Elizabeth Sidney Speech – IWD 2008

Written by admin in 8 March 08

 

International Women’s day 2008

Frontline Club – 13 Norfolk Place, London W2 1QJ

Date: Saturday 8 March 2008

ACI Meeting in Celebration of Iranian Women

International Women’s Day 8/03/2008

Iran is probably the world leader in misogyny, the relentless persecution of women as a tool in the regime’s armoury to ensure they stay in power. Intimidation of women is a key element in terrorizing families and whole communities. It is enforced by a huge, nation-wide police force, the Revolutionary Guard.

This corrupt organisation, actively engaged in drug and human trafficking, enforces the mullah’s crazy ruling regarding women’s behaviour. These police are brutal, and we can only marvel at the courage of the Iranian women remaining in Iran, who continue to protest and peacefully demonstrate how the mullahs’ regime is violating even the Iranian constitution.

The mullahs have not recognised the rights of women stated in the Constitution. Instead, they have introduced more and increasingly savage – ludicrous if they were not so savage – constraints on women’s lives. These constraints have been enforced both capriciously and cruelly.

What on earth are the authorities with their huge police force doing, spending time on arresting and imprisoning  women for wearing scarves which don’t cover their heads and necks? Don’t they have a country to run? The state security force has even issued a list of clothing which is deemed ‘dangerous to social and moral security’. Dangerous?

Throughout 2007, every month hundreds of thousands of women were stopped and warned by the police. Thousands were actually arrested, sent to police headquarters or imprisoned. The sole purpose of this treatment must be to spread anxiety and to intimidate. And the fears are well founded. Behind the silly dress codes much worse things are happening. Iran is the only country in the world which hangs women in public. Official sources record six women hanged in 2007, and sentences of death passed on 24 women, including 18 to death by stoning.

In Iran, fathers go unpunished for murdering daughters, husbands go unpunished for inflicting permanent physical and psychological damage on their wives. An estimated 60,000 girls, many in forced marriages, run away from home each year. The level of suicide for young women aged 15-24 is the highest in the world.

On International Women’s Day 2007, women were arrested for demonstrating in Tehran on the grounds of distributing anti-government propaganda. They were collecting 1 million protest signatures. 123 arrests were officially recorded, a serious underestimate. Imprisonment in Iran means brutal treatment and ofen torture. Yet still, brave women protest. I fear we shall learn of more protests in Tehran today, and the same violent police attacks as before. Of course, if we care for women, if we care for democracy and for gender equality, we must salute them, we must bear witness.

I hope David Milliband has a copy of the report ‘The Hell on Earth’ and thinks about our country’s attitude to such a regime.

Above all, as women we must oppose this terrible regime – and, of course, all such regimes which fail to recognise women’s full humanity. Sadly, Iran is not the only country where women’s rights are denied and where domestic and other violence is tolerated or even encouraged.

We must work for the Millennium Goals, the third of which is the advancement of women. Kofi Annan, when he was UN Secretary General, said that unless this goal was achieved, all the others would fail.

A major issue, affecting women worldwide, is violence against women. UNIFEM has described it as pandemic, with 20% or so of married women experiencing domestic violence, even in the democracies committed to universal human rights.

On 25th February, the present UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, launched a worldwide campaign to reduce this violence – to stop what he called “the untold cost that violence against women inflicts on all mankind.” “Violence against women” he said, “is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable.”

89 nations now have legislation outlawing domestic violence. 104 recognise marital rape as a criminal offence. The White Ribbon Campaign, which enlists men to oppose violence, now operates in 47 countries. Harriet Harman has made elimination of violence against women one of her three priorities. Today, let us celebrate Iran’s brave resistance movement and commit ourselves to the global campaign to eliminate violence against women.