Up until that time in the world’s history, women were seen as less than second class citizens. They could not own land, could not vote or exercise most any of the rights that men of the time (and we now) would take for granted. Now, after centuries of silence, women have found their voices and are themselves becoming vehicles for the changes and advancements of the world. It is quite a wonder to discover that the first Women’s Rights Martyr was not even a westerner. She was from Persia (now Iran), a country still known for its oppression of women. Her name was Tahireh (The Pure One) or Quarratu’l-Ayn. She was one of the first followers of the Bab and her crime was simply showing her beautiful face. A woman appearing unveiled, especially in context of the time and country in which she lived, was perceived as a sign of promiscuity and a grave transgression against the clergy and even God Himself.
The moment Tahireh unveiled herself in Badasht, became the first act of public unveiling in Iranian history and the first aggressive movement against the oppression of women everywhere. She was captured in 1852, along with other Babis, imprisoned and eventually executed that year. Dressed in white silk, she had prepared for her death with fasting and prayers. She was strangled with a silk handkerchief and then thrown into a well, later filled with stones and dirt. With her voice proclaiming a new day in which women and men would be equal she once said:
“You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.”
E.G. Browne of Cambridge University said: “The appearance of such a woman as Tahireh in any country and in any age, is a rare phenomenon, but in such a country as Iran it is a prodigy - nay, almost a miracle. Alike in virtue of her marvelous beauty, her rare intellectual gifts, her fervid eloquence, her fearless devotion, and her glorious martyrdom, she stands incomparable and immortal amidst her countrywomen. Had the religion of the Bab no other claim to greatness, this were sufficient - that it produced a heroine like Qurratu’l-Ayn.”
The Tahirih Justice Center in Falls Church Virginia was founded in 1997 to address the acute need for legal services of immigrant and refugee women who have fled to the U.S. to seek protection from human rights abuses.
“I am grateful for organizations like the Táhirih Justice Center that are committed to providing legal, medical, and social services to women facing International human rights abuses.”
Hilary Rodham Clinton