Tuesday, March 14, 2006

European march for Iranian women successful

European march for Iranian women successful

13 March 2006. A World to Win News Service.
“We saw a woman, just for love, condemned to death and stoned.
We saw the plant of hope turn yellow and die, without spring.
As long as we’re shackled, the world will endure the rule of capital, ignorance and religion.
What does the young life whose head is in a noose long for, if not liberation?
We said: what sort of life is that? There’s no time to lose. Yes, the time has come for this campaign.”
With this song called Karzar (Campaign) written especially for the occasion by a group of artists actively supporting this effort, the march for Iranian women organised by the Campaign for the Abolition of All Misogynist, Gender-Based Legislation and Islamic Punitive Laws started in Frankfurt, Germany, 4 March and ended on 8 March, International Women’s Day, in The Hague, Netherlands, where it culminated with a protest front of the International Criminal Court. Some 800-1,000 people, mainly Iranian women from all over the world, participated in the last day of the march.

The determination and enthusiasm of the protestors was such that the cold and heavy rain from early morning until late evening could not hamper their schedule. They felt as if they could see a bright sun shining over them that other people could not see: the emergence of a new women’s movement. If Ayatollah Khomeini and his Islamic regime celebrated their seizure of power by brutally attacking women’s rights, sparking the demonstration of 8 March 1979 in Tehran, this year on 8 March women celebrated the emergence of their movement as one of the most powerful forces threatening the very existence of the medieval Islamic regime. This march was the most important Iranian women’s protest since 8 March 1979.

After Frankfurt, the march went through Mainz, Cologne and Dusseldorf before finally reaching The Hague. About 400 protesters started in Frankfurt, in bitter cold and the heaviest snow in 25 years. A theatre group presented a skit about the oppression of women before or after each march in a different city each of the four days. It featured a group of women covered with a black veil or blue burqa (representing the coverings Iranian and Afghan women are forced to wear) oppressed by a mullah, a symbol of the Islamic regimes. In the course of the short play the women rebel, turn the tide and manage to shackle the mullah. As the women prevailed, loudspeakers played the song Karzar and people enthusiastically sang along.

Following the day’s march in Mainz, Cologne and The Hague, there was a rally with speeches by women activists and those who had come a long way to express their support, solidarity messages, poems and songs and other artistic presentations. In Cologne, a young Iranian woman called Mitra presented “the dance of liberation”, in which an imprisoned young woman manages to free herself. In Dusseldorf, after the march the protestors headed towards The Hague, without a public meeting. However, the hall where the marchers lunched and the bus heading to The Hague served as venues for speeches, discussion, chanting slogans, singing and even dancing. Some people took part in the march just for a day; others joined along the way for the rest of the journey. There were new people in every city. Since 8 March was in the middle of the week, many demonstrators had to go back to work before the end.

The organisers and the main body of the march arrived in The Hague on Tuesday night and were busily occupied through most of the night. Many more arrived Wednesday morning. A minivan came from Denmark, another bus from Cologne, two buses full of women asylum seekers from the northern Netherlands, and carloads of friends and individuals travelled from other cities in Holland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the UK, France and even the US and Canada. A woman flew in from Vancouver in the morning and had to return right after the march that evening. Clearly these women gave a lot of importance to their participation.

Women from Afghanistan were among the most active organisers, seeing a common cause with Iranian women. Other Afghanistani women joined along the way. Dutch women of various ages took part, many expressing their opposition to the invasion of Iraq by the US and their own country. Turkish and Kurdish women and even African women were among the marchers. Others from Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Hong Kong and Nepal made the march even more colourful and beautiful. The Iranian women themselves were very diverse. They included political refugees and women who had escaped death by stoning, mothers whose daughters or sons were executed by the Islamic regime, ex-political prisoners, communists and other political activists, women who had lost their job because they refused to wear the hijab, and others who also had fled Iran because of pressure on them as women, and women from Kurdistan who faced anti-woman as well as national oppression by the Tehran regime.

To the beat of drums played by a group of a dozen young Dutch women and men, and cries of “Down with the anti-women regime of the Islamic Republic”, the march wound its way through eight kilometres of city streets in The Hague. People standing in their doorways or at their windows waved in support or flashed the marchers the victory sign.

The marchers shouted “Down with the Islamic regime of Iran” and “No to US invasion” as they headed towards the Iranian embassy, where the anger and rage of demonstrators reached its highest point, and the rainy weather, too, turned most angry. After a short stop in front of the embassy, the march headed towards the International Criminal Court for a rally.

Among the speakers was Mary Lou Greenberg, who had come overseas to express the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA’s support for this march. She denounced the religious fundamentalism of the Bush regime, US imperialism’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and possible American aggression against Iran. She also emphasised the need for the people in the imperialist countries to support the anti-imperialist struggles of the people of Iran and the struggle of Iranian women. Her presence and especially her message were very well received and encouraging, especially when she announced that simultaneous actions in solidarity with the Iranian women’s campaign had been held in 12 cities in the US.

Another speaker from another side of the world, Radha Dsusanfar from India, also spoke of the necessity of supporting Iranian women. She addressed a knotty political problem that concerned many people and held back the participation of a few. She said some people may think that supporting Iranian women against the Islamic regime could mean playing into the hands of imperialism, but the situation was really just the opposite. When the bombs start to rain down on the people, it’s too late to support them because you have lost the initiative. You have to say no to the war now. Now is the time to discuss this with the progressive forces of Iran and support them in their struggle against imperialism.

It was true, as Dsusanfar said, that some progressive forces, particularly in Germany as well as other countries, refused to support this effort because of this same argument, but this could not dilute the internationalist character of the march. Many forces worldwide gave their support. Maoists were in the forefront because they hold that the only way to resist US imperialism in this situation is to support the just struggle of the Iranian people for their democratic rights and against imperialist domination, and not line up with a medieval regime that has suppressed the people and especially women for so long. In addition to the RCP,USA message, statements and other forms of support came from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan, the Revolutionary Communist Party Organising Committee of Canada and other parties that provided logistical and practical assistance. Many other revolutionary and progressive groups also actively supported the march. WPRM activists came from Berlin. An enthusiastic group of women who had heard about this in a meeting came from Bielefield, Germany, to join the march in Mainz. A number of groups and organisations from Germany and especially the Netherlands sent solidarity messages and took part in the demonstrations in various cities.

During the second day of the march, the campaign received a very special message from a group of women who had celebrated 8 March in the mountains near Tehran, away from the eyes of the Islamic regime. This message tremendously boosted the mood and spirit of the rally. The reading of this short message was interrupted several times by the tears of the moderator and audience applause. It was followed by a solidarity message from the union of the United Bus Company workers in the capital, whose struggle for their rights had rocked the whole country before being crushed by regime security forces, with nearly a thousand union members arrested. This made the cheering overflow. (Later came additional news of two public demonstrations by hundreds of women in Tehran 8 March, one in Student Park and the other in Laleh Park. Both were brutally attacked by security forces.)

One of the strengths of the march was that a fairly large number of the youth were taking part in political activity for the first time. Some had travelled from as far away as Sweden. In fact three generations of women took part.

A young women of Kurdish origin named Bayan played an outstanding role all through the five days. When asked why, she responded, “We don’t have to go far, to Iran, Afghanistan or Iraq – where I live in Germany, women also experience oppression. Even here Kurdish women are oppressed by the society and their father and their husband. But I am concerned about the unequal laws in Iran too. I hope we can do more of this.”

The work of artists was very important in strengthening this campaign. Gisoo Shakeri, with her powerful voice, not only agitated the people but played a vital political role. Mina Asadi wrote the stirring words to the march’s theme song Karzar; her radical stand against imperialism and all reactionaries was also very encouraging. Jamileh Nedai a veteran cinema and theatre artist; Mohamad Shams, who wrote the music for Karzar; Abbas Samakar; Basir Nasibi and many other artists supported and actively participated in the march.

Afghanistani women also brought a distinct strength to this march. Like Iranian women, they, too, have endured especially severe oppression in the last 27 years. In their messages and speeches they made it clear that the American-led invasion of Afghanistan has not liberated women. Instead, it has made the situation even worse in many different ways. They shared with other women some of the pain they are suffering and their hopes for what they could achieve by organising Afghani women on a much broader scale.

At the end of the public indoor meeting that lasted until late, women did not hide their happiness. Women in every corner of the hall were hugging each other excitedly and even crying. Many women were happy and satisfied that they had taken part in this march despite the contradictions they had to face. This was the first time that many of them had left their children and family for more than a week to do something like march with other women. Azadeh, from London, like many other women, had left her young children behind to take part in the march. She told AWTWNS, “I am so happy that I took part in the march. I’m happy that a friend really pushed me. If I had not come I would’ve regretted it later.” Mina Asadi said that these five days of marching, along with the International Women’s Day demonstration of 8 March 1979, had been the best days of her life.

The greatest achievement of this march is that these women were able to organise this successful march by themselves. All this means that the women’s movement attacked by the Islamic regime has been reborn, and is taking on new momentum. Its great potential represents a real threat to the Islamic rulers.


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