Photo Exhibition: Women Against Islamic Extremism
Meet the Faces of Courage & Commitment
November 22, 2016 | 345 Cannon Caucus Room | U.S. House of Representatives
Many of us are aware that women and girls suffer most during and after war due to ravaged resources and women’s vulnerability to exploitation and sexual violence. But in regions where Islamic extremism is rampant, women and girls face these abuses and many more every day.
Around the world, men and women are uniting to eliminate violence against women, especially where Islamic extremism targets women and girls with unimaginable brutality.
In Iran, the Islamic extremist government has raged a war on women since the 1979 Revolution. Today, even though journalists, Internet sources, and social networks have brought greater awareness of the vicious abuses of the Iranian regime, violence against women is at an all-time high.
As you read this, women in Iran are stepping out of their homes to face:
- Harassment over what they wear, say, what they want to study, or how they live their lives
- Exclusion from 70 academic fields, although 60% of university students are women
- Arrest, resulting in incarceration in horrifying facilities that practice torture and abuse
- Acid attacks carried out under the pretext of improper veiling
- Rape (the most common threat to women)
- Execution—since 2013, at least 71 of the 2,500 people executed were women
Wherever a culture of violence against women has become the norm, from Afghanistan to Egypt and Turkey to Iran, women bravely take to the streets to protest. During the Iranian elections in 2009, when the nation was swept up in protest against the extremist regime, women took the lead in breaking the silence and marching to make their voices heard. Freedom-loving women and men stood together against the violent regime that had robbed them of their freedom for nearly four decades.
At great risk, women and girls organize uprisings and protests at universities and in their communities. Students defy oppression on campuses and streets where freedom of expression is outlawed. Throughout the country, and in other nations where Islamic extremism makes women’s daily lives a life-and-death struggle, women empower each other with their courage and commitment to stand up to their barbaric and inhumane treatment.
The Women’s Freedom Forum photo exhibition, Women Against Islamic Extremism—Meet the Faces of Courage & Commitment, puts names and faces to women who have endured these struggles and in some cases made the greatest sacrifice.
The exhibit teaches us about the Mother’s Movement in Iran, which calls for the release of political prisoners. It reveals the cost of being a women professor in the case of Nasim Bagheri, a professor arrested in 2014 for committing “propaganda against the state,” and the price paid for being a convert to Christianity, as young music teacher Maryam Naghash Zargaran learned upon her arrest in 2013. And the story of distinguished human rights defender Narges Mohammadi, who received a 16-year prison sentence and is barred from communicating from her two young children, illustrates how the Islamic regime treats women who dare to defy its culture of violence and oppression.
The Faces of Courage & Commitment exhibit puts a much-needed spotlight on women who will not give up in the face of misogyny, arrest, torture, and execution. The more we know about their plight and bravery, the more we will be empowered to support their cause in any way we can.
As UNSG Ban Ki-Moon has called for “meaningful” action to prevent and respond to violence against women, WFF joins the 16 day of activism campaign to educate and teach that such violence against women is a serious obstacle to sustainable development.
Simultaneously three UN experts warned that fundamentalism and populism pose deepening threat to women human rights defenders.
Congressional staffers and representatives of human rights organizations participated in this exhibition and Professor Fran Belisle, who has served in the U.S. diplomatic corps in Algeria, Turkey and Canada spoke at the event. She stressed that “Throughout history women have been the first targets of religious extremism. From Eve taking the fall for the apple to Daesh practicing sexual jihad, women have borne the brunt of fundamentalism.”