The women's liberation movement
a staunch enemy of political Islam
At different times in history, the women's liberation movement has been strong and vibrant in various parts of the world. In the 19th century, Europe witnessed a flourishing equal rights movement. With the advent of capitalism, a women's liberation movement, and with it the women's question, were born. A dynamic movement, both theoretical and political, appeared in advanced countries. Then with the October revolution a strong and vibrant women's liberation movement came into being, which had long lasting effects. It moved the women's liberation movement into new areas and pushed the limits to a whole new height.
In the 60s and 70s, Europe and the US became the birthplace of a new era of the women's liberation movement. This movement changed the situation and status of women in the West. It changed the image of women, the way women were perceived by the society. It revolutionized the relations of women to men and motherhood, and had an important impact on the family structure and the role of women within it. It was named the sexual revolution. We still have a long way to go. But this movement, or as it was called revolution took us to a whole new era and opened new doors for us.
Now, I believe the Middle East is entering a new phase, a new era and we could witness a revolution of similar dimensions and impact as in 1917 in Russia or during the 60s in the West. This movement has been born and is taking shape in Iran vis-à-vis political Islam; in its course of development, it will affect the whole region.
The growth of capitalism in Islam-ridden countries and the introduction of modernism began to affect women's rights and status in these traditional societies. The changes and the reforms were minor and gradual, but they were apparent and obvious. Women became more assertive, more active socially, and were becoming a part of the new society and pushing back traditions, which were mostly shaped by religion - that is Islam. These deeply patriarchal societies showed some signs of modernism, and a breeze of new norms was being felt.
Growing up as a young girl in this era, I could feel the breeze, and I was becoming part of this new move for change, questioning my position, demanding my rights, protesting at the shortcomings and perceptions of society, and ridiculing the norms and laws of patriarchy.
Soon a revolution took place in Iran, my birthplace, challenging the dictatorship, demanding freedom and justice. I was excited by the promises of a social and political transformation, which I thought and believed the revolution will bring about. But things took a different turn. The revolution was aborted in its dreams and aspirations, and instead of equality and freedom, a monster was born, what we later came to call political Islam. The birth of the Islamic Republic in Iran did not only turn the tide back in Iran, it had an adverse impact on the whole region. Along with this, political Islam was helped, supported, armed and trained by the USA and West in Afghanistan. Soon this monstrous movement poisoned the entire region. Its first victims were women. Women's rights and freedoms were among the first targets to be attacked and mutilated. A dark veil was thrown on women's existence. Their meagre economic independence was slashed; their new image was tainted before taking shape, and their sexual being was thrown back to the dark ages. And a continuous struggle was born.
I talk about Iran but in all the Islam-ridden countries this movement has taken its toll on the people, on women and their status, whether in the form of the state, as in Iran, Afghanistan, the Sudan and the like, or where it constitutes a strong movement such as in Algeria, Egypt and Palestine. And with the attack of the USA and Britain on Iraq, and the disarray resulting from this attack we are witnessing the same trend in Iraq.
In the past two and half decades a movement has sprung up and taken shape in Iran, which is continuously gaining momentum and strength. In my opinion, this movement will soon be regarded as one of its kind in the history of great social movements and women's liberation movements in the world. This movement is questioning and challenging all the traditional and patriarchal norms and laws. The movement to free women in Iran is challenging not only women's position in the society and family, but is also attacking the whole political system and prevalent outmoded traditions. This great social movement has wide-reaching effects on the society as a whole. The women's movement is a great force against patriarchal relations, a great force for secularism, a force for a more just and freer society.
The effects and impact of this movement goes far beyond the borders of its birthplace. It is already affecting the struggle against political Islam in the region and once it succeeds in its aims, once it is able to materialize its aspirations, it will revolutionize the status and image of women in the region. Just as political Islam takes its first victims among women, the movement to liberate women is a staunch enemy of political Islam.
The political force of the women's movement against the Islamic Republic of Iran and thereby against political Islam is so immense that its impact was felt internationally when the Noble Peace Prize was recently awarded to "a Moslem woman" "who sees no conflict between Islam and human rights", to "a woman from the Moslem world," per the Nobel Prize Committee statement. Why did they feel the need to remind us more than once in a brief statement that they are awarding a Moslem; that her actions for the defence of women's rights have been within the framework of and with all respect to Islam? Because this is an orchestrated and coordinated political project by the European Union to find a new balance for political Islam, to try and create a so-called moderate Moslem force vis-à-vis a radical and militant movement which is taking shape in Iran and is daily gaining momentum. A force, which will not only stop at brushing off the excesses of Islamic rule, but will dismantle the whole system and will bring about a new one based on respect for freedom and equality of all, in which women and men will live as equal partners.
This brings me to the role played by a strong movement which has been quick in recognizing the monster of political Islam, and relentless in its fight to challenge the old order and for freedom and equality. A movement with a clear vision and well thought out plan of action, and an uncompromising stand against injustice, suppression and inequality, Worker-communism. This movement has brought hopes for a better world, a humane world, a just and free world. Here I would like to pay tribute to a great man whose insight and vision made all this possible - Mansoor Hekmat, the leader of the Worker-communist movement and party, a man whose vision for a free and equal society mobilised this great force.
We are gathered here today to strengthen our force, to refresh our energy in our struggle against the oppression of women, and to announce to the world that we will continue our fight to bring about women's liberation and full equality. We will not tire. We will not stop. We have worked hard to build a strong movement, and we are proud of it. We will make our voices heard. We will materialize our aspirations. We will make sure that the dark force of reaction and the monster of political Islam become yesterday's nightmares and that our liberating vision will become the reality of tomorrow.
Long Live Women's Liberation!
The above is a speech made in English at the 3rd Medusa Conference in Stockholm, Sweden in November 2003.