Women's Day protesters rally with the focus on Iran and Afghanistan

Women's Day protesters rally with the focus on Iran and Afghanistan

MEXICO CITY/ISTANBUL--Rallies marking International Women's Day took place around the world on Wednesday, with a focus on Afghanistan, where the right to education has been taken away from girls, and Iran, which has seen mass protests on women's rights in recent months.

Activists donned purple and held demonstrations around the globe, from Jakarta and Singapore, to Istanbul and Berlin, to Caracas and Montevideo. In the Americas, reproductive rights were a key theme after the landmark Roe v. Wade U.S. abortion ruling was overturned last year and with abortion tightly restricted in much of Latin America. High rates of unsolved femicides - the killing of women or girls on the basis of their gender - is also something that women have been demanding more action on in the region.
In Mexico City, 67-year-old Silvia Vargas said she had been attending demonstrations since her daughter was killed in 2014. "Not everyone gets human rights, governments and institutions determine them," she said. "I'm going home to an absence that has marked me for life."
In Manila, activists calling for equal rights and better wages scuffled with police blocking their protest. "Girls just want to have fun...damental rights", read one poster. Turkish police fired pepper spray to disperse protesters in Istanbul.
In Paris, demonstrators marched to demand better pensions for women who work part-time and in Tel Aviv women formed human chains to protest a judicial overhaul that they fear will harm civil liberties.
Protesters flooded the streets of several Spanish cities to demand equal rights and the rooting out of "machismo" but divisions in the feminist movement over issues such as transgender rights and prostitution led to competing rallies.
Many protests included calls for solidarity with women in Iran and Afghanistan. "Afghanistan under the Taliban remains the most repressive country in the world regarding women's rights, and it has been distressing to witness their methodical, deliberate, and systematic efforts to push Afghan women and girls out of the public sphere," Roza Otunbayeva, head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement marking the day.
In London, protesters marched to the Iranian embassy in costumes inspired by the novel and television series "The Handmaid's Tale", while in Valencia, Spain, women cut their hair in support of Iranian women. The death last September of 23-year-old Mahsa Amini while in the custody of morality police in Tehran unleashed the biggest anti-government protests in Iran in years.
In recent days, Iran's clerical rulers have faced renewed pressure as public anger was compounded by a wave of poisonings affecting girls in dozens of schools. Iran has arrested several people it said were linked to the poisonings and accused some of connections to "foreign-based dissident media".
As Washington marked International Women's Day, the United States imposed sanctions on two senior Iranian prison officials it accused of being responsible for serious human rights abuses against women and girls.
Britain also announced a package of sanctions against what it described as "global violators of women's rights", while the EU announced new sanctions on Tuesday.
Some governments marked Wednesday with domestic legislative changes or pledges. Canada repealed historic indecency and anti-abortion laws, French President Emmanuel Macron said he backed the inclusion of the right to abortion in the constitution, and Ireland announced a referendum to remove outmoded references to women in its constitution.
Italy's first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, said state-controlled companies should have at least one leader who is a woman.

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