Iran: The Women Lead a Social Revolt

Protest in Tehran on October 10. (Associated Press)

October 10, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the NPA, Translated from French.  

For a month now throughout Iran, the insurgent population has been confronting a ferocious dictatorship. The deaths can be counted in the dozens, the arrests in the thousands. On September 16, the so-called morality police arrested a young woman, Mahsa Jina Amini, on the pretext that a lock of her hair was sticking out of her veil. She was killed at the police station, and this triggered a national revolt. The first to rise up against the government were young women, followed by all those whose anger has built up over forty years of dictatorship: national minorities, young people, working people, and even some from the currently privileged strata of Iran. After the social explosion this summer in Sri Lanka, what is happening in Iran is the harbinger of other social storms. 

“Women, Life, Freedom”

This is the slogan of the insurgents, chanted under a rain of bullets during their demonstrations, as well as in France during the solidarity demonstrations. Tens of thousands of women have decided that no one will decide for them how they should dress, nor will they be told what to do with their lives. Many men, young and old, joined their fight.

From then on, this revolutionary surge of women revealed all the courage of the working class, the youth’s ingenuity when it comes to countering the repression, and circumventing the censorship, and the solidarity of many shopkeepers who closed their stores from Kurdistan to the capital, Teheran. Neither the live fire by repressive forces flying through in the working-class districts and the slums on motorcycles, nor the arrests and the torture have stopped this uprising for the moment. 

The insurgents and their campanions in the struggle are not attacking religion itself, but rather its Shiite clergy, its hypocrisy that allows bullying of the poor, and freedom for the well-born. They are also fighting against privilege and corruption, and an inflation rate of more than 60% that has been devouring the miserable, often unpaid salaries. They stand for the right to education and health, a dignified life for the elderly, and the end of poverty. 

On Saturday October 8, the demonstrations intensified. We’ve heard the first calls to strike, and the workers at the Abadan refineries have paralyzed half of its sites. This is a strategic sector, because Iran is a large oil and gas producing country. Workers are beginning to enter the political arena at their workplaces. Tehran’s bazaar, the center where all business and trade is carried out, was shut down. Western governments are watching this with concern because they know that the kind of mobilizations that bring down regimes have a way of spreading. 

This involves us all

So, is it a revolution? The rich and the mullahs over there, as well as the rich and the rulers here seem to fear it. It seems that official voices are wondering whether they should negotiate rather than repress. But it’s too late: at the grassroots, people are aiming to overthrow this regime, and turn the page.

Of course, the Arab Spring ten years ago was followed by counter-revolutions. And it was another revolution that overthrew the Shah’s dictatorship in 1979, and led to that of Khomeini and the mullahs when the Iranian left and the workers’ organizations were unable to open up other perspectives. So the danger is great – there are no guarantees – but as the insurgent Iranian women and men are proclaiming, “we have nothing to lose.” 

The sparks that were smoldering under the ashes have been reappearing in recent months around the world, and the social fire is threatening the powerful, more than ever. 

When bullets were obviously not enough, the Iranian authorities thought they could get out of their mess with propaganda and lies. But on October 9, millions of Iranians were watching a national broadcast praising the Great Supreme Leader when it was interrupted by young hackers who cut into the announcement and called for the overthrow of the regime, and denounced the repression. 

Nothing is happening as planned for the dictatorship, and everything is becoming possible. Sometimes this is the sign of revolution.