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Women Hold Demonstrations For Liberation in Iran and Afghanistan

by Carol Downer

The women of Iran and Afghanistan used International Women’s Day this year to carry forward their struggle for the liberation of women in their countries. They raised their voices in demonstrations in London, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.

Susann G., an Iranian woman now living in Germany, said the mass demonstrations in Iran in the past year created a new opportunities for progressive forces and those working for the liberation of women. “Something has happened,” said Susann G. “Even though the opposition candidate, Mussavi, supported the Islamic Republic of Iran, we need to do what we can to force an even greater change.”

On March 7 in London, the women’s organization, 8Mars sponsored a demonstration in front of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) to protest 31 years of anti-woman policies by the Islamic Republic, as well as to support the “Women Warriors in the Streets of Tehran” who joined in protests against alleged electoral fraud last year. Many women in Iran were imprisoned or injured -- some even killed.

Around Europe and in Canada, similar demonstrations were sponsored by Karzar, groups of Iranian and Afghani expatriate women.

On March 6 a delegate from the 8Mars organization traveled to Los Angeles to help the International Women’s Day Los Angeles Coalition organize an anti-Islamic Republic of Iran and anti-U.S. imperialism event.

The Los Angeles demonstration was held in a small square in the center of Westwood near the large community of Iranian-Americans who came to the United States when the Shah was driven out in 1979 by a popular revolution. Speakers reminded participants that Iran once had a democratic government and women were able to participate fully in the society, but that in 1953 the United States CIA destabilized the government, enabling the return of the autocratic regime of Shah Reza Pahlevi. The Shah imprisoned and tortured all who opposed him. After more than 20 years of despotism, the people of Iran rose up in revolution.

Susann G., one of the speakers, was a Communist arrested in Iran, along with her husband, for activities to protest the anti-democratic policies of the Islamic fundamentalist state headed by Ayotollah Khomeini. Khomeini forced Iranian women to go back to wearing “Hejab” or the veil. Susann G. was imprisoned for three years; her husband was executed. Her children were in her in-laws’ custody, and she emigrated to Germany, where she is now a citizen.

She described how the U.S. and other western powers, unless opposed by their citizens, will try to benefit from the present upheaval in Iran. She mocked U.S. leaders, such as former President George W. Bush, who seek to exert control in the Middle East and to exploit the region’s resources, while sometimes justifying their actions as liberating women.

The members of Karzar, Susann G.’s group, are meeting to formulate new theses that clarify the relationship between women’s oppression and the subjugation of labor in the drive to accumulate wealth, she said. While they think that the only path for the liberation of women is through socialist revolutions, they believe that the elimination of traditional ideas and property relations must be achieved through solving contradictions between workers and peasants, city and rural dwellers, workers in “mental” and manual employment, and women and men.

Various Los Angeles feminist groups are part of the ongoing coalition that has organized International Women’s Day marches this year and in the past to support Iranian women. These feminists are working with 8Mars and other groups to fight the oppression of women in all countries, no matter how different a form it might take.

March 16, 2010

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Carol Downer is a co-founder of the Feminist Women’s Health Center in 1973 in Los Angeles. She co-authored and is editor of several books on women’s health care, notably "A New View of a Woman’s Body." She is an attorney and a member of the board of Women’s Health Specialists in Chico, California.

Listen to a song of liberation for women by Gissoo Shakeri.

Also see “Iranian Women Today – Fighting Two Enemies” by Mary Lou Greenberg in the April 2008 edition of On The Issues Magazine.

”A Sacrificial Light: Self-Immolation in Tajrish Square, Tehran” by Martha Shelley in the Fall 1994 edition of On The Issues Magazine.


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