Iran: International Women's Day events defy repression

International Women's Day in Iran
International Women's Day in Iran

A report by the Organisation for Women's Liberation - Iran's (OWL) Maryam Kousha on events across the country, which have seen womens' liberation struggles build links with striking workers and Afghan refugees.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 12, 2007

People in Iran welcomed 8th March this year by organising many events well ahead of the actual day in different cities all over the country. It culminated in major gatherings on Thursday, international women's day. People were passionate about the day, had prepared manifestos, resolutions and banners demanding equality, condemning gender apartheid and women's oppression. As usual the Islamic regime tried everything to halt and prevent these events. Despite massive paramilitary and secret police presence, many pickets and gatherings took place.

Several thousand people gathered around Tehran University by 4pm Tehran 's time to start an 8th March rally which was called by 8th March organising committee, endorsed by OWL. However, this gathering was prevented from commencing by the security forces. Islamic Republic had decided to stop any 8 March event to take place. The presence of massive force by Tehran University and in and around Daneshjoo Park, where the rally was to end, and also by Vali-e-asr square, a close by busy shopping area prevented any meetings to take place. Any person who tried to shout slogans was attacked and taken away. Eye witnesses have reported to OWL's 8th March headquarters that around 25 people were arrested by Tehran University and Vali-e-asr square.

Some of the demonstrators then decided to move to another location. Around 6pm there was report of a large gathering in Mohseni square north of Tehran. The security forces attacked that gathering, as well.

Another 8th March meeting was organised to take place by the Parliament around 2pm. Around 200 people tried to attend this meeting who were attacked by the security forces, few people were arrested. The organisers managed to read their resolution [reproduced below]. The crowd had gathered to demand the release of women activists who were arrested Sunday 4th March.

Tehran University, 8th March 2007
About 1000-1500 people gathered at the university to protest against gender segregation and apartheid, dictatorship and police state. People chanted "socialism rise". A few people made speeches about women's demands and read a resolution clarifying these demands. Pictures of Mansoor Hekmat, the leader of Worker-communist movement were held high and the participants ended the ceremony by singing the "International" song.

About 3,000 people gathered in "Vali-Asr square". They were prohibited from starting the 8th March celebration by the secret services that had a massive presence in the crowd. The participants were waiting to find an opportunity to read their resolution but were stopped.

Allameh University, 4th March 2007
More than 700 people gathered to oppose the new dress code introduced to female students at the university. The students chanted slogans condemning the fascist method of controlling the university. A woman student said "we will not let you to turn the university into your reactionary and fascist arena". A male student said "this new more restricted dress code is not just against females it is against us and all humanity too". The main protest was against limitations of individual freedoms.

While singing protest songs, the students marched out. The slogans chanted were "No to reaction", "they want to cloth us in black again". Paramilitary forces were in the crowd all the time and filmed the event. Some tension occurred.

Cinema and Theatre faculty, 5th March 2007
Students gathered at this faculty to protest against limitations imposed on them regarding their dress code during registration. Despite the conditions put on female students that unless they observe the new more restricted dress code, they would not be registered, the students managed to resist it. They wore their usual clothing to university.

Sharif University, 4th March 2007
The event at this university was loud and full of banners. The protestors sang progressive songs and held banners saying "Freedom, Equality" "Women's freedom is the freedom of society", "women are the main victims of war, poverty and violence", "No to gender apartheid", "we defend teachers' and workers' struggle" and "Students' movement in unity with women's and workers' movement".

Speeches were made by female and male students about the danger of war and the importance of uniting with other social movements for a free and equal society. The ceremony took place despite the pressure by the police. The secret police in the crowd tried to interrupt the speeches but they were isolated. One of the organisers said to them that they can not turn the clock back to the 1980's when hundred thousands were executed.

A manifesto in defence of women's rights was read at the end and 150 years of international struggle for women's rights and freedom and liberation was celebrated.

Esfahan, 8 th March 2007
Two events took place in the city of Esfahan. One in "Boostan Park" and the other in the main library. Women took their veils off for a few minutes to demonstrate their hatred of Islamic rules. They read out their resolution demanding freedom of clothing and condemning gender apartheid.

Sanandaj, 8 th March 2007
Historically, Sanandaj is known as the red city because of its progressive and radical movement. Every year people organise 8th March seminars. This year, the police and the secret police attacked the ceremony and arrested many people. A gathering in the main city centre was attacked by the Islamic guards, some people were arrested and a few injured. The names of those arrested are: Asoo Saleh, Peyman Nemati, Akoo Kord-Nasab, Sooran Hoseini, Voorya Tdayon, Parviz Poorrezaee, Fateme Zamani, Soraya Mohamadi, Sima Alikhani, and Salah Zamani. It was reported to OWL's 8th March headquarter that all arrested yesterday, except Peyman Nemati and Salah Zamani were released today.

Kamyaran, 8th March 2007
In this city too, the presence of police was evident. Tens of people celebrated the day, gathered by the grave of those women who were either victims of honour killing or had committed suicide and read out their resolution in defence of women's rights.

Sagez, 8th March 2007
This is another city in Kurdistan where many people celebrated the International Women's Day. Women made speeches about their situation and the need to change it. A struggle for women's rights and abolition of gender apartheid was the main theme of all ceremonies.

Tafrash University, 6th March 2007
A gathering was held at Electrical engineering faculty where many students took part. A female student talked about the limitations facing women in society especially at university. The assembly issued a statement demanding the following: "Freedom of society is measured by the freedom of women", "we will continue 8th March tradition until all discrimination is abolished", "I am a human before being a woman", and "freedom and equality."

8th March Resolution read by organisers of the 8th March rallies in Iran

:> United and in unison, we, women and freedom loving people declare: No to women's oppression!
:> We protest against gender apartheid which has become institutionalized in Iran ; and demand the abolition of all anti women laws
:> We support the struggle of people for equal rights between men and women
:> We condemn any compulsory dress code
:> We demand the immediate banning of capital punishment and stoning
:> We strongly condemn any humiliation and violence against women
:> We condemn domestic and state violence
:> We demand the immediate release of women political prisoners
:> We support the teachers' and workers' struggle
:> We demand the immediate stop to the arrest and deportation of all Afghan residents and declare that all immigrants in Iran must enjoy equal civil rights.
:> We strongly believe and declare NO to economic sanctions; NO to war; NO to nuclear bombs; Long live freedom, equality and welfare for all.