In an early celebration of International Women’s Day, a cross party group of MPs highlighted the systematic discrimination and marginalisation of women in Iran at a conference in the House of Commons on Tuesday, February 28, 2017.

The FCO Human Rights Priority Country update report published on February 8, states that “The human rights situation in Iran remains deeply worrying … [and] Women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men in Iran and continue to face discrimination.

Iran ranks among the worst countries in the world when it comes to women’s rights. It remains in the bottom 5th percentile of 142 countries in overall equality for women. The laws in the country reduces women and girls to a second class citizens denying them their most fundamental rights including the freedom of choosing their clothing. Over 70 women have been executed since Rouhani took office and there are three confirmed cases of women being sentenced to death by stoning.

The president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), Mrs Maryam Rajavi, thanked MPs for their cross party support for the Iranian women’s struggle for democracy and equal rights.

The mullahs' aggressions in the Middle East and its nuclear and missile programmes have drawn much attention. However, we must highlight these vital realities in Iran; A deep political and social crisis, a society ready for change, and an organised movement in which women have an important role”, she said.

In fact, women are the force for change in Iran … I call on the world community, particularly the women of Britain and the Houses of Parliament to support the Iranian women's struggle against the misogynist regime”, Mrs Rajavi concluded in her video message to the meeting.

The Prime Minister was right to warn about Iran’s malign influence in the region. She should equally stand up for women’s rights in Iran, where the theocracy’s institutionalised misogyny hampers millions of women from shaping the future of their country for the better”, Steve McCabe, the Labour MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak said.

Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan, the Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, said, “I look forward to an Iran where all people can be treated equally and women play a full part throughout civil and political life.

Sir Alan Meale, the Labour MP for Mansfield said, “I believe a free and democratic Iran is an essential and vital ingredient towards a free democratic world. I applaud the Iranians who stand up against the present regime and pledge my support for their endeavours.

Linda Lee, former President of the Law Society of England and Wales, who chaired the conference highlighted the plight of several women activists in Iran including Maryam Akbari Monfared, Narges Mohammadi and Mansoureh Behkish.

These prisoners of conscience are being punished with long-term prison sentences either for their activities against capital punishment or for demanding those responsible for the mass killings during the 80s to be held accountable, including the known perpetrators of the massacre of 30.000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988”, she said. She joined the other participants in calling for their immediate release.

Speaking on behalf of her constituent, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is held prisoner in Iran on made-up charges under appalling conditions, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tulip Siddiq, said, “the way this British mother is being treated in the Iranian prison system is inhumane and totally unacceptable. The government must step up its pressure on the Iranian authorities for her immediate release so that she and her daughter can be reunited with their family in West Hampstead.

Panellists from both Houses of Parliament were also joined by solicitors, women’s rights activists and members of the Anglo-Iranian Community who called on the British government to take the lead on the international scene to pressurise the Iranian authorities to “eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination and other human rights violations against women and girls”, as demanded by the international community in the latest UN resolution on human rights in Iran.

Ms Dowlat Nowrouzi, the NCRI UK Representative said, “A new era has begun. Appeasing the religious dictatorship ruling Iran with their brutal “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)” responsible for execution of tens of thousands of women in Iran and sponsoring terrorism in the region, proved to be counterproductive. The world leaders must start firmness and make this regime accountable for its crimes. It is time to evict IRGC terror forces from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the rest of the Middle East and impose punitive sanctions against them.

Women in the Iranian resistance have challenged the misogynist regime on all fronts … They played a crucial role to lead our movement to become a serious and strong alternative against the godfather of Islamic extremism and terrorism”, said Safora Sadidi of NCRI Women’s Committee.

Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool, Crossbench member of the House of Lords, reiterated that “Our efforts to confront and degrade Islamic extremism in the Middle East cannot only rely on a military solution. Our best allies are the moderate forces, like Mrs Rajavi and her movement the NCRI, which our government should support to establish their 10-point democratic platform that offers a clear road-map for a free and democratic Iran.

Other participants included, Baroness Harris of Richmond DL, Liberal Democrat member of House of Lords; Rt Hon Theresa Villiers, Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet; Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley; Mrs Louise Ellman, Labour (Co-op) MP for Liverpool, Riverside; Lord Clarke of Hampstead CBE, Labour member of the House of Lords; Lady Valerie Corbett, prominent human rights and women’s rights activist; Margaret Owen OBE, Director WPD and Human Rights Lawyer; Sue Willman, the Law Society Human Rights Committee; Dr Tahar Boumedra, former UN Human Rights chief in Iraq; Azadeh Hosseini, president of the Anglo-Iranian teachers association; and Farzaneh Hosseini, lawyer and human rights activist.

British Committee for Iran Freedom

28 February 2017