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Statement of Shirin Ebadi on March 8, International Women's Day
Women and the Constitution
Wed 2 03 2011

Fellow Citizens,
Thirty-two years ago on March 8, International Women’s Day, a statement broadcast on national television, stripped women employed by the government of one of their most basic rights--the freedom to choose their own dress. Since then and incrementally the identity and the character of the Iranian woman has become the target of attacks by men who didn’t even respect the rights of their mothers. Those who viewed themselves more worthy than even their mothers, shamelessly wrote laws which valued women as half that of men. Laws that proclaimed that “the Dieh or the blood money of women was valued at half that of men.” Ungrateful politicians had forgotten women’s struggle in ensuring the victory of the Revolution and through their laws they stated that “the testimony of two women was to be equal to the testimony of one man in court.”
The men who had been raised in a patriarchal culture wrote laws which sought to ensure the pleasure of men, permitting them the practice of polygamy and allowing them to take up to four permanent wives and tens of temporary wives. In some government centers, men were openly encouraged to enter into temporary marriage—a practice promising not only earthly pleasure but heavenly rewards.
Dear Sisters
For years women’s demands for justice have been silenced under a variety of pretexts--on occasion with the excuse of misuse by those opposing the Revolution, other times blaming the war with Iraq, or for the preservation of national security or with the excuse of waging war against world arrogance. More painful still was the fact that not only the political elite, but many intellectuals contributed to the effort which sought to forget women. Over the past thirty-two years some fought to gain power and some fought to prove their ideology. As such, women’s demands for justice were not acknowledged in a worthy manner.
Those brave women who spoke of equal rights and called for equality, were met with batons and had lashings inflicted upon them by the defenders of the Regime. Some found themselves imprisoned and some were even executed. Eventually though, when someday we celebrate the liberty of humans and not just that of men, the history that our children will write will indeed be different.
Liberated Women of Iran
March 8th 2011 is a special day. On this day, besides the equal rights of women, the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people will also be demanded. We, as women though, should be vigilant, ensuring that in the midst of political upheaval and political developments, we do not forget about our long time demand for “equal rights.” On this day, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers, we will come to the streets to support the popular and broad democratic demands, because achieving “equal rights” is possible only if voiced in a democratic system. But, we must not allow anyone to disregard our demands under the auspices of preventing crisis or avoiding divisiveness. The achievement of “equal rights” requires the reform of discriminatory laws and realizing this goal requires the reform of parts of the constitution. In fact, the revision of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran should not be viewed as a political demand rather it should be viewed as a civil movement.
Iranian women are not starved for political power nor are they demanding decadence. They are simply weary of enduring more cruelty and disparagement. They are in search of justice and equality.
Lend us your support and solidarity and help the women’s movement in its quest to achieve “equality.”

Shirin Ebadi
March 2, 2011

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Defenders of Human Rights Center
Member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)