| Interview with Azar Majedi
Chairperson of Organisation for Women’s Liberation
Recently we witnessed yet another wave of attacks by the Islamic
Republic regime against women in Iran. Why do you think such attacks
do not instigate mass protests? Do you think people have become
conservative in their ways of combating such attacks? Do you think
the Iranian regime is trying to intimidate women and push them back?
Fourier and Marx said, “The measure of society’s freedom is the
freedom of women”. In the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)
one must say, “the measure of suppression of the society is suppression
of women”! From the very first day of coming to power, the IRI violently
staged attacks against women, forcing them to wear the Islamic veil.
The slogan of the day was “the veil or head bashing”.
The IRI is synonymous with violence against women. Whenever it
wants to demonstrate a show of power and supremacy it resorts to
attacks on women. In fact the recent attacks are not the first or
the last tactics used by the IRI as an attempt to reinforce its
ruling position. However women have always resisted these surges.
Women’s slogan at the time of the 1979 uprising was “no to veil,
no to head bashing”. It was a defensive slogan and demonstrates
the situation of women’s movement at the time. This movement now
is in a much stronger and offensive position.
The Islamic Regime of Iran had prepared itself to combat any protest
on the anniversary of the general unrest of the few years ago. It
was well aware of the extend of protests last June when protesting
people were all out in the streets, throwing away their veils, burning
them, breaking through the barriers of sexual apartheid, and engaging
in counter attacks with the military forces. The IRI knew that once
again last years slogans of “Down with Islamic Republic” and “Long
Live Freedom and Equality” would be chanted again.
In order to prevent a repeat of last year’s protests, the IRI proclaimed
an unofficial state of emergency. One aspect of it, as always was
attacks against women under the pretext of “violating the Islamic
dress code and the veil”. In fact it shows how scared the Islamic
government is of the position of women and the force of people for
change. A system that sends its military might to combat 17-18 year
old girls for wearing ankle length trousers must be pretty scared
The Islamic Republic of Iran is strongly worried about its future.
It is well aware of its fragile position and for this reason does
not hesitate for a moment to use all its suppressive powers to quell
people’s resistance. The most obvious aspect of it is attacks against
women. In fact such blatant aggression against women not only demonstrates
the nature of this regime, it also reflects the extent and strength
of the movement in defence of women’s rights. It shows how after
25 years of suppression, imprisonment, torture, stoning, throwing
acid on faces, lashes, it still needs to attack women so they observe
the veil, refrain from modernity, comply with sexual apartheid and
adopt the Islamic way.
The movement for defence of women’s rights in Iran has gained momentum
and has advanced during the last 2 years. It has become radicalised
with clear demands. It has settled accounts with the so-called reformist
movement and has no illusions about it. What the women members of
the parliament say might be of interest to the reformist leaders
of the women’s movement, but the movement for women’s liberation
does not give a second thought about them. The mass protest movement
and women’s movement have made it clear that they will not compromise
with the Islamic regime and can only achieve their goals as a result
of down fall of the regime. This is clear and there is no doubt
about it. It is the main point of this discussion.
The fact that people do not want to take risks and do not take
to the streets on one particular day shows their political maturity.
One cannot conclude that people are intimidated and have given up
or have become conservative. I believe, in analysing the situation
one must consider incidents like resistance of the 2 girls in Shahin
Shahr and their release by the youth from the hands of the police,
or the mass protests against execution of Shahla Jahed. Despite
every attempt by the IRI, women are still not observing the veil,
they follow the latest fashion and simply demonstrate their strong
will and desires.
Let me briefly touch on some factors leading to your statement
or question about the fact that people did not take into the streets
this June as they did this time last year. Obviously this issue
deserves a much more elaborate analysis which I hope I can provide
The Iranian society went through a defeated revolution 25 years
ago. It has paid a huge price for it. It has made the society more
calculating in a positive sense and at the same time more mature.
People no longer take adventurous steps. They calculate their moves.
The main issue for women’s movement now is to choose a political
current that can lead the movement. This is the pivotal issue of
the mass protest movement and the movement for liberation of women.
One must have an answer for it. If our answers and alternative become
that of the population in general, then the situation changes drastically.
Our endeavour for the movement for women’s liberation to choose
us (the Organisation for Liberation of Women) as the leader of its
movement is an effort in this direction.
The discussion about Iran joining the International Convention
against Discrimination against Women is still in process in the
parliament. Women MPs are against signing up to the Convention.
What are your views about this? Do you think the Islamic republic
of Iran will join? Can this move, as the reformists in government
claim, lead to any important steps towards alleviating problems
facing women in Iran?
I believe the nature of this struggle and the discussion is important
and reflects the position of the movement in defence of women’s
rights. However joining of the IRI to the Convention is not that
important. What is important is the fact that women’s movement has
succeeded to impose such discussions on the Islamic regime, it has
succeeded to see to it that the State and the Parliament do not
have one day of rest because of it, and that Political Islam sees
itself cornered by the Convention as the result of massive movement
in defence of women’s rights.
The nature of this struggle is important but even if the IRI, under
pressure, joins the Convention, it does not make any difference
to the reality of women’s position in Iran. It will reflect a victory
for women’s movement, and will give confidence and importance to
the movement but will not reduce violence against women in the society.
The only way of diminishing violence against women in Iran is to
get rid of the regime and establish a system where equality between
men and women is recognised and real and long lasting steps are
taken towards elimination of inequality and discrimination.