According to independent reports, some 400 women activists were killed in Iran during less than two weeks of nationwide protests in November 2019, while 114 have been executed in the Islamic Republic since 2013 when Hassan Rouhani became President.
Campaigners say that institutionalised discrimination by the ruling theocracy has stripped women of even the most basic rights such as choosing the clothes they wear.
A vast network of 27 state agencies enforce the mandatory wearing of the Hijab, including 10 ministries, and women are imprisoned and physically punished for the smallest infraction of stringent rules.
Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, Baroness Verma, Ministerial Champion for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Overseas and Chair for UN Women National Committee UK and Senator Catherine Noone are today to join dozens of politicians to make the call in a conference organised by pro-democracy group the National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
“The brutal suppression of, and systematic discrimination against, women are part and parcel of the clerical regime’s strategy to maintain its grip on power. Thousands of female political prisoners, including 13-18 years old girls have been executed. Imposing all forms of restrictions on women, including compulsory veiling and depriving them of their most rudimentary rights and freedoms, is intrinsic to this regime,“ said NCRI president-elect Maryam Rajavi.
“On the other hand, women have played a leading role in the struggle to overthrow the clerical regime, playing a pivotal role in five nationwide uprisings in the past two years.
“Generally speaking, the most pressing concerns regarding the Iranian regime are its nuclear program, the ballistic missile project, inciting regional conflict, and terrorism. However, the most significant development in Iran is the popular unrest for regime change. The massive popular uprising in November 2019 pushed the regime to the brink.
“In general, the international community and, in particular, European governments should predicate economic and political ties with the ruling dictatorship on respect for human rights in Iran, especially women and prisoners’ rights.”
Theresa Villiers added:”While the regime has reduced women in Iran to second-class citizens, there is a movement led by NCRI president-elect Maryam Rajavi that embraces women’s leadership and which has put forward a democratic platform that focuses on empowering women.”#
“This is what the Iranian regime fears most and that is why it sent its diplomat to bomb the NCRI gathering in Paris in June 2018, where my colleagues and I joined tens of thousands of Iranians from around the world to show our solidarity with the people of Iran protesting against the regime.
“The UK should work with the EU to put pressure on the regime to release all political prisoners and unjustly detained dual citizens in Iran, especially the women, and make any future relationships and agreements with Iran contingent on verifiable improvements in human rights and women’s rights.”
In 2019 foreign secretary Dominic Raab pledged that Britain would “reinforce our sanctions legislation to hold those who commit serious abuses of human rights to account”.
Referring to Anglo-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, jailed in 2016 for allegedly “plotting to topple the Iranian government”, he added: “We will shine a spotlight on Iran’s violations of international law, including its destabilising actions in the region. And we will be condemning that country’s cruel practice of arbitrarily detaining dual nationals on spurious charges, often in appalling conditions, and in a flagrant disregard for international law.”
But last night it emerged that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was to face fresh charges after ending her five-year jail term.
Significantly these include involvement in propaganda activity against the Islamic Republic including by attending a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in London in 2009 and speaking to BBC Persian.
“We welcome the removal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ankle tag, but Iran continues to put her and her family through a cruel and intolerable ordeal,” said the foreign secretary last night.
“She must be released permanently so she can return to her family in the UK. We will continue to do all we can to achieve this.
“We have relayed to the Iranian authorities in the strongest possible terms that her continued confinement is unacceptable.”