National Sections of the L5I:

Iranian women must ally with workers

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Earlier this month, Iranian women’s rights activist Delaram Ali was given a sentence (currently suspended) of a flogging and two and half years in prison. Her “crime” was participating in a demonstration calling for reform of Iran’s Islamic legal system, which discriminates against women.

The legal system prevents women from taking roles in the judiciary and giving their voice less weight than men’s in court. Delaram’s persecution is surprising as she is not one of the main leaders of the women’s movement; it is a warning to women against involvement in opposition politics.

But harsh treatment is by no means restricted to those women who dare to be politically active. In October, Zahra Bani Yaghoub, a 27-year-old medical graduate from Tehran, was arrested by Iran’s morality police while walking with her fiancé. The fiancé was released an hour later, but Zahra was kept in prison overnight and was found dead the next morning. The police claimed that she committed suicide by hanging herself but her family maintain that she had no reason to take her own life and her father accused the police of assaulting and murdering her. Association with the opposite sex is a common ground for arrest in Iran, where strict gender segregation is imposed. It is usually punished by payment of fine or flogging.

There has been a big clampdown since the beginning of this year when Iran launched a “public security and moralisation campaign.” While some kind of crackdown on dress usually occurs each summer in Iran, this year it was particularly intense. In one day, nearly 300 women were arrested for problems with their clothing, such as wearing a tight coat or letting some strands of hair show under their veils. There have also been attacks on “Western” hairstyles, make-up and “decadent” films, and young people who flout dress codes are accused of being “walking advertisements for Western deviant sexual and Satan-worshipping cults”. Retailers have been warned not to sell tight, revealing clothing and police have even ordered some to saw the breasts off shop mannequins because they are too revealing!

These incidents are oppressive to women. However, we must avoid the mistake of seeing women’s freedom solely as the right to choose their dress and show their bodies as some argue in the west. Women must have the right to wear what they like, be it western-style clothes in Iran or the veil in the West, where they often face discrimination and racist attacks. But there are so many other rights and freedoms such as legal equality, economic opportunities, and freedom to choose how to live and who with or to love and have sex with that must be fought for.

There are also aspects about women in Iran that are less keenly reported, such as their high level of education – more than half of students starting university in Iran are women. Furthermore the media says very little about the treatment of women in other Islamic states allied to the US and UK such as Saudi Arabia.

Clearly, the Western media’s is showing the Iranian regime in the worst possible light both in terms of its treatment of women and its nuclear programme, in order to justify an attack on Iran.

The struggle of Iranian women against oppression shows great courage. Workers, like the Teheran bus drivers, whose leader has been imprisoned several times, are also fighting back.

The working class must now broaden its struggles against the Iranian state and bosses into a struggle against all oppression; women, lesbian and gay people and ethnic minority groups. A strong working class movement can fight not just economic demands but full political rights for all oppressed groups and open the road to the full liberation of women, lesbians and gays and ethnic groups. The Iranian regime is a disgustingly reactionary force, and we fight for regime change from below in the shape of a socialist revolution to secure real freedoms in the country and not some fake “democratic intervention” from imperialism