MEK Iran: Rt Hon Amber Rudd AT Online Conference Marking International Women’s Day 2021
Transcript of remarks by Rt Hon Amber Rudd
Transcript of remarks by Rt Hon Amber Rudd at the online conference marking International Women’s Day 2021.
Good afternoon. Thank you so much, Teresa, for that kind introduction, and it was a pleasure to serve with you as well in the cabinet. And you too, I think we’re a great icon of a woman leader showing what can be achieved.
“I choose to challenge.” That’s the message for today. It’s a delight to be able to share my views on why challenge matters, to bring about equality, and to reflect on what is taking place for the women of Iran.
Women everywhere are challenging their society in different ways
Women everywhere are challenging their society in different ways. It may be on education, on rights in the law, health rights, different progress, of course, it’s vastly different, different parts of the world.
In the US, there was the first woman to become vice president. Here in the UK, we are very proud to have had two women prime ministers, both of them conservative. We have made good progress since only getting the vote just over 100 years ago. And why does it matter? Many men will say, they have said it to me in Parliament, I expect, they may have said it to Teresa quietly– “It shouldn’t matter as men can represent women just as well as women do.” But the truth is that facts don’t bear that out. If you’re not represented at the political high table, then your issues are not likely to be understood or considered.
Representation leads to policy. Or perhaps more crudely, as the proverb says, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” In conflicts, we need to do more to ensure that women are included in the negotiations.
According to the UN, between 1992 to 2018, at major peace processes, only 13% of negotiators were women, 3% of mediators, and 4%. of signatures. This is not good enough. This year, the world is coming together in Glasgow in the United Kingdom, to try to find a way to limit dangerous climate change. It’s an international UN-run meeting to limit carbon emissions that are doing such damage to our planet.
Women are the losers if an action doesn’t take place
I have a letter and the times today calling for every national negotiating team to include women– best of all to reach 50:50. Women and girls are the worst affected by the consequences of climate change, they should be at the table to shape the deal. Climate change acts as a threat multiplier, making the dangers that exist even more emphatic, and women and children are three times more likely to die in disasters. So, once more, women are the losers if an action doesn’t take place.
In political life in the UK, 34% of MPs are women. Sadly, only 21% in the cabinet, which I’m afraid is down since you’re in my time, Theresa. On the board of the biggest companies in the UK, women now make up over a third of all members. Some of us complain that we should do more, that true equality is 50:50, and that more should be done to support that goal. This isn’t just about what is fair, 51% of the population should be 50% of leadership, but about how to get better decision making? Countless studies show that if women are properly involved in politics, in business, in any place of decision-making, then better decisions are taken. It makes sense to listen to all the arguments, not just the ones from men, and the policies that are more likely to work for everyone.
In Iran, women have to endure a religious regime
But when I look at what the women of Iran have had to endure in terms of their rights, their health, their roles in society in general, I realized how much they have to endure, how limited their rights are, and how brave they are when they object. Looking at the video earlier before some of these speeches, it was remarkable to see how brave those women were.
In Iran, women have to endure a religious regime but give them very few rights. They do not have the freedom to choose how to live their lives. They do not have the same access to the law or to welfare benefits to survive. The freedom to make our own choices, which we women in the West take for granted is hardly available to the women in Iran.
The campaign to change that is picking up steam
In a democracy, we have the route to make improvements for everybody’s lives. We don’t get everything right. But we do have a system that has checks and balances, and a path to make changes to address inequalities. The legislation is looked at to ensure that it supports women as well as men. And the public, they have a role, they will challenge decisions that our executive makes. Just look at the British Chancellor now and the 1% pay rise and he’s offered to our nurses in the UK.
The campaign to change that is picking up steam. So, democracy has accountability at its core, which will help realize equality. And in Iran, it is so much more difficult to challenge the regime– difficult, illegal, and above all, dangerous. But it is fascinating to see how the women of Iran do fight back. like today’s motto, they choose to challenge, not just today on International Women’s Day, but every day. And just as we in the West often express ourselves through our clothes.
The women of Iran, subtly and subversively use their dress to challenge the restrictions of the regime. Yes, the hijab is compulsory, but many carefully I noticed places lower down to make their own points.
The protests in 2019
And in the protests in 2019, there were many acts of resistance that were filmed and released to show women without veils, sometimes walking with and supported by their husbands and sons. Challenging the oppression of women is not just for women to do. It is also men who need to acknowledge the problem and call out for equality, too.
Men have an important role everywhere in recognizing the need for quality. Power is not something that anybody willingly gives up. It has to be fought for. Women need men who love them and respect them to join the fight for equality. The Lebanese author, Kim Ghattas, describes in her recent book, the fightback by Iranian women to oppose the imposition of the veil in her extraordinary publication, Black Wave. The Black Wave is the veil, and she argues how it has been used to free or subjugate women, and that as a visible symbol, it can also be opposed.
Iran will only be free when the women of Iran are free
One of her themes is the exploitation of Islam by dictators, and how they use that religion to control women. Individualism cannot be suppressed forever, and the women of Iran are in the vanguard of making that point. Iran will only be free when the women of Iran are free.
As with so many campaigns for quality, the strength of feeling is often revealed in the creative format of film and literature. The Iranian film director, Jafar Panahi offside follows a day in the life of a group of Iranian girls attempting to watch their team’s World Cup qualifying match against Bahrain at the stadium in Tehran. Many Iranian girls love football as much as their countrymen, and sports fans all over the world, but they are prevented by law from attending these matches in their own country. Inspired by their day when his own daughter was refused entry to a football stadium in Iran, too far made this extraordinary and award-winning film. I recommend it. I watched it last night. It’s available on YouTube if you haven’t seen it. It’s a serious story told with humor, and therefore very effective in airing the arguments. Some people love football so much they won’t be barred from the matches.
In his story, he reveals what Iranians have in common. Although the police in his film has to arrest and hold the girls who illegally came to the football match, in the conversations between them, he shows their common humanity. The girls argue against the ruling that means they’re not allowed to attend. The policeman repeats the rules and tried to defend them, but in the final scene, as they’re being driven off to be charged, the police and the girls are all literally on the edge of their seats as they wait for the final whistle.
The regime and its rulers do not speak for the sympathetic young men and women of Iran
You get the strong feeling that the regime and its rulers do not speak for the sympathetic young men and women of Iran. The difficulties and dangers of living under the Iranian regime are further revealed in other brilliant national literature. I love them because they praise the country, the people and separate them from the government that does such damage.
A few years ago I read City of Lies by ramita Navai. “Let’s get one thing straight,” she says in her opening sentence. “In order to live in Tehran, you have to lie. How could it be otherwise? Counsels of perfection in religion, chastity, and family honor, were converted by the Islamic Republic into laws of the land, cruelly and sometimes fatally enforced.” In a few other places, she tells us, “Is the gulf so wide between what is said and what is done?” Her book is full of the gritty reality of life, of relationships of lies, and of the harsh choices faced by women. The book closes with one of her characters, Faridei, an uptown survivor who loses patience when her yoga class is raided by the morality police. So, she moves to London. She finds the people of our capital a little cold, and a bit mean, the weather gloomy and the cost of living exorbitant. She begins with long aspects of Tehran. She tells us, it’s blue sky, the camera of the streets, mulberry and jasmine. She calls it the smoky smell of lamb on hot coals. So, she returns.
The book is an homage to Iran as a beautiful country and Tehran as a warm and welcoming city. But above all, to its people. Life is complicated and sometimes hard. But within that, the people of a country are different from its regime and never more so than Iran.