International Women's Day
A history of struggle and strife continues...
International Women's Day has been observed since in the early 1900's, a time of great
expansion and turbulence in the industrialized world that saw booming population growth and
the rise of radical ideologies.
Great unrest and critical debate was occurring amongst women. Women's oppression and
inequality was spurring women to become more vocal and active in campaigning for change.
Then in 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better
pay and voting rights.
By Jahanshah Rashidian, 8 Mar. (IPS) 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. 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.
Day is a symbol of women
as integral partner-makers
of history. It is a denial of
all form of religious gender
women less worthy than
men, as stipulated by
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”.
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 raped.” 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.
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
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.
Mrs. Shirn Ebadi, human rights
campaigner and lawyer is the
first Iranian women to receive
the prestigious Nobel Peace
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.
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.
Iranian women protests for equal rights with men.
Tireless Human Rights champion and former
Miss World Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam