Iran: the repression of women to stifle a society in turmoil

By Sara Nouri-Meshkati*

Iranian state media has announced that mobile and foot patrols of the police will once again criss-cross the country to crack down on women who violate the dress code of the Islamist regime. According to the testimonies on the spot, and contrary to the past, these patrols and vehicles do not bear the insignia of the morality police, in order to surprise the women who do not respect the instructions of the authorities of the regime.

This official announcement on the mobilization of patrols cracking down on women comes after videos have been circulating on social media in recent days showing officers carrying out arrests of women and court documents condemning offenders to hefty fines or penalties. forced labor, such as washing corpses in the Tehran cemetery. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, speaker of the Majlis (mullahs' parliament), said violating the dress code is a crime that must be punished and a draft hijab law will come into force soon with more than 60 articles. (Entekhab daily, July 16)

Women's hair has been brandished as a security threat to the mullahs since they took power 40 years ago. The name of the repressive police has changed since 1979, from "Sarollah Patrols" in the 1980s, to "Ansar Hezbollah" launched by the Revolutionary Guards in 2013, and then to "Gashte Ershad" patrols. But their objective remained the same: the repression of women and, through this, the repression of all of society.

We are approaching the anniversary of the popular uprising of September 2022 which set the country ablaze for several months and shook the regime to its foundations. Seeking to push back ever further his inevitable overthrow, he wants to avoid a new revolt by making terror reign in society by all means.

Since 2017, brave Iranians have repeatedly risen up against tyranny and to demand an end to the Supreme Leader's regime. During last year's uprising, the Iranian regime was only able to quell the insurgency with bloodshed, which claimed the lives of at least 750 protesters and led to the arrest of some 30 000 others. Seven brave young people were then executed with the aim of slaughtering the population. Meanwhile, non-political executions have skyrocketed, making Iran the number one death penalty country, with at least 206 people executed on various common law charges in the first six months of 2023. a 126% increase compared to the same period in 2022, when 91 people were executed.

In an interview from Tehran with the newspaper La Croix, Sahar, 29, an activist from the People's Mojahedin Resistance Movement (PMOI) explained the political stakes surrounding the issue of the compulsory veil: "The purpose of these patrols is not to force the wearing of the hijab. Its sole purpose is to repress and frighten women so that they do not take to the streets to protest (…) Sahar presents herself as a "mujahideen", a fighter. I wear the hijab by choice, she continues. But I believe in freedom of choice. Women have the right to dress freely. Women have the right to freedom but in Iran we are deprived of all that by tyrants and a fascist dictatorship. This regime will not go anywhere with law enforcement patrols. Revolution is our only means. »

For if the issue of freedom of dress was the trigger for last year's uprising, the ills of Iranian society are much broader and the demands of the population much deeper. Regime change is obvious to Iranian men and women to put an end to more than four decades of a despotic and corrupt regime, which squanders the nation's wealth in nuclear and ballistic weapons with its regional warmongering.

Iranians are preparing for the next face-off with power, which could come at any time. The "resistance units" made up of university students, young people from the neighborhoods, civil society actors and women revolted by the mullahs' misogyny, are the engines of this revolution in the making.

These days, several social networks widely disseminate the actions of resistance units across the country, displaying the portraits and slogans of Maryam Rajavi, the emblematic figure of the Iranian Resistance who calls for the establishment of a secular and democratic republic and whose motto is "against the compulsory veil, compulsory religion and compulsory government".

Here in the West, we can help the Iranian people defeat their dictators. For that, it is necessary to put an end to the policy of appeasement in the face of the regime's crimes against its people, and to no longer give in to the diplomacy of hostages and the nuclear blackmail practiced by Tehran.

The support of the resistance and the right to self-defense of the Iranian people against tyranny is essential. The opening of a dialogue with the effective interlocutors of the Iranian resistance and the representatives of the legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people will make it possible to achieve a democratic and secular republic in Iran.

*Sara Nouri-Meshkati is a lawyer at the Paris Bar and contributor to FEMO