Just as a mass movement said no to racial Apartheid, so
it must say no to the Hejab and segregation of women
October 12, 2004
When you think about apartheid, you can't help
but remember the anti-apartheid movement of the 70s and 80s. At
the time, there was hardly anyone who lived in the West and hadn't
joined a demonstration or sit-in, signed a petition, written a
letter of protest, worn an anti-apartheid badge and so on.
a student in the US in the early 80s and remember how that movement
politicised an entire generation. During that time, the anti-apartheid
movement became the struggle or at least issue of concern for most
decent human being. And you didn't have to be black or South
The movement went beyond all those constructed divisions
amongst people and went to the heart of being human. As a result
of the movement, everyone had come to know that apartheid was fundamentally
wrong and that something had to be done. Eventually, apartheid
became despised and condemned. But it was not always so.
apartheid was vehemently and for years supported by Western governments
for their political and class interests. It was strongly
justified and excused.
This included finding scientists who could 'prove' that black people
had smaller brains to groups that said separate was still equal and therefore
not a violation of rights or racist. Groups could be found that said it was
okay to separate people based on their race in Bantustans.
It was the South
African liberation movement and solidarity groups primarily in the West that
fought long and hard to expose Apartheid
and chip away at
its justifications in order to remove all the layers of propaganda and excuses,
revealing Apartheid - naked and bare, as it truly was - an intolerable inhumanity.
the same must be done with the apartheid of the 21st Century
- sexual apartheid, and particularly in Iran as a pillar of political
Just as a mass movement said no to racial Apartheid, so it must say no to
the Hejab and segregation of women; no to the prevention of the
mixing of the sexes
which is deemed immoral and corrupt in Iran; no to discrimination, no to
women being deemed inferior, second class citizens and even subhumans...
can we transform the anti-sexual apartheid movement in Iran
into an international movement? This we must learn from
movement. There are many
parallels. The most important is that a liberation movement exists in
Iran as it did in South Africa. This movement is widespread, critical
movement to overthrow the Islamic regime of Iran, with interventions,
burning in the streets, resisting morality police, breaking sexual apartheid's
rules such as holding hands with the opposite sex to dancing on the streets.
movement also has its spokespersons in the Organisation of Women's
Liberation; its leaders are recognised internationally. It has clear
demands and policies. This is particularly important as one cannot
build mass solidarity
in a vacuum. It is the women's liberation movement that will determine
policies, makes demands - with the solidarity group responding. There
has to be a direct relationship between the two. As in the movement
apartheid, the liberation movement and the solidarity groups are partners
in changing public opinion and Western government policies.
aspect in our favour is that we - the victims and survivors
of the Islamic regime of Iran
- are organising these groups.
This in itself helps
negate the racist notion that the Islamic regime of Iran's violence and
misogyny is 'our religion and culture'. Also it gives Westerners
the courage to speak out when we ourselves lead the way. It helps promote
the reality that it is not racist to defend women's rights
Also it pushes aside the assertions of the Islamic
regime and political Islam that it is discriminatory to speak out
against Islam and
its state and movement.
This area is one of our main battlegrounds in making sexual apartheid
Establishing solidarity groups are essential for
creating this international movement. The objectives of the groups
* Disseminate information
and raise awareness about sexual apartheid and the conditions and struggle
for women's liberation
in Iran. The main vehicle of this is the bi-weekly English
paper of OWL, the TV programme along with
pamphlets, fact sheets, and so on. Visual materials are essential.
public support to provide political, moral and material support to the
liberation movement in Iran.
* Create a Defence and Aid Fund against Sexual
Apartheid to raise money for OWL, the legal defence of and assistance
to victims of sexual apartheid in
* To organise an annual International Freedom from
Sexual Apartheid Day.
* To exert pressure to end political collaborations
between Western governments and the sexual apartheid regime of
Solidarity groups in the West can and must work with
the women's liberation
movement in Iran to make sexual apartheid despised, condemned and a thing
of the past.
Maryam Namazie is the host of TV
International English, is a Central Council Member of the
Organisation of Women's Liberation and Director of the International
Relations Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran.