Prominent Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi has urged women to take to the streets across the country on International Women's Day to demand their basic rights be respected, amid more than five months of nationwide protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political reforms.
“On Women's Day, conquer the street with female symbols,” Mohammadi said in a message on March 8 from Tehran's Evin prison where she is serving a long-term sentence.
“The hardships and challenges that we face in our daily lives, whether at home, in the bedroom, at the workplace or in the streets, have become a driving force for us to push beyond ourselves and fight for our rights."
The September 2022 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of morality police unleashed the biggest anti-government protests in Iran in years, with women and schoolgirls making unprecedented shows of defiance toward what Mohammadi called the country’s “misogynistic government and male-dominated society.”
Iran's clerical rulers have also faced growing public over a wave of poisoning attacks that have affected dozens of girls’ schools across the country since the end of November. Some Iranians have suggested that the poisonings could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools or a retaliation for students and women leading the demonstrations sparked by Amini’s death.
For more than four decades, women in Iran have been subjected to discriminatory treatment regarding employment, education and inheritance, among other things. All women must conceal their hair with a headscarf, or hijabs, while in public and wear loose fitting trousers under their coats. They have also been denied the right to divorce and seek custody of their children.
American Iranian activist Masih Alinejad noted that this year's International Women's Day “has a different color because the courage of Iranian girls and women has crossed the borders and caused the admiration of the world.”
“The breaths of the child-murdering government became numbered,” Alinejad tweeted.
Speaking on the sidelines of a forum in Abu Dhabi, actor Nazanin Boniadi urged the world to back the protests in Iran calling, saying that despots fear nothing “more than a free and politically active woman.”
“The thing that is unprecedented is we’re seeing 12-year-old girls, schoolgirls, come out into the streets saying, ‘We don’t want an Islamic Republic,’” she told The Associated Press. “The courage that takes is astounding. And that courage has been contagious.”
Boniadi, who left Tehran with her family for the UK following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, called on people to sign an online petition accusing the Islamic Republic of Iran and Taliban-controlled Afghanistan of committing “gender apartheid” with their policies targeting women.
The Iranian authorities have responded to the unrest over Amini's death with brutal force in which more than 520 people have been killed and over 19,000 have been illegally detained, including many women, rights groups say.
After biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
The US Treasury Department marked International Women’s Day by announcing a 10th round of sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its deadly crackdown on the protests.
The targeted individuals include two senior prison officials accused of being responsible for “serious human rights abuses against women and girls,” Iran’s top army commander Sayyed Abdolrahim Mousavi, a “high-ranking leader” in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in West Azerbaijan province and an official “who was central to the regime’s efforts to block internet access,” Treasury said in a statement.
Also hit with sanctions were three Iranian companies and their leadership for "enabling the violent repression by the Iranian Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) of peaceful protestors, including many women and girls."
"We will continue to take action against the regime, which perpetuates abuse and violence against its own citizens - especially women and girls,” U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said.