Tomorrow is international women’s day, and in the past days the Iranian regime has, once again, shown its oppressive face towards grassroots women’s organisations who were peacefully demonstrating for their rights. On Sunday at least 31 women were illegally arrested during a peaceful gathering in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran. They were demonstrating in solidarity with women’s rights activists who had organised a peaceful demonstration on June 12, 2006, which was brutally ended by the police, and who had to appear before court last Sunday. They were also protesting the increasing oppression and criminalisation of the non-violent Iranian women’s movement, who has launched the one million signatures campaign to educate citizens about gender-discriminatory laws, and who are collecting signatures to demand an end to such discriminatory legislation. The correspondent for a Dutch newspaper was also arrested, but quickly released. Yesterday some women were released, but there are also reports that others were beaten and are in a bad condition. The 24 remaining women have started a hunger strike to protest their illegal confinement.
The courage of these Iranian women is truly amazing. The current arrests once again show that the regime will do everything it can to intimidate and obstruct this grassroots movement, as this brave article clearly describes, from closing down the first website of the One Million Signatures Campaign (though the women quickly launched a new website), to intimidating women who are housing seminars, instructing parents to warn their daughters, and now the arrest of many leaders of the women’s movement.
One plausible explanation for the upsurge in violence against the leaders of the women’s movement is to prevent them from organising any kind of protest tomorrow at international women’s day. So through informal international networks Iranian women have therefore called upon women’s movements worldwide to show their solidarity with the Iranian struggles for legal equality. One thing we can do is to let the Iranian regime know that we are informing ourselves, that newspapers internationally are writing about the oppression of Iranian women, that we are reading the websites of the Iranian women’s movements, and signing their petition to demand the release of the arrested women.
If the Iranian regime tries to make it impossible for Iranian women to mark international women’s day, let’s mark it, not just for ourselves, but for them too.