In Protest

In Protest

Lara Kajs | 7 December 2022 |

People around the world stand in protest against the violence committed against women and girls. They stand in protest against gender-based oppression that excludes women and girls from participating in education, having employment, the ability to move freely within their own country, and the freedom to wear a headscarf or not. People around the world stand in protest for the basic human rights afforded to everyone.

Gender Oppression in Afghanistan

It took the Taliban only a few months to undo twenty years of progress for women and girls. Today, women are beaten in the street for not wearing a burqa or face covering. The de facto government has subjected male family members to brutal beatings for not “controlling the women”. The Taliban plots one gender against the other, encouraging men to control the behavior, attire, and movement of women and girls in their circles. In the Taliban dystopia, men and boys are required to use violence against women and girls who resist the restrictions, further depriving them of their rights and normalizing violence against them.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban habitually uses gender oppression against the female population. Gender oppression is a crime against humanity, that can be prosecuted under international law. The Taliban has excluded girls from secondary education and prevented women from attending university. Women’s travel has been restricted, requiring them to be accompanied by a male guardian. Women are not permitted to enter parks and public places. Further, women have been “imprisoned” in their homes. These restrictions have led to an increase in domestic violence and self-harm.

Further, the Taliban has made it clear that it will not tolerate anyone speaking up on behalf of women and girls. Peaceful protests by women human rights defenders have been targeted and the participants beaten and arrested.

Activist Zarifa Yaqubi has been a strong voice against the Taliban’s ban on girls’ education and lack of human rights for women. On 3 November, Yaqubi, along with four men, were arrested during a press conference in which Yaqubi was set to announce the establishment of the “Afghanistan Women’s Movement for Equality”. The Taliban gave no reasons for her arbitrary detention. Her location and condition are unknown.

In Protest in Iran

Iran shares a similar attitude. The people have been in protest for three months since 16 September, when 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was targeted by Iran’s “morality police” for not properly wearing the hijab. Amini died a few days later under suspicious causes, while in custody.

However, Amini is not alone. On 21 September, Ghazaleh Chalibi was murdered while filming a peaceful protest in her hometown of Amol. Chalibi was shot in the head by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Although Chalibi had not been active in protests, prior to Amini’s death, afterward she became fearless. She photographed and filmed attacks on protestors by the IRGC. Ghazaleh Chalibi used her voice even as she died, as her phone recorded her last words, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”

The protest movement in Iran has spread to 150 cities and 140 universities in all provinces of the country. However, an estimated 400 people have been killed in protests, including at least 40 children, and some 15,000 people have been arrested. The Iranian Government is now threatening protesters with the death penalty.

Ambassador Michèle Taylor (US Mission to International Organizations in Geneva) told the Special Session Council that the “people of Iran were demanding something so simple, something that most of us take for granted, the opportunity to speak and to be heard.”

Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, insisted that in the last week alone, the Iranian Government stepped up efforts to silence the protestors, including silencing children.

Subverting the Protest

On Saturday, 3 December, Iran’s attorney general, Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri announced that the country has abolished its “morality police.” A short time later, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi echoed his remarks in a televised speech, saying Iran’s Islamic system was protected in the constitution, but added, “There are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible.” However, almost immediately, the announcements were walked back.

It is unclear if these are permanent changes made by Iran’s rulers – or if they are temporary approaches aimed at helping to suppress the protests. Since the protests began the morality police have been less visible. However, if the announcements lead to a cessation of protests, the government will likely create new methods for policing the people.

The hijab law still has strong support from male conservatives and clerics, making it difficult to abolish the law. In early December, a member of Iran’s Parliament called for the denial of government benefits to any woman detained for failing to wear a headscarf. Albeit the decision to formally disband the morality police would likely involve Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has strongly defended the mandatory hijab.

It’s About Human Rights

But the protests are not solely about the hijab – the people want a regime change. In both Iran and Afghanistan, the people want freedom, including freedom of movement within society, to live freely. Women and girls want the right to education and to work, freedom of expression, and basic human rights. All too frequently, gender-based violence and discrimination are accepted as the norm, with impunity. This has to stop.

The deaths of Mahsa Amini and Ghazaleh Chalibi in Iran, and the arbitrary detention of Zarifa Yaqubi in Afghanistan, share a common bond: the deep desire for basic human rights for women and girls and for the elimination of violence against women, and for the people who stand up for those rights to be protected.

While many people and countries around the world, including some in the United States, consider the concept of women’s rights controversial, the UN declared that women’s rights are indeed human rights at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights”, became the cry of women all over the world.

16 Days of Advocacy and Activism

16 Days of Advocacy and Activism, which begins on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and continues for 16 days to 10 December, World Human Rights Day, promotes awareness of the prevalence of gender-based violence in our society and challenges discriminative mindsets. The Genocide Report stands with women all around the world to end violence against women and girls and for true gender equality.

Photo Credit: Solidarity with Iranian Protests (52382966731) by Matt Hirkac from Geelong/Melbourne Australia