Women of Iran protesting custodial death of Mahsa Amini a crusader against compulsory wearing of hijab
That religious fundamentalism is posing a viable threat to women and her rights as a human being is staring us in the face today, as never before. To keep women subdued and yield to patriarchal domination, fundamentalist forces in different countries have been attempting to gag women’s voice raised in protest against oppression and patriarchal domination. The entire world was aghast to learn about the passing away of the 22 year old Mahsa Amini who had fallen out with the Government of Iran as a result of her determined protest against mandatory hijab (headscarf) wearing. She was arrested on the flimsy ground that she was wearing her hijab ‘wrong’ and when in custody, though reportedly she has had no history of heart trouble, she went into coma and was removed to a hospital where she died. Kasra Hospital, where Mahsa was admitted, said on social media that she was brought there as brain- dead. Photos were doing the rounds, showing Mahsa on the hospital bed with black swollen eyes and blood coming out of her ears. It was obvious that she had met with the most brutal treatment while in the custody of moral police.
Ever since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the wearing of the hijab was made mandatory for women. Right from the age of seven years a girl has to wear the hijab without which she can neither attend school or college, nor go to work. Take the example of Masih Alinejad, a journalist who has lived in exile abroad for over a decade. She could not travel safely to Iran for fear of arrest, while her parents were forbidden from leaving the country and her father had stopped speaking to her. Death threats were a daily occurrence for her. She had protested against compulsory hijab by posting her photo riding a car in London (Indian Express) without a hijab back in 2017. Thus, her defiant social media posts and activities had led to the social media movement, tagged as ‘My Stealthy Freedom’. She had developed a strong feeling against the injustice towards women in her culture. She described how she ‘‘always wanted to give a voice to voiceless people’’, because she ‘‘was always voiceless’’ when she was in Iran. Running the social media campaign: ‘Let Us Talk’ Alinejad told The Hindu ‘‘Iranian women have always been brainwashed. Their hair and their identity have been taken hostage because this is how the government controls society,’’ she elaborated. (Firstpost)
But Iranian women’s protest has not come without a price. The fundamentalist Islamic Government of Iran, has unleashed a blood-drenched crackdown on protesters. Thus, the moral police arrested 22-year old Mahsa Amini for not wearing the hijab properly, and she breathed her last in police custody in mysterious circumstances. Since December 2017, more than 35 women protesters have been arrested in the capital Tehran alone. The police have warned that women who participate in demonstrations against the hijab could face up to 10 years in prison. But the women took it as an infringement on their rights and a fresh movement has sprouted on the day of cremation of Mahsa Amini which is still continuing. Over 50 people have been killed so far after Iranian security forces cracked down on the protesters. Women in Iran are chopping off their hair and burning their hijabs in protest. Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who rarely reacts publicly to events in Iran, expressed sorrow and called Amini’s death in custody a ‘‘crime’’. Another Iranian girl who was arrested for demonstrating against the mandatory hijab was held in solitary confinement and subjected to torture and beatings. The pro-Iranian government sources are however claiming that this protest is a handiwork of the US and Israel.
At present, women not only in Iran but also in other Islamic states, including those known to be strongly fundamentalist, e.g. Saudi Arabia are rising in protest against cruel religious injunctions. It has become a question of human rights with women engaged in protests even defying death if needed. As per media report, five protesters have already been killed in Kurdistan itself. In fact, fundamentalism, be it of Hinduism or Islamic religion, stands against the undeterred advancement of women. All of them endorse, overtly or covertly, the Hitlerian dictate of, ‘‘Go back to kitchen and be good mothers’’! Incidentally, holy Quran instructs Muslim women and men to dress modestly, and for some, the hijab is worn by Muslim girls and women to maintain modesty and privacy from unrelated males—modesty concerns both men’s and women’s ‘‘gaze, gait, garments, and genitalia’’. But at present, the fundamentalists who are no custodians of any religion but use religion as a means for wielding power and command over people, are only interested in giving strictures for observing many rituals and customs which have long back become obsolete in terms of laws of social development, are against democratic norms and practices and hence nothing but injunctions to stick to religious blindness, bigotry and obscurantism.
What needs to be understood is that during advent of capitalism as a progressive force against feudal autocracy and obduracy, the exponents of Renaissance championed secularism which presupposes non-recognition of any supernatural entity and hence fought against religious prescripts and backwardness, drawn by the social necessity to usher in a new economic production system with a new superstructure. But, once capitalism following inexorable course of its own economic law, has entered its decadent, moribund stage and turned utterly reactionary, it has thrown away the banner of secularism and instead is compromising with the old religious canons and abetting fundamentalism. Iran, notwithstanding its theocratic character, is also a capitalist country and hence is not free from the general characteristics of an oppressive capitalist state. Hence, the Iranian rulers are also trying to keep people allegiant to the regime by continuous injection of fundamentalist thoughts. In India also, the ruling BJP is doing the same thing in the name of Hindutva. So, human rights, rights of women, freedom of expression, rational thinking, scientific bent of mind—all these are curbed and curtailed, whether in India or in Iran. The capitalist rulers are in fact dictating what one should wear, what one should eat, whom to hate, whom to obey blindly and so forth. This general truth needs to be imbibed by all right-thinking people who want to launch crusade against fundamentalist tyranny.
The death of Mahsa has caused a stir among women in different parts of the world and among the democratic-minded people. Even celebrities in the concerned countries as well as elsewhere are coming out of their ‘unbiased’ stance to protest such attacks, demanding the age-old regressive customs and practices to be rescinded. We express our solidarity with the protesters and demand that the rights of women as individuals be ensured and such repressive practices and measures be withdrawn. AIDSO has also extended its support to the movement of Iranian women.