A New Dawn: Iran’s Struggle for Freedom and Equality
The state murder of a 22-year-old women named Mahsa for inappropriate wearing hijab sparked the a big uprising that now we must call it revolution. A women whose her second name was Zhina, which in kurdish means life. The murder of a “life” has sparked the beginning of a great revolution to end the life of a death-dealing regime, to end the life of the monster of political Islam. The killing of a “life” has sparked a great revolution at the beginning of the 21st century, which with its victory will save the lives of millions of people from the clutches of one of the cruelest regimes in the history of our kind. Women are in the front line of this revolution and it is called a women’s revolution and the slogan “woman, life, freedom” is engraved on its forehead.
So far, 201 people have been killed by the regime, 23 of whom were children. Following the news that 17-year-old Nika Shakrami and 16-year-old Sarina Ismailzadeh had been murdered following a severe beating, even school students became angry and protested. The number of people killed in the “Bloody Friday of Zahedan” announced by the “Baloch Activists Campaign” reached at least 93 people. Some of these people died in the hospital in the following days. In this city, protests erupted over a police chief raping a 15-year-old girl, and despite promises made by the authorities, the case remained unresolved.
As we see today in the streets and cities across the country, two opposing needs have grown together subtly and imperceptibly over time. The performance of the capitalist-Islamic government of Iran against the resistance and struggle of four decades of the left.
A rich history of resistance!
Iranian society has witnessed large demonstrations every few years for the past four decades, which quickly became anti-regime protests. All these protests had economic and political roots:
Economic protests after the Iran-Iraq war in 1992 and then 1995, which were the first protests after the bloody repression of the 1979 revolution, protests against the arrest of Öcalan in Iranian Kurdistan and the killing of hundreds of people by the regime in the winter of 1998, student protests in the summer of 1999 due to the issue of freedom of expression and attack on University of Tehran, Khatun Abad Arak copper mine workers’ strike in the winter of 2003 when the police shot at the workers and resulted in the death of several workers, Kurdistan textile workers’ strikes in 2004, which was the biggest labor strike in Iran at the time, the big strike of the workers of the Tehran Bus Unit Company in 2005 against the Islamic labor councils that were created by the government and law salary and other matters, Attacking the largest leftist student organization in 2006 and arresting, torturing and expelling more than 250 leftist students.
The campaign of one million signatures for change in 2005, which tried to change the discriminatory laws against women by growing collective awareness and collecting signatures in the Iranian parliament, which was suppressed by a massive attack and the arrest and trial of more than 70 activists. The big protests of the Green Movement in 2009 in protest of the election results, the protests of Khuzestan in 2011 in protest of the regime’s attempt to change the demography of the region, as well as pressure for Arabs to move to other regions of Iran, followed by protests against the extensive dam construction on the main rivers that fed Lake Urmia in the northwest of Iran and caused it to dry it up, the demonstrations in January 2016 against poverty and unemployment in hundreds of cities in Iran, which faced widespread repression, student protests in Iran in 2017 in protest of the poverty situation and in support of the Iranian labor movement.
Labor strikes in Khuzestan at 2018, especially in Khuzestan Steel and Haft-Tepe sugar cane factories against privatization, became powerful strikes and protests that brought the council management issue back into the public class movement discourse after 1979. This turned into the slogan of bread, work, freedom – council management which continued to be repeated in subsequent protests. In follow events, demonstrations in November 2019 after the sudden increase in the price of fuel, which led upraising in more than 100 cities, and according to unofficial statistics, more than two thousand people were killed by military forces during the protests. Widespread protests against the management of the water crisis in dozens of Iranian cities in 2021, especially in Khuzestan province, where dozens of people were killed due to police brutality. There have been several large-scale teacher strikes over the past few years against living conditions, the strengthening of teaching resources, and demanding separation of religion and education. Their last strike was this spring, which led to the arrest of dozens of teachers.
It should also be mentioned the widespread discrimination against other nationalities living in Iran, such as the Balochs elimination from the circle of the nation-state of Iran, to the extent that hundreds of thousands of them don’t even have citizenship identification documents. Widespread suppression of Arabs, Kurds, Turks, as well as extensive pressures on believers of other religions such as Christianity (dozens of people were sentenced to death for the crime of leaving Islam and converting to Christianity) or trying to elimination believers from the Baha’i religion, which their property is always confiscated, banning them from study in the university and dozens of other discrimination. Discrimination against the LGBTQA society (which is called the Rainbow Society in Iran) and death sentences against them and dozens of other cases.
Of course, this list is so long that it is not possible to mention all the events here. But these are the highlights. Based on this history and this situation alone, it is understandable why the protests quickly evolved into anti-regime protests and spread to dozens of cities.
The rise and fall of political Islam
In 1979, Iran’s theocratic government took power. A popular revolution overthrew Reza Shah, a brutal US-backed dictator whose regime was defined by intense exploitation of workers, repression of all conflict, and foreign control of Iranian oil. Workers and leftist forces played a central role in his overthrow, but right-wing clergy imposed an authoritarian Islamic government that persecuted the progressive elements that brought down the previous regime.
After revolution, a referendum was held on 10th and 11th of April 1979 to approve the government of the Islamic Republic, and the result was announced on 12th of April and new government clime that 98.2% of the participants voted yes to the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was despite the fact that the Kurdistan province and the Kurdish regions of East Azerbaijan boycotted this referendum and basically did not participate in it. People were also started fighting with the new government that replicated the Shah regime in many cities. Turkman-Sahra, Lorestan, Khuzestan and so many other regions were in kind of civil war. The population of Iran at that time was nearly 35 million people.
Since then, in terms of population size, disintegration of city-rural ratio, expansion of capitalist relations, social mobility, family structure, relationship between individual and group, man and woman, young and old, values and beliefs, consumption patterns, perception of time, The relationship with the world and self-concept have undergone fundamental changes – revolutionary changes, comparable to the structural changes in the country from the end of the Qajar dynasty until the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty.
Structural change has not directly caused a crisis. The crisis goes back to a fundamental problem in Iran, which the 1979 revolution was an attempt to answer them, but it was severely suppressed and now it has become a source of social volcano again in the context of structural transformation.
Political Islam is a general title referring to this movement which sees Islam as the main vehicle for a Right-wing restructuring of the ruling class and creating a anti-Left state in these societies. As such, it confronts and competes with other poles within the capitalist world, especially hegemonic blocs, over its share of power and influence in the world capitalist order. This political Islam does not necessarily have any given or defined Islamic jurisprudence and scholastic content. It is not necessarily fundamentalist and doctrinaire. This political Islam encompasses a varied and wide range of forces- from the political to ideological flexibility and pragmatism.
The Islamic regime was successful in suppressing and eliminating the traditional political parties and organizations of the opposition, but the protesters have overcome the policy of suppressing the opposition by creating communication networks in the virtual space, capillary networks in neighborhoods and schools, etc., union and movement institutions, etc. in the real space. . This process started with the protests of the summer of 2009 and during the protests of the following years, especially in 2017 and 2019, despite censorship and more restrictions on the Internet, it found its resistance mechanisms.
What is going on?
According to the first footage of Mahsa’s funeral that was published, something was evident. Many people protested to pray over Mahsa’s body. In one video, someone openly talked the Mullah who was about to pray that “your Islam killed Mahsa. shame on you!” And a while later, the slogan of woman, life, freedom were chanted.
The movement we are witnessing now has emerged from an intersectional context. A part of the dissatisfactions – caused by the oppression of women and at the same time caused by the violence of the police system – was tied to the deep dissatisfaction of the Kurdish people, a people with a high experience of fighting and the strength of solidarity.
Naomi Klein writes in “The Shock Doctrine” that the implementation of economic programs in many countries requires creating a shock to distract people from the terrible results. An important question can be raised here: What kind of shock therapy was used in Iran to implement these programs? The answer is simple: Enmity with America. But the relationship between the implementation of these policies and hostility to America took many twists and turns. The more this economy was pushed forward and its unfortunate results became more obvious, the more insistence was placed on anti-American and anti-Western ideology. What was the most important cultural tool of enmity with America? First of all, the cruel criticism of the individual rights and human rights of women and the people of Iran, and secondly, limiting the freedom of ethnic groups and religions and giving wings to pseudo-fascist nationalism.
Here are some statistics provided by the government to understand the situation better: Approximately 13% of Iranian women participate in the labor market, while 68% of men do, which is five times higher than women. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for women is 17% and for men is 7%. Considering the ages between 18 and 35, the unemployment rate of men is 13% and the unemployment rate of women is 28%. It is important to mention that the unemployment rate in Iran is generally calculated at 9% and the reason for this is considering one hour of work per week as employment. which is a completely unrealistic figure.
Mahsa’s family resists the pressure of the establishment to cover up the crime, they and their relationship become a media issue, the news spreads and first of all, it arouses the practical response of the people of Saqqez and Sanandaj. Protest movements begin, which spread to other cities due to the existence of a general background of dissatisfaction and at the same time, the emotion that the story sparked. Women, students, and as the photos and videos show, a large group of young people participate in the protests. In many cases, women take off the hijab and even throw it in the fire. Which spread the movement in Qom and Mashhad. That is climes to be two “Holy” cities of Shiite Islam were people experiences more religious repression.
Based on these statistics, the massive uprising following the killing of Mahsa by the police, as a famous Iranian proverb says is not a thunderbolt in a cloudless sky.
The slogans coined by the protesters show quite clearly the connections between current protests and the series of uprisings in 2017 and 2019, which were sparked by the removal of state subsidies on oil products and staple foods, as well as earlier protests against the compulsory hijab, first, immediately following the 1979 revolution, and later in 2017 in a movement known as the “The Girls of Inquilab (Revolution) Street.”
Thus, the protests are not solely focused on “women’s rights” or “Islamic oppression”; they are also responding to a deteriorating socio-economic situation resulting from both US sanctions and an increasingly neoliberal economic policy that has resulted in massive unemployment and systematic corruption within the government. Iran’s neoliberal turn has deprived people of their daily subsistence and granted immeasurable wealth to the minority “regime class.” These factors, combined with massive repression of freedom of speech and thought, and a tyrannical regime which has reduced Islam to the question of the compulsory hijab and regional intervention, have led to a widespread sense of indignation.
It’s enough to know that, after Pinochet’s Chile, Iran is another country that according to its constitution (article 44), privatization is a defined mechanism in the economy. They are interested in saying that this privatization will ultimately benefit the poor and grow the economy. Yes, in all other countries we experienced what these words mean…