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Mr. Speaker, the women of Iran are standing shoulder to shoulder in the streets protesting against the rigged, corrupt Iranian elections. At least that's how it began. Now these legions of women, mostly wearing black, full-length Islamic dress, stand in defiance of their government's treatment of women. These women have shed their blood, suffered the same beatings and imprisonment as men. Some have sacrificed their very lives.
In America our hearts ache as we watched the video of Neda Agha Soltan. She was shot by her own government henchmen as she walked through the streets. She bled to death in that street, a martyr for democracy in Iran. Neda was only 26 years old, but her voice still cries from the grave: "that the people of Iran demand human rights, equality and freedom from tyranny."
Young women like a girl named Parsia told reporters, and I quote, "This regime is against all humanity, more specifically, against all women." She continues, "Lots of girls and women in these demonstrations. They're all angry, ready to explode, scream out and let the world hear their voices. I want the world to know that as a woman in this country, I have no freedom."
The women of Iran have a rich history of fighting for freedom. In the early 1900s, in Persia, later called Iran, Britain and Russia tried to rule Persia through a puppet government.
In 1906, the Persian people fought the shah, and became a constitutional republic. They had a Congress called the Majlis to make their laws.
American economic expert Morgan Shuster was appointed to that democratic government in 1911 to organize Persia's finances. At that time, members of the Majlis were threatened or were bribed by Russia, with support from Great Britain, to disband that constitutional government. Shuster wrote in his memoirs about Persian women who armed themselves and who marched on the Congress.
He writes about those bold, brave women, ``Out from their walled courtyards and harems marched 300 women with the flush of undying determination in their cheeks. They were clad in their plain black robes with the white nets of their veils drooped over their faces. Many held pistols under their skirts or in the folds of their sleeves. Straight to the Congress they went.''
These "Persian mothers, wives and daughters" dropped their veils and waved their pistols, saying they had decided to "kill their own husbands and sons and leave behind their own dead bodies" if the Congress "wavered in their duty to uphold the liberty and dignity of the Persian people and nation."
Because of these courageous women 100 years ago, the Persian Congress stood firm in their struggle for liberty and freedom for the people. However, Russian Cossacks marched into Tehran a week later, disbanding the government by force and executing every constitutionalist they could find.
History speaks to the courage and bravery of Iranian women, which goes back for centuries. It is no surprise they are again at the forefront of the struggle for human rights and dignity in Iran. The women of Iran are not the property of the government, and should not be punished because they demand equality with men. These women present a great challenge for the hard-line government. They are a force to be reckoned with, and the government knows it.
My grandmother used to tell me that there's nothing more powerful than a woman who has made up her mind. Let me tell you some