If you read about the protests in Iran over the last couple of weeks, you may have wondered how they started and how they connect to larger struggles for Women’s autonomy and freedom. After a Kurdish Woman Jina (Mahsa) Amini was killed by Iranian police for “miswearing” a hijab, people took to the streets to protest both the human rights abuses of Kurds in Iran and a Woman’s right to choose whether or not to wear a hijab.
Almost 100 protesters have been killed by Iranian security forces since then, and the Internet was shut down so that social media platforms could not reveal the extent of the violence. The repression and violence against protesters remind us of the uprisings against racism in the U.S. after the brutal murder of George Floyd by U.S. police. Rather than supporting Women in a global fight for bodily autonomy, the U.S. and EU are considering further sanctions against Iran for its forceful response to protesters. But sanctions against Iran will not help Women; they will disrupt sectors that largely employ Women (like textiles and agriculture) and restrict their access to healthcare. Not only is this hypocritical given Global North police violence against its citizens, but demanding foreign intervention is a dangerously imperial response that removes Iranians’ agency.
The fight for Women to choose whether or not to wear the hijab is deeply connected to the global struggle for Women to have sovereignty over their bodies. We see similar sexist repression around the world, such as the U.S. abortion bans, or France’s niqab ban that forces Muslim Women to remove their religious clothing. We must be weary of Global North narratives that Iranian Women need “saving”, as this feeds into a dangerous phenomenon that pits Muslim women’s experiences and choices against standards of gender equity and “progress” as they are characterized by the Global North in their ideas of “feminist” struggle.
It is important to make the connection between the protests in Iran with global fights against state repression of dissent and the control of Women’s bodies. Using this analysis, we will have a more anti-oppressive lens to support Iranian Women’s struggle, rather than perpetuating false ideas that they need to be saved. Perhaps you will also consider these actions in line with this analysis:
- Reading and listening to Iranian Women’s stories and voices on this.
- Interrogating how Islamophobia may show up when these protests are covered and calling it out.
- Advocating for greater freedom for ALL women over their choices and expression in your organizations.
- Ensuring Your organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training is informed by an intersectional lens and doesn’t rely on a default idea of ‘womanhood’