By Bharat Dogra
The ongoing struggle of the women of Iran for equality and gender justice is a very justified struggle which deserves full support as the right to dress in accordance with one’s wishes is a basic right of all women, both in itself and as a symbol of wider aspects of social rights and gender based equality. Authorities or morality police who deny these rights must be opposed.
At the same time, however, while extending this support, due caution must be exercised to ensure that our support is not caught in the trap of the USA and its close allies using these protests as a means of advancing their main objective of weakening Iran politically and economically and isolating it internationally.
In recent times the US policy has been extremely hostile towards Iran. The USA has imposed very harsh sanctions against Iran. While this hostility has many contexts, the most discussed recent factor has been the nuclear program of Iran and its implications for nuclear weapons. However Iran had agreed to cooperate with the international community on this matter and a settlement was reached. It was the US which went back on this first, followed by a series of further hostilities on two sides. Many people believe that the Iraq-Iran war started by Saddam Hussein was encouraged by the USA, even though the USA later turned against Saddam himself whose once- strong army had been weakened and exhausted by this long war.
However the original sin goes back to 1953 when the democratically elected, progressive government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was ousted by the intelligence agencies of the USA and the UK in a coup, an action which has been officially admitted by the USA. Their main grievance against the popular Prime Minister was that he wanted to use the resources of Iran for the benefit of people of Iran and towards this end he was willing to take actions against oil multinational companies in which western countries had dominant interests. He also initiated steps for greater equality of women. Mosaddegh was imprisoned, when he died he was denied a proper burial and in fact buried in his living room as the new pro-west rulers feared the outpouring of people’s support that may follow.
While many objectionable practices were followed in this coup, in which Winston Churchill took a keen interest, one that may be particularly noted is that payments were arranged for protesters and protest gatherings, and other actions were taken to create a false impression that the people were highly agitated against someone who was essentially a leader well liked by the people and elected by them only recently. This has a lesson for present times as well. This is why our suggestion is that special precautions should be taken to ensure that while supporting the struggles of women and others standing up with them for gender equality, we should at the same time assert that we oppose the various hostile actions of the US government and its allies against Iran. The Iran government also needs to look inwards and agree to significantly revise its gender polices to make them much more progressive and consistent with gender justice, in matters relating to dress as well as other socio-cultural issues and livelihood and educational opportunities. In fact the Iran government is only weakening the country by going slow on gender equality and rights.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Man over Machine, When the Two Streams Met and A Day in 2071.
29 January 2023