Thousands of women marched in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kosovo, Ukraine, and elsewhere around the globe on International Women’s Day, demanding equal rights and denouncing harassment and abuse.
More than a dozen people reportedly were detained in Tehran as women’s rights activists attempted to stage a peaceful protest outside the Labor Ministry on March 8.
On this one day, out of an entire year, we as women of this country should be able to make these cities our own, stay in the streets, and return to our homes at days’ end, without having our bones crushed, the activists said in a statement issued earlier in the week.
Chanting slogans, hundreds of women rallied in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, its largest city Karachi, and the cultural capital of Lahore, denouncing violence against women in Pakistan, where nearly 1,000 women are killed by close relatives each year in so-called honor killings.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi addressed a gathering of women and assured them full protection.
Pakistani women at the rallies said they have been largely been deprived of their rights since the country gained independence in 1947.
In Karachi, a victim of an acid attack wearing black glasses to cover part of her badly burned face joined hundreds at a rally where activists saluted her for taking a public stand.
Hundreds of Muslims and minority Christian women stood up as a sign of respect when the acid attack victim joined the rally, which was held amid tight security.
Acid attacks are not uncommon in Pakistan, where men sometimes assault women for refusing to marry them. Victims of acid attacks tend to avoid public gatherings.
Meanwhile, in Kosovo, hundreds of women took to the streets to protest what they said were injustices ranging from job and housing discrimination to domestic violence.
Some posters held up during the demonstration in Pristina said, “We march, we do not celebrate” and “Job for me.”
“We fight for our rights as women. We want our rights at the workplace. We don’t want to be sexually harassed,” said Luljeta Aliu of the nonprofit Justice And Equality organization.
In Pristina, three red billboards like those in the Oscar-winning movie Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, were placed outside the Kosovo police headquarters.
“How many more missed calls?” read the first, followed by the names of two women — Diana Kastrati and Zejnepe Bytyqi — who were killed by their husbands.
Kosovo’s Haveit Group created the banners to criticize the police system, which failed to respond in time to save the victims.
In the Afghan capital, Kabul, hundreds of women marched to remind authorities that much remains to be done to give Afghan women a voice, ensure their education, and protect them from increasing violence.
The head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, Sima Samar, addressed women in Afghanistan’s security forces.
“Your safety represents the safety of all Afghan women,” she said, reminding women in uniform to report any abuse by superiors to the rights commission.
Samar said no one has the right to comment on their physical appearance or to speak to them disrespectfully.
The overall situation for Afghan women has gradually improved in the last decade, especially in the major urban areas, but those living in rural parts of the country still face major discrimination and violence.
Afghanistan in 2015 ranked 154th out of 158 countries on the UN Gender Inequality Index.
In Saudi Arabia, where women are hopeful of big changes in the deeply conservative kingdom, a group of women whooped and cheered by exercising a recently acquired freedom: the right to go for a jog.
“This is just the beginning of a revolution for women in Saudi Arabia. In jobs, in our lives, in society, everything is going to change for Saudi women,” one of the joggers, university student Sama Kinsara, told Reuters.
Women in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which last year was liberated from control by the Islamic State extremist group, also ran a symbolic marathon to celebrate their freedom.
Some of the women carried placards saying, “I have the right to speak freely.”
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.