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Women at War: The Women of Iran Stand Up to Tyranny
In mid-September of this year, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman, was arrested and beaten by the so-called ‘morality police’ in Tehran for “inappropriate attire.” Her hair was showing from under her mandated head scarf. She was arrested and beaten, and following her detention, she fell into a coma and died on September 16th, three days after her arrest. The ‘morality police’ were enforcing Iran’s strict hijab laws, which mandate that women must completely cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothing to disguise their figures. Women who defy these laws face public humiliation, fines, beatings, arrests, and, yes ⏤ sometimes, death.
It did not take long for Iranian women to react. Chants protesting her death quickly changed into shouts against the regime. Women gathered in large numbers in the street, chanting, “Death to the Dictator,” “Our disgrace is our incompetent leader,” and “We don’t want the Islamic Republic.” These are chants that could bring the death penalty. The slogan that emerged as the theme of the demonstrations was “Woman, Life, Freedom,” and it spread quickly around the world on social media. Amini’s death became a catalyst that sparked an eruption of protests by women throughout Iran, women who had reached the end of their acceptance of religious tyranny and were now defying the heavy-handed oppression of women by the leaders of the Islamic state.
Once the news of Amini’s death became known, the revolt exploded on the streets and social media, from Tehran to more than 80 towns and cities throughout Iran. Iranian women removed their hijabs, some burned them publicly, and as of now, the dreaded morality police have been unable to stop the spread of these demonstrations.
Once it began, it did not take long for the revolt to spread. The regime’s attempts to crack down harder on “immoral behavior” changed into putting down what was rapidly becoming a full-scale revolution. But so far, they have failed.
What began as a response against the brutal tactics used by the ‘morality police’ against what the Islamist government considers immodest is rapidly becoming a spontaneous national movement that is taking root throughout the country. The Iranian police have not been able to put it down in more than a month. While women and girls are clearly the driving force behind what has clearly become a national revolt, young men have also joined the women in the streets: students, athletes, and workers all joined the protest in support of the women’s protest.
On October 5, two weeks after Amini’s death, and despite government crackdowns on demonstrations, Iranian university students called a strike on their first day of classes. They marched on the campus grounds chanting “Women, Life, Freedom.” Student-led protests erupted in 20 other cities throughout the country. Shops and businesses closed their doors in sympathy, and demonstrations erupted on the city streets. Videos appeared on social media showing young Iranian girls removing their hijabs and burning them while chanting anti-government slogans.
An entire generation of young men and women are rising up against the Islamist government of Iran that had imposed its religious tyranny on the people since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when they gained control of the Iranian government.
Not surprisingly, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States and Israel of orchestrating the protests. But this is clearly a spontaneous reaction to what the Iranian people say is “enough.” And this revolution in Iran seems to have legs. And so far, the Iranian police and their allies in the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) have not been able to put it down, as they have before when they put down the Green Movement that began on June 12, 2009, in response to a fraudulent election.
In that revolution, then-President Barack Obama ignored the pleas of the Green Movement, who begged for support against the Islamist government. He had another agenda in mind, including his JCPOA deal with the Iranian government. So obsessed was he with his plan to engage Iran that he even wrote personal letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, assuring him of his respect and goodwill, and that he had no intention of trying to overthrow the government. With this lack of US support, the Iranian government forces quickly put down the Green Movement.
When Mahsa Amini was killed by the so-called ‘morality police,’ the Islamist regime passed it off as an insignificant event. A woman’s life in the Islamic Republic of Iran is, after all, worth very little. Iranian women are trivialized and disrespected, as they are in other Islamic countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the death of Mahsa Amini meant a lot more than nothing. And so far, what is being called “the women’s revolution” has not been beaten down. It is, in fact, growing rapidly. And President Joe Biden does not seem to be following in his predecessor’s footsteps when it comes to Iran.
In his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 21, he said the US “stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery,” and, unlike Obama, he promised to hold the Iranian government “accountable” when he said, “I remain gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protestors in Iran, including students and women, who are demanding their equal rights and basic human dignity. They are calling for just and universal principles, which underpin the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For decades, Iran’s regime has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence. …. We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely”.
This statement alone may make a difference in the outcome of the women’s revolt, and turn nationwide demonstrations into a revolution. Unlike the crushing of the Green Movement in 2009, this movement has the possibility of succeeding because of Biden’s words and his actions on their behalf.
The people of Iran are demanding the overthrow of the theocracy that now rules the country. When women in Iran remove their headscarves and burn them publicly, it is an incredibly brave act of protest. They are in defiance of a tyrannical government that brooks no discussion or revolt, and responds to the smallest slight with brutal force. Iran holds the repression of women as one of the primary functions of the government, and this revolution that is overtaking the country may be historical.
If the women of Iran are able to unseat this tyrannical government and bring freedom to their country, it will not only bring them long wishes for freedom, but it may well lift a major threat of nuclear disaster from the world.
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