Women’s rights activist Giti Pourfazel (L) with attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is serving a 26-year sentence over her work and activism

Women’s rights activists in Iran have written an open letter to the Supreme Leader, calling on him to step down.

The 14 activists, risking retaliation by the regime, wrote of the need to deal with “gender apartheid” and the “patriarchal approach of leaders”: “Four decades of this theocracy has eliminated the rights of half of the country’s population.”

They asked for reform of “this anti-women system” with a new constitution for Iran.

We…are determined to continue our combat until victory through civil and non-violent measures. Like other pioneers, we go ahead by chanting ‘no to the Islamic Republic.

One of the signatories, attorney Giti Pourfazel, said to Radio Farda that “twenty million other Iranian women could count themselves as the fifteenth signatory” of the letter.

She declared, that after women enduring 40 years of discrimination, “We cannot tolerate this degree of discrimination any longer”.

The signatories wrote, “In a world that women in most countries move side by side with men in science, economy, culture, arts, and politics, under the Islamic Republic women still fight for their basic human rights.”

Iranian authorities had already arrested two of the women, but have not responded so far to the open letter.

Last week, two women’s rights activists, mother Monireh Arabshahi and daughter Yasaman Aryani, were sentenced to 16 years for not wearing hijab as they handied out flowers on a Tehran subway train on International Women’s Day. They were convicted “encouraging and promoting corruption by de-veiling”, “collusion and assembly to act against national security”, and “propaganda against the state”.

Another activist, Mojgan Keshavarz, was an additional 7 1/2 years for “blasphemy”.

Iran Daily, August 3: 16-Year Sentences for Handing Out Flowers and Not Wearing Hijab