we can and we will.”