Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi say a democratic revolution is unfolding in Iran.
Rajavi was the keynote speaker of an international conference in Brussels on March 4 titled: “Onward to A Democratic Republic: Iranian Women Leading the Way” to commemorate International Women’s Day. She told those in attendance that defiant girls and women across the vast nation continuously shout ‘With or without the hijab, onward to the revolution!’”
For more than six months, Iran has witnessed a national uprising that calls for freedom and democracy. Iranian women have been at the forefront of the fight against the mullahs’ oppressive and misogynistic regime.
The packed conference was attended by several generations of the Iranian Diaspora, all of whom are buoyed by the hope of the liberation of Iran. The participants pointed out that Iran’s women, men and youth have explicitly rejected all forms of dictatorship. Their slogan has been “No to the Shah. No to the mullahs. Freedom and equality for all.”
In addition to Rajavi, the Paris-based President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, nearly two dozen prominent women speakers from North America and Europe addressed the conference.
Members of the female Resistance Units of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK) also sent video messages to the conference from inside Iran. One young female member of the resistance from Ardakan in central Iran’s Yazd Province vowed: “We can, and we must overthrow the regime.” Another resistance member from Tehran added, “We reject Shah’s dictatorship and mullahs’ theocracy … We have proven this with our battles in the streets.”
Thousands of members of the MEK joined the conference live from their home, Ashraf-3, in Albania. Several MEK women, as well as members of the National Council of Resistance, and representatives of Iranian women, youth and women associations in Europe also addressed the conference.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran Women’s Committee Chair Sarvnaz Chitsaz stated that due to 43 years of oppression, Iranian women had taken a leading role in the struggle against the regime. She emphasized that the fight for women’s rights must be linked with the battle against the ruling theocracy.
Linda Chavez, a former White House Director of Public Liaison, acknowledged the pivotal role Rajavi played and the countless women who have stood behind her in the fight against the regime.
Rajavi emphasized the unique role of women in shaping society’s destiny and the ongoing revolution in Iran that is setting a united front of people against the oppressive and misogynistic regime of the mullahs. She highlighted the bravery and resilience of Iranian women, who have become Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s perpetual nightmare, with their unwavering courage and tireless activism.
Her remarks were repeatedly interrupted by standing ovations of the participants, many of whom were waving the pre-Islamic Republic Iranian flag; with the lion and sign insignia.
Rajavi said Iranian women want a democratic republic defined by freedom and free elections. She also reiterated that the central issue is the Iranian people’s personal freedoms and fair elections. The regime’s attempt to justify its cruelty against Iranians in a religious context must be rejected.
“If you’ve noticed, ever since the masquerade of the reformists and principlists was exposed, and Iran’s brave people and youth declared ‘game over,’ there were different attempts to stir up nostalgia for the former regime. They claimed that the Iranian people made a mistake in overthrowing the Shah’s dictatorship. They meant to say that they would avoid the mistake. This argument serves the interests of Khamenei and the ruling mullahs, as it is illogical to suggest that one needs a revolution to return to the previous reactionary regime,” said Rajavi.
An alternative, according to Rajavi, is a “velvet revolution”. Her warning, however, was that the experiences of Iranians over the past 44 years, and the last six months (since the latest protests began), have shown that overcoming the methods of the iron-fisted mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards cannot be done “with velvet gloves”.
Several speakers commended the bravery and resilience of Iranian women and their role in leading the struggle against the oppressive and sexist regime. They highlighted the need for the international community to stand with the people of Iran and support their struggle.
Former German Minister of Defense, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, stated that any society could be judged by how it treats its women; no government can treat half its population as second-class citizens. She emphasized that Iran can be an example of freedom and democracy and called on the international community to stand up against the regime that destroys its future and does not believe in peace.
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Yakin Erturk, spoke about how gendered subordination and misogynist laws and attitudes have been woven into the fabric of the Islamic Republic. She commended the strong will of resistance demonstrated by Iranian women in their everyday lives and in their significant demonstrations against the regime.
2022 Noble Peace Laureate, Olexandra Matvichuk, spoke via video conference from Ukraine about the regime’s fear of the young generation. She emphasized the need for the international community to support the Iranian people.
Judy Sgro, a Canadian parliamentarian and former immigration minister, emphasized the importance of giving courage to Iranian women. Her colleague in the Canadian Parliament, and the leader of the Conservative Party, Candice Bergen Harris, called on countries and leaders to stop appeasing the regime and stand with the people of Iran.
Former Spanish Senator Margarita Duran Vadell highlighted the decades-long struggle for women’s equality in Iran and the leading role of women in the ongoing uprisings. She commended the MEK Resistance Units for putting women in leadership roles and proving that they can achieve gender equality in practice.
Former French Minister of Human Rights Rama Yade commended the feminist movement in Iran for being the trigger and heart of the national revolution and emphasized the need for concrete steps for the international community to address the crimes of the regime.