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The uprising in Iran & the struggle against all imperialisms: Woman, Life, Freedom!

For weeks, Iranian society has been taking to the streets in general revolt, fully aware of the brutality the regime is unleashing on them. We consider it crucial today to give the public stage to the people who are there themselves to convey directly to us the climate and what is happening, breaking the chain of various fake news that find the space to reproduce. For this purpose, four different online publications (Ελευθεριακός τόπος & εκδόσεις Αυτολεξεί, OmniaTv, Elaliberta, Περιοδικό Τέσσερα) join together and proceed to organize the event-discussion: “The uprising in Iran & the struggle against all imperialisms: Woman, Life, Freedom!”

The text I read in this event is as follows:


The state murder of a 22-year-old women named Mahsa for inappropriate wearing hijab sparked a big uprising that now we must call it revolution. A women whose her actual 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.

Statistics related to recent protests until November 11:

There have been protests in 138 cities in Iran so far, and police and security forces have murdered 336 protesters, 52 of whom were children. Estimates indicate that over 15,000 people have been arrested across the country, of whom 1,972 have been identified.

There have been protests at 137 universities so far, and 441 students have been arrested.

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.

Short history

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.

The Islamic Revolution, Islamic associations and councils, the Islamic Council and other revolutionary prefixes and suffixes were all established after the massacres and bloody repressions of the 1980s. The overthrow of the kingdom by a revolutionary uprising that was out of the control of the “no Jihad order” clergy was the root cause of the revolution that ended the rule of the one-man absolute tyranny of Mohammad Reza Shah. On the 22nd of Bahman, the day of the victory of the revolution, the day when the military barracks in Tehran and many cities were captured by the organization of the revolutionary communists, suddenly, with the intervention of the United States, a large part of the army and the royal guard declared neutrality and served the new government that just announced by Khomeini. This was the beginning of the bloody repression of the revolution that Shah could not suppress, but the Islamic-revolutionary state that had just come to power could. Under Islamic orders and in the name of revolution.

The repressions of the 1980s were also the result of security policies that warned people against unity and struggle. Even when the revolution was victorious, there was a huge massacre and in many parts of Iran, there was practically a civil war. In a situation where popular councils had taken power in many places, Khomeini declared his strong opposition to them. This opposition to the councils, in the case of other nations such as the Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens, was severely suppressed by claiming that they were separatists.

Few months 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.

Between 1979 and 1982, there were more than 40 active women’s organizations, according to Shahin Nawai, a left-wing feminist political activist and scholar exiled in Berlin and one of the founding members of the National Union of Women after the 1979 Revolution. A total of 20 organizations were formed by secular forces or members and supporters of political parties. In contrast, five organizations were formed by religious forces closely aligned with the government. Other active organizations were women’s trade associations in government offices.

When Khomeini ordered that Muslim women must appear in public wearing the Islamic hijab, and the government of the day announced the regulations, these organizations began their protests, the most famous being the March 8, 1980 demonstration. In the fall of 1980, the regime passed a law requiring the hijab to be worn at work and punishing those who violated it.

As we follow this historical journey full of fear, tears, struggle and hope, the reactions to the tragedy of the Zhina are even more significant in light of the current state of Iranian society, the current regime, and its pro-West opposition who are not making connection between the Islamic Republic’s anti-women and anti-working class stance US or some EU sterilization policies. Like the suppression of the yellow vest movement in France, discrimination against Muslims and other groups outside the white circle, abortion bans in some US states, anti-strike regulations recently announced in Canada, and other examples. Which for them, Hijab is the main problem that they can sell it by the dominant racial stereotype against Muslims in the west! And mostly they are ignoring that Iranian society is fed up with the miserable living conditions, US sanctions, the parasitic financial political-capital rulers, and the systematic looting.

Characterizing the Revolt

What started as a feminist uprising — breathing to life the now international slogan “Women, Life, Freedom” — has quickly evolved into a larger anti-government revolt. In many ways, these current protests are a continuation of the anti-government protests of 2017 and 2019 in Iran (and also in the countries of Iran’s sphere of influence, like Lebanon and Iraq) — which put forward the similar slogan of “Bread, Work, Freedom.” This wave of class struggle in many ways had put the spotlight on the growing anti-neoliberal sentiment around the world and was directly tied to the struggle against austerity and the high cost of living.

Unlike the Green Movement in 2009, which was mostly dominant and lead by reformist, and mostly contained to Iran’s major cities, this more recent wave of protests in Iran explicitly call for the downfall of the regime (even if it’s still unclear what will replace it), and they are primarily made up of working-class people. Against a backdrop of a creeping crisis of capitalism, which has had its ebbs and flows since 2008, the postpandemic landscape, marked by the war in Ukraine and high inflation, is also triggering a new wave of class struggle against the global cost-of-living crisis.

Semicolonies like Iran often bear the brunt of capitalism’s crisis (as the vaccine hoarding of the world’s richest countries demonstrated) because they are fundamentally subordinated to global capitalism and imperialism’s aggressiveness. Despite Iran’s status as a regional power, its economic and military might still pale in comparison to the other imperialist countries.

Moreover, Iran is contending with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic. Iran was a notorious epicenter of the pandemic and its impact on the economy was so severe that the Iranian regime was forced to make an unprecedented request to the IMF for an emergency loan of US$5 billion. And while the regime’s mismanagement exacerbated the pandemic’s worst effects, the double jeopardy of the West’s “maximum pressure” sanctions and the coronavirus battered the working class and poorest sectors of Iranian society. These sanctions continue today.

With these elements in play, it’s no wonder that Iran has been in an almost constant state of protest since the most severe pandemic restrictions were eased. In that sense, the current uprising can be seen as an apex of a social crisis that has been brewing long before last month.

What many did not foresee is that this brewing social discontent would be seized most prominently by working women in a country where the female labor force participation is one of the lowest in the world, but where, paradoxically, over 60 percent of university graduates and holders of higher education are Iranian women. In addition to patriarchal oppression, many women in Iran are subjected not only to gender oppression but also to economic insecurity.

Beyond these structural factors, the subjectivity of women in Iran must be seen in the context of a post-#MeToo era and a revitalized global feminist movement made up of women and trans, queer, and nonbinary people who are facing different yet interrelated attacks.

Another prominent feature of these protests is the unity of the diverse sectors in struggle, among the genders, Iranians and their diaspora (which has organized protests in over 150 cities around the world, including a protest of over 80,000 people in Berlin), various ethnic groups, but also among the different generations. Iran’s Gen-Z, or daheh-ye hashtadiha, has been on the front lines of these protests and is coming of age during Iran’s recent protest movements but also poignantly the BLM protests which broadened the imagination of a new generation of radicalized youth around the world. Over 40 percent of Iran’s population is under 24 years old, and youth unemployment also runs rampant.

Another characteristic that can’t be ignored is the presence and activity of the working class, which has a strong presence in this movement but has so far organized only limited independent actions. Currently, the teachers’ unions and contract workers in the oil industry are among the most prominent sectors to organize in response to the protests. In recent years, Iran has seen a rise in labor militancy from sectors as diverse as petrochemicals, trucking, and heavy equipment.

Importantly, the emergence of these protests have pushed many of these sectors to tie together democratic and political questions with economic ones. Alongside this dynamic, workers are also self-organizing in the tradition of the incipient bodies of self-organization that emerged during the revolution. These shoras exist not only in workplaces but also in universities and neighborhoods.

Hijab and Women movement

As the Islamic movement flourished in the 1980s, especially with the rise of Islamists in Iran and the compulsory Islamic hijab law, which created an anti-Islamic and women’s freedom movement in Iran, the issue of the Islamic hijab became a central part of the international discussion of women’s rights.

Following the war on terror policy, the Islamic hijab issue became even more controversial. The hijab became an important political issue not only in the women’s rights movement, but also in the “anti-imperialist”, “anti-racist” and “secularist” movements of the left and right. The status of the Islamic hijab was practically changed from one of the rites of Islam to the most important symbol of Islam and the flag of the Islamic movement.

In Iran, the women’s liberation movement targeted the Islamic hijab as a symbol of women’s inferiority and disenfranchisement. In the West, the secularist movement emphasized the need to abolish the compulsion to observe the Islamic hijab; In the last two decades, however, under the rule of the war on terror policy, racism against Muslims has grown, making the Islamic hijab the primary target of racist attacks, which are also supported by the right-wing secularist movement.

On the other hand, confronting the militaristic policies and state terrorism led many women to wear the hijab as a counter “imperialism”, West and to protest against the militaristic policies of the pole of state terrorism, even defending the rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore, hijab became an important and controversial political issue, not only in countries ruled by islamist but also in the world.

As a result of this reverse “anti-imperialist” policy, the Islamic Republic has been one of the biggest winners and propagandists. It has been the Islamic Republic that has played a significant role in ruling the issue of cultural relativism and Islamophobia. Creating a lobby movement, spending millions of dollars on Islamic propaganda, and engaging in continuous shrewd political activity have been some of the activities of the Islamic Republic.

Attempts by the Islamic regime and the Islamic movement to hold hostage anti-racist people who oppose racist attacks on Muslims have succeeded; Not only was the Islamic hijab smeared as an important tool of oppression and oppression of women, as well as pulling back and creating suffocation throughout society, but it has also unbelievably as the flag of an anti-feminist branch of the patriarchal world, become a symbol of protest and rebellion sometimes. Political Islam with all its branches from Iran to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt are all placed together under the title of confronting Westernism in this front.

Their opposite point is the right-wing and racist forces of Europe, which, despite being part of the force of women’s oppression, made Muslims their main target under the title of preserving European values or secularism. There are many examples from Marine Le Pen in France to Nazis like Orbán in Hungary and pseudo-fascist parties that gained political power in Scandinavian countries.

Imperialism

Individuals and groups in Iran promote the belief that the conflict between Iran and the United States is due to the resistance of an independent government that does not tolerate the bullying of the United States and the intentions of the capitalist system, and for this reason, the United States does not tolerate the presence of an independent Iran and of course it supports the oppressed people of Palestine. . Or because Iran is a serious obstacle to the expansionism of Israel and Saudi Arabia, it is constantly targeted by American sanctions and economic pressures and the political authorities of that country, and all the American and imperialist media attack Iran every day and accuse it of supporting terrorism and all sorts of petty accusations. And they are plotting big things against Iran and fueling baseless and baseless lies.

This interpretation, which apparently has clear and undeniable reasons, has also convinced some leftist intellectuals who live outside Iran and do not have a direct understanding of the people’s living conditions, that Iran’s foreign policy has an anti-imperialist side and is against the dominance of the capitalist system, especially in its neoliberal form.

Is the government of the Islamic Republic, although it is a reactionary and repressive government inside the country, but the same government is revolutionary, anti-dominion and anti-capitalist in its foreign policy?

The image that some leftists have of the struggle against global imperialism led by the US still belongs to the Cold War era. US’s support of military dictatorial governments from Latin America to Africa and Asia, the role of “CIA” in military coups against the interests of the people and national and popular governments, all-round support for Israel, the constant threat of Eastern European countries, and finally, military interventions and numerous military operations. We are aware of Vietnam, Korea, Cuba and African countries and we condemn them.

But the main issue is that anti-imperialism in its progressive sense relies on socialist thinking. But the government of the Islamic Republic, as evidenced by its forty-year history and its methods and attitudes, is a reactionary government that opposes many things, including US as the great devil! A strongly religious image that does not provide a clear answer to the capitalist relations that have made the United States an imperialist power.

If you are a true internationalist you should support struggles against capitalism and authoritarianism wherever they occur in the world. Maybe you have more leverage to support struggles against your own state, but regardless of that you should do your best at least to speak out against oppression.


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…

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