Women’s rights are global and must be respected

Mohey Mowafy, Journal op-ed contributor

The death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian woman who perished in the custody of Iran’s morality police because her headscarf was not tight enough has sparked an astonishing youth revolt across the country.

This protest is not like any other in Iran. This protest is not new, for it is massive, but also because it is led by women, particularly young women. While some may think that it is way too far from us and way too different than what we care about locally

I beg to disagree. At the outset, I do recommend reading 1) Black Wave by Kim Ghattas, and 2) Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Afisi. Kim Ghattas was Hillary Clinton advisor on Middle East issues, and Azar Afisi was an Iranian university professor who held women study groups in her home.

Iranian men are now joining the Iranian women in support of their cause. These demonstrations displayed the most radical and geographically widespread collective action in modern-day Iran to date.

For more than four decades, since the Iranian religion revolution (also known as the Islamic revolution), Iranian women had fought back against the gender apartheid regime in various ways. But since Saturday, Sept. 17, they have become the vanguard of a countrywide protests. The ongoing demonstrations have already displayed the most radical and geographically widespread collective action under the Islamic Republic to date.

Should one need examples of limitless courage fighting a most legitimate cause, what is happenning in Iran now should suffice.

The role and the unprecedented bravery of young women and teenage girls are the main characteristics of this uprisings. Their generation, born around 2000, came of age in an era of the internet and global communications. Today, their profound demand to take back the rights to their own bodies marks a rare political transformation with no leader and no possibility of any political faction laying claim to it, in a way, the fossilized clergy dictating their lives cannot possibly fathom.

Protests in Iran often carry with them a grim sense of fatalism because of the breathtaking brutality of the Iranian security forces who ride their motorcycles like their ancestors rode their horses on ancient battle fields.

Amnesty International posted videos of the morality police following their orders to mercilessly brutalized the protesters. However, this time despite the violence by security forces, protesters are still protedsting. To them, the crackdown has only made them more determined.

Their leading role has crystallized something all the more radical — a more overt rejection of the entire Islamic Republic, built on years of growing disenchantment.

It was with Amini’s death in custody that they heard a certain raw truth enunciated in protest slogans and social media commentary. “The idea that liberty for all remained elusive unless there was liberty for women,” wrote Nahid Siamdoust in New Lines Magazine. Perhaps this overt and furious protest will serve as a reminder to all, and not only in the Middle East, that males who cannot and will not fathom the fact that we are no longer in the dark ages.

Yes, it sounds like a stretch to equate protesting an ancient dress code, in a far less developed and certainly far less democratic country, with our own Supreme Court attempting to regulate the bodies of women. The principle is the same.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mohey Mowafy is a retired Northern Michigan University professor who resides in the Marquette area.


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