CHRI – More than 300 Iranian women’s rights’ activists have expressed support for the recent anti-government protests in Iran and demanded an end to state policies that discourage women from entering the workforce.
“As campaigners against discrimination and advocates of equality, we feel it is our duty to be part of this multi-layered movement and be present in the streets and other public spaces to demand our rights,” said a statement published on January 11, 2018, signed by prominent human rights defenders including Shirin Ebadi and Parastou Forouhar.
Continued the statement: “We believe the government should be accountable to the people’s demands without resorting to intimidation, discrimination and suppression. In addition to the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, we demand the freedom to organize groups and rallies and an end to policies that force women to stay home.”
At least 25 people were killed after weeklong demonstrations broke out across dozens of Iranian cities beginning on December 28, 2017. The authorities harshly repressed the demonstrations and hundreds of people remain detained without charge.
The activists noted that discriminatory practices against women in the workplace and state policies that discourage women from joining the workforce are adding to the country’s unemployment rate—a top concern voiced in the recent protests.
Wrote the activists: “Four years ago, the women’s movement issued a statement warning that more and more women were slipping into poverty. Today, even the official figures show that our predictions were correct. Between 2005 and 2014, every year 100,000 women lost their jobs. In 2014 alone, more than two-thirds of women who went on maternity leave lost their jobs.”
“In addition, while a growing number of women have been able to break sexist barriers in universities, their graduation certificates have not opened doors in the job market,” added the women’s rights activists.
The World Bank reported in October 2017 that Iran’s male and female unemployment rates of 21.8 and 10.4 percent respectively point to a widening employment gender gap in the country’s job market compared to 2015.
“In the past year, not a day went by without somewhere in this country witnessing peaceful protests by the masses, as fed-up workers and teachers demanded unpaid salaries or depositors sought lost savings from investment institutions,” wrote the activists.
“People held numerous rallies in front of Parliament and government offices to relay their problems to the officials,” continued the statement. “Now their unheard voices are being heard by everyone in demonstrations in the streets of cities and villages nationwide.”
“Today, many are urging people to stay calm,” wrote the activists. “They offer reasonable solutions for change. They describe street protests as dangerous and provocative in order to justify state violence.”
“However, the history of popular protests in the past three decades is full of similar peaceful civil actions being met by harsh and violent reactions… in violation of the people’s right to protest,” wrote the activists.
According to Article 27 of Iran’s Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”