LONDON: British parliamentarians have denounced Iran’s “appalling” treatment of women on International Women’s Day, and urged their government and European counterparts to take a tougher stance against Tehran.
At an online event on Monday hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and attended by Arab News, politicians from the UK’s House of Commons and House of Lords — most of them members of the British Committee for Iran Freedom — said women in Iran live as second-class citizens under a system of gender apartheid.
“When I look at what the women of Iran have had to endure in terms of their rights, their health, their roles in society in general, I realize how limited their rights are and how brave they are when they object,” said Amber Rudd, an MP and former Cabinet minister.
“In Iran, women have to endure a religious regime that gives them few rights. They don’t have the freedom to choose how to live their life, to the law, or to welfare benefits to survive.”
She praised the tenacity and courage of Iranian women for the central role they have played in overtly and covertly resisting the regime.
“In Iran, it’s so much more difficult to challenge the regime — difficult, illegal and above all dangerous. But it’s fascinating to see how the women of Iran do fight back,” Rudd added.
Invoking the motto of International Women’s Day 2021, she said Iranian women “choose to challenge.”
Conservative MP Matthew Offord said he believes “women in Iran deserve support and greater international recognition as they take on and challenge the brutal theocracy.”
He added: “This is a regime that treats half of its population, the women, in such an appalling way by depriving them not only of their fundamental right to freedom, but also their dignity. It’s not a regime that can be trusted.”
The politicians had a clear message for the British government: Stand up to Tehran, and do not tolerate the human rights abuses that have been rampant since the Islamic Republic’s inception.
They highlighted various egregious examples of abuses against women committed by Tehran — but the case of Zahra Esmaili, they said, stood out for its cruelty.
Esmaili, a mother of two, was sentenced to death after pleading guilty to murdering her physically and sexually abusive husband — a senior intelligence member.
She took the blame for her daughter, who it is widely believed shot him as he was assaulting her.
Esmaili died of a heart attack in February after witnessing 16 hangings before her own. Security forces, her lawyer said, hung her body anyway.
Maryam Rajavi, head of the NCRI, said Esmaili’s case is shocking but not surprising. “The number of women executed during (President Hassan) Rouhani’s term has reached 114, making Iran the world record holder in executing women,” she added.
“The regime wants to preserve its rule through repression. However, Iranian women play critical roles in challenging the regime and pushing for its overthrow. Women are Tehran’s prime victims, and they therefore have greater motivation to end this regime.”