Iran: when the women's revolt welcomes other struggles


For a month now, the protests continue in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, beaten to death by the vice squad on 13 September.

These protests severely repressed by the regime, initially focused on women's rights. But, quickly, other claims were added. Understanding it better requires an intersectional approach, because we are witnessing a convergence of social struggles behind the cause of women: this goes hand in hand with the appearance of a new militant generation, new demands and new forms of action. .

An uprising in the name of the cause of women

During Mahsa Amini's funeral ceremony, several women reportedly took off their veils chanting the slogan "Jin Jiyan Azadi" (Woman Life Freedom) in protest against the law imposing the wearing of the hijab in all circumstances. Very quickly, this slogan was taken up across the country, particularly in the universities of Tehran, such as ElmoSanat, and Tabriz. These protests sparked a violent response from the regime.

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Let us recall that the obligation of the hijab as a religious, political and ideological question can be considered as the symbol of repressive and unequal politics implemented in Iran immediately following the 1979 revolution: women have been the object of numerous discriminatory measures for more than forty years, which deprive them of many of their fundamental rights, such as the right to choose their own clothes, the right equal to divorce and custody of children, the right to travel abroad, the right to be present in certain public spaces (such as football stadiums or other types of sports stadiums), the right to exercise certain professions or key positions such as President of the Republic, judge and several other military and religious positions.

This is why feminist activists call present-day Iran agender apartheid and denounce the “systematic gender segregation” who is there.

These denunciations have been recurrent – ​​and always repressed – throughout the more than forty-three years of existence of the Islamic Republic. From 2017, we are witnessing the emergence of new forms of protest (individual protests), led by new generations of feminist activists, and even the mobilization of various marginalized groups and men for the cause of women. On December 27, 2017, Vida Movahed brandished a white hijab, tied to the end of a stick. His gesture has a great impact in iran and other women follow her example in other cities, until today.

One of the specificities of the current movement lies in the fact that feminist demands are also mixed with demands linked to another cause, this time ethnic.

The ethnic cause

Iran is a multi-ethnic country whose dominant ethnic group – that is to say the Persians, who rather occupy the central plateau of the country – represents only 50% of the total population. From other major ethnolinguistic groups, include Azerbaijani Turks (between 20,6 and 24%), Kurds (between 7 and 10%), Arabs (between 3 and 3,5%), Baluchis (between 2 and 2,7%), Turkmen (between 0,6 and 2%) and Lours (between 2% and 8,8%)…

Turnkey significant ethnic tensions exist in Iran at least since the beginning of the XXe century, when an assimilationist policy was put in place which resulted in particular in the violent repression of ethnic minorities in the Iranian provinces of Azerbaijan, Kurdistan, Turkmenistan, Khuzistan and Balochistan. This violence resumed after the Second World War, with the crushing of the Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan (July 1945 – December 1946) and republic of Mahabad (January 1946–December 1946) in Kurdistan.

After the 1979 revolution, these tensions continued to manifest themselves, particularly in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan and Khuzistan.

It is in this context that the events we are witnessing today take place. After the media coverage of the death of Mahsa Amini, who was Kurdish, the Kurdish opposition parties called on the cities of Iranian Kurdistan to go on general strike. A call that was followed on September 17 by traders and residents of Saqqez, Mahsa Amini's hometown, where hundreds of people had attended her funeral, and in some small and large towns in the region.

The Azerbaijani minority in Iran has join the movement and supported the Kurds with the slogan "Azerbaijan has woken up and supports Kurdistan". This message of solidarity spread to other regions and mobilized other ethnic-religious groups such as the Arabs and the Baluchi.

It is precisely the Baluchis who have paid the most for their involvement in this protest. On Friday, September 30, a peaceful demonstration was organized by Baluch minorities in Zahedan, a city in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan in southeastern Iran, in support of the Kurds, but also in protest against the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl by a police chief in the Baloch town of Chabahar. The repression was of immense violence : nearly 100 people would have died. A massacre that the regime justifies by the fight against separatism.

New demands, new actors

New actors appear through this revolt, starting with a new generation of feminist activists with a new repertoire of actions and a new discourse, and also a new generation called the "Generation Z", like the young high school or college students.

From the second week, students and high school students began to demonstrate in universities, high schools and colleges, chanting slogans. This prompted security forces to attack high schools during the fourth week of protests. During the October 13 police intervention against Shahed High School in the northern city of Ardebil, a high school student named Esra Panahi was killed and several dozen schoolgirls were injured and some arrested, which sparked protests in the cities of Ardabil and Tabriz. More than 1 people have been arrested in Tabriz, according to Sina Yousefi, a lawyer who was himself arrested by the government following the dissemination of this information.

Many women writers have also announced that they will no longer publish books under the supervision and audit of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which is responsible for authorizing or not authorizing cultural productions. In video posted on October 4, Mahdieh Ahani, the director of the magazine Ban, published in Tabriz, filming himself bareheaded, burned his work permit in front of the camera while denouncing the obligation of the hijab and the repressive measures against women, censorship and freedom of expression. Similarly, Atekeh Radjabi, a primary school teacher in Ahmadabad, has also filmed bareheaded while declaring to go on strike.

Students also called for a strike in many universities chanting “students prefer death to humiliation”, “Death to the oppressor, whether king or mullah” and “Woman, life, freedom”. They radically question not only the policies and laws imposed by the regime, but also the cultural, traditional and religious norms and values ​​established in Iranian society.

Their dispute no longer only concerns the obligation to wear the veil: they go so far as to attack the regime of the Islamic Republic as such, and target Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, several of whose photos hung in public spaces or in classrooms were burned and torn.

International solidarity and revolutionary situation

This anger, widely disseminated through social networks, quickly prompted messages of solidarity sent by many women, particularly in Turkey in Lebanon. as Syria and in various western countries, including France.

The extent of the mobilization is such that it is possible to speak of revolutionary situation. For the first time, the cause of women is not minimized in favor of other struggles and demands, but is found at the heart of this insurrection, and hinges on the struggles of national minorities, marginalized groups, middle and popular classes exasperated by the political and economic situation, as well as environmental struggles. This is how it led to an exceptional uprising across the country, which seems set to last.

Dorna Javan, PhD student in political science at IEP Lyon, Lumière Lyon 2 University

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

Image credit: Shutterstock / Alex Yeung

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