On The Issues Online

Iranian Women Today
- Fighting Two Enemies

Dateline: April 2008

Iranian women are today in the forefront of determined resistance to the oppressive theocracy of the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as war threats by the US government. This International Women’s Day brought forward support from a impressive group of US women, who responded to a call issued by Iranian women for “women and men in the US to act in solidarity and support us in our difficult fight against our two enemies who are part of the same matrix: the Islamic Republic of Iran and US imperialism.”

Over 100 women writers, academics and activists signed a statement, “We Stand With Iranian Women” and sent it to an international demonstration in Brussels on March 8, 2008. Playwright Eve Ensler sent a solidarity statement to a solidarity rally in Los Angeles, and acclaimed poets Sonia Sanchez and Suheir Hamad sent poems to the L.A. event. Carol Downer, co-founder of the Feminist Women’s Health Centers, wrote a letter pointing to the “direct link between the oppression of women in the Middle East and US foreign policies” and called on feminists to stand with the Iranian women.

The Campaign for Abolition of all Misogynist Gender-Based legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws in Iran (www.karzar-zanan.com), was launched in 2006 to coincide with International Women’s Day. Iranian and Afghani women marched in four German cities with large Iranian communities, culminating in an in-your-face march in The Hague of 1,000 women and men of many nationalities past the embassies of both the IRI and the U.S. on March 8, 2006. The campaign this year organized a march of 1,000 in Brussels, Belgium on IWD, with a solidarity march and rally also held in Los Angeles, California.

Demonstration in Brussels
International Women’s Day March in Brussels, March 8, 2008

Several Iranian women went to Los Angeles to help build for the march, and their stories were a concentration of the horrors faced by women in the Islamic Republic, as well as inspiring examples of fierce determination to continuing fighting not only for their own freedom and an end to Islamic theocracy but to link their struggles with those of other women in the Middle East and worldwide. All now live in exile, after having been imprisoned for political opposition to the IRI and having many friends, family members and spouses tortured and killed in the 1980s. I had met all of them before when I participated in the 2006 European march.

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A Sacrificial Light

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By Martha Shelley
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"MY SISTER ENDED HER LIFE AS AN ACT OF PROTEST against the way the Islamic Republic is treating Iranian women, especially the educated ones." Parvin Darabi talks softly, as though the Persian tongue has sanded over the rough edges of English. But her voice wells up with passion when she speaks of conditions in her native land.

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Anahita had been one of the organizers of the massive march in Tehran on International Women’s Day 1979 shortly after the 1978 revolution that was followed by Khomeini’s ascension to power and the solidification of Islamic theocracy. One of Khomeini’s first acts was to announce that women would be required to wear Islamic dress (the hijab) in public. In the course of years of heroic resistance by progressive, radical, and revolutionary forces, thousands were arrested, including Anahita and her boyfriend. She was brutally tortured, but refused to give information or to renounce her revolutionary beliefs. Her captors tried to force her to pray, but she refused, so her prison sentence was extended. Finally after many thousands of prisoners had been killed, including her boyfriend, she was released after eight years.

Like Anahita, Sussan and Mona spent years in prison. Sussan’s husband was executed and after she was released, she spent 10 years fighting to regain her children from her in-laws who were awarded custody of them in accordance with Islamic law. Mona was pregnant when she was arrested and gave birth in prison. The three are members of the March 8 Women’s Organization (Iran, Afghanistan), a participant in the Campaign and the group that issued the call for solidarity actions. (www.8mars.com).

In Los Angeles, the women took their powerful message of opposition to oppression to high school classes in Watts, prestigious universities (UCLA and others), religious organizations and Iranian groups – and struck a chord wherever they spoke. At the Los Angeles rally, one of the Iranian women said: “Today we are here to bring the voices of Iranian women to all of you to announce that we are for a world independent of reactionary regimes, including the patriarchal government of the United States. We are here to say that Iranian women believe that another world is possible…We are not afraid of the power of U.S. imperialism – we believe in and need the power of the people all over the world.”


Mary Lou Greenberg


Enough Waiting

No! Now is the Time to Do Battle

Singer Gissoo Shakeri and poet Mina Assadi, both of whose works are banned in the Islamic Republic of Iran, created what has become the signature song of the Campaign for Abolition of All Misogynist Gender-Based Legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws in Iran (www.karzar-zanan.com). In 2006 the Campaign sponsored a march through five European cities, culminating in The Hague on International Women's Day. Gissoo's soaring voice was unforgettable--whether broadcast during the march from the sound truck, in evening performances, or leading us all (including the few non-Farsi speakers) in song during the bus rides between cities. Gissoo was born in Iran in 1953 and has lived in Sweden since 1988. Her work is available at www.Gissoo.com.

A video with the song can be seen by clicking here. A translation of the song follows.

****

Through the cracks of closed doors
I watched a bird fly.
I lay in a house of despair.
I heard fortune walking out.
I was captive of the dark night.
I saw moons coming and going.
I asked myself, what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting.
No! Now is the time to do battle.

We saw a woman in love
Condemned to death and stoned.
We saw the laborer on the ground
And capital riding on his back.
We saw the hungry baby crying,
Sad and miserable.
We saw the sapling of dreams
Wilt yellow with no spring.
We asked ourselves, what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting.
No! Now is the time to do battle.

As long as we are chained
Capital, ignorance and religion will reign.
Did not that young sar-be-dar
Want only freedom?
We asked ourselves, what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting.
No! Now is the time to do battle.

****

Words: Mina Assadi; Music: Mohamad Shams; Singer: Gissoo Shakeri


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