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Eleven female political prisoners at Evin Prison in Tehran have written a letter stating that exposing gender apartheid can help fight discrimination and oppression.

Golrokh Iraee, a political detainee, shared the letter on her X social media account, revealing the signatories Nasim Soltan Beigi, Anisha Asadollahi, Mahvash Sabet, Narges Mohammadi, Sepideh Gholian, Vida Rabbani, Golrokh Iraee herself, Joanna Seneh, Pakhshan Azizi, Fariba Kamalabadi, and Mahboubeh Rezaii.

The letter says, “March 8, International Women’s Day, serves as a reminder of the century-long history of women’s struggles. This global day of solidarity aims to realize gender equality and combat all manifestations of injustice, exploitation, as well as legal, economic, political, cultural and social discrimination.”

The prisoners, reflecting on the status of women, particularly in the Middle East and nations such as Iran and Afghanistan, said, “We acknowledge that there is a lengthy path ahead to attain freedom and equality.”

Political and civil activists, labor unions, trade unions and critics of the Islamic Republic government extended their greetings on International Women’s Day to Iranian women, while condemning the government’s suppression of women.

Earlier, Narges Mohammadi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate incarcerated by the Islamic Republic, urged the United Nations secretary-general to “criminalize gender apartheid” and designate it as “one of the crimes against humanity” in a message shared on her Instagram page on February 1.

In her message, she reflected on decades of “women’s existence in Iran under the shadow of the Islamic Republic government,” asserting that the Islamic Republic “systematically and deliberately, leveraging all governmental tools and powers, particularly through legislation, perpetuates the marginalization of women and violates their human rights.”

In that context, a panel of United Nations experts has recently spotlighted the profound injustices experienced by women, particularly under governments such as the Taliban, and urged for the worldwide recognition of “gender apartheid” as a “crime against humanity.” The initiative, previously championed by Mohammadi, calls for an investigation by the United Nations.

The panel of U.N. experts, comprising representatives from the United States, China, Mexico, Uganda and Serbia, emphasizes that the acknowledgment of gender apartheid as a crime is long overdue and that this form of apartheid is not explicitly addressed in international law.

Karima Bennoune, an international law professor at the University of Michigan, told VOA, “Gender apartheid draws from the legal structure of racial apartheid, highlighting that gender discrimination is ingrained within the governmental system itself.”

The experts are urging the Sixth Committee of the U.N. General Assembly to include gender apartheid in Article 2, which deals with the prevention of crimes against humanity and their punishment. One of those experts emphasizes, “Gender apartheid isn’t just a theoretical concept or legal construct; it’s a genuine danger and a tangible reality for millions of women and girls across the globe.”

Last week, Bennoune, an Algerian American and former U.N. special rapporteur on cultural rights, delved into the legal aspects of criminalizing gender apartheid in an interview with VOA.

Having held the position of U.N. special rapporteur on cultural rights from 2015 to 2021, she also addressed the U.N. Security Council in 2023 concerning gender apartheid in Afghanistan.