Protests Against Compulsory Hijab Sweep Iran, With Spotlight on Bodily Autonomy

Young women are leading the protests against state violence and the compulsory hijab in Iran. Many women have taken to the streets of Iran to burn their hijabs. They are chanting, “Our hijab will be the noose around your neck,” and have called for an end to the Iranian regime, specifying that they want “neither monarchy, nor clergy.” Young women are leading the protests, joined by young men and people of all ages, including some women who wear the hijab but believe that it has to be a matter of choice, not compulsory. Many Iranian women feel that the struggle to end the compulsory hijab is not only about the right of bodily autonomy but also about the struggle against gender violence.

The protests were ignited in response to the police murder of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman whose family asserts she was arrested and beaten for her “improper hijab.” Within a few days, localized protests transformed into nationwide protests.

The last time Iran saw large protests centered on women’s rights was after the 1979 Revolution, when several hundred thousand women came out on March 8, International Women’s Day, to oppose the imposing of the mandatory hijab as well as the takeover of revolution by Islamic fundamentalists forces. At that time, the women’s protests were silenced by fundamentalists and even by most leftist forces. The fundamentalist forces used brute force and most leftists told women that demanding women’s rights would “divert” the revolution from its opposition to U.S. imperialism.

The mood in the country has changed dramatically. After 43 years of suffering under an autoritarian capitalist and religiously fundamentalist regime, historical objective as well as subjective dynamics have led to a rise in literate young people, which includes more women students at university and is more aware of current events and struggles around the world. Young women are refusing to be silenced. Iranian feminist writer Narges Imani has argued that there is something truly new taking place: “None of the protests of the past few years have been so intertwined with the demand for the emancipation of the body.”

Iranian feminist attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh has connected the Iranian women’s struggle against the compulsory hijab and gender violence to the struggle of U.S. women for abortion and reproductive rights. She was among the first to issue a statement of solidarity with U.S. women after the U.S. Supreme Court decisionOn June 24, took away women’s federal right to abortion. She wrote:

In these difficult times, when the women’s movement in the United States is facing assault and the right to abortion has been radically restricted, I wish to stand by you and declare my support from our corner of the world.… After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, new laws that drastically stripped women and girls of their rights were part of an insidious larger effort to limit civil liberties for everyone. As someone who has lived through and fought against this loss of freedom, democracy, and liberty, I can warn you that it will not end with the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion. Iran’s women face laws that restrict their rights over their bodies, and even their ability to think for themselves.

The most immediate lesson that women in the U.S. can learn from the experiences of Iranian women after the transformation of the 1979 Revolution into a authoritarian theocracy is the Iranian women’s experience. If we Americans don’t dissent en masseIn opposition to authoritarianism and in defense of abortion rights and reproductive rights, we could lose many more rights and see more religious fundamentalist, misogynist, and openly racial officials rise to power.

Iranian women can also learn a lot from the experiences of U.S. females. They can also learn from the Black feminist organizations like Sister SongThey have brought together the struggles against reproductive justice as well as against class, race, gender violence and mass imprisonment in the U.S. Black Women in the U.S. feel these forms of injustice in an intricate way. Activists have highlighted and organized in ways which recognize these intersectionalities.

Thus, Black feminist intersectionality (a term coined by feminist legal scholar Kimberle Crenshaw) defines self-determination as a struggle challenging the intertwining of capitalist commodification of women’s bodies, racism and patriarchy. Poet/writer/activist Audre Lorde; writers-activists Beverly Smith, Demita Frzier, and Beverly Smith, authors of Combahee River Collective Statement;Also available: Tarana BurkeThe #MeToo movement was founded by. Black feminist abolitionist thinkers like Mariame KabaAnd Romarilyn RalstonCall for addressing the intertwining between gender violence and state violence. We are urged to reject carceral solutions, instead work to create a society where injustices and root causes are addressed and conditions are created to allow for the flourishing and well-being of all.

Iranian feminists are also active in anti-prison activist. Narges Mohammadi, a feminist activist and writer, was imprisoned for many years for her campaign against death penalty. She has also published a number of articles. two-volume collection of interviews on solitary confinementWhile in prison. She opposes Iran’s carceral system, which has nearly 200,000 prisonersShe is particularly against solitary confinement as a form of torture that has severe and damaging effects.

If the struggles of women in Iran and in the U.S. come together and promote dialogue on what we have in common and what we can learn from each other, women in both countries will be empowered to confront — and perhaps reverse — the growing authoritarianism that is suffocating us all.