‘Women, Life, Freedom’

By | October 2, 2022

The Observer reports:

The messages, printed on scraps of paper, were thrown on doorsteps across Iran overnight by protesters determined that an online crackdown would not stop their movement.

“The Islamic Republic is falling. Join the people,” said one handed out in northern Rasht city. In southern Ahvaz organisers gave an address and time for protest, and a broader call to action. “If you cannot come, spread the message so other people come,” it urged readers.

Hours later a video from Ahvaz showed women dancing in the street, their hair uncovered, waving their headscarves in the air as a crowd lined up along the edge of the street applauded.

Two weeks into a wave of anti-government protests across Iran, authorities in Tehran seem increasingly frightened by the scale and determination of the popular uprising against their rule, and increasingly ruthless in their attempts to crush it.

The security forces have used live ammunition and brutal force on protesters, and swamped central Tehran with riot police. Dozens of people have been killed – tolls from human rights groups and Iranian state media range between 40 and 83. At least 1,500 have been arrested, according to the Associated Press.

Authorities have tried to hinder planning and reporting of protests with an online crackdown, banning social media apps, restricting internet access and trying to silence celebrities who support the movement. One football player has been arrested; the statue of another has been torn down.

The campaign of terror and obstruction has so far scattered the protests, but failed to stop them. Iranian demonstrators are determined to keep coming out. [Continue reading…]

In an interview with the New Yorker, Fatemeh Shams says:

I think you can get a very good sense of any revolutionary episode or movement from its slogans. And the central slogan of this revolution, in my view, is quite different from previous ones—from the one in 1979, and then if you go back in history, to the turn of the twentieth century, which was the constitutional revolution. The central slogan of this revolution is “Women, Life, Freedom.” You can compare this with one of the main slogans of the 1979 revolutionary movement, which was “Bread, Work, Freedom.” It was the central slogan of the Communist Labor Party, which had been inspired by the revolutionary movement in Russia.

But here, the focus, the core of this revolutionary movement, is the bodily autonomy of women, and reclaiming the bodily autonomy of women. This slogan comes from the Kurdish freedom movement, and is a result of decades of grassroots activities and efforts of Kurdish women in one of the most economically deprived regions of Iran, the Kurdish provinces. The Kurdish women of Kurdistan and Turkey used this slogan for the first time. And Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the emancipatory Kurdish movement, in 1998 gave a very famous speech in which he said that women are basically the first captives in history and until they’re not liberated, any emancipatory movement, in fact, will be doomed to fail.

In the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s brutal killing at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s hijab patrol, this particular slogan goes viral. It first was chanted by those who attended her funeral in the city of Saqez, in Kurdistan. And then after that, in Sanandaj, another key, major Kurdish city in the west of Iran. And now you hear it really all over Iran. You hear it in areas like Kelishad va Sudarjan. In the cities such as Mashhad in the Khorasan province, in Isfahan. In the southwest in Khuzestan. So right now, even internationally, in all of the international protests in the past two weeks, you hear this slogan.

So it has gone beyond the Kurdish cause. It originates there and it also includes the aspirations of the Kurdish emancipatory movement. But at this point, it really alludes to how women have taken center stage in leading this revolutionary movement in Iran. In the past, women’s rights were always important. But in the nineteen-hundreds, for example, in the constitutional revolution, it was always an aftereffect of the revolution. It was one of many other revolutionary demands. This time it’s first and foremost. [Continue reading…]

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