September 29, 2022

Iranian Unrest and Women’s Rights

Members of “The Squad” are silent on the murder of an Iranian woman at the hands of “morality police.”

Iran is largely viewed as the principal troublemaker in the Middle East. The state religion is Shia Islam, and since 1979 the country — which is governed under the iron fist of a theocratic autocracy — has employed “morality police,” or Gasht-e Ershad (Persian for Guidance Patrols), to enforce proper head coverings, modest clothing, discourage cosmetics, and even condemn “Western”-style haircuts on men.

The morality police are largely disliked by the Iranian people, and that dislike has reached a breaking point. On September 13, an Iranian-Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini failed to comply to the hijab rules and was murdered for it by the morality police.

The hijab — a scarf covering the hair of a woman — is touted in the Islamic community as a symbol of modesty. As a woman, covering your hair in the Islamic world is protection against rape. Regardless of how modest these women are, rape is always going to be the woman’s fault and not the man’s, according to this ideology. The hijab has come to symbolize the oppression of women under these strict theocratic regimes.

According to Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York (CUNY), Mahsa Amini “was apprehended while in a car with her family because she was, allegedly, wearing her hijab incorrectly.” She was severely beaten and died three days later. Her horrific death sparked massive unrest in Iran. Women have taken to the streets without a hijab to fight for their rights.

Already, at least 57 protesters have been killed and hundreds arrested. These protests have been going on for 11 days, marking the most unrest the country has faced internally since 2019.

Similar to 2019, the Iranian government has shut down the Internet to hobble communication and hamstring protests. The U.S. has since helped to reinstate Internet access to the Iranian people. Elon Musk has activated Starlink, which “offers low-orbit satellite internet services to people in places without traditional mobile telecommunications access.” This is all well and good, as providing the Iranian people independent Internet and telecommunication will circumvent the attempt by the Iranian government to censor and surveil its citizens. But as the Washington Examiner points out, “Biden helping Iranians access the internet pales in comparison to the far bolder Trump administration’s covert action program, which helped Iranians evade internet censorship by the regime.”

Overall, President Joe Biden’s response is all bark and no bite. This is a similar response to former President Barack Obama’s reaction to Iranians fighting for their freedom in 2009. Like Biden’s administration of today, Obama was in the midst of trying to get an ill-advised nuclear deal finalized with Iran.

Perhaps most deplorable of all is the silence from members of “The Squad” — Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar. Representative Rashida Tlaib is the only exception, and her hashtag diplomacy is weak enough. These Squad members are more than happy to compare the U.S. to Hamas or protest for abortion rights and pretend to be arrested, but actually standing with oppressed women? That would require more than empty actions.

Biden claimed in his recent speech to the UN that he stands with the women of Iran. But if that’s anything like him standing with the women of Afghanistan, Iranian women would be wise to look elsewhere for aid.

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