by Terry Moon
All governments, including the U.S., fear revolution in their own countries and others. What the hardliners in Iran revealed before and after their morality police murdered Jina Mahsa Amini a year ago this September for supposedly wearing hijab “improperly,” is that none fear revolution more and they will go to any lengths to crush it.
In the weeks before the Sept. 16, 2022, anniversary of Amini’s murder, the regime:
- sent a military tank into the cemetery where Amini was buried in her hometown, while hundreds of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) anti-riot forces patrolled the streets. This tactic was used extensively in Kurdish and Baloch regions where tanks were deployed at the burial sites of several activists killed by the regime during the uprising in an attempt to stop new protests;
- summoned Amini’s father four times in 14 days as they pressured him to cancel any memorial in the cemetery; surrounded Amini’s family’s home on the anniversary of her death, allowing no one to leave;
- rounded up and jailed hundreds of activists across the country, including university students, who “reported an increase in threatening calls, summonses and interrogations by intelligence officials ahead of the anniversary…”;
- singled out Kurdish and Baloch areas as well as large cities like Tehran for extra security measures including armed IRGC and other forces patrolling the streets and threatening activists as well as shooting into crowds of protesters;
- arrested an estimated 20,000 people nationwide, since the revolt began after Amini’s death. Many are still in jail. The regime killed over 500 people, including women and children, and have executed more since the height of the uprising.
CRACKDOWN AND SURVEILLANCE FAIL TO KILL REVOLT
When it comes to hijab, more morality police patrols and now cameras have been deployed.
Taking a cue from China, face recognition is being implemented to arrest unveiled women driving cars, in shops or restaurants, as well as walking down streets, that is, just living their lives. No doubt these new forms of surveillance will be used on others in creating an even more repressive society. Fines and threatened arrests have been extended to shop owners, teachers, and other employers, extorting them to enforce hijab on women customers, co-workers and students. Some 150 shops were closed in a recent two-week period for allowing unveiled women into their establishments. But contrary to the regime’s expectations, many shopkeepers and their customers see it as a privilege to be closed for supporting Woman Life Freedom!—the name given to the uprising.
So threatened is the regime by women showing their hair, that they have created new draconian penalties to try to enforce hijab. The Washington Post reports that judges sentenced three prominent activist actresses “for not wearing the hijab and declared them ‘mentally ill,’ part of a pattern of ‘weaponizing’ the medical treatment of detainees…” The film community “rallied around the actresses,” and mental health professionals fought back: “What is stated in the text of the ruling as an argument for diagnosing a disease called antisocial personality is not proportionate, logical, or convincing,” stated leaders of the Scientific Association of Psychosomatic Medicine, Scientific Association of Psychiatrists, Scientific Association of Psychotherapy, and the Psychological Association of Iran.
Evidently the so-called “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, now 84 years old, wants his legacy to be the new hijab and chastity bill—voted for behind closed doors—that criminalizes “any act in breach of the hijab, with punishments ranging from fines and bans on public service to prison terms up to 10 years” as well as up to 60 lashes—which is enough to kill a person. The new code has 70 (!) articles. In the old code the punishment was 10 days to two months in jail or a fine. In addition, Iranian judges have issued verdicts aimed to humiliate such as ordering those defying hijab to wash corpses or clean the streets, and, taking their cue from the Taliban, the new law establishes “gender segregation in government offices, universities, hospitals and public parks.”
Despite the inhuman and disproportionate punishment for women appearing in public without covering their hair, as “A Correspondent in Iran” told al-Monitor about the regime: “[I]t is overwhelmed with the trend of Iranian women, particularly younger ones, appearing in public without headscarves.…Defiance has spread despite the state’s prosecution of many female public figures and actors.…Yet from the streets of the capital and major cities, videos continue to go viral of women, posing or walking without headscarves, sometimes talking to cameras of their civil disobedience.” While Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi boasts “that the removal of the hijab will definitely come to an end, do not worry,” activists like Masih Alinejad post photo after photo of women—most of them young but not all—walking down streets or in shopping malls sans hijab. Clearly it is the regime that has to “worry.”
While some Western leaders have viewed the uprising in Iran narrowly—as a revolt against veiling—they miss the point of Woman Life Freedom! From the beginning this has been a revolutionary uprising about freedom in which women and girls have led the way. When the “morality” police beat Jina Mahsa Amini to death for not wearing hijab “properly,” they starkly revealed their contempt for their own citizens and, at one and the same time, their determination to control every aspect of their lives. They made hijab the red line that no citizen should dare cross. And those who were the first to cross that line and declare that they wanted to choose how to live their own lives, they wanted freedom and self-determination and would fight for it, were women and girls in high school and younger.
REVOLT OF MINORITIES
Even though the population is paying a huge price, the revolt continues. On Feb. 7, on the 44th anniversary of the revolution against the Shah of Iran, in defiance of the regime’s violence against protesters, hundreds, in over a dozen cities including Tehran’s Ekbatan neighborhood, chanted “Death to Khamenei! Death to the dictator!” and other slogans. They set billboards on fire that commemorated the 1979 revolution; and they blocked roads in the capital of Kurdistan, hemming in an IRGC base.
Amini was Kurdish, and in a vain attempt to divide protesters along ethnic lines, regime forces shot down 76 unarmed demonstrators in the Kurdish region of Iran on Sept. 28, 2022, some of them children, and have ruthlessly attacked people of minority ethnicities throughout the land. The proof of how vain that attempt was is seen in how, on the anniversary of Amini’s death, a general strike took place in many cities, especially in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, most of whose population is the Baloch and Sistani ethnic minorities. Shops closed in almost a dozen cites, despite regime threats of freezing bank accounts, suspending business licenses, closing businesses completely and detaining owners. Those rising up joined together, ignoring ethnic and religious differences, and revolt remains the most militant in those areas under attack.
Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran told The Washington Post: “It’s [Sistan-Baluchestan] one of the biggest centers of protests in Iran right now.” Every Friday 11 cities in the province hold demonstrations even though the regime has shot down over 30 people there since last October. A protester reported: “There hasn’t been a single Friday where people haven’t expressed themselves on the streets. Each Friday, their fear becomes less.”
While the hardline leadership of Iran pretends to represent religious Shiites, large segments of the fundamentalist Shiite population have supported the Woman Life Freedom! uprising from the start. As we wrote at the beginning of the revolt: “Iran’s most religiously conservative cities, such as Qom, are also beset by protests and outrage.” That opposition has deepened. During the celebration of Ashura, “Shiite Islam’s most sacred ritual,” The New York Times reported that “The mourners who gathered in Yazd diverged unexpectedly from the script to target the clerical rulers of Iran, turning religious ballads into protest songs about the suffering of Iranians.
“‘For a city in ruins, for all of us held hostage, for the grieving mothers, for the tears of the marginalized. We are mourning thousands of innocent lives, we are ashamed of this raging fire. Oh rain, oh storm, come. They have set fire to our tent.’”
The never-ending and continuing deepening revolt and resolve of the Iranian masses reveals that after a year of the most bloody and ruthless actions, Iran’s fanatical hardline leadership has failed to smother the revolutionary aspirations and actions of the Iranian people.
FOREIGN POWERS DO NOT SUPPORT MASSES
While there is tremendous solidarity with the Iranian uprising coming from Iranians abroad who have fled the regime, other countries, including the U.S., have done little to actually support the Iranian people’s revolution. Henry Rome, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that “the protests did not lead to a fundamental reassessment in Europe on issues like the nuclear deal, which European governments and the EU still by and large support.” In the U.S., the MAHSA Act, a bill that would sanction Iran’s leaders, introduced shortly after the uprising broke out last year, has yet to pass. Rayan Costello, policy director of the National Iranian American Council criticized the MAHSA Act, pointing out that the discussion shouldn’t only be on “what additional pressure we can exert on Iran,” but that “There hasn’t really been that corresponding discussion on…what would support people on the ground.” He and others brought up the plight of those fleeing the persecution and called for more U.S. visas for Iranians. Of course, even that is woefully insufficient. The fact is that the U.S. government does not want to support the Iranians on the ground because they know that they cannot control a genuine revolution.
Israel shows more clearly the control that governments want to have over the Iranian uprising. Politicians in Israel, as well as some Iranian exiles, are cozying up to the late Shah of Iran’s son Reza Pahlavi as they had to his father before him. Pahlavi—who has not been to Iran since he fled in 1979—is the founder and leader of the self-styled National Council of Iran, an exiled opposition group, and had nothing to do with the Woman Life Freedom! revolt. Gila Gamliel, Israel’s Minister of Intelligence (sic), has made it her business to promote Pahlavi (who she refers to as “the Iranian Crown Prince”), traveling to London to meet with him and hosting him in Israel in April.
According to “a source close to” Gamliel, she has met several times with Pahlavi and like-minded Iranians “and that it was part of her ongoing campaign to prepare ‘for the day after’ in Iran.” Of course Israel can only benefit by an uprising that overthrows a regime that is hostile to its very existence.
But it is not only Israel. An Iranian activist in the U.S. reported to News & Letters on a demonstration in support of Woman Life Freedom! in Los Angeles. He wrote that “over 10,000 people came out to a series of demonstrations demanding an end to the Islamic regime….Alarming in Los Angeles was a massive contingent carrying the Pahlavi regime’s flag.…”
Critically, however, the trajectory of the ongoing revolution in Iran is not toward supporting another capitalist state oppressing other people, as is true of Israel, any more than it is toward accepting another capitalist state oppressing Iranians themselves. Gamliel, and no doubt the Israeli government, wants to hijack the revolution just as Ayatollah Khomeini took over and destroyed the one in 1979.
The people of Iran, the ones in the streets and jails putting their lives on the line, are perfectly capable of letting the world know what they are fighting for on “the day after” the revolution. On Feb. 23, a whole array of workers—including workers organized into unions independent of any phony regime-controlled unions—issued a “Statement on the current demands of independent trade union and civil organisations in Iran.” Unions of teachers, students, human rights defenders, sugar cane company workers, oil and steel workers, and of course women’s organizations and others signed on to the statement, which read in part:
“Today, these massive protests, the flag of which has been raised by women, students, teachers, workers, those seeking justice, artists, queers, writers, and all oppressed people of Iran in every part of the country from Kurdistan to Sistan and Baluchistan and has received unprecedented international support, is a protest against misogyny, gender discrimination, endless economic insecurity, labour slavery, poverty, misery, class oppression, as well as national and religious oppression. It is a revolution against any form of religious or non-religious tyranny that has been imposed on the Iranian people throughout the last century.…Thus, this movement aims to permanently end the formation of any power from above and to be the beginning of a modern, humane social revolution that frees people from all forms of oppression, discrimination, exploitation, tyranny, and dictatorship.”
Their 12 demands, if met, would transform Iran into one of the freest, most humane countries in the world. State-capitalist rulers—from the U.S. to Russia—would perpetrate and have perpetrated wars and massacres to stop such a liberatory vision from coming to fruition.
PHILOSOPHY AND WHAT HAPPENS AFTER
There is no question that the Iranian masses have created a revolutionary situation in Iran and they face multiple threats internally and externally. Here we have only taken up a few. We live in an age of counter-revolution coming from without, but also tragically from within the revolution itself. The Iranian masses have experienced both, which means their own history has warned them. Here philosophy is not something external to the discussion of what must happen “the day after” revolution. Marxist-Humanism is crucial because it takes as ground the fact so clearly expressed in Iran—that the masses are vanguard, not some leader from outside. That the masses’ own organizations—like the shoras (committee form of organization like the soviets in the Russian Revolution), the groups women created in prisons, the real unions the Iranian workers built to thwart the ones imposed by the Iranian state, and many more—are the preview of what can happen the day after, and Marxist-Humanism makes that explicit.
But further, the ground of Marxist-Humanist philosophy is also a vision of what it means to be human, what the “statement on current demands” so clearly expresses and insists on. That vision of freedom must remain the goal not just for “the day after” revolution, but continuously. Marxist-Humanists joins Karl Marx in calling for a “revolution in permanence.” That is what it will take to create the kind of society envisioned by the Iranian masses who long for freedom.
 Marxist-Humanists from both Iran and the U.S. were deeply involved in the 1979 Revolution against both the Shah and Khomeini. See Crossroads of History: Marxist-Humanist Writings on the Middle East by Raya Dunayevskaya for some of the writings, as well as front-page reports on the Iranian Revolution in the March 1979, June 1979, November 1979, December 1979, January-February 1980, April 1980, and July 1980 issues of News & Letters.
The post Featured article: Rulers’ fear of revolution won’t stop Iranian masses appeared first on News and Letters Committees.