Message of Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President, on International Women’s Day

Women of Iran, we do not forget you!

Friday 7 March 2008

FIDH, March 8, 2008: The President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Souhayr Belhassen, has sent a message of solidarity to Iranian womens rights activists involved in the One Million Signatures Campaign, , on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The text of this message appears below:

For you, Iranian women who are fighting for the Equality,

On this year 2008, anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, March 8 has a particular dimension. If sixty years ago, the Declaration recognized that: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights", today this equality is still far from being respected universally, in particular for women. This 8 of March, we are celebrating the international women’s day. If this day exists, it is to recall that women’s rights are an integral part of human rights. On this occasion, on behalf of FIDH and its 155 member organizations around the world, I wish to express our solidarity with you, Iranian women who continue to fight, day after day, to defend your dignity.

If repression against the organized movements of civil society in general has increased over past years in Iran, women’s rights activists are a particular target of this repression. Since June 2006, tens of women’s rights activists have been victims of extremely severe retaliatory measures; we express today our firmest support in the courageous combat that you are carrying out.

We support your Campaign for the Equality launched in August 2006 and the initiative aiming at collecting "one million signatures". We share your objectives aiming at promoting the people’s education about women’s rights and the abrogation of the discriminatory laws. You initiated movement exemplary for its pacifism, its legitimate claims, its scope, and this in spite of the risks, repression and the censure that you are facing. By gathering men and women of various social backgrounds, you demonstrate that women’s rights concern all of us and that progress can only result from a collective movement.

We particularly wish to express our solidarity with all the women arbitrarily arrested, detained, and condemned because defending women’s rights is considered as a threat to State security. Today, we have a particular thought for Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi, arrested in October and November 2007 and arbitrarily detained since then, without any charge nor trial, for the mere peaceful exercise of their rights. We wish to express our support to your refusal to accept the daily arbitrariness.

Facing a legislation denying women their most basic rights, facing a State repressing the least initiative aiming at promoting women’s rights, you represent the hope for all women in Iran. The hope that one day, women in Iran and everywhere in the world will not be any more afraid of being arrested, imprisoned or tortured for having wished a better future. Your commitment is not forgotten. You are not forgotten. We, defenders of human rights, only feel profound respect for the force of your convictions, your objectives, your courage and your perseverance.

Today, we think of you, prevented from expressing yourselves on this day, which is nevertheless dedicated to you. We hope sincerely that one day, this day will not be anymore known for the number of arrests, but for the importance of the demonstrations in favour of women’s rights, and that the international women’s day will be freely celebrated in Iran and everywhere in the world.

Souhayr Belhassen

President of the FIDH


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