Women’s liberation movement is one of the most important social movements in Iran. It is, by nature anti Islamic Republic, hence directly against the Islamic regime. The empowerment of the Islamic regime in the society happened at the same time as women’s mass protest movement. During the past 3 decades women’s resistance and protests, individually or collectively, offensive or defensive are still continuing. This movement neither desires or can compromise with the regime or its misogynist ideology. 30 years of suppression, violation of rights, gender apartheid, Islamic veil, constant resistance and tension between the women’s liberation movement and the Islamic regime has given a special position to this movement in the society in Iran. The struggle for women’s liberation is one of the most important bastions of the struggle against the Islamic regime. Women’s liberation movement is not compatible with the Islamic regime at all.
The women’s question is one of the most important social issues in Iranian society and the question of equality of men and women is a powerful social trend. Anti regime Social movements are very active in the society. Women’s liberation movement, in its own right, is amongst one of the most active social movements and strives for complete equality of men and women in the society. Women’s liberation movement is closely linked to two other movements, i.e the youth cultural emancipation and the secular movement against the Islamic rule. The former is a modern, anti-eastern and anti-Islamic born out of the deep contradiction between the young generation and the Islamic regime. It is a strong, active movement at war with the Islamic regime. The secularist and anti-religion movement is another important politically enlightened social-cultural movement in Iran. These three movements are interlinked in their demands for banning of the Islamic veil, abolition of gender apartheid, separation of religion from state, sexual freedom, and total marginalization of religion in the society.
These conditions give a different dimension to the struggle of the people to overthrow the regime. The active and mass participation of women in the popular protests against the Islamic regime gives the movement a strong anti-male chauvinist and “female” character. This dimension can be compared with the revolutionary uprising against the Shah. In 1979, firstly, women’s rights movement was starting to take shape; secondly not only the culture of reactionary, misogynist, anti-modern, eastern, the trend which glorified the past and was under the influence of Islam was dominant in the majority of the artistic, intellectual and anti-American Left, which was the initial breeding ground for the protesting youth and students, stopped the emergence of women’s freedom, but it even surrendered the women to the Islamic Movement. Under these conditions, despite the active and mass participation of women in the movement to overthrow the Shah, many women voluntarily wore Hijab as a symbol of unity which was a reactionary action named a “revolutionary” sacrifice. It was practically under such conditions that the Western governments, by political manipulation, managed to impose Khomeini and the Islamic movement on peoples’ revolutionary movement.
Now, the situation is completely different. The women’s liberation movement has been active in the past decade in the society and is becoming more extensive and popular every day. The influence and expansion of women’s liberation movement is as a result of the contradiction between the position of women and their legal and official position. Hence, the women’s question has become a major unsolvable conundrum for the Islamic regime and the National-Islamic opposition. The Islamists headed by Khomeini had to take women as a major opposition force right from day one. It was clear for the Islamic regime that one basic element in suppressing the 1979 uprising was to crush women’s movement. The two sides of the equation are Islamic regime versus women’s liberation. Gender equality is on top of the list of peoples’ struggle against the Islamic regime.
The first confrontation between the Islamic government and women started by Khomeini’s declaration of compulsory veil (Hijab). The first mass and radical protest against the Islamic regime by women was the demonstration on 8 March 1979 against the Hijab and lasted for a week which forced the regime and Khomeini to back down. Not only is the Islamic Hijab a symbol of women’s slavery and rightlessness, it is also an important tool in subjection of women. Hijab has also been turned into the banner of the reactionary and misogynist political Islam. Gender apartheid is an extremely backward and discriminatory system. Abolition of gender apartheid must be the top demand of any movement for human dignity. The civilized and freedom seeker world once before defeated racial apartheid. It is time to overthrow gender apartheid too. It is up to the women’s liberation movement and the people of Iran who are fighting for freedom to achieve this goal. The women’s liberation movement started its struggle, from the first day the Islamic regime took power, to fight against the Islamic regime on both political and ideological areas.
Establishment of a secular system which means abolition of all religious laws; separation of religion from the state, education and individual identity is the political prerequisite of achieving a free and equal society. The struggle against religious superstition, religious traditions; and marginalizing religion is the other important task at hand for the movement for equality and liberation. The popularity of the demand for secularism in the society is at such a high that it has even pushed the regime reformists to defend it. This reactionary current, under the pressure from people, women’s liberation, cultural emancipation and anti-religion movements had to pretend to accept a sort of secularism in-order to prevent the total wipe out of Islam from the society.
Under the present dictatorial situation, radical women’s organisations do not have the possibility of open activity in Iran. Only the Nationalist-Islamic women have a relative possibility for their activities. Thus, it gives them more accessibility for the international media to portray them as the spokes people of women’s rights movement. We have to change this situation. Any change of balance of forces which makes it possible for the radical women’s organisations to operate will change the position of women’s liberation movement. We have to make sure that we have the leadership of the movements for liberation, equality and maximum demands for the women’s movement. This is one of the necessary conditions for the success of women’s liberation and peoples’ movement for the overthrow of the Islamic regime. We have to endeavor to make the organisation for women’s liberation popular within the masses and recruit the radical activists and spokes persons of the radical women’s movement into our organisation.
The conflict between women’s liberation and political Islam is a regional question. The role of the women’s liberation movement in the region under the influence of Islam, the Middle East and North Africa is undeniable. The empowerment of the political Islam in the region during the past 30 years, especially the last decade has pushed back the situation of women in the region. Islamic traditions have massively been strengthened. In countries where Islamists have taken power, Islamic Hijab has been imposed on women. Gender apartheid has been enforced in many countries of the region. These developments have led to mass protests against the ruling states in the region during the past 2 years. As a result of political upheavals and overthrow of 4 heads of states of the countries in the region, Islamists have advanced. The intervention, political manipulation, military and financial aide provided by the reactionary governments of the region, Turkey, the Arab world, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Western governments headed by USA, the Islamist movement has been strengthened further in the region. Particularly the revolutionary movement of the people of two countries of Egypt and Tunisia with the active and effective participation of women’s rights movement have risen against the Islamic movement. The history of the empowerment of the Islamists in Iran and its subsequent events played an important role in the development of the anti-Islamic movement in the region. The revolutionary overthrow of the Islamic regime in Iran and the victory of the movement for freedom and equality not only will change the face of Iran; but it will also have a deep impact on the position of the movement for freedom and equality in the region. Besides, the victory of the women’s liberation movement in Iran can be comparable historically with the 1789 French revolution. The victory of this movement against the Islamic regime will have the same effect on Islam and Islamic movement as the Great French Revolution had on the Church and Christianity.
Women’s liberation movement is a movement on its own right for freedom and equality. The victory of women’s liberation movement depends on organisation for freedom and equality. The abolition of women’s suppression; establishment of complete and unconditional freedom and liberation is only possible in a free, equal and prosperous society which is achievable in a socialist society where there is no class, exploitation or class suppression. Organisation for Women’s Liberation calls upon all radical and revolutionary women’s activists to join us. Together, united we can struggle against the Islamic regime for freedom and equality of men and women.