Contact: Connie Huynh, Chairperson, [email protected]
NATIONAL: AF3IRM salutes the women in particular and all who continue to protest in Iran, despite intense state repression and violence by the Basij Forces. AF3IRM believes that no religious interpretation should be a cause for a woman’s death, more so of people’s death, and that the struggle to maintain national independence from global imperialism is not reducible to a way of clothing. Neither, for that matter, is morality.
The protests, which began on September 16, 2022, were ignited by the unexplained death of 22-year-old Mahsa (Jina) Amini, who had been arrested by the Gashte Ershad (morality police). She collapsed at a re-education camp and was brought to a hospital, where she lapsed into a coma and died. Another woman, journalist Niloofar Hamedi, published an account of Ms. Amini’s demise, while Elahi Muhammadi, also a woman journalist, covered Ms. Amini’s funeral. Both were arrested and recently accused of being “foreign spies,” virtually a death sentence.
These incidents were the direct sparks of the protest, which started in Ms. Amini’s hometown, Saqqez, but which has spread, per reports, to 132 cities and towns and involved 122 universities. 300 Iranian media people signed a demand for the release of the two women journalists, Ms. Hamedi and Ms. Muhammadi. Rather than curb the violence, the Iranian government has chosen to blame its citizens’ protests against repression on “foreign intervention.” While intervention from both sides of the superpower divide flows unceasingly worldwide, national conditions remain the primary triggers for protests. Though women and students began the current protests, other sectors joined quickly, including ethnic minorities, oil workers, teachers, and merchants. For over a month now, the protests and rallies are still roiling. Clearly, the protest cry of Zan, Zendegi, Azadi (Jin, Jiyan, Azadi in Kurdish), “Woman, Life, Freedom,” resonates with the Iranian population, articulating their conviction that the repression of women is but the overt syndrome of a general repression of freedom and hence, of life itself. For the morally upright, this is a severe transgression.
It is with a sense of terrible irony that AF3IRM looks at the growing list of women and girls incarcerated, brutalized, and killed, with the further irony that their murderers rape before killing them to avoid the “sin” of murdering a virgin. AF3IRM is aware of the historical role women and students played in the Islamic Revolution of 1979 against the dictatorship of Shah Pahlavi and that revolution’s goal of removing foreign intervention in their political and social life. Women’s names repeatedly surface among the killed in this year’s wave of protests, generational descendants of the women who were pivotal in the overthrow of the Shah: Nika Shakarani, 16, attended a protest, disappeared, and was later found in a police morgue. Hannaneh Kia, 23, was shot dead. Hadis Najafi, 22, a video blogger, was killed at a protest rally. Mahsa Mogouyi, 18, was killed at another rally. Sarina Esmaelzadeh, 16, was beaten to death, reportedly saying, “nothing feels better than freedom.” The list grows.
AF3IRM is mindful of this verse from The Family of Imran, Chapter 3 of the Qur’an: So their Lord answered their prayers saying, I will not allow the work of any worker from among you, whether male or female, to be lost. You are from one another. (3:195) We believe this implicit recognition of equal value should weigh more than a bias that justifies beating women and girls to death over “improper hijab wearing.”
Simin Behbahani, the great poet “Lionness of Iran,” who passed away in 2014, spoke of women’s commitment to the nation:
My country, I will build you again,
If need be, with bricks made from my life.
I will build columns to support your roof,
If need be, with my bones.
I will inhale again the perfume of flowers
Favored by your youth.
I will wash again the blood off your body
With torrents of my tears..1
The violence intensified as the Basij declared that Saturday, October 29, would be the last day of protests, and people continued to gather.
We condemn the violence; we condemn the killings; we condemn the arrests and imprisonments.
AF3IRM asserts that repressing half of the population does not make for morality or national sovereignty. Nor can either be maintained by such repression. Nor, for that matter, by the continued suppression of any marginalized groups, genders, and sexual orientations. Geo-politics are not an excuse to suppress the aspirations of the governed for a better life, an amiable governance, and the right to both individual and collective self-realization and self-fulfillment.
Never underestimate the transformational impact of women’s activism. – AF3IRM
Women’s liberation completes the revolution. – AF3IRM