#IranProtests: All or nothing!
Sometimes life is full of weird coincidences. Just two weeks ago I have published a review of “Islamists Ruined My Iran: The Second Coming” on the platform of a big international online marketplace – a book by a young, talented author writing about the situation in Iran. Just a few days later the country sees the uprisings against the regime, that are already being analyzed as the biggest protests in the country in the last 40 years.
The uproar is in full blow since five days, Iranians abroad can`t reach out to their relatives in Iran since now four days, due to the internet shut-down decreed by the Mullah-Regime. That means that only 5% of the Twitter-Tweets about the protests are reaching us from inside the country, mostly from regime-cronies and intelligence officials – and for the handful other tweets activists have to manage to surpass the ban through multitude Proxy-Servers.
In the meantime, the number of arrests has risen to more than 7000, the number of dead victims has surpassed the 200 mark. In the “West” the protest is reduced and belittled as a conflict about “a hike in fuel prices”, for which the US-sanctions are portrayed to be responsible. The sheer despair (and fury) can be felt reading in the tweets hashtagged with #IranProtests and #Internet4Iran: Why is there so little international attention for the revolt against the now four decades long fundamentalist rule? And why is there so little solidarity for the people of Iran from the “free and democratic world”?
The aforementioned book, or “Manifesto” as the author himself calls it, stands out in my opinion through the fact, that he is able to give a very compact but complex overview on just 79 pages about the history of the country and the economical, social, cultural and ecological impacts of the “Islamic Revolution” of 1979. Also he manages well to distinguish between the structural and individual level. Although the vivid description of the seriousness of the situation in the country, which was already to be called very critical before November 14, you can feel his connectedness to land and country and the vibrant hope for change. As he states in face of the recent developments now, the protests will now decide if these changes will finally set in, or if this attempt of self-liberation will fail – and in succession the brutal revenge of the regime will extinguish any glimmer of hope: Right now it is all or nothing.
So if it is not, as suggested everywhere about a hike in fuel prices, what is it all about instead? On the one hand it is about a country, which once stood for modernization and vivid cultural life with famous poets like Hafez or Rumi, that has been maneuvered from a “stable and prosperous nation” into a serious economic recession, which drove millions of Iranians into poverty: Rising unemployment, homelessness or inflation are just a few relevant keywords. On the other hand the authoritarian regime is relentless against its critics: Arrests and executions are a daily occurrence, freedom of speech is unthinkable. Apostasy is punished by death sentence and an unmarried couple walking hand in hand in the streets faces detentions of many hours. Ethnical and religious minorities are discriminated against and are persecuted.
What does all that mean for the women and girls in Iran? Here is an incomplete list of random examples:
- Especially in the oil-rich Khuzestan province, where employment is low and the air extremely polluted, and the western cities of Iran, young women are forced into prostitution by economical pressures. Advertisements for organ sales are widespread, the streets of Teheran traced by homelessness.
- Wearing the Hijab is mandatory. The initiative “My Stealthy Freedom”, which was initiated by activist and Exil-Iranian MasihAlinejad, shows the pictures of many brave women, who dare to unveil despite all the repression they have to face for it. For instance YasamanAryani, MonirehArabshahi and MojganKeshavarz showed themselves in public unveiled last International Women`s Day and were convicted to 55 years prison in sum, for infringement of the law and “inciting and facilitating corruption and prostitution” through “promoting unveiling”
- Football fan Sahar Khodayari, also known as the “Blue Girl”, like many other women sneaked into the football stadiums dressed up as a man, and was charged for this “sinful act”. Facing a prison conviction of six months, she poured petrol on herself and set herself on fire outside the courthouse in self-immolation. She died in hospital one week later. This October women were officially allowed to attend a football match for the first time in 40 years.
- Women like advocate Nasrin Sotudeh, who fight for women`s rights and support political dissidents, are jailed for “propaganda against the state” and are subjected to whip lashings. Nasrin Sotudeh is right now serving a 33 year sentence at the Evin-prison of Teheran.
- 17 year old Nazanin Fatehi in 2004 stabbed one of the three men that wanted to rape her and her 15 year old niece in self-defence. She was convicted to death by hanging. Only after international protest and intervention of the UN, she was released on condition she pays a “blood money” compensation
- Homosexual acts are punished in Iran – gay men caught in “the act” receive death penalty immediately, women first face a sentence of 100 whip lashings, with the fourth recurrence they are convicted with death penalty as well.
- The list could go on and on
It is no surprise that the recent uproar is calling for the end to the “Islamist regime” and the overthrowing of fundamentalist rule.
The few available videos show us, that women are an active part in the protests. Not only are women and girls among the murdered protestors. We can also see a woman tears down an anti American banner, while Iranians chant “Our enemy is not America, our enemy is right here in Iran”.We can see another woman, who removes her compulsory hijab on a bridge and challenges the dictators. Another Iranian refugee and author Roya Hakakian writes on Twitter: “#MeToo looks like this in Iran. Women have suffered under gender apartheid for 40 years are leading #IranProtests”
What do Iranians expect from us and the International Community? Primarily they want international pressure on the fundamentalist regime to give back access to the internet for everyone in the country. Since the people in Iran don`t have a voice at the moment, it is essential, that we don`t look the other way, but raise our voices and raise it loud. The Regime must be finally held accountable for 40 years of tyranny against its people.