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Woman, Life, Freedom: A Statement of Solidarity with Women in Iran

An update following the 35th Special Session of the Human Rights Council

An update: 15th November 2022

 Equality Now continues to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran  rising up in protest, demanding “Woman, Life, Freedom” and calling for accountability at all levels, nationally and globally.  Events of the past two months in Iran, since the death of Mahsa Amini, have shown the world  the bravery of its citizens in the face of increasing state violence and oppression including credible reports of rape and killing of women and girls, the arrests of thousands of protestors, attacks on those in prison and detention,  the targeting and killings of youth demanding their rights, and the use of death sentences to terrorize and subdue their own population.

While change is being driven in Iran by Iranian citizens, internationally we must also use all the UN mechanisms possible to hold the Iranian state accountable.  We therefore welcome the announcement of a UN Human Rights Council special session on “the deteriorating human rights situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran”, where we anticipate the resolution to set up a fact-finding mission to investigate will be expedited with urgency. We call on the UN Secretary-General to immediately operationalize this necessary and vital mission. The session will be held on Thursday, 24 November and livestreamed on 

The  UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) session in March 2023 must also decisively deliver on its responsibility to address the human rights violations  in Iran against women and girls.  The popular demand that Iran should be kicked off the CSW, in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini and the deaths and persecution of protestors, seems reasonable at first glance.  Indeed,  Iran was elected to the CSW by the members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in a secret ballot with a seat until the end of 2026.  But these calls may do more harm than good, and if there is a change in government soon it may be difficult to re-elect them.  (It is important to note that the United States’ and other governments’ calling for Iran’s unprecedented expulsion from the CSW could be seen as a double standard, as  the United States and Somalia have not even ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) either but are currently CSW members too, and continue to perpetrate violence and discrimination against women and girls in their own countries.) All governments serving on CSW,  from Afghanistan to Zambia, including Iran, must uphold the rule of international law and  protect the rights of all women and girls.  

Original Statement: 30th September 2022

This statement is also available in Farsi and Arabic.

We stand in solidarity with those in Iran who are demanding accountability from their government on this incident. We support the United Nations demand for a full and independent investigation into the circumstances that led to Mahsa’s death.  President Raisi must keep his promise that the Iranian authorities “steadfastly investigate the incident” as part of his commitment to “safeguarding the rights of every citizen”.

As a global community committed to gender equality, peace, prosperity and stability, we condemn the policies and events that led to the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Irani woman who died whilst in the custody of Iran’s morality police.  Mahsa had been detained for allegedly not wearing the forced hijab properly.

However, more than just investigating the death of Mahsa, the Iranian government must act urgently to reform its laws, policies and practices that put Mahsa in harm’s way in the first place and continue to foster insecurity and inequality in the country.

Inequality of women has been correlated to conflict and lack of security.  Government policies on women have a direct bearing on peacefulness and security of societies.  Iran falls short in this area being ranked 76 out of 191 on the Human Development Index in the UNDP Human Development report. This is manifested in statistics that show an approximate 36% of murders between 2013 and 2017 are men killing female relatives in the name of “honor”.

The slogan of “Women, Life, Freedom” raised by Iranian protestors cannot be ignored. Recent polls show that 72% of Iranians do not believe the hijab should be enforced by the government, rather it is a matter of choice for Muslim women.  We fully endorse a statement by Musawah, a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family.

The government of Iran should urgently review and address its laws and policies that discriminate against women.  As an initial matter, it must repeal Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code which allows imprisonment of women for failure to wear prescribed Islamic dress.  Other such laws include, without limitation, laws that allow girls to get married before 18, that prescribe male guardianship over women and discount the testimony of women.

We urge the Iranian government to:

  • Ensure a full and impartial investigation into the death of Mahsa and hold those responsible to account.
  • Repeal Article 638 of the penal code that prescribes dress and punishment
  • Review all laws that discriminate against women with a timeline for reform, including reform of religious laws.
  • Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and demonstrate commitment to the rights, welfare and future of half of Iran’s population.

We urge the United Nations:

  • Continue to press for a full, fair, effective, independent and impartial investigation into Mahsa’s death and persistent impunity with respect to human rights violations. 
  • Question Iran on the matter of Mahsa Amini’s death and discrimination in the law, child marriage and other women’s rights issues raised in Equality Now’s recent submission to the UN Human Rights Committee at upcoming dialogue namley the ICCPR review 

The international community must hold Iran to account and continue diplomatic efforts in the matter of Mahsa Amini’s death and in ensuring that Iran upholds, respects and promotes human rights and women’s equality.

Co-signees of organizations, activists, academics, and lawyers of Islam and many other faiths from across the world 

  1. African Women’s Development Fund
  2. Agrupación Ciudadana por la Despenalización del Aborto
  3. Aisha Association for Woman and Child Protection
  4. Alliance of Inclusive Muslims
  5. Alreef Young Lady Society
  6. Arab Association for Human Rights
  7. Articulación Feminista Marco-Sur
  8. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development
  9. Association ADO+
  10. Association for Women Rights in Development
  11. Association Tunisienne des Femmes Démocratiques (ATFD)
  12. Atwar Organisation
  13. Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
  14. Center for Egyptian Women
  15. Centre Arabe du Droit International “ACIL”
  16. Colectiva Feminista para el Desarrollo Local
  17. Equality for Empowering and Developing Women Organisation
  18. Femmes et Leadership
  19. FemWise-Africa
  20. Hope for Women
  21. Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Defensoras
  22. International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF Americas & The Caribbean)
  23. IPAS Latinoamérica y el Caribe (IPAS LAC)
  24. Iraqi Women Network
  25. Just Associates (JASS Global)
  26. Kadirat
  27. Karama
  28. Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM)
  29. Militantes Féministes
  30. Musawah
  31. Muslims for Progressive Values
  32. Network of the Independent Commission for Human Rights in North Africa (CIDH AFRICA)
  33. New Women Foundation
  34. Ni Una Menos
  35. NooN Afghanistan Legal & Social Organization
  36. Promsex
  37. Red de Aalud de las Mujeres Latinoamericanas y del Caribe (RSMLAC)
  38. Réseau Inter Africain pour les Femmes, Médias, Genre et Développement ( FAMEDEV)
  39. Roaa Women Organization
  40. Shirkat Gah Women’s Resource Centre
  41. Siha Network
  42. Sombrilla Centroamericana
  43. Syrian Women League
  44. The Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices Affecting The Health of Women and Children ( GAMCOTRAP)
  45. The Lebanese Council To Resist Violence Against Woman (LECORVAW)
  46. The Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace
  47. Tunisian League for Human Rights
  48. Uthema
  49. Voix de Femmes
  50. WeSpeakOut
  51. Wogood for Human Security
  52. Women and Democracy
  53. Women and Memory Forum
  54. Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD MENA) Coalition
  55. Women in Law and Development Africa (WiLDAF) Zambia
  56. Women of Liberia Peace Network
  57. Women’s Action Network
  58. Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)
  59. Women’s Study Center
  60. World March of Women
  61. Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA Palestine)


  1. Adis Duderija- Griffith University
  2. Amira Abou Taleb- Doctoral Researcher & Teacher
  3. Asma Khalifa- Activist
  4. Dr. Abdessamad Dialmy – Professor
  5. Dr. Mariam Alattar- Professor
  6. Elham- Member Alnnajdah Ascension
  7. Gawaher Eltaher- Laywer in Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance
  8. Jennifer Allan Soros- Give Lively Llc
  9. Liv Tønnessen- Senior Researcher
  10. Marie Juul Petersen- Activist
  11. Mohd Al Adib Samuri- Universiti Kebangsaan
  12. Muqadas – Activist
  13. Naima Gebril- President of the Benghazi Court of Appeal
  14. Rahma Alturky- Psychiatrist
  15. Rawan Al Ghazzah- Lawyer
  16. Samir Dridi- Activist
  17. Somaia Musa Adam- Activist
  18. Souha El Amri- Vice President of Tunisian Association Against Social and Economic Marginalization
  19. Zahra Ali- Activist
  20. Zainab Nasser Alazaar- Lawyer and Activist