The women of MEK: Five decades of struggle for freedom in Iran

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Article by PMOI/MEK

Iran, July 12, 2020—Iranian women’s struggle for freedom has had many torchbearers over the decades. Many known and unknown heroines who sacrificed their lives, family, homes, wealth and fame etc. for the cause of freedom.

There are heroines such as Fatemeh Amini and Mehrnoush Ebrahimi, who sacrificed their lives in the struggle against the Shah and became role models for female intellectuals and university students who were willing to make a sacrifice for change to happen. Or Ashraf Rajavi, a Bachelor of physics from Tehran’s Sharif Industrial University. Despite having the opportunity to lead a good life, Ashraf chose to help the underprivileged and travelled long distances to various cities and villages to learn about their problems and help them find solutions. She got to know the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and became an elite member of the organization. Her pioneering efforts inspired many young women and girls who joined the MEK movement after the revolution, and she became their role model. Today, her name symbolizes the dedication of Iranian women to freedom, and the MEK has named its headquarters, Ashraf 1 and Ashraf 3, after her.

The struggle for equality in Khomeini’s era

For more than four decades, the mullahs’ dictatorship has ruled Iran with an iron fist and a backward interpretation of Islam that humiliates and subjugates Iranian women, and excludes them from leading roles in the society. Iranian women have been the first and foremost victims of the fundamentalist regime.

After the 1979 revolution, the regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, took the first step to clamp down on women by declaring that wearing hijab (veil) was compulsory for all female government employees.

A large crowd of thousands of women protested forced hijab. But the peaceful protest was violently dispersed by Khomeini’s club wielders and hoodlums, yelling out the notorious slogan of “either the veil or a hit on the head” to humiliate and terrorize women and the public in general. This decision was strongly condemned in MEK’s statement on March 11, 1979, which stated, “any form of forced hijab is unacceptable.”

Since the beginning of the struggle of the Iranian Resistance against Khomeini’s dictatorship on June 20, 1981, many women participated in the Resistance and have fallen for freedom.

One of these heroines is Sorayya Abolfat’hi, who was pregnant at the time of her arrest but was very resistant under torture and was ultimately executed by the mullahs’ regime; or Masoumeh Azdanloo, who was four-months pregnant at the time, had been shot in the neck and was in coma at the time of her arrest; or Maryam Ghodsi Maab, a student sympathizer of the MEK in the southern city of Ahwaz, who underwent severe torture in prison and was finally executed on October 6, 1981.

It was so that thousands of other brave women lost their lives for the cause of freedom, without their names being known. Many Iranians still remember the front cover of Ettela’at newspaper the day after the June 20, 1981, demonstration, announcing the executions of young girls who had been arrested in the protests. The newspaper called on the parents of these young girls to come to the Judiciary’s Revolutionary Court to identify and collect the bodies of their loved ones. These young girls were executed without their names being known.

Front cover of Ettela’at newspaper announcing the executions of demonstrators arrested on 20 June 1981.

Front cover of Ettela’at newspaper announcing the executions of demonstrators arrested on 20 June 1981.

The rise of women’s leadership in the MEK

Maryam Rajavi pays tribute to the endurance of the vanguard heroines of Ashraf in IWD ceremony - February 25, 2017.

Maryam Rajavi pays tribute to the endurance of the vanguard heroines of Ashraf in IWD ceremony – February 25, 2017.

Despite mullahs’ regime ruthless repression of women, many Iranian women joined the MEK in the last four decades to continue the struggle for freedom. In fact, women have played a leading role in the struggle of the Iranian Resistance for freedom and equality.

Maryam Rajavi at the 40th anniversary of the start of Iranian people’s nationwide resistance, Day of Martyrs and Political Prisoners- June 20, 2020 - Ashraf 3

Maryam Rajavi at the 40th anniversary of the start of Iranian people’s nationwide resistance, Day of Martyrs and Political Prisoners- June 20, 2020 – Ashraf 3

In February 1985, Maryam Rajavi became the co-leader of the MEK. In 1989, she was declared the Secretary General of the MEK, and in 1993, she was elected as president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) for the transitional period of transferring power to the people of Iran after the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime.

Under her leadership, women in the Iranian Resistance have participated in the key decision-making positions in Iran’s largest opposition organization. More than 50 percent of the members of the NCRI are women who are holding various responsibilities in political, international, social, and cultural arenas.

The Resistance Units

The Iranian women’s struggle continues until this day, and the world witnessed in recent uprisings many women were among the leading figures of these protests. They are members of the Iranian Resistance Units, MEK’s network of activists inside Iran.

Activities of the Resistance Units – Democracy, freedom, with Maryam Rajavi – Tehran – July 1 and 2, 2020.

Activities of the Resistance Units – Democracy, freedom, with Maryam Rajavi – Tehran – July 1 and 2, 2020.

These days in various places across the country, Iranian women and youth install banners and posters that read “Dear Maryam, please return and make Iranian people happy,” “Dear Maryam, with you Iran will become a paradise,” “Maryam Rajavi is a symbol of bravery and inspiration for Iranian women,” and “Democracy and freedom with Maryam Rajavi.”

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