Feminists For Jina, a network of activists and collectives united to support the feminist aspirations of the ongoing women-led protests in Iran, held a press conference in London ahead of International Women's Day.
At the March 7 event, feminist activists, artists and scholars described the "Woman, Life, Freedom" protest movement as a feminist revolution in the making that has inspired the women's liberation movements around the world.
"The revolution that [Iranian] society seeks is not simply a political one, but a social one in which individual subjectivities and the most important social structures are transformed,” a group of feminists in Tehran said in a voice note.
Iran has been swept by more than five months of protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political reforms. The wave of public anger was triggered by the September death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of morality police.
For more than four decades ago, all women must conceal their hair with a headscarf, or hijabs, while in public and wear loose fitting trousers under their coats. Women have been subjected to discriminatory treatment regarding employment, education, inheritance and divorce.
"We are enraged, we are mourning, to have witnessed and lived through this unimaginable cruelty and humiliation," said a member of Feminists For Jina who identified herself as Golchehr.
Parveen Ardalan, a journalist and writer who won the prestigious Olof Palme Prize for her struggles for equal rights for men and women in Iran, said that “women are a symbol of discrimination.”
“This is not only manifested in choosing the type of clothing but also in access to public spaces, job opportunities, family relationships, society and culture, and the right to live with dignity,” she said.
“The feminist revolution in Iran is fighting against violence and structural exploitation of the people,” Ardalan added.
Feminist activist and scholar Hawzhin Baghali stated that women are the primary targets of the Islamic Republic's ideology, which she described as fundamentally totalitarian.
The clerical regime installed by the 1979 Islamic Revolution “redefines religion as the apparatus of the state in its modern sense, creating a religion-state that must be present everywhere and must survey everything,” she said.
The Iranian authorities have cracked down hard on the widespread demonstrations demanding more freedoms and women’s rights, killing more than 520 people and illegally detaining over 19,000, including many women. After biased trials, around 20 people were handed capital punishment, mostly on non-murder charges.
Sahar Fetrat, an Afghan feminist activist, researcher, documentary filmmaker and storyteller, praised the raging spirits of women in Iran and neighboring Afghanistan who are risking their lives for justice and freedom.
"Despite the countless rollbacks and losses, women in both countries have given us hope and motivation amid despair, inspired movements, dialogues and unity in diasporas. They have taught us much about courage," Fetrat said.
Ardalan said that the best way to create a real alternative political system in Iran is through a meaningful debate that includes everyone and every group.
“Instead of rushing to find an alternative government from above, we need to start by imagining the future we desire and putting it up for debate,” she said.
“We need to be specific and precise in expressing our demands and come out of hiding behind generalizations. The age of slogans and symbolic acts has come to an end.”