[Marxism] Tired of Their Veils, Some Iranian Women Stage Rare Protests

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 30 09:59:25 MST 2018

(An interesting development. In the next upsurge in the class struggle, 
you might find two rivers converging into a tsunami (sorry for the mixed 
metaphors.) You will see a continuation of the rural protests over 
economic issues and the demand of Tehran's secular-minded middle-class 
for an end to clerical repression.)

NY Times, Jan. 30, 2018
Tired of Their Veils, Some Iranian Women Stage Rare Protests

TEHRAN — Climbing atop a five-foot-tall utility box in one of Tehran’s 
busiest squares on Monday, an Iranian woman removed her head scarf, tied 
it to a stick and waved it for all to see.

It was no small feat in Iran, where women can be arrested for publicly 
flouting the Islamic requirement that they cover their hair.

But there she stood, her curly hair blowing in the breeze. No one 
protested. In fact, she was applauded by many people. Taxi drivers and 
older women took her picture. The police, who maintain a booth in the 
square, either did not see her or decided not to intervene.

“My hands were trembling,” the 28-year-old said, asking not to be named 
out of fear of arrest. “I was anxious and feeling powerful at the same 
time. And proud, I felt proud.”

She was not alone. On Monday several other women, a total of six, 
according to social media accounts, made the same symbolic gesture: 
taking off their head scarves in public and waving them on a stick, 
emulating a young woman who climbed on the same sort of utility box on 
Dec. 27 and was subsequently arrested. Activists say she has since been 
released, but she still has not resurfaced in public.

At least one of the women protesting on Monday was arrested by the 
police, a shopkeeper who witnessed the arrest said.

The protests, still small in number, are nevertheless significant as a 
rare public sign that dissatisfaction with certain Islamic laws 
governing personal conduct may have reached a boiling point. As the 
28-year-old woman said, “I took my scarf off because I’m tired of our 
government telling me what to do with my body.”

And some said this might just be the beginning. “My guess is that more 
of these protests will follow,” said Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and human 
rights activist. “It’s obvious that some women want to decide for 
themselves what to wear.”

That remains to be seen, but the protests have already gained enough 
attention to provoke angry reactions in some quarters.

“These protests are done by instigators, saboteurs and vandalists and 
anarchists,” said one critic, Kazem Anbarlooie, the editor in chief of 
the hard-line newspaper Resalat. “Recently our enemies were communists 
and liberals, now Americans are provoking masochists against us.”

The first protest in December took place on a Wednesday and seemed 
connected to the White Wednesday campaign, an initiative by Masih 
Alinejad, an exiled Iranian journalist and activist living in the United 
States. Ms. Alinejad has reached out to Iranian women on 
Persian-language satellite television and through social media, and via 
a website she runs called My Stealthy Freedom. On the website, women 
post images of themselves without head scarves, demanding an end to the 
compulsory head scarf law.

During Monday’s protests some women waved white scarves, the symbol of 
Mrs. Alinejad’s campaign.

Hard-liners say that foreign intelligence agencies, including the 
Central Intelligence Agency, have been nurturing protests in Iran, like 
those that broke out in 80 cities at the end of last year. Nearly 4,000 
people were arrested and 25 died, according to official statistics. The 
hard-liners have not provided proof to back up their claims.

The Islamic head scarf, or hijab, is seen by Iranian ideologues as a 
pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The law regarding the scarf has 
been enforced since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and a head scarf is 
obligatory for every woman in the country, even tourists and visiting 
foreign dignitaries.

While discriminatory Islamic divorce and inheritance laws pose problems 
for individual women, the head scarf is a highly public symbol of a set 
of personal rules imposed by Iran’s clerical leaders, who decide what 
people can wear, what music they can listen to and what television 
programs and movies they get to see. Men are also the subject of 
clothing laws: They are forbidden to wear shorts in public.

During the past decade, influenced by the rise of the internet, 
satellite television and cheap foreign travel, many Iranians have grown 
deeply resentful of rules that they can see for themselves are out of 
step with most of the rest of the world. Many have become relatively 
secular and feel increasingly unwelcome in the fixed-in-stone state 
version of Shiite Islam, and many have taken to flouting the rules 
whenever and wherever they feel free enough to do so.

In past years, the morality police zealously enforced the rules, 
arresting women and men who violated them. But under the current 
president, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate, those officers have largely been 
taken off the streets.

Their removal was a gesture to a radically changed society, but it was 
also a recognition that there were not enough enforcers available to 
control a society that resents and rejects the rules. Women without head 
scarves can be seen everywhere in Tehran, in their cars, in shopping 
centers and even on the street, but always with the scarves draped over 
their shoulders, as if they have only just slipped off.

But the public protests are different because they are a symbolic 
rejection of authority and a statement that some young women are 
apparently ready to emulate. “I was working when I saw the image of 
another woman protesting on social media,” the 28-year-old said in a 
telephone interview. She said she informed some friends and co-workers 
about her intentions.

“If a lot of people do this, it will have more influence, I thought, so 
I went,” she said. At Ferdowsi Square, one of the busiest places in 
Tehran, she used a tree branch to clamber on top of the utility box next 
to a traffic light.

“ ‘Good going,’ ” she said many people shouted. “After five or six 
minutes people urged me to step down.” They did not have a problem with 
her protest, she said, but they had what they wanted. “They had taken 
enough pictures to put on social media,” she said.

More information about the Marxism mailing list