World Women’s Day, Sunday March 8th – and the role of women in opposing the brutality of the Iranian regime.
Speaking today in the Boothroyd Room of Parliament at a meeting about Women’s rights in Iran and the Struggle for democratic change, Lord Alton invoked the memory of Emily Wilding Davison, one of the brave suffragettes who died during the struggle for women’s emancipation in the UK.
He pointed to the courage of many women in today’s Iran – especially the bravery of Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the Iranian Resistance, – and said that just as it had taken a long struggle to achieve women’s emancipation in Britain it has required a dedicated campaign of self-sacrifice to keep alive hopes of freedom and democracy in a plural and secular Iran.
He recalled the massacre of 30,000 members of the Resistance in 1988, which began with a fatwa from the highest authority in Iran the first Supreme Leader, Khomeini
– Those who did not renounce the main Iranian opposition, after interrogated by a three man death commission were executed on charges of waging war against God, according to Khomeini’s decree.
According to revelations by the late Ayatollah Montazeri , the Supreme Leader in-waiting at the time, and released in an audiotape in 2016, girls as young as 15 or 16 years of age, as well as pregnant women were executed in prisons across the country by the regime’s authorities during the massacre.,
Montazeri especially opposed the execution of women and criticised the death commissions saying: I reminded Khomeini, the Supreme Leader at the time, that according to Shiite Jurisprudence and the decrees of most religious experts, a woman, even if she is a Mohareb, (at war with God), must not be executed. But he did not agree, and said that women, too, must be executed.
Montazeri, also described the massacre as the worst crime in the history of the Islamic Republic and said that “Fifty years from now, they may judge us and say that Khomeini was a bloodthirsty killer. We have shown the ugly face of the supreme leader.”
Amnesty International did an extensive report on the 1988 massacre in December 2018 interviewing victims and their families. Amnesty writes: Thirty years on, a burning sense of anguish, uncertainty and injustice continues to haunt the victims’ families. Some, particularly elderly mothers, are still in disbelief that their relative is dead or say that their loved ones have remained for them somewhere between life and death. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde13/9421/2018/en/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKtI9tAIR5E&feature=youtu.be
That is why Amnesty and others have said the 1988 massacre is an ongoing crime against humanity
But the atrocities are not over. They still continue.
The regime has arrested 12,000 during and following the recent protests. Many of them are women and we know of the appalling conditions in the regime’s prisons and the use of torture, especially rape in case of women.
We know this from the case of Maryam Akbari Monfared, 41, mother of three daughters, who was arrested in late December 2009, after contacting her siblings who are members of the opposition.
Maryam Akbari Monfared was charged with waging war on God, supporting the Resistance and sentenced to 15 years in prison in a 5-minute trial without access to legal counsel. She is detained in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison.
Maryam Akbari Monfared’s sister Roghayeh and brother Abdolreza were among several thousand political prisoners who were executed during 1988 massacre. They were then dumped into mass unmarked graves.
Without international pressure, those arrested during the recent protests are at risk of execution.
Lord Alton concluded by reiterating three recommendations he has made to the UK Government:
- the UK Government should take immediate steps at the Security Council to declare leaders of the clerical regime as perpetrators of crimes against humanity for decades of systematic human rights abuses.
- The UK and its international allies should be seeking a referral at a very minimum to the International Criminal Court for the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran’s prisons, the killing of over 1,500 protesters, including 400 women, and the brutal crackdown on the recent popular uprisings; and.
- If these proposals are vetoed or blocked, the UK Government should be helping to establish a regional tribunal to bring those to justice who have been responsible for these atrocities.