“Suppression of women is a measure of suppression of the society”
Azar Majedi
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 and threatened.

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 another time.

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.