An inspiration to all women, Iranian women like Kasandan, the woman who, after Cyrus the Great, was the first powerful personality in Iran and the queen of 28 countries while ruling alongside her spouse, Iranian women have created, worked, and even fought in battle, side-by-side their men.
And although Iranian women may have had freedom and equality during certain parts of Persian history, in Iran’s more recent history…they’ve had to fight for many of their basic rights.
Originally called “International Working Women’s Day”, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been observed on March 8th every year, since 1911. Now, it’s more just a day of worldwide celebration of women: The type of celebratory action practiced, is said to be regional. (Practices include: basic celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women, in addition to; women’s economic, political and social achievements.)
Shortly after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, on March 8th 1979 thousands of Iranian women all across Iran came out to the streets to celebrate IWD.
More than 15,000 Iranian women rallied in Tehran alone when Tehran’s population was merely around 5 million.
In true shirzan (Persian: lioness) form, the Iranian women’s movement bravely protested Khomeini’s post-Supreme-Leader-of-Iran-achievement surprise hejaab and Islamic Laws.
Flash-forward 32 years, and it seems as though Iranian women are still pushing forward with their struggle, regardless of the repercussions.
Watch/listen to this moving video of the demonstrations in 1979.
Partial transcript of the video:
Narrator: Freedom is not Eastern nor Western. It is universal. Revolution is meaningless without women’s freedom, we do not want hejaab. The police tried to disperse the crowd by firing bullets in the air, in response women chanted: “We are not scared.” March 8th 1979, women around Tehran were discussing the imposition of Hejab ordered by Khomeini. [One] woman said, “Demonstration against hejaab is an opportunity for women to be in solidarity with each other. Hejab is people’s issue (sic) it is unbelievable […].”
[Another] woman said, “We participated in the revoluiotn like men did, we were killed. We fought for our freedom. If Khomeini behaves like this…I, as a Mulsim will come out of my religion.”
Black lace-veiled woman said, “We want equal rights as men do. Our children are educted and want to be free. If this continues I will become a kaafar, a heretic. I have been wearing veil for years. I did not come to this demonstration to say I don’t want the veil, I have 6 daughters I don’t want my daughters to wear veil, I don’t want men to force them to wear veil. I came here to defend my daughters against the veil.”
Around the hospitals, demonstrators say salute to nurse, independence freedom, real republic. Islamic fanatics insulted the demonstrators, attacked and beat them.
A girl said, “Last week, I felt threatened in the streets. Some men [asked] me why I was not wearing a veil. I was not feeling safe at all. Every car passing me insulted me. But I know that I should resist and defend myself. We were demonstrating before. At that time, the army was in the streets, and we were not scared, we fought back. Now, why should we be scared of these few men?”
Slogans of women our women are hardworking and liberated.
Woman in red said: “The government raised the issue of hejaab. We were part of this revolution. We studied and worked in the hospital. We treated the wounded during the revolution. After the army surrendered…We were in the streets. Then Khomeini said, ‘enough of demonstration. Go back your homes’. We did that. Since Thursday, we came back to [the] streets again, we do not want hejab. If you wanted to impose hejaab…you must have told us before. We had the revolution to have equal rights for women and men. Women in law were the first to react against the new action. We followed them. We want to fight back. We have to speak up right now for our rights, otherwise when they write the constitutional laws, it will be too late. First they impose the hejaab, and them other discriminations (sic) will come. They’ll impose restrictions on marriage and divorce, and finally will force us to stay at home. As nurses we cannot wear too much clothing. Our clothes must be comfortable. We cannot work properly with that hejab and the kind of dress code they’re asking us [to follow]. It prevents us from serving our patients in the best possible way.”
Interview with Kate Miller, Women’s activist from US. “I have never seen anything like this. 10,000-15,000 women demonstrating. In us, any protest like this requires so much work. Here they write on a piece of cardboard, and everybody will come to the rally. These women were under pressure for many years and went through a revolution. They’re not scared of death. They stood up in front of tanks and won. I have never heard feminists speak this way.
Student protesters held signs reading: “Dictatorship is condemned in any shape, women’s freedom is not Eastern nor Western…it is universal.
Demonstrator Mojgan said, “I want to be free and say what I want and do what I want. I will not bear these pressure. I want to write about anything that I was not allowed to write about. My mom thinks like me and she defends freedom.”
After the glorious March 8 1979 demonstration, Iranian women continued their path. Sat. March 9th; Rally in university. Sunday March 10th; sit-in in front of palace of justice, on Sat., Khomeini backed off and declared that hejaab was not compulsory. This was the first victory for women.
On March 12th university of Tehran and Freedom Square were again the scene of women’s demonstrations. Thgousands of women demonstrated and said, “We are awakened, our demonstration is not jut about hejab…but it has a wide range. We want equal pay. the right of employment for women, freedom of speech, association and organization.
“[During the Shah’s reign] we had nothing. Iran had 4,000 female political prisoners. Women politicized with the movement against the shah, these demonstrations after the revolution are a confutation of that struggle. We will continue our struggle until the complete emancipation of women. WIthout freedom for women, no real revolution can exist. Here women are protesting in front of the TV station in Tehran, which is run by the fanatics Islamists. We have no voice in TV, only the islamic govt has the right to speak. 15,000 women demonstrated and they did not say anything about it, because Mr. Ghotbzadeh did not like it. They only said that a few women with knives came in front of the tv building. We were demonstrating to say the govt., has not right to boss us around. We the women, ourselves, have to make decisions and to choose.”