Happy International Women's Day!

Please join us in this electronic vigil in solidarity with women's rights activists in Iran.

This vigil is organized by Sirens of Solidarity.


IWD 1979

A day before International Women's Day, on March 7, 1979, less than a month after the formation of the Islamic Republic, large numbers of Iranian women took to the streets in many cities across Iran to protest Khomeini's edict to the Transitional Government to bar unveiled women from working for the government or entering government buildings. This was the first post-Revolution attack by Islamists, one of many to come, against women's rights. And women's spontaneous, decentralized and self-organized protests during March 7th, 8th and 9th, as they were about to celebrate International Women's Day for the first time in over 25 years since the US-backed coup d'etat that brought Shah back to power in 1953, were the first popular acts of resistance against the Islamic regime.

In 1979, women's movement was on the one side attacked by the Islamic militia armed with knives, daggers, acid, brass knuckles, clubs, flails and chains while they were deserted from the other side by Islamo-liberal, nationalist and Marxist-populist parties whose ideological sexism and political shortsightedness led them to the theory that women's rights were of lesser significance to the nationalist, anti-imperialist and/or class struggles. Both the Islamic fundamentalist forces and their organized political opponents - before the latter were violently eliminated in wave after wave from the stage by the former - labeled women's protests and resistance as "westoxicated" and "bourgeois" in their socio-cultural orientation. Within a very short time, the Islamic regime enshrined in the constitution and in the country's legal code a set of discriminatory laws that reduced women's social and legal status to that of half-a-man.

IWD 2007

Over the past 28 years, these laws and their corollary ideological social and cultural practices have had innumerable tragic effects on the lives of more than half of the Iranian people across class, ethnic, religious and generational lines. The view that women's issues are secondary to larger and more urgent national concerns - such as current threats of US intervention and war - is as wrong today as it was in 1979. Today, it is clear that in 1979 women were the vanguard, the first line of popular resistance against the dehumanizing and repressive Islamic state. Women are the vanguard again. Currently. Today.

Over the past few years in particular, women's rights activists have mounted a strong de-centered and multivocal force for changing the Iranian constitution and laws. They have initiated a highly creative grassroots campaign, One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws, which demands changes to discriminatory laws against women. This campaign is an outgrowth of and a follow-up to a peaceful protest with the same aim that took place on June 12, 2006 in Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran. The security forces violently attacked the protesters and arrested over 70 of them.

On Sunday, March 4, 2007, 33 women's rights activists were arrested as they gathered in a peaceful vigil in front of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. The police and security forces again violently attacked and arrested these activists outside the court, where they had gathered in solidarity with five women who had been charged and were being tried in connection with the demonstration held on June 12, 2006.

As the global Bush block prepares for opening yet another war front, this time in Iran, it is imperative for the progressive international anti-war, feminist and social justice movements to keep informed of the political dynamics inside Iran and support local initiatives for change at the same time as we campaign against U.S. imperialist interventions. The current moment/movement in the struggle for equal rights in Iran is both radical and relevant: The women's campaign has clearly-articulated demands that have wide appeal to diverse demographics, its organization is de-centralized thus flexible and resilient, and its activities are fully public thus forcing a bottom-up democratic change in Iranian political discourse.

As the cases of Afghanistan and Iraq have clearly established by now, US-led interventionist war does not bring 'democracy' to the invaded land. That is the given. What is also established is that under a puppet regime the social conditions and/or the legal status of women will not significantly improve (as in Afghanistan) or will drastically deteriorate (as in Iraq). While the US government covertly and overtly supports, funds and arms an array of conservative and regressive political players outside Iran - from the Shah's son to the Mojahedin - in preparation for a regime change in Iran, it is crucial that we support Iranian women's indigenous, self-organized resistance movement. A campaign for equal rights is not a by-product of an independent democratic movement but the very foundation of democracy and self-rule.

On IWD 1979, international progressive voices and forces failed to raise and stand in solidarity with Iranian women. We cannot allow ourselves to remain uninformed or silent again.

The Electronic Vigil in Solidarity with Women's Rights Activists in Iran will be ongoing until further notice.

JUNE 2006

On June 12, 2006, Iranian law enforcement forces violently attacked and arrested peaceful demonstrators who had gathered in Haft-e Tir Square, Tehran, to demand equal rights for women. In an interview at the Evin Prison 2 days later, the spokesperson for the Islamic Republic (in)Justice Department stated that 70 people - 42 women and 28 men - were arrested and have been transferred to the Evin Prison. Eye-witness accounts, published on several Farsi and English blogs, report the number of detainees to be much higher, including some who were arrested several hours before the demonstration was to take place. A coalition of women's associations, other NGOs and individuals had organized the demonstration - on the anniversary of a peaceful action with similar goals held last year in front of Tehran University - to demand changes to the discriminatory legal code in Iran, specifically:
--> The right to divorce by women
--> Child custody rights for women
--> Abolition of polygamy
--> Equal rights in family law
--> Increasing the minimum legal marriage age for girls to 18 (currently 15)
--> Equal rights for women as witnesses in courts of law
Relevant sources --> reporters without borders | amnesty international | human rights watch, 2 | human rights first | payvand , 2 | women's learning partnership campaign