Speech by Azar Majedi
Conference Cologne, Germany
8th march 2006
First of all I would like to congratulate everyone here on 8th
March, International Women’s Day. However one can not help but feel
so sad to see that in 21st century, in the year 2006 celebrating
the International Women’s Day one has to hear these horrendous figures
that Ayan Hirsi just told us. We read and hear them but tend to
forget. I don’t think we forget because we don’t care. We forget
because it is our self defence mechanism. How can we sleep every
night to know that every year around 2 million women in the world
are killed based on gender oppression, discrimination in one way
Ayan compared it with Rwanda. I remember when Rwandan catastrophe
happened. We were all so outraged. One million people were brutally
killed in an ethnic genocide and we became outraged that world did
not do enough to stop it. It happens all the time. Every year a
Rwanda happens in the world and we don’t do anything about it and
forget it! I don’t think we don’t care. We are conscious human beings
otherwise we wouldn’t be here. It is difficult to bear such tragedies
on our minds every single day knowing that we can’t do anything
about it. But we COULD do something about it. This is what I am
trying to talk about here today. What can we do about it?
Ayan talked about genocide, ethnic genocide, and racial genocide
and now we know there is sexual or gender genocide as we have gender
apartheid. There is gender apartheid in countries under the influence
or the rule of Islam or Islamic ridden countries. I won’t call them
Muslim countries. By Islamic countries I mean countries being under
Islamic rule or groups or movements or political Islam.
Some of you may be too young to think that there was racial apartheid
in South Africa. I am one of those who do remember. I fought against
racial apartheid in the 70’s and 80’s. I was part of the movement
against racial apartheid in South Africa and I still remember those
days. I still remember when Nelson Mandela was freed and when apartheid
was dismantled in South Africa. It was a nice day. Dismantling racial
apartheid was one of the few good things that happened at the end
of the 20th century. And I hope that one of these days I hear the
same thing about gender apartheid. We need to dismantle sexual apartheid
in Iran. So we have to build a movement as strong as the one built
against racial apartheid in South Africa. I think that is one of
the things we can do. And if we do that and become a member of such
movement we can sleep better at night and we feel better about ourselves.
We are here today to talk about violence against women and against
honour killings. What a strange name they have given it: “honour
killing”! Or “crime of passion”! So romantic! We are talking about
passion and all of a sudden someone gets killed, maimed and the
killer walks away! Passion, isn’t it? Passion is nice. We see it
in films. Or we call it honour killing. It is related to honour.
“Honour?” Is this supposed to glorify the murder? Is it supposed
to make it look acceptable?! Is it to dignify the murderer? All
these names are used in order to mitigate the concept of murder.
They are trying to say it does not matter if a woman is raped, if
a woman is killed. They are killed for a good cause. They are killed
so some “sacred” political and religious ideas and traditions are
preserved. It boils down to this: It doesn’t matter, it is the culture,
and it is the religion. It is crime of passion, it is honour killing.
Or think about this! Violence against women at home is called domestic
violence. Automatically the word domestic softens the act. It makes
it a personal matter. Domestic has these connotations: cosiness,
privacy, warmth. So it cannot be that bad. It is not that outrageous.
Can you see the trick the sexist and misogynist values play on us?
We have to name it as it really is. It is murder. It is first degree
murder and has to be dealt with as first degree murder. No mitigation
for in judging the crime, no leniency for those who commit it, be
it the father, the husband, the brother or the cousin. No mitigation!
It has to be dealt with as the most horrendous act, as act of terrorism.
The culprits should be treated the same as terrorists who blow up
a train, the underground, a bus. This is one of things we have to
establish. We should make states and governments deal with those
who kill women for “passion” or “honour” as first degree murder
without any mitigation.
They say it is their culture and religion, we have to respect them,
we should be tolerant! Let me tell you, we do not respect any values
or ideology that does not respect human beings, women’s rights,
children’s rights, liberty or equality. We do not respect religion,
faith, ideology, political ideology that instigates murder and violence
against women. How could we respect them? Humanity has fought for
equality, secularism, freedom of expression, gender equality, and
universality of human rights. What has happened to us at the end
of the 20th century? Why are we talking about tolerance and respect
for inhuman values and ideas at the beginning of the 21st century?!
I am not talking about Muslims. I really want to emphasize and
clarify this point. I am not talking about Muslims. I am not disrespecting
Muslims for believing in whatever they want to believe. And I do
not believe that the mere force of believing in an ideology or religion
make you commit such murders no matter how violent those values
you believe in are. There has to be another organisation that takes
these values, religion, and ideas and puts them into force and creates
a sophisticated machinery of suppression. That is why I am saying
it is a political fight.
We have to look more deeply and question the arguments that try
to portray these serial killings as results of mere religious belief.
In fact there is a political force that transforms these religious
beliefs into such a force of suppression, terror, maiming, discrimination,
and torture at the end of the 20th century, a force capable of intimidating
the whole world, It is not a mere belief in Islam. There is a political
movement and organisation behind it all. A mafia like organisation
based on Islam, getting its ideas from Islam. It is a reactionary
political movement that tries to gain power, share power in the
region and also globally. It is a modern, contemporary concept and
movement, based on ancient, antiquated ideas and ideology. It has
moved globally now. When it was nurtured with the help of the USA
and the Western governments in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union
and in Iran by importing Khomeini and Islamic Republic into the
country, at the time of 1979 Revolution, it worked in the region.
However, now, it has assumed international significance. This organisation
or industry is now fighting for power globally and September 11
was one of those tragic events that demonstrated this global trend.
Violence against women is not an isolated action especially when
you talk about 2 million world-wide every year. It is organised.
They are not all done by political Islam but a great deal of them
are committed, incited, encouraged or supported by political Islam.
I am talking about this orchestrated global religious machinery.
I think this is important and we should talk about it. We have to
talk about other political and religious movements as well. There
are misogynous, sexist, chauvinist ideas that can create this situation
against women. When you talk about male chauvinism as an ideology,
we are told that we can fight them by education and cultural transformation.
Of course we need education and cultural transformation. But how
are we going to do it? Are we going to just get those people and
talk with them? Educate them and tell them it is bad to kill other
people? Or are we going to the base and root of the problem? How
is that these ideologies and values, male chauvinism, anti women
values are maintained regardless of all the struggle carried out
against them over centuries? How is it upheld? One needs to consider
the role of the dominating values in the society carried out by
I have not got enough time to expand on the last point. Now I like
to focus on political Islam as one of these main movements that
creates and terrorises the world. It intimidates the world and tries
to silence any criticism of its movement or its ideas. Islam, where
it can, where in power it kills, tortures, maims people and stones
them to death. Where it can NOT do blatantly kill, where it does
NOT have the power it becomes clever and sassy and it uses terms
like “respect”, “tolerance”, “Islamophobia” and “cultural relativism”.
So some very decent, freedom loving people, conscious people out
of fear of being stamped as racists, do not dare to criticise them,
do not dare to support the secularist. They look the other way,
thinking if they criticise, if they stand against these values and
actions, they might be racists, they have not respected other people’s
culture or religion. The apologists of political Islam, the academia,
the media, the Western governments come to their rescue. They ask
for tolerance too. They demand respect for their outdated, backward,
reactionary traditions, they demand respect for their culture. And
they justify this with the help of concepts such as cultural relativism.
These tactics are used to silence us. We are called racist, islamophobic,
intolerant, if we do not comply. Nonsense!
I like to bring your attention to the fact that it is not only
genocide, murder and submission that we are witnessing. We are also
witnessing resistance. The film we saw tonight called Submission.
But it was not only about submission, it was also about resistance.
The heroine was not submitted. She had not submitted to the act
of god. She was trying to resist it and protect herself. I believe
there is a resistance movement against this genocide, backward and
male chauvinist ideology in the world. My time is up. In Iran there
exists a very strong a vibrant resistance movement by women against
gender apartheid, against the veil, against women’s subordination.
This movement needs your support.
I believe it is not just a question of women mobilizing against
this genocide. I am calling upon everyone, every decent, conscious,
freedom loving human being to mobilize against this genocide, murder,
violence, and chauvinism. Political Islam is mobilized globally
and internationally, we need to mobilize internationally as well.
We need to fight against political Islam, for secularism, universality
of women’s rights, and for women’s equality. This is one important
way to stop violence committed against women. I don’t think we need
to wait one century. We can’t afford it. We need to bring about
the transformation NOW. I think we are able to do it now if we mobilize
against it. So I call upon all of you to support our movement and
to fight for these goals and values. We should unite and organise
for a better and more humane world, to safeguard freedom and bring
about equality. We need a world free from religious superstition
and terrorism. We need to stand against two poles of terrorism,
Islamic and state terrorism led by US and the Western governments.
We have to organise to fight Oppression.
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