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Iranian Women at the Frontline of Change

Aghileh Djafari Marbini, Hosnieh Djafari Marbini and Sue Lukes

23 September 2022


The unlawful death of Mahsa Amini is an example of the violence that prevails against the Iranian people and Iranian women in particular by their own government.

Mahsa and her brother were visiting family in Tehran but were from the city of Saqqez in the Kurdistan region. On September 13th, 22-year-old Mahsa was arrested by the Iranian regime’s notorious morality police because her headscarf was not sufficiently covering her hair. Mahsa’s brother was told she would be taken to a detention centre to undergo a ‘briefing class’ and released shortly afterwards. However, she arrived at Kasra Hospital shortly after and died on Friday September 16th, after being in a coma for three days. What happened between the arrest and her arrival at the hospital is not clear.

The killing of this young Kurdish woman spoke to the millions of Iranian women who on a daily basis try to fight against the mandatory covering of their hair and show their individuality by wearing the headscarf in different colours and fashions. This is the everyday struggle of Iranian women who live in a tyrannical system which has lost its popular base, is corrupt and resorts to brutal force to survive.

In Iran, as in all societies, any struggle has an additional class element. If you live in the rich and opulent areas of North Tehran you are much less likely to be arrested by the morality police, an observation that has not been lost on most Iranian working people. If you are traveling in a car you are less likely to be stopped than if you have to use public transport in poorer areas of town.

This means that working class women are hit hardest by these events. Working class women are less likely to be linked to money mafias that have strong links to the regime, if not directly related to them. They are less likely to have fathers or brothers or uncles who can use their connections to the regime or pay whatever bribe is necessary to free their female family members. It is a story as old as time: even in a seemingly even-handed sexist theocracy the class struggle is ever present.

In the last few days, Iranian people in eighty cities, mostly under the cover of darkness, have been demonstrating against Mahsa’s unlawful death. There have been three reported deaths and many injured in the demonstrations. The demonstrators have tried hard to remain peaceful despite enormous provocations by the regime. However, people are standing together and fighting back if others get arrested or attacked.

Mahsa’s death has become a symbol of what is wrong with the 40-year rule of the theocracy which turned the 1979 revolution of the Iranian people against tyranny into another dictatorship. This was a coup against the people’s revolution.

The last forty years has seen this regime violate the rights of the Iranian people, particularly those of women and minority groups in the name of religion. Like all tyrannies before and after, the regime has tried to use any means possible to contain and disempower Iranian people for its own survival.

What is hopeful amidst the chaos are the chants and the messages on the placards carried by the demonstrators. People are asking for democracy and denouncing dictatorship in all its forms whether that of the shah or the clergy. There has been a great show of unity and solidarity between all ethnic groups. People have come together to object to years of human rights abuses they have all been subjected to. The regime has tried hard in the first few days of the demos to create disunity amongst ethnic groups but so far it has failed.

We offer our heartfelt condolence and solidarity to Mahsa Amini’s family and the Iranian people. We offer solidarity to all victims of tyranny in Iran and elsewhere in the world. It is upon us to show solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters in whatever way possible. We therefore urge you to attend a demonstration in front of Iranian embassy on Saturday to show solidarity – details are shared below.

Mahsa’s spirit lives on in all young people fighting for freedom in Iran and elsewhere. She will be a symbol of hope for the Iranian people. Mahsa is forever with us. The Iranian people will continue with their struggle against tyranny. Change is coming.

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