Women! Life! Freedom!
By Tahiri Qurratu’l-‘Ayn
Look up! Our dawning day draws its first breath!
The world grows light! Our souls begin to glow!
No ranting shaykh rules from his pulpit throne.
No mosque hawks holiness it does not know.
No sham, no pious fraud, no priest commands!
The turban’s knot cut to its root below!
No more conjurations! No spell! No ghosts!
Good riddance! We are done with folly’s show!
The search of truth shall drive out ignorance.
Equality shall strike the despots low.
Let warring ways be banished from the world.
Let justice everywhere its carpet throw.
May friendship ancient hatred reconcile.
May love grow from the seed of love we sow!
¹Edited and translated by Amin Banani with Jascha Kessler
Tahiri Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (1817-52), poet, intellectual, leader, removed her hijab amidst a public group of men and was executed. Like Tahiri, Iranian women have a longstanding history of struggling for their human rights. Over the past decades, this movement has worked tirelessly for change. In 2022, Mahsa Jina Amini, a Kurdish woman, was tortured and killed by Iran’s “morality police”. Singer Shervin Hajipour sang a beautiful poem in support of women’s rights and was jailed. Large numbers of women have been raped, assaulted and violated during this revolution and hundreds of people have been killed, including children.
Today, PHM Canada stands in support and solidarity with the feminist revolution led by Iranian social justice movements resisting the oppressive regime in Iran. We work for better health, which is rooted in good social, political, and economic living conditions. Current conditions in Iran are not conducive to the wellbeing of those who identify as women and others on the gender spectrum. We support Iran’s social justice movements in their goals to create more just and equitable societies. Women’s leadership in these movements has been a continuation of decades of feminist organizing.
Since September 2022, Iranian social justice movements have been courageously confronting brutal state apparatus without a great deal of international support. Women burning their hijabs in public have demonstrated their unwavering commitment to their freedom, and full expression of their human rights, at great risk. Those who identify as men have, in large numbers, supported the movement of Zan Zendegi Azadi (Women, Life, Freedom)– taking up the Kurdish Jiyan, Azadî–modelling feminist and ethic solidarity. We see inspiration in Iranian women’s struggles in freedom for their bodies with similar resistance elsewhere around the world, be it for reproductive rights, or the right to practise one’s faith freely. We denounce any effort to use this uprising to foment further anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions.
This is a revolution that deserves the support of people and institutions around the world. Reforms to the “Morality Police” are insufficient. Iranian social justice movements are calling for regime change and have banned together, bringing various ethnic, workers and religious groups. Diasporic Iranians are, like their kin within Iran, reeling from their trauma of violence against those who are speaking out; this has been an ongoing brutalization of human rights defenders and others within Iran.
Calls to Action
As health activists, we urge all people to:
→ Use their voices to speak up about Iran in writing and verbally. Break the silence! Iranians have asked others to keep their struggle alive by communicating about this revolution using all forms of media.
→ Contact their politicians to let them know that they support actions against the Iranian regime, such as sanctioning individuals with proven human rights infractions; ceasing negotiations with the Iranian state will make it clear that this is not a legitimately elected government. Canada has taken action against regime leaders who have committed gross and systematic human rights abuses. Politicians will take notice when they know there is support for even further reaching actions, such as taking an unlimited number of Iranian refugees, as Canada has done for Ukrainian refugees.
→ Demand that international financial institutions stop banking with the Iranian regime. By limiting financial revenues, the regime will have less funds for arms, police, and other abuses against the people.
→ Contact media outlets to cover Iranian social justice movements regularly; keep their struggles in the headlines!
→ Sign petitions such as this one on Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/stop-execution-of-iranian-protesters?signed=true and Avaaz: https://secure.avaaz.org/campaign/en/iran_executions_loc/?zIUSRcb
→ Support campaigns for Iranian Human Rights led by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Center for Human Rights in Iran
→ Support Iranian academic freedom and scholars at risk .
→ Attend rallies, take part in human chains and other regular events held all over the world in support of Iranian human rights; most participants so far have been from the Iranian diaspora and more people would build more momentum.
→ Demand that military equipment manufacturers stop supplying the Iranian regime. Companies such as Tiandy Technologies (China) supply Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, police and military with surveillance equipment; South Korea’s Jino Motors supplies anti-riot vehicles to the Iranian national police. Other companies provide arms, torture chairs and more.
→ Donate to the strike and workers release fund (Free-Them-Now) to sustain labour action in Iran. Unions are illegal in Iran and I.R. Police regularly arrest labour activists to break down strikes. Only a strike fund can help widespread strikes, which is key to building momentum in this struggle.