In observance of March 8, international women’s day, a collective of women’s rights has issued a call for protest. The collective has called upon those who demand equality and economic justice to come together in front of the Ministry of Labor between 12-1pm on Thursday March 8. The aim of the protest organizers is object to existing policies that discriminate against women and promote inequality, especially economic inequality, while pressing upon the rights of citizens, especially women, to be present in the public space and to protest.
The statement issued by the collective points out the gendered dimensions of economic concerns that brought so many protesters to the streets in January across Iran. The organizers are critical of what they call neoliberal economic policies which have squeezed women out of the labour market and into informal spheres, where women lack security. In their statement the collective points out: “more than half of women work without contracts or with temporary ones, earn very low wages and are deprived of basic minimum legal rights. The majority of those informal workers are migrants who are more vulnerable to those exploitive relations of production.”
Protest organizers hope to bring attention to the economic plight of women and their need for employment and job security at all levels of society. “Even women working in the more official sphere of the labour market are faced with great obstacles as workers, such as lack of job security, extreme control over their clothing and behavior, or restrictions of public services such as kindergartens after pregnancy. On the other hand, the unemployment rate of women has reached twice that of men, with the unemployment rate for educated women being much higher.”
The Collective is calling for this protest despite the fact that its members have concerns about being arrested. One activist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the site of “Iranian Women, that “it is likely that the protest will be prevented from taking place or if it does take shape it may be disbursed with violence.” In fact, security concerns are the reason why protest organizers have not publicly identified themselves, but the call to protest has been carried by several women’s websites in Iran, as a show of legitimacy.
Women’s groups, demanding equal rights have planned protests in the past, which resulted in arrests and charges against protesters and organizers. Tens of women and rights activists, who showed up at Azadi Stadium to protest a ban on women attending sports games, were detained on March 1. They were let go several hours later. But previous protests planned by women’s groups demanding equal rights, including the right to enter stadiums have turned violent, with protesters, and organizers arrested and charged. The last public protest called by women activists on March 8th was in 2006, which was forcibly disbursed by security forces. In June 2006, a protest organized by women activists calling for legal equality was attacked by security forces, before protesters could fully gather. Scores of protesters were arrested and the organizers were charged with endangering national security.
While Iran has a long history of protests, it also has a long history of violent suppression of protesters. National protests in January 2018 demanding accountability from government on a range of issues, including economic issues, resulted in scores of arrests with 25 persons killed in violence that ensued. More recently the peaceful protest of Sufis of the Gonabadi order turned violent, with 5 security officers reported dead, and an estimated 400 Darwish protesters arrested after being brutally beaten. According to reports at least one of the protesters died in hospital, as a result of beatings, while scores are in critical condition.
Following is the statement of the collective, published on their telegram channel.
Women and men demand emancipation, justice and equality
The 8th of march is approaching, the day in which women all over the world struggle for more human conditions and against injustice. In spite of its past success through the years, this struggle still has a long way until equality.
In the last years, it is the shoulders of women which were forced to carry the crisis of the system of capital more than ever before. We are witnessing the lives of women becoming more difficult than ever. Those in control of power and capital try to get through their crisis by increasing the exploitation of women, but our sisters have stood up fiercely all over the world and have cried out in protest any chance they had.
For years, Iranian women are chained as well by different discriminations and inequalities. The unjust laws of marriage, divorce, inheritance etc. have effectively made women into second level citizens of sorts. Women do not have legal protection against domestic violence and street harassments. Their rights on their bodies have been ignored with all sorts of excuses; at times by the compulsory wearing of hijab, at times through limitations and prohibitions of free access to contraception and birth control.
The chaotic economic situation is a further factor weighing in on top of all those discriminations. Women have suffered tremendously from neo-liberal policies such as privatizations. One result of such policies is the pushing out of women from the official labour market and into its precarious, informal spheres. More than half of women work without contracts or with temporary ones, earn very low wages and are deprived of basic minimum legal rights. The majority of those informal workers are migrants who are more vulnerable to those exploitive relations of production. Even women working in the more official sphere of the labour market are faced with great obstacles as workers, such as lack of job security, extreme control over their clothing and behavior, or restrictions of public services such as kindergartens after pregnancy. On the other hand, the unemployment rate of women has reached twice that of men, with the unemployment rate for educated women being much higher. In many cases, sexist requirements and considerations such as marital status, age and look play a major role in being hired. Once they make it through those barriers, though, women workers do not reach the end of their difficulties but are rather confronted with further limitations such as job insecurity and sexual harassment at the workplace.
The history of the Iranian women’s struggle shows that they have never silently accepted injustice and inequality. Not only have women individually tried to improve their personal lives, but they have also seized every opportunity to organize and struggle collectively.
The road to the emancipation of women from patriarchal, capitalist and other dominations is long. It is for this reason that we, a collective of women rights’ activists in Iran, gather once again to insist on our rights to the streets , to protest and voice our objection to inequality, injustice and the unfavorable situation of women, especially in the Iranian labour market.
We, women and men for equality, ask all those who strive for a more just world, all the workers, teachers, nurses, kindergarten teachers, retirees, students, women homemakers and social movements’ activists to stand with us on Thursday, 8th of march 2018, 11am to 12pm, in front of the ministry of labour.