The women of Iran have risen up, with cries of “Down with the dictator!”
The catalyst has been the murder of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old woman murdered at the hands of the Gasht-e Ershād (Guidance Patrol), otherwise known as the morality police. She was arrested on 13 September for not wearing a complete hijab, was taken to a detention centre, and a few hours later was transferred to an intensive-care unit in critical condition. She was pronounced dead on Friday 16 September.
Mahsa Amini is only one of the latest of the thousands murdered by the Islamic Republic, with at least another fifty people killed during protests that have rocked the country since. Whether she ever intended to shake the regime or not, that is what she has done. Her name has become a rallying cry for all in the country seeking change. Her temporary tombstone reads: “Dear Zhina, you will not die. Your name will become our symbol.”
We offer solidarity with all those who seek to throw off the chains of oppression, and we remember that none are so fitted to break those chains as they who wear them. Solidarity is not practised through calls for international intervention, as we have seen play out over and over again to the detriment of all but US imperialism; and solidarity is not practised by targeting people for their religious expression.
What killed Mahsa Amini was not religion but state repression, expressed through religion. The religion is merely the excuse and the tool used to subjugate, repress, and dominate; and, as we have seen, though everyone in Iran is affected, it is women who face the brunt of it.
We have seen a similar situation here, where the Catholic Church and the state used each other to demean, belittle, control and repress women. The answer was not and is not to challenge and blame individuals for their personal religious beliefs but to tackle the institutions; and this work is being done in Iran, as here.
Islamic feminists, progressive and left-wing forces within Iran and those exiled are the voices to be heeded in this discussion. It is these people who have continued to fight against oppression and despotism, often at great risk to themselves; and it is only these forces combined that have the means and the understanding to effect the changes necessary within Iran for the betterment of all.
Our duty as communists abroad is to lift those voices and to defend and stand with those who face oppression here.
Hijabi or not, sisters and comrades, it is a better world we build, and it is one we build together.