Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Iran: Human Rights
Like a number of senators this evening, I'm putting a focus on the issue of human rights in Iran. I remember very clearly when I heard, as a young woman, about the emancipation of women in Iran. During the 1960s we heard about the White Revolution, where women across that country worked together to bring real change into the lives of women in their community: increasing women's access to education; women working in the professions; women being seen as active members, real members, of the community.
All of that changed with the collapse of the Shah government in 1979 and the introduction, under Ayatollah Khomeini, of a religious and political process that systematically focused on removing human rights for women. Central to this was the focus on what they called 'women needing to dress properly'. That meant women were forced to wear the veil. We have heard from other senators this evening about the impact of that and how, for almost 40 years, women, and the men who support them, have tried to reassert, as best they could, their own rights in their community.
More recently there has been a resurgence of direct action in the Iranian community, which has become known as the Girls of Revolution Street in Tehran. This particular movement has inspired women across the world with their bravery and courage, and also with their sense of drama. As we heard from other senators earlier this evening, 31-year-old Vida Movahed was arrested in December 2017 and sentenced to two years in jail—which she expected—because she took to the streets in her home town with her veil on the end of a stick. She was claiming her right to be seen, to have her voice heard, to fight for human rights in her nation.
Her lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has fought for many of the women involved in this particular action, is now under arrest herself, and we also heard about that from Senator Singh earlier. This is not the first time. She is an activist human rights lawyer and a woman in Iran, so she understands the dangers that she is fighting. She described the ongoing arrests of Iranian women for violating the country's compulsory hijab rule as 'a manifestation of violence against women'.
There are so many women, and the men who support them, who are taking action at the moment, and we must listen to their cries. We must take the actions we can take in our own community and in our own parliament, as parliamentarians, to bring a focus onto this. We must share with others the courage of people like Shima Babaei, a young civil rights activist who has used social media to spread the word of her actions and to say, strongly, that she is standing up for other women. It is important because there are a range of horrors of human rights abuses in the Iranian community, but we can take part in standing up against it. We have the opportunity; we have the chance to join with other people, people in our own nation, who are working to expose these human rights abuses. We also have the opportunity to encourage our government, through processes like our position on the Commission on Human Rights at the UN, to keep the issue of human rights in Iran on the agenda.
This week in Paris there will be the grand rally for Iranian democracy, where we expect over 100,000 people to come together—community members, members of parliament from across the world—to share in the celebration of the history of Iran and its struggle, as Senator Williams said, to bring back freedoms and rights to a community that has been suffering for so long. I send the people who are attending that rally my best wishes. I believe that we have the opportunity to share in their struggle by keeping the focus on the people who have been suffering so greatly. We need to talk about the issues in forums like this. We need to name the people who are imprisoned in Iran so they're no longer faceless or nameless. We need to keep their names and their courage before us and be part of the wider movement looking at the incredible need for human rights around the world, not just in our own area. We're part of a global community. As we say in the Sustainable Development Goals movement: we have an obligation to leave no-one behind.
Senate adjourned at 19:56