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From the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC)

Islamic Theocrats Step Up Misogynistic Repression 

Fire and Fury Against Compulsory Hijab Continue to Ignite in Iran editors’ note: We received the following from the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC).

We are the successors of the rebellious women who made our commitment quite clear to the Islamic Republic during the Jina uprising, shouting ‘You have made the compulsory hijab a symbol of our subjugation, we will burn your symbols and end patriarchy!’
Statement of 10 Groups for International Women’s Day 2024

A Single Spark Sets Off a Firestorm of Anger

A young woman takes her sick baby to a medical clinic in Iran’s ultra religious “holy city” of Qom. A mullah (Muslim cleric) films her on his phone as she nurses her child and her headscarf has fallen around her shoulders. Videos quickly went viral on social media that captured her raw fury as she confronts him and shouts her demand “give me your phone, delete it.” He refuses, and other women in the clinic join her, surrounding him, angrily calling him out for his likely plan to report her for hijab violations on a special app created by the Islamic regime. The clash ended with the mullah being pushed with his turban and tunic being pulled off as he scurries away.

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The Qom prosecutor reported that four yet unnamed people were arrested for releasing the CCTV video of the incident. All this has unleashed broad mass outrage that may not go away soon enough for the regime.

Cartoon titled “Women’s Dance of Freedom” by Shahrokh Heidari, November 2023


Cartoon titled “Women’s Dance of Freedom,” November 2023    Cartoon by Shahrokh Heidari

This incident re-ignited the red-hot embers of anger that still burn under the surface against the hijab as both symbol and reality of the patriarchal subordination of women in Iran. The compulsory hijab law and its brutal enforcement is a cornerstone of Iran’s theocratic capitalist rule and social cohesion.

In the wake of the historic uprising after the state murder of Mahsa Jina Amini in the custody of “morality police,” the regime has further unleashed an organized all-around and systematic reign of terror against the vast number of people opposing their oppressive rule. In 2023, 139 women activists were given prison terms for the collective sum of more than 553 years with 10 sentenced to 557 lashes in addition to their prison terms.1

Amnesty International reported (3/6/2024) that women and girls are being subjected to “constant surveillance and policing” that “span from stopping women drivers on the road…. to imposing inhumane flogging and prison sentences…. Official announcements indicate that since April 2023, Iran’s Moral Security Police have ordered the arbitrary confiscation of hundreds of thousands of vehicles with female drivers or passengers as young as nine without or in ‘inappropriate’ headscarves. According to testimonies, such orders are based on pictures captured by surveillance cameras or reports from plain clothes agents patrolling the streets and using a police app, called Nazer to report license plates of vehicles with non-compliant female drivers or passengers.”

The report also notes that hijabless women face threatening car chases, being denied access to public transport, airports, and banking services besides verbal abuse and physical threats; and that in the city of Qom alone, the police prosecutor referred 1,986 hijab-related cases for prosecution since March 2023.2 In January 2024, anti-hijab activist Roya Heshmati was flogged 74 times for being hijabless in public. Afterwards, she described the room in which she was whipped by a man as a “medieval torture chamber.”3

To quote from the IEC International Women’s Day solidarity statement:

But what stands out about Iran is not simply the unbearable degradation and brutality towards women that exists on every corner of our planet today. What stands out is the decades of persistent and fierce defiance, especially by masses of women. And nowhere does this shine more brightly than the heroism of over 100 women political prisoners, many imprisoned for being hijab rebels. These brave sisters go up against great odds and take great risks to stand in the forefront of fighting a patriarchal and misogynistic regime and society.

It’s Right to Rebel Against Forced Hijab

A case in point is Sepideh Rashno, a well-known women’s rights activist, writer, artist, and vocal critic of compulsory hijab. She was arrested, severely beaten and tortured into a forced confession in June 2022 after a video of her arguing with a hijab enforcer on a bus in Tehran went viral. On social media, she announced, “[I will attend the trial] to defend myself for crimes that I have not committed, to defend the right to choose one’s clothing and [the right] to write about the things that have happened to me, to defend the right to be a woman.” She was denied presence at her own trial in Tehran after declaring on social media that she would not wear the hijab in court. She was recently returned to prison to begin a sentence just short of four years (!), all the while maintaining her fierce spirit of resistance.

Other women political prisoners have taken very courageous stands against the compulsory hijab, such as Sepideh Gholian who also refused to wear it to court, and Narges Mohammadi, who refused to put it on for a hospital visit even when the Evin Prison authorities denied her life-saving medical treatment, which sparked a sit-in strike by fellow women’s ward mates.

Street Celebrations Full of Fury and Fire

On March 12, two days after the Qom episode, throughout Iran, during traditional bonfires in street celebrations for Chaharshanbe Suri, the ancient fire festival before the Persian New Year (or Nowruz), there were powerful, defiant expressions of outrage against the regime. A noose was set ablaze, many hijabs met bonfires, posters of “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei, mullah’s tunics and turbans were also set ablaze. Crowds of women were dancing without head coverings alongside men (prohibited by law). Women, children and men were joyously, angrily calling for change (video compilation on Instagram).

At least one mass gathering in Tehran sang and danced to “Baraye” in a tribute to now political prisoner, the world renowned artist Shervin Hajipour. Iran’s regime is sending him to prison for his song supporting the Women, Life, Freedom uprising. As we write, rapper Toomaj Salehi remains in prison awaiting the decision of a recently concluded court hearing in which he strongly defended himself against bogus, outrageous charges of “spreading lies” and “calling for violence” for his revolutionary rap music and activism against Iran’s oppressive and repression regime.

Free Toomaj Salehi! Free All Iran’s Political Prisoners! No US Threats or War Moves Against Iran, lift US Sanctions!

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