Celebrating Feminists’ Voices, Inspiring Global Peace

News

#FeministSolidarity

Women, Life, Freedom

Image credit: Artin Bakhan
Nela Porobić Isaković
31 August 2023

Jin, Jiyan, Azadî” is a Kurdish political slogan that turned into a scream for freedom with the uprising of the courageous women from all around Iran following the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini. In September 2022, Jina, who according to eyewitnesses was brutally beaten to death by the Iranian Morality police for the “crime” of not wearing a proper hijab, became the face of both the brutality of the Iranian regime and of the strength and courage of the resistance against it. The oppressed people of Iran led by courageous Iranian women took to the streets and other public venues to protest their subjugation by the regime, despite the horrendous violence they faced by those in power and their henchmen. During one hot July day in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) the Iranian women’s scream for freedom could be heard from the mouths of Bosnian and Herzegovinian activists who for a brief second borrowed their voices so that the heroic struggle for freedom, equality, and ending of the patriarchal tyranny and oppression of the Iranian women could clearly be heard in BiH.

Every July, WARM, an international foundation dedicated to war reporting, war art, and war memory organises a festival in Sarajevo, BiH. This year as part of the festival programme Ajla Bešič a Bosnian theatre director and Damir Šagolj, a renowned Bosnian photographer, were collaborating with Maryam, an Iranian woman in diaspora, on a project called “Be Our Voice” through which a photo exhibition was combined with a performance during which testimonies of resistance, written by Iranian women, would be read out by other activists outside of Iran.

That is why twelve of us gathered in a theatre called Sarajevo War Theater (SARTR), founded in May 1992. SARTR was during the war in BiH one of the key cultural symbols of resistance against the siege of the city. So the location of our performance was symbolic and carefully picked. We who participated in the performance were asked to participate and lend our voices because we all had activist backgrounds, resisting the Bosnian far less violent but nonetheless present patriarchal oppression.

Reading the stories from our Iranian sisters out loud to each other sparked many conversations amongst us about our own struggles, the freedom we had in BiH and the freedoms we lost as a result of our post-war, post-socialist transition.

But more significantly, from the testimonies we learnt about the struggles our Iranian sisters are facing every day and the extraordinary courage they demonstrate in their struggles against their oppressors. The hijab for them has been just a symbol for a struggle that concerned so much more than the freedom to choose whether to wear hijab or not. In one of their testimonies, we could read that “the problem is that the economy is in ruin, and keeps getting worse. The problem is the ever-increasing poverty and the ever-intensifying injustice under which our backs are bent. But enough is enough”.

Our Iranian sister told us that they did not decide to be politically active; they were forced to do so by every segment of their lives, and in every part of their lives the consequences of that politicisation were reflected. “Our rights and freedoms as women have regressed at such a speed that even some basic things have become our ideals”.

Through their testimonies, they told us about arrests, killings, intentional shooting of protesters in their eyes, beatings, and torture but also of their fierce and unrelentless struggles and resistance. They told us about the songs they sang while in prison, the dreams they shared, and how holding hands with strangers with whom you share dreams of freedom while facing the brutality of the Iranian regime can be the most empowering thing. They also told us about the men who supported their struggle and learnt about the importance of showing solidarity with the Iranian women as women’s demands for freedom meant freedom for them all.

Reading these testimonies and speaking out loud the slogan Jin, Jiyan, Azadî – Women, Life, Freedom – Žena, Život, Sloboda was an incredibly powerful experience for us, collectively and individually. For me, participating in this performance was as much about finding space for our own political and personal reflections as it was about lending our voices to Iranian women.

Lejla, one of the activists who participated in the performance tells me “It was a privilege to lend my voice to these brave women. Preparing for this was very emotional to me, it was impossible to remain indifferent in the face of such systematic repression and their painful experiences. Participating in this opened my eyes to the importance of their incredible resistance for all of us!”

Another Bosnian feminist, Gorana, says ”As feminists, we have an obligation to support women’s struggles around the world. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are a small and not-so-visible group, but I felt that even the small contribution we can make is an important element in our joint struggles. Women of Iran have been struggling for freedom from their oppressors for a long time, and at the moment they are exposed to the indescribable brutality of the regime. Their acts of courage are obligations for many of us, living to some extent privileged lives, to raise our voices more, and to support them in any way possible. None of us is free until all of us are free! We must not allow the struggles of our Iranian sisters to remain invisible and without support. Solidarity is our strength!”

For Adisa, who travelled from outside Sarajevo to participate in the performance, reading the story she was assigned led to a connection she did not expect. The arrest date of the Iranian activist whose story she read coincided with the date she herself was captured and assaulted during the war in BiH. She says “For me this was a completely new experience, a very personal one. My emotions were running high”.

As we made final preparations for the performance we felt that from our side, it was not enough to lend our voices to their stories. We wanted to send the courageous Iranian activists a message that their resistance has been heard and that their revolution is ours as well.

The message Bosnian activists sent to the Iranian women

Watch the video message, with English subtitles.

“To brave women of Iran

We, women activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, who have for a split second lent our voices to your stories, to bring them to the people in Bosnia and hopefully wider, want to express our solidarity with you and deepest respect and admiration for your courage.

Your words have deeply shaken us. Your heroic struggle for freedom, equality, and ending of patriarchal tyranny and oppression inspires and teaches relentless resistance and resilience. Your words and deeds breathe hope into each and every one of us, the hope for a better, equal and free future we want to share with you and all the women of the world.

We have not suffered the same degree of danger, repression and terror but we also dream and we also struggle for a world without oppression, poverty and violence. And, with you, we feel not alone in our struggle as we want you not to feel alone, ever again.

We are honoured to speak your words and sing your struggle in our language. Proudly we stand with you and salute you, our brave comrades and sisters, with the words that celebrate your revolution that is ours as well: ŽENA-ŽIVOT-SLOBODA, WOMEN-LIFE-FREEDOM.

Share the post

Nela Porobić Isaković

Nela Porobić Isaković is an activist and researcher based in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). In the focus of her work is the mainstream, neoliberal political economy of post-conflict reconstruction and recovery. Nela leads WILPF’s work on developing feminist alternatives to capitalist political economy and coordinates WILPF’s activities in BiH.

Your donation isn’t just a financial transaction; it’s a step toward a more compassionate and equitable world. With your support, we’re poised to achieve lasting change that echoes through generations. Thank you!

Thank you!

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Mauris facilisis luctus rhoncus. Praesent eget tellus sit amet enim consectetur condimentum et vel ante. Nulla facilisi. Suspendisse et nunc sem. Vivamus ullamcorper vestibulum neque, a interdum nisl accumsan ac. Cras ut condimentum turpis. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia curae; Curabitur efficitur gravida ipsum, quis ultricies erat iaculis pellentesque. Nulla congue iaculis feugiat. Suspendisse euismod congue ultricies. Sed blandit neque in libero ultricies aliquam. Donec euismod eget diam vitae vehicula. Fusce hendrerit purus leo. Aenean malesuada, ante eu aliquet mollis, diam erat suscipit eros, in.

Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

Skip to content