Harrowing tale of atrocities on women in Iran and Afghanistan—India is no better either


File Photo: Kolkata 2018

Inhumanity at its nadir! Close to 1,000 schoolgirls have reportedly been poisoned in Iran. Though regime officials initially dismissed the attacks, several have now admitted that they are intentional. But three months after the first reported attack, no arrests have been made in connection with the poisonings, which activists suggest are reprisals for the students’ participation in nationwide protests that have been shaking the country. Initially the tendency on part of the authorities in the country was that of denial. Iranian education minister had termed the reports to be rumours. ‘‘The study of girls is considered haram’’, howled one fundamentalist rogue in a video that went viral. After all these, the Iranian deputy health minister was compelled to implicitly confirm the poisonings. Iranian American women’s rights activist Masi Alinejad says many of the children who were poisoned told her they were scared to get into an ambulance or take medication offered to them because they were afraid that they would be killed. ‘‘The students know very well that the attack on the schoolgirls is intentional and revenge by the Islamic Republic against the brave women who reject the forced hijab,’’ she added. As more poisonings of schoolgirls are reported in Iran, human rights activists and journalists blaming Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist government for what they say is just another form of gender-based attacks in the country. Schoolgirls across Iran have joined the nationwide unrest by defiantly posting pictures of themselves without their headscarves, writing anti-government slogans on walls and ripping portraits of Ruhullah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei, the former and current leaders of the Islamic fundamentalist Republic. The crackdown on under-18s has been brutal, with the authorities responding to child protesters with detentions and violence.
On the other hand, since the arch fundamentalist-terrorist Taliban took control of Afghanistan on 15 August 2021, human rights violations against women and girls have mounted steadily. Despite initial promises that women would be allowed to exercise their human rights under Sharia law—including the right to work and to study—the Taliban has systematically excluded women and girls from public life. The Talibani regime announced on 20 December 2022, that women were to be banned from universities including students, female teachers, and professors. Thus, the dreams of Iranian girls to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, and more, were shattered to pieces. In a stark reminder of the risk that women run when they express any opposition to the regime, a video clip showed Afghan women who were bravely raising their voices in the streets to stand up for their right to education, running for their lives as Taliban soldiers chase them down the streets shooting at them. This is the ongoing reality for women and girls living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Spectacle is no different fundamentally in India. The protagonists of Hindutva—a communal fundamentalist doctrine-are also issuing similar fatwas to keep the women subdued. ‘‘Go back to the kitchen and be a good mother’’ —this Hitlerite prescript is now reverberated in the voice of the Hindutva satraps. They also do not want the women to be at par with the men and hence preach for sustaining patriarchal domination. Female foeticide, infanticide, bride burning, dowry deaths, torture for not bearing male child, forcible stay with co-wife of husband, underage marriage and drop-out from schools—all are continuing in the name of Hindu religious customs aided and abetted by the Hindu fundamentalists. Similarly, Muslim girls are equally assailed by counter Islamic fundamentalism.
Such is the edict of all fundamentalists, whether in Iran, or Afghanistan or India. They want that privileges and opportunities should shower on the males while the women are to remain in the abyss of darkness and gratify the menfolk. In the days of advent of capitalism, the enlightened thoughts of renaissance took in its sweep the mortifying shackles of feudal obduracy, obscurantism and bigotry. Women who had been subjugated to male domination were granted freedom, of course in bourgeois sense. Equal rights of men and women were recognized. So were the women’s rights to education and taking part in all social activities along with men. But as capitalism entered its phase of decadence and turned utter reactionary, all the lofty ideals of renaissance began to be trampled underfoot and a compromise with the ousted outmoded feudal thoughts of religious obstinacy, revivalism, backwardness and superstitions ensued. It is with the backing of the ruthlessly oppressive capitalism that the fundamentalists are flourishing and thumping around. It ought to be remembered that religion and fundamentalism are not the same. When religion is distorted and used for making narrow sectarian political gains and retrograde the mental process by fomenting old obsolete thoughts and regimentation, it is called fundamentalism.
More decadence capitalist societies are gripped with, more severe and menacing are becoming these features of subjugation of and atrocities on women. Social stigma relating to so called violation of custom or religious rites applicable only to women, objectifying them and used and abused, delegating an inferior status to them-all this all would surface in increasing number. The air of capitalist-imperialist countries is thus rent with ever-increasing wails of victims, women and children. Over and above the yoke of capitalist exploitation and oppression, they have to bear the yoke of menacingly rising criminality that tells pathetically upon their security and dignity.
These are heinous crimes to humanity itself and everyone—sane and sensible has to rise up to the occasion. It is high time that such misogyny and cruel way of dealing with women and attack on dignity and life of women as in Iran or Afghanistan or India with innocent girl children perpetrated by fundamental forces demanded voicing an all-out condemnation and a socio-cultural movement based on higher culture and morality for putting up resistance. But it ought to be borne in mind that whether it is Iran or Afghanistan or India, the fight for women’s emancipation in real sense of the term cannot be led to its logical goal unless it develops as conducive to anti-capitalist revolutionary movement on their respective soils.
Once the rebellious women rise up with grit, determination and valour and the conscientious males stand by their legitimate struggle, these lackeys of imperialism-capitalism would beat retreat and fold up their business of thriving on distortion of religion.

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