|Els Demol – Women Representing New Progressive Culture in Middle East|
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 12:48|
Thank you. Mrs. Rajavi, ladies and gentlemen, I was invited here today on the occasion of International Women’s Day and I’m honored to be with all of you here, a distinguished group of women’s rights defenders. Whenever I speak about women’s rights, the first thing I do is check in the hall to see how many men are present, men who support the idea and the struggle for women’s rights. After all, women’s rights are human rights. In an ideal world, that’s what we would be talking about today, the universal declaration of human rights. The first article of the declaration says, all human rights, all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world.
For more than three decades now, Iranian women and men have lived and suffered under one of the most brutal dictatorships the world has ever known. From 1979 onwards, thousands of political prisoners were put to death by the state, many in summary executions. The Islamic criteria enshrined in the new constitution and subsequent legislation were used by the authorities for many violations of human rights. Women’s rights were one of the first casualties. It was decreed that a woman’s worth was half a man’s. It’s not a coincidence that women were the first target of the rulers, I am convinced, that Iranian women have always been a force for change towards freedom and democracy. Many Iranian women are in jail today for having an opinion, for simply daring to think. I give you now [0:03:23] today as an example, a human rights lawyer who was imprisoned for defending protesters after the sham presidential elections in 2009.
Mrs. Rajavi and brave women, your active role in this long lasting struggle is a sign of a new progressive culture in the Middle East. You are prepared to stand up to the totalitarian regimes, no matter what the price. It is this attitude that is now inspiring women in the Arab countries and the rest of the Middle East. Today, I also want to bring a special tribute to the brave people in Ashraf and in Camp Liberty. Among them are a thousand vanguard women who, in recent years, have tolerated the most unbearable pressures by the regime of Iran and its allies in the Iraqi government. Despite being deprived of the most basic provisions, like water, medicines, and medical treatment, despite injury, despite the loss of lives, you stand firm in your beliefs of freedom and democracy. You are an example and therefore a source of hope and motivation for millions of oppressed women inside Iran and the rest of the world. [applause]
[0:05:08] use this opportunity to address the situation of Camp Liberty, which is turning into a prison for the residents. And I’m worried. I’m worried about the women in Camp Liberty, who are under constant surveillance of the regime’s cameras that were set up all around the camp. And to top it off, there is a constant intimidation of these brave women by the Iraqi guards just outside their dormitories. It is time for the head of the UN mission in Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler, to finally speak out very loud and to use his powerful position to make the Iraqi government respect minimum assurances for the residents in Camp Liberty.
Mrs. Rajavi, ladies and gentlemen, being myself a member of the Belgian parliament, someone’s daughter, the mother of several children, a sister to many, simply being a women, I am deeply moved by your courage and sincerely honored to be here today with you. And I will give you continued support in your fight for human dignity, women’s rights, justice and liberty in a free Iran. Thank you. [applause]
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