International Women’s Day-2013
As you know March 8th International Women’s Day is approaching. What is the biggest challenge facing woman in Iran in the year 2013?
I would say lack of organisation for women’s rights movement. Women in Iran have been generally facing daily challenges to survive under the Islamic laws and the systematic suppression. Bing a woman in Iran simply means being in a battle ground in everyday of your life. Obeying the Islamic dress code (Hijab), the colour of your cloths, walking on the street with your friends, having a boyfriend or girlfriend, getting married and whom you marry, getting a divorce, the custody of your children, choosing your job, traveling; these are only some of the challenges that women have been living with for more than three decades. If we look back, when the Islamic regime took the power in 1979, their first attack was on women. They said according to the Islamic laws women must cover and obey the Islamic rules. Thousands of women came on the streets, and they said loud and clear that they want freedom. Since then Islamic regime has not stopped oppressing women and Iranian women have not stopped fighting for their freedom; they have been fighting the Islamic regime on a daily basis. The new generation has continued the fight that started more than three decades ago. This every day fights and the fact that women in Iran have been challenging the regime for many years is one of the most important reasons that regime has not been able to implement its full Islamic laws. I believe women in Iran are among the most courageous people in the world; no torture, imprisonment and attack have been successful in pushing them back. They demand their rights without compromise.As I mentioned above, millions of women are fighting for their rights in Iran but yet there is not an organisation to mobilise, to define tactics and strategy of the movement and to represent them in Iran and the world. There are organisations and campaigns here and there but they have not been able to organise women on a vast scale.
Moreover, in the light of the “Arab Spring” and the revolutions in the region, we are witnessing that more women in these countries are coming forward to demand their rights and to fight the Sharia’ laws publicly. I think women in Iran must look at their fight beyond the border of Iran and due to their years of fight for freedom take the role of vanguards for the women’s equality in the region. Some of the questions or challenges for the women’s rights movement in Iran and its activists is how can women’s rights movement in Iran be linked to those in the region? What practical steps we have to take to build a front for the fight for the equality of men and women in the Middle East and North Africa? At the same time, how can women in Iran gain the support of the international communities and to build an international solidarity to take an action against 34 years of crime against women in Iran? I think the first step to answer all these questions is to establish a radical women’s rights organisation in Iran which fights for the equality between women and men.
What exactly is the place for men in women’s struggle for freedom and equality?
I believe women and men must fight together for equality. Men are not the enemy of women, religious laws and capitalist system is. Despite the general image, we have many men who are active in women’s rights movement in Iran and other countries and they are fighting for equality. For example, in the 8th March celebrations you see many men who are actively participating. The violence against women and its reproduction will stop by changing the laws and consequently the mentality and culture of a society. In Iran the first step is overthrowing the Islamic regime which has started its dictatorship by suppressing women. I am for the equality between men and women and not for the power of women over men because that will create reverse inequality. We need to remember that the emancipation of women is not just freeing all women from suppression it will also give the equal rights and freedom to everyone in society including men.
Who are some important modern figures in today’s struggle for women’s emancipation?
When you ask this question, many may start mentioning celebrities, politician, leader of parties etc.: but I guess I want to break this norm. To me someone like the Egyptian activist Alia al-Mahdi who went publicly with her nude picture in Egypt where Islamists have threatened her several times is an important modern figure. She described her pictures and her actions as “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy.”
Alia al-Mahdi who stood up to the Islamist and defended women’s rights is one of the important modern figures. There are thousands like Alia al-Mahdi who dare to say no to the Islamic laws and movement and pay the price for fighting for women’s rights and set up an example for the rest. I think these are the type of figure that can inspire millions of other girls and show them that, yes; every one of you can start your fight for freedom and equality. The act of someone like Alia also breaks the taboo of cultural relativism that women in the countries under or influenced by the Islamic laws chose to be suppressed. I think Alia al-Mahdi and millions like her in other countries should be highlighted.
The interview of “ We Are The 99% “ with Shiva Mahbobi