Women’s Rights in Naples- Italy-2003
Speech in a conference on Women’s Rights in Naples- Italy- Sep 2003
First of all, I would like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this conference and also would like to thank all of you for being here.
24 years ago when the Islamic regime of Iran announced that all women must wear the Islamic dress code (Hijab), thousands of women came to the streets of Tehran to protest against this law. They were chanting “Women’s Rights are Universal” and “we didn’t take part in the revolution to go backwards”. They said NO to the compulsory Islamic dress code and NO to the Islamic rules and policies. Since then women in Iran have been fighting against the Islamic laws and traditions; they have fought against sexual apartheid, and have fought for freedom and equality every day of their lives. I am sure you would do the same thing if you were told starting from tomorrow:
- You will be separated from men in all public places including universities and transportation
- You have to obey the Islamic dress code and you will be punished if you don’t
- You have no right to travel without the permission of the male of the family
- You have no right to divorce and if you get divorce you won’t have the custody of your children
- You will face imprisonment, flogging and paying fine if you were arrested while walking with your boyfriend or wore make-up
- You have no place to go and seek refuge if your husband abuses you, beats you up or rapes you
- You will be subjected to oppression and discrimination in all aspects of your life.
- You will be stoned to death if you have sexual relation out of marriage.
- You have no right to work if your husband disagrees
In Iran where an Islamic state is governing the country and law is based on Islam, stoning which is torture and a gradual death and the most inhumane and horrifying form of punishment is carried out for women and men (mostly women) for committing extra-marital relationship. Stoning has been officially introduced in the country’s penal codes.
According to article 102 of Islamic Penal Code, A man is buried to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her chest and stoned to death.
Article 104 defines the size of stones and stipulates: In stoning to death, the stones should not be so large that the person dies upon being hit by one or two of them, neither should they be so small that they cannot be called a stone.
An eye-witness in Iran has described a scene of stoning in the city called Gohardasht in Iran:
“To the astonishment of the people, the two sentenced were dragged to the designated area; their hands were tightly tied behind their backs and their whole bodies were covered with white shroud. Then the mercenaries dug holes in the hill of soil and the sentenced were covered up to their waists in dirt. In order to prevent the sentenced from escaping, water was added to the soil. Then the cleric ordered the stoning. Within the first few seconds, the two sentenced lost control because of the intensity of pain; they bent to the ground while blood leaked out from under their grave clothes. After a few minutes, the cleric announced that the “evils” had died and proclaimed the end to the stoning. “
It’s hard to believe that cruel laws such as stoning are still happening in the 21 century and in fact it’s the law of a country.
Since the Islamic regime of Iran came to the power, tens of women and men, again mostly women, have been stoned to death and many including Ferdos.B, Shahnaz and Sima have been sentenced to stoning and are currently in prison.
During these 24 years, women have been able to push back the misogynist Islamic regime and some of its laws. One of these laws is stoning. In the light of the massive campaigning and protests both inside and outside the country against stoning, in December of 2002 the Islamic regime of Iran had to announce the suspension of stoning law. They suspended stoning not because they believe it is an inhuman law, but because they believe it gives the Iranian regime a bad image internationally. Therefore, soon after, they announced execution as a form of punishment for sexual relationship out of marriage instead of stoning. In mid summer of 2003, the execution of Shahnaz, 35 years-old Iranian woman, was finalized and she is awaiting her sentence to be carried out. Prior to Shahnaz in the beginning of winter of 2003, another woman by the name of Khair-ol-Nessa was sentenced to execution.
When we talk about women’s situation in Iran and their rights in conferences, we sometimes face questions like, isn’t this the culture of people in Iran? Aren’t women in Iran or other Islamic-stricken countries happy to live in that condition? Etc. These questions are mostly raised by the defenders of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism bases people’s rights on where they were born and therefore has double standard for human rights. This idea believes that, what is happening to women in the Islamic-stricken countries such as Iran is acceptable by women and it is in fact part of their culture. They say, stoning and beating women is part of the culture of these countries and women have chosen to be treated like this. This idea respects all cultures no matter how reactionary they are. They don’t realized or don’t want to realize that, this is in fact the culture of the Islamic regime that is imposed on people in Iran. I have started my speech with an example of the protest of women to prove that woman in Iran have always been protesting against the Islamic rules. More over, I believe, to abolish stoning we have to address the root of it, which is the Islamic rule. Nowadays, political Islam is one the main reason for women’s misery in the Islamic-stricken countries therefore, the first step to save millions of women in these countries from stoning, abuse and violence is separation of state from religion and bringing down the political Islam from power.
Finally, what we can do about this situation and how can we help?We are all here because we do care about women’s rights and we are against the brutal law of stoning. This conference and other conferences such as this are a good opportunity to find out about women’s situation in different countries but more importantly, these conferences are good opportunity to build international solidarity in defense of women’s rights as well. At the moment three women Ferdos.B, Sima and Shahnaz are in prison in Iran and waiting to be killed and as I mentioned previously, Shahnaz’s sentence has been finalized. Right now the ICAS has two campaigns, one is to save Amina Lawal in Nigeria and one is to save Shahnaz in Iran. You can join this committee and its campaigns to save the lives of these two women and to abolish stoning law in all the Islamic-stricken countries. No matter where we are from, stoning a woman to death is an insult to every one of us and to humanity.
We have a resolution condemning stoning in all Islamic-stricken countries. I would like to urge the conference to adopt this resolution and send it to the respective governments.
We need to show the world that we will not stand idle while women are massacred.
We must show to the world that we are united to defend women’s rights.
Women’s rights are universal.
Together we can make a difference.
*Speech in a conference on Women’s Rights in Naples- Italy-2003