Page 3755 - Week 11 - Thursday, 24 November 2022

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Maryam is here in the ACT. She was born in Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. She was politically active as a student and, by 2006, at the age of 20, she was part of the campaign to collect one million signatures for the repeal of discriminatory laws, also known as Change for Equity.

The campaign was established in recognition of Iranian women being treated as second-class citizens by law, having no rights or support in terms of divorce, child custody and abortion. The campaign organisers and volunteers, including Maryam, wanted to show their society, politicians and lawmakers that the need and will to change discriminatory laws against women have the support of the wider community.

An example of such discrimination is the application of Tamkeen under Sharia law, which demands that a wife accept her husband’s superiority and commandership as the head of the household. Under Tamkeen, women’s consent to have intercourse is not sought and it is considered to be her duty to make herself available on her husband’s demand. This is why the Change for Equity campaign was harshly shut down in 2009, and in their recent protests in Iran people are asking to see these laws changed and the systemic legalised violence against women ended.

As for Maryam and her activism in Iran, the topic was controversial and saw their blog blocked by authorities. This trend continues on what is known as National Internet, which heavily restrains people’s access to the rest of the world wide web.

Maryam says that, from the three who ran the blog and campaigned for the Change for Equity, one was suspiciously killed in 2013 after being released from custody and the other is currently in Iran living under strict scrutiny.

Maryam’s story is not a standalone event. She is amongst many Iranian women in diaspora who recall the touch of batons and tasers whenever they hear the sound of a motorbike’s loud exhaust here in Canberra, as it triggers memories of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps intimidating mass protests.

The Iranian women and men’s call for solidarity is open to anyone from around the world to be taken up, as it is a fight for basic human rights, because women’s rights are human rights. Women should be free to protest without reprisal. All people should be able to protest without reprisal. People in Iran protesting bravely do so knowing that they may be shot, that they will be threatened with violence and that they are risking their lives.

Human rights organisations have reported hundreds—possibly many more—of people demonstrating peacefully being killed by security forces who have been filmed firing live ammunition on the streets. But there is a small glimmer of hope as the protests and abhorrent actions of the military regime capture the attention of others. There is action and support for the peaceful protesters and calls for an end to this terrible treatment.

In preparing this statement, I read that prominent Iranian actors Hengameh Ghaziani and Katayoun Riahi were arrested for removing their head scarves in protest. Ghaziani

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