They are risking death for the right not to wear hijab. Women have been burning their hijabs (headscarves) and cutting their hair. They’ve been heard chanting “Women, Life and Freedom,” and “Death to the dictator.”
The Iranian mullahs have unleashed the Revolutionary Guard and paramilitary (Basij) forces against them. They have been dragging women by their hair, banging their heads on the ground, tear-gassing, beating, shooting, arresting, and murdering them. Fatality estimates range from 50-400 protesters and bystanders.
These protests were sparked by the Sept. 16 death-in-morality-police-custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman. She was apprehended while in a car with her family because she was, allegedly, wearing her hijab incorrectly. While the police denied beating or torturing her to death, a photo of Amini in a hospital bed reveals her bloodied face. She was in a coma.
Pro-government demonstrators also have been out in force, defaming the women and their male supporters as “Israel’s soldiers,” and shouting “Death to Israel,” and “Death to America.” The government has blacked out the internet and arrested journalists.
It is obscene that the Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour and U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar and Palestinian-American Rashia Tlaib have failed to introduce a bill in Congress or call a press conference on behalf of these brave Iranian women.
Sarsour and Omar continue to glorify their wearing of hijab as a protest against white racism and alleged “Islamophobia.”
America’s so-called Women’s March was an abomination and a travesty. It was anti-America, antisemitic, anti-Israel, anti-western—and anti-feminist. But mainly the marchers glorified the wearing of hijab. Some marchers desecrated the American flag by fashioning it into a hijab. The poster memorializing this became very popular.
I am remembering this shameful march as I read about what’s happening in Iran.
And I wonder: When will this trio (Omar, Sarsour, Tlaib) condemn the mad mullahs and their murderous morality police? These Twitter queens are rarely shy about sharing their views on the big news stories. But thus far, they’ve only managed to retweet someone else’s words.
AOC has tweeted something but she is neither a hijab-wearer nor a Muslim. In addition, she is suggesting that American women have the same problem—“patriarchy”—that Iranian women face.
Not so, not so.
Tlaib did tweet something on her smaller twitter feed. But mainly she retweeted a “solidarity” statement from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wrote that “the right to choose belongs to us all, from hijabs to reproductive care.” Sarsour retweeted another statement against “forced hijab” by a lawyer, Azadeh Shahshahani. Omar retweeted “To be (hijabi) or not (hijabi) is the business of no state or man” by Yasmin Abdel-Magied.
Why can’t Sarsour, Omar, and Tlaib speak in their own voices at a press conference? Or in Congress?
When will these high-profile professional defenders of Muslims decide that Muslim women are also worthy of defending? When will they hold Muslim men – who are mis-using or using the Quran to terrify and subordinate Muslim women – accountable?
As I argued in 2010, the burqa and niqab condemn women to an ambulatory sensory deprivation chamber, and violate a woman’s right to health, safety, freedom, and dignity. It is also a statement of Islamist power and control over women’s bodies and lives. Afghan, Saudi Arabian, and to some extent, Iranian women have also been deprived of sunlight, visual acuity, and any and all spontaneous social lives in the public square.
When I was in Afghanistan, I saw women sweat, stumble, trip, and sometimes fall. If they were not super-wealthy, they were often juggling babies and shopping bags under their flowing garments. In interviews and in memoirs, one learns that face and body veiling also induces anxiety and claustrophobia. Many women have trouble breathing.
Twelve years ago, I did not argue for banning the hijab, a head covering. It does not obscure one’s identity, although, in the West, it can still set one apart from others depending on how large, dark, unfriendly, or “forbidding” the hijab is.
However, in Mahsa Amini’s honor, I am rethinking that position. As long as one woman anywhere can be harassed, beaten, arrested, or murdered because her hijab has slipped or is seen as improperly worn – Western women, including highly visible Muslim and hijab-wearing activists and politicians like Sarsour and Omar, should consider voluntarily ditching their hijabs. When all Muslim women are free to wear or not to wear a head-covering – then, and only then, might each women choose what is right for them.
Clearly, the Iranian women and their male supporters find their lives intolerable. They’d rather be dead than continue to live in the prison that Iran has become for all but the ruling mullahs and their hirelings. According to Shadi Sadr, an important human rights lawyer, “They have nothing to lose. They are standing up and saying ‘Enough of this. I am willing to die to have a life worth living.'”
The demonstrations, however, are about more than women’s rights. Iranians have demonstrated in massive numbers before. In 2009 over election fraud, in 2017 over economic misery, and in 2019 over fuel prices. Each time the government suppressed the uprisings with bullets, tear gas, beatings, arrests, torture, and murder. What might be required for a different outcome to occur?
Iranian dissident and author Manda Ervin, just told me that there were huge demonstrations against the Iranian mullahs in DC, London, and around the world. Why is everything so bad in Iran? She said:
“The supreme leader of political Shiism Ayatollah Ali Khameni has been buying missiles from European supporters for arming Hamas against Israel, while the children of Iran are going to bed hungry. Khamenei has been paying millions of dollars every year, ‘feeding’ Palestinians, including Rashida Tlabi’s grandmother since 1979. Yasser Arafat came to Iran one after Khomeini took over and got $60 million from him with promises for more in the future. Obama also ignored the murders of the protestors in the Green revolution and rewarded Khamenei with $142 billion in frozen Iranian assets. The Europeans will do the same, ignore the humanity of Iranians. Human rights are only for the liberal global elites.”
In a personal interview, my esteemed colleague, Ibn Warraq, points out: “The protesters lack leadership and above all they lack weapons.”
Ibn Warraq also points out that “At some point the army would have to flip, refuse to kill their own people.”
Is this possible? Can it ever happen?
Are a people who were able to drive out the Shah also capable of driving out Khomeini’s mullahs? That is the question.
Prof. Phyllis Chesler is a Senior Fellow at the Investigative Project on Terrorism, received the 2013 National Jewish Book Award, authored 20 books, including “Women and Madness” (1972) and “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003, 2014) and four studies about honor killing. Her latest books are “An American Bride in Kabul,” “A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killing,” “A Politically Incorrect Feminist,” and “Requiem for a Female Serial Killer.” She is also a Fellow at the Middle East Forum (MEF) and at the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), and a founding member of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME).
Sent to Arutz Sheva by the writer. A different version of this article apeared on IPT