Fighting for the rights and sovereignty of Iranian women

The solidarity movement of the Iranian women evoked by the brutal death of Mahsa Amin can serve to encourage women in the U.S. to fight back against the combined repression of the state and the church on their reproductive health. 

The undemocratic ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court eliminating women’s right to abortion is overwhelmingly unpopular. The justices who are appointed for life are not elected. The majority of judges profess conservative religious zeal and far right-wing political ideology. In one 2022 decision, they moved to undo the First Amendment’s separation of church and state in public schools.

The Biden administration, which was elected in opposition to the Trump crowd, appears to be doing nothing to check the Supreme Court’s rabid implementation of racism and bigotry. In states around the country, voting rights are being challenged, history lessons forbidden in schools, the right to gender freedom denied, and state violence against people of color, LGBTQ2S, and disadvantaged workers is validated.

With that in mind, consider the problems faced by our sisters in the Iranian movement. Why is the powerful U.S. corporate media giving it a thumbs up? Why is the Biden administration seeking ways to intervene? President Biden publicly sided with the protesters in his speech at the United Nations. And his administration has moved to set up satellite links and social media with the intention of spurring opposition to the government with dubious information from the U.S.

U.S. economic sanctions on Iran

Can it be that they are concerned about the lives of Iranian women? The hypocrisy is startling. 

Harsh U.S. economic sanctions against Iran began in 1979 and have generally been tightened during the following years. Donald Trump tossed out a deal made by Barack Obama that relaxed the sanctions to deny Iran the development of nuclear energy, a move meant to block the economic development of Iran. Trump amped up the most punishing sanctions, and Biden has not returned to the deal made by Obama.

The years of U.S. economic sanctions have deprived the entire population of the basic necessities of survival. Women, children and the elderly suffer most from the  U.S. sanctions, which even include denying basic medical supplies. 

U.S. sanctions are a form of economic warfare. Sanctions have been imposed on Iran, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iraq, Cuba, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela — among others.

The goal of sanctions is to destabilize the country and bring about regime change, to deprive those countries of self-determination. U.S. sanctions endanger people’s lives, particularly those already most vulnerable in society: children, women and oppressed genders. 

The human toll was devastating when sanctions were imposed on Iraq. According to the Geneva International Center for Justice, some 1.5 million children were killed by U.S. sanctions on Iraq.

The catastrophic results of U.S.-imposed regime change can be seen in the countries surrounding Iran.

U.S. imperialism and Iran

The U.S. media dwells on the theocratic form of the Iranian government as if the enactment of archaic forms of religious law were unheard of (what about the U.S. Supreme Court?). Even more importantly, how did the Iranian religious leaders come to power?

In 1951 a progressive leader named Mohammed Mosaddeq became Prime Minister of Iran with the rise of massive popular support. Under his leadership, the Iranians nationalized their oil industry. When the Shah, a monarch of the Iranian Pahlavi dynasty, tried to intercede to protect Anglo-U.S. oil interests, the Shah was forced into exile.

The United States CIA, with the active support of the British MI6, responded by organizing a coup. Mosaddeq was arrested and tried for treason. All opposition to the Shah, which had been led by the National Front and Communist Tudeh Party, was suppressed. The U.S. reinstated the Shah’s rule under a martial law regime with brutal measures such as banning the gathering of three or more people. An international consortium took over the Iranian oil facilities for the next 25 years. The U.S. supplied military aid while Iranian workers suffered ever deeper poverty levels, dislocation and decay.

The Iranian Revolution

During the 1978-79 Iranian Revolution, Sam Marcy wrote in November 1978: “The Shah of Iran has not yet been overthrown, but no monarch has ever been so completely a prisoner in his own palace and so thoroughly hated by the overwhelming bulk of the population as is Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.” 

Marcy was a leading Marxist thinker, an active supporter of the Iranian Revolution whose writings were followed by some Iranian revolutionaries.

“First, it should be noted that all the social classes in Iran today — not merely one or the most oppressed but all the classes — are in political motion. None of the classes can any longer openly champion the status quo. To one degree or another, the bourgeoisie, the comprador bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie in the rural and urban centers, and, needless to say, the workers and the peasants, agree either expressly or by implication that the status quo, the present situation, is unendurable and that the consequent political crisis must be resolved now.”

Thus, the Iranian Revolution began in 1978 with workers’ strikes, most notably the Iranian petroleum workers. Major demonstrations that faced a hail of bullets arose, “not only so in Tehran, in Tabriz, in Isfahan, in Abadan, but all over the country.” The hated SAVAK, the military police of the Shah, was defeated, and large segments of the conscript army came under the influence of the revolution.

Despite the support of Jimmy Carter’s administration, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was kicked out and forced to retreat to a safe haven in Texas.

At the time, Marcy wrote: “The leadership of the overall anti-Shah opposition is in the hands of bourgeois democratic forces concentrated principally around Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a religious leader, and not in the hands of a working-class party. 

“This should not be surprising in the light of the catastrophic consequences following the imperialist-engineered overthrow of the Mossadegh regime. What followed was not the mere installation of a puppet in the person of the Shah, but the extermination of practically an entire generation of militants, revolutionaries, and progressives in the annihilation that followed, as were other progressives. A historic defeat of such magnitude as entailed by the overthrow of the Mossadegh government not merely wipes out a generation of political leadership and activists in the anti-imperialist and working class movements, it also leaves a wide generation gap which a long period of repression has filled in with other social and political forces.” 

The Islamic Republic

Ayatollah Khomeini took over the Tehran government, and Iran officially became the Islamic Republic on April 1, 1979. The revolution became limited to the political overthrow of the Shah. The class structure — relations between exploiter and exploited classes — remained intact. The revolution did succeed in releasing the working class from a fascist dictatorship.

The working class, weakened by years of imperialist and colonial domination, succeeded by joining a united front with a hostile class represented by the clerical Khomeini regime. They needed to join other forces to fight for their sovereignty while not subordinating their class interests.

In 1979 Marcy warned: Workers in the U.S. need to avoid the imperialist anti-Muslim bias and consider the difference “between the religious leader of an oppressed country who fights imperialism as against one who, no matter how lofty or advanced his bourgeois conceptions may be, conciliates with imperialism.”

Thirty years later, John Parker, who traveled to Iran in an anti-war delegation in 2010, reported some facts never mentioned in corporate media attacks against Iran. Parker says that more than 65% of Iran’s university students are women, as are more than a third of the doctors. At the time of the 1979 Revolution, 90% of rural women were illiterate; even in towns, the figure was 45%. So, in a little over 30 years, tremendous strides were made in regard to educational opportunities for women. Now large numbers of increasingly well-educated women have been entering the workforce.

Critical support for the current movement

While the mouthpieces of U.S. imperialist interests loudly champion women’s rights, there is no evidence that the U.S. government has alleviated gender oppression anywhere abroad or at home. Quite the opposite.

It is crucial to support Iran’s women and oppressed genders by fighting to end U.S. sanctions, which oppress all the women and oppressed genders in Iran. It is the foremost way to back the fight for self-determination and defend against the opportunistic advances of those who wish to return them to the decades of colonial exploitation.

Join the Struggle-La Lucha Telegram channel