March 4th, 2012
Speech of Homa Arjomand on International Women’s Day conference
Title: the rise of the popular movement in the Middle East & North Africa,
The rise of political Islam
What does the future hold for women in these countries?
Happy International Women’s Day to everyone, at first I would like to thank the organizers of the conference. I am so very sorry not to be able to attend this conference. But we live in an age where technology allows you to hear my speech all the way from Canada. We have been fortunate to use social media to organize and run various campaigns globally which has played an important role to connect us to the organizers of the uprising in the Middle East and North Africa.
The original uprising of people in the Middle East and North Africa was to get rid of dictatorships and to gain freedom, equality and prosperity. The unrest was to end poverty, starvation, unemployment, homelessness, economic insecurity, deprivation, discrimination, inequality, political repression, ignorance, prejudice, and political insecurity. The uprising was to gain political and welfare rights. Instead what the protesters witnessed in the region had nothing to do with their desired value, essential needs and demands. People soon realized that the state of political Islam and Islamic terrorism had been reinforced upon them with direct involvement of the US and its allies. The result is the obvious imposition of the reactionary and anti-human Islamic laws on people, from beheading and mutilations, to planting bombs and mass murder. Women are now the first target of Islamic movement in the region. The mass arrests included young mothers who have been tortured before their children to obtain confessions; arrest of activists and organizers of women, workers and students’ movement has been the first attempt of Islamists in order to suppress the popular uprising in the region.
One main factor in this stage play is being ignored, and that is not to see the route and the cause of the uprising.The movement for freedom, prosperity and equality has strong connection with people’s routine and daily activities. Can you imagine an industrialized society with a great young educated population, being against or not being in favour of modernism? A society can be silent under the role of dictators, but no dictator can ever push back the modern, progressive and secular lives of people without their harsh daily resistance. This is why people in Iran are in constant challenge with the Islamic regime for their political freedom, and civil rights. With the circumstances that they are in and with the daily face to face confrontation, people have no choice but to take a political approach against the Islamic state.
What I intend to proclaim is that the prospect for secularism in Iran is very obvious. Iran, as a society, has been dedicated to civilization and has the thirst for modernism for Western culture. The struggle of women against the compulsory veil, the thirst of young girls to achieve university degrees and higher education, the attraction of youth towards Western culture, music, film and fashion, the struggle of women to obtain the right to divorce and the right to have custody of their children, right to travel and work, all present the force of this movement.
There is an approach by known experts in the Middle East that believes only with the endorsement of a cultural and intellectual Reno sans secular democracy can be promoted in the Middle East and North Africa. The followers of this approach first assume 90% of people in the region are Moslem just because by birth they are. They further assume that the members of society in the region have no desire for political freedom and civil rights and then reached this assumption; they conclude that citizens of the society in this region are followers of a backward tradition and religion. Their proposal is to put more effort on education, mostly cultural education, and criticize religion in a philosophical way. The followers of this approach, purposely ignore, the grass root movement for freedom, equality and prosperity which can not be achieved without total separation of religion from the state. The reality is with this approach, they are trying to prevent religion from falling. They are trying hard to save the Islamic Regime in the region by planting the notion that Islam can become moderate; with this notion came about the leaders of green movement in Iran and Muslim Brother Hood in Egypt.
But the reality and the need of society, as well as the movement of people, have proven differently. In order to survive, people need to achieve a modern civil life. It is impossible to ask highly educated women to deny their basic rights and become submissive towards the men in their households. It is impossible to treat women as second-class citizens while they are holding jobs in industrial firms or service offices. It is impossible to expect youths not to enjoy the happy colourful life and live like the student of theology, in era of Internet and high technology.
That is why we are faced with a mass movement in the region that will not settle for anything less than what they desire and that is freedom, equality and prosperity.
Proudly enough women are at the forefront of this movement in the region. I strongly believe that soon we will overcome this obstacle too.
Thanks for having me. And once ore happy International Women’s Day