International women's day celebration in Tehran was a little different this year. This time it was a series of events, over a period of ten days, by different women groups. Nothing like the fantastic event of three years ago, when over 2000 women got together at the House of Artists (khaneh Honarmandann) when it was first opened in Tehran.
This year the programs started from 27th Feb with a series of shows and lectures at one of many of Tehran's Municipality Cultural centers. The following week, Thursday 6th March, there were separate and new events at other Municipality buildings in central Tehran. The one that I went to took place in this lovely old building which the authorities had very beautifully decorated in Tehran's Ostad-Nejatolhali, formerly known as Villa Avenue. I loved the garden; it was so spacious and relaxing. Although it was not big, it gave the sense of being large. Events here were simple and formal. There was a short film, "8th March with Iranian Women," and a speech by a university professor about importance of photographs in registering women's history. Later there was a call for establishment of first Non-Governmental-women's library. The main event was a panel on "Women & Education." This panel was made up of prominent ladies involved in education, mainly from universities as well as those who are involved in social works related to women. The chair was conducted by one of the leading women rights advocate here in Iran. This lady, as well as being involved in other good social deeds, is very active in fields related to education in all parts of Iran.
There was also a very interesting photo show downstairs where there was a lovely "houzche" (small pond) with a fountain inside and chairs around it. For the show, they had collected pictures from schools and educational establishments, related to women, from all parts of Iran. Some of these pictures were as old as 100 years old. It was a very interesting show and the organizer informed me that due to shortage of space they were unable to show all of the pictures that they had collected, from the first girls' schools to pictures from the best well known schools for girls, up to middle of 70's. Looking at these photos one would think to oneself "God, weren't they modern for their time!"
As always there were many books on display and women handicraft works were offered for sale. The building was very nice and the chairs were quite comfortable. There were about 150 people over all. Some 8% of the audience consisted of men who actually sat through the whole program of speech by the panel members. What impressed me most was that there were girls and women as young as 8 and as old as 80 in the audience. The highlight of the ceremony was the best part of it. The organizers had managed to invite several of the ladies who either established girls' schools or were very well known head-mistresses as far back as fifty years ago. These fragile lovely old ladies were presented with a book and a flower, as a simple token of other women and society's appreciation for their work and struggle. A short dossier of each one was read out before the presentation, by one of the most active ladies in Iran involved in environmental causes. The activities would continue by a working and consulting workshop on 7th about Domestic Violence and Personal Responsibility.
The final event was held on Saturday 8th March between 3-4 P.M. on the south side of Lalh Park, by the pool side. An official permission was obtained by the organizers, The Women Cultural Center group, for this gathering. The group asked all those Against the War and For Peace gather together and show their solidarity. It was named "Women for Peace and Peace for All." The day was simply gorgeous. It had rained all day on Friday, and on Saturday Tehran was bright, clean and the sun was brilliant. One could see everything - usually much is covered under cloud of smog.
We went there just about 3:00 p.m., and at first I was taken aback with the presence of so many officers of the law. But they all turned out to be very polite and gentle when they had to make a point. The participants were directed towards the meeting place and to our surprise there were quite a number of men present there. Overall I think there were about 800 people there, more than a quarter of them men. These gentlemen and fellow peace supporters were first asked to leave the open theater. Later, when their numbers grew and they still did not leave, they were then directed into just one section of the amphitheater. There were many photographers and journalists from Iranian news media and those from abroad.
About ten women had registered or were invited to speak. Among them Ms. Shirin Ebadi, a lawyer and one of Ian's most prominent woman activists. We heard speakers express many views. Generally it was quite enlightening to hear some of the things that were expressed. Of-course not all of the speakers were eloquent speakers, but they all made their point, under very strong wind. Some of the speakers called on the government to change laws such that real and true equality is instituted and prevails in Iran. Many called on the ministers to check their ministries and find out the percentage of women in their management field, and ask the why questions. Several asked for better education, healthcare and other opportunities for women. One young lady wanted to know why women had to be afraid to go out at night, why they must be harassed when waiting for a taxi and asked where the law officers are to protect the rights of women. And why women should be afraid to get married since after marriage many of their fundamental rights are taken away from them. Almost all expressed grave concern over what might be happening to our neighboring country. Everybody wanted peace and condemned wars. The best ovations were received by the speakers who addressed the law and policy makers in Iran over women's right issues.
It was a very interesting afternoon and one can only hope that the wishes of those present would soon become a reality.
... Payvand News - 3/10/03 ... --