Besieged Iranian Feminists Find Global Support

Iranian authorities confiscated poet Simin Behbehani’s passport today–International Women’s Day–as Behbehani, 82, was on her way to Paris to read her poems at a conference on women’s issues.

Such treatment is sad but not surprising: Iran’s state prisons are filled with feminists, journalists, student activists and labor organizers who allegedly “threatened national security” by peacefully marching on the streets to demand their rights. The arrests, imprisonments, torture and intimidations of their families and friends by the Iranian state authorities are mounting. And members of the One Million Signature Campaign–the four-year-old movement to end discriminatory gender laws in Iran–face arrest warrants on a  daily basis.

So it’s heartening that Iranian feminists’ call for solidarity on this March 8 has been greeted warmly around the world. More than forty women’s rights and human rights organizations from around the world, including the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, have signed on to the call for solidarity put out several months ago. They’re joined by more than 1,350 individuals–prominent human rights and women’s rights activists as well as feminist scholars and everyday citizens. Anyone anywhere can join.

Thanks to such support, the arrests and harassments of activists do not have their intended effect: They only embolden the growing Iranian women’s rights movement, which has demonstrated tremendous flexibility and strong transnational ties. Since the controversial June 12th presidential election, Iranian women have been on the forefront of the peaceful demonstrations that gave birth to the versatile and vibrant revolutionary movement known as the “Green Movement.” The Mourning Mothers of Iran formed one week after the brutal death of Neda Agha Soltan in the aftermath of the June 2009 presidential election. Although their website has been filtered by the ministry of information and more than 80 members have been detained, questioned or harassed by security forces, their call for the prosecution of all those responsible for killings, arrests, disappearances and imprisonment of their children has gained much resonance at home and abroad. They’ve recently gained the support of the Argentinean group Mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentine, formed in 1980 in response to the disappearance of children there. More and more mothers in Iran are joining the cause.

Despite state pressure, the Iranian women’s movement is strengthening. The plight of Iranian women is being heard about around the world.


Received these beautiful photos of solidarity marches in Paris on March 8, 2010:

Photos courtesy of photographer Maryam A.


  1. I am consistently amazed at the remarkable courage displayed during these turbulent times by countless Iranians fighting for peace and freedom. Iranian feminists and their bravery in the face of extreme adversity are an inspiration, thanks Elham.

  2. hollytomlinson says:

    In Argentina the Madres de Plaza de Mayo used the traditional notions of motherhood that the Junta promoted against it when they demanded answers about their “disappeared” adult children. Although many paid a high price, this combination of tapping into traditional ideals- even the military had a hard time openly condemning these saintly mothers – and revolutionary action, was ultimately effective. They showed how powerful mothers and housewives can be when they are organized. It’s great to see the solidarity when the Mourning Mothers taking on a similar struggle in a different time and place.

  3. Heather says:

    Missed Ms. Musings with Christine. Glad Ms. is doing a blog again. Hope we get hard hitting looks on sexism because it runs rampant in the US and we need something online similar to the thing Ms. does in print with advertising. We need strong women online who will battle as hard as we have to in the real world.
    I hope Ms. will be a leader in that battle. Ava and C.I. of The Third Estate Sunday Review are among the leaders online in my book. They don’t shy from calling out sexism whether it’s a supposed friend like The Nation magazine publishing two-thirds more male bylines or taking on the lack of female guests on Pacifica’s KPFA.
    Strides were made and I feel they have been lost. I’m ready to do my part.

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