Women’s Resistance Touches Off a New Uprising in Iran

Alireza Kia

Summary: Examines the size and the social base of the September uprising as a possible turning point in the struggle against the Islamist regime — Editors

Last week we witnessed massive uprisings in almost all cities and provinces of Iran. This happened after the murder of Mahsa Amini on September 16, by so-called morality police, just because she was wearing her headscarf “improperly”.

Twenty-two-year-old Mahsa was from Saghez, a city in Kurdistan province. She came to Tehran with her brother to visit her family. She died at the hands of the repressive Islamist regime.

Thousands of people have been gathering and demonstrating in different parts of cities every day against the policy of forced hijab (covering women’s hair) and other oppressive conditions imposed by Iran’s Islamist state. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic more than 43 years ago, tens of thousands have been detained and many thousands tortured and executed. But the way out for the people is vividly clear: It is to expand the struggle massively all over the country to remove the existing political order

Today, women are leading the charge at the front of this uprising; some are taking off their head covering and some even burning their scarf or shaving their hair in front of cheering crowds. As a a symbolic rejection of Islamic regime, there is open resistance against the hijab. To be sure, the people of Iran, especially Iranian women, are standing up against forced hijab. But they’re also targeting the ideology of the Islamist regime, instead projecting the notion that head covering is a personal choice. In fact, their slogan is for life, which means freedom, social justice, bread, and work. They are chanting that this regime oppresses the people of Iran especially all women, from Kurdistan to Tehran. They are uniting all cities and provinces in protest.

People are also striking at symbols of state authority, burning images of supreme religious leader Ayatollah Khamenei. People are organizing locally, fighting in the streets with morality police and other repressive forces like the Basij paramilitaries, using different tactics to stop these forces and gathering in different parts of every city to discuss their ideas and tactics.

It is a spontaneous movement by women, young university students and local people who organized themselves to fight against the oppressive regime. It started with women but now a majority of the people are involved in this uprising to support women for humanity, freedom, and social justice. People are chanting “Women-Life-Freedom,” that this anti-women regime should be overthrown.

They rise to be free and have a better future. The Arab spring was started twelve years ago by a Tunisian fruit and vegetable vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in the town of Sidi Bouzid triggering an uprising. Now the murder of Mahsa by thugs of the Islamist regime has triggered a new uprising in Iran against hijab and existing Islamist regime. After ultra-conservative Ibrahim Raisi became president, the regime thought that it would be able to unite society along conservative religious lines. In this context, the hijab is a means to show whether people are with them or against them. The regime miscalculates that those who are accepting forced hijab are “with them.” Today’s uprising is a clear rejection of regime’s values.

So far over 40 people have been killed and hundreds injured or arrested. These numbers will be much worse if the National Guard becomes involved.  This is unlike the last uprising, which began over an abrupt fuel price increase on November 15, 2019, and lasted for a week, transforming into a broader expression of popular discontent with the government’s repression and perceived corruption. At that time, the regime embarked on the most brutal crackdown against protesters in decades. Over 1,500 people were killed, and thousands arrested.

This time is different. The popular movement is not limited to a few cities or a few places, but it is in all Iran cities, in different locations, and much bigger numerically. We also witnessed an internet shutdown during the last several days by the regime, in order to limit communications and mobilizations. But so far it is not working.

This uprising is significant because there is no illusion among most people about the regime. In the past, reformists had a key role in slowing down the popular movement but now there are no more illusions among most of the people. Their economic conditions have been getting worse during the last several years. Most people have two jobs, they work over 12 hours a day and still they are under the poverty line. Moreover, their conditions have worsened greatly during the last few years. Rising inflation and the regime’s inability to deal with Covid created the conditions that are driving even the middle classes close to the poverty line. There is also a huge gap between rich and poor.

Most of the forces of revolution are involved in this uprising: women, university students, and ordinary local people. People are using different tactics to maximize their energy in different locations in each city to limit the regime’s anti-riot forces. In Tehran alone, local people are demonstrating in 42 different locations and the same thing is happening in other cities. There are also strikes in 24 different Iranian universities and strong teachers unions are joining in, bringing out millions of primary and secondary school students. The regime has brought in the army to control the schools. Even though Iranian workers are participating as individuals in every place in this uprising, we need the complete support of Iranian workers via strikes through their independent unions. In this regard, a strike by oil workers would be the key to bringing down this regime financially and economically. This is a spontaneous movement that aims at the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The continuation of this uprising is dependent on the unity of different independent forces in this movement from below.

Just during last few days, we witnessed thousands of Iranians in the diaspora are supporting the uprising.  This is happening every day in Europe, America, Canada, and other areas of the world. Chicago alone had three different large demonstrations by Iranian students and other freedom lovers. Women are in the front lines of all these demonstrations. Similar things are happening in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and other cities in the U.S.  Over the last several decades, I have never seen this many Iranians from the diaspora demonstrate for the overthrow of Islamic Republic.

It might amount to a turning point in the Iranian movement. At least I hope so!

 Mahsa Amini, Rest in Power.

Long live the Women’s Movement

Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran

For Freedom, Democracy, and Socialism




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