Iranian and American Feminists Declare Solidarity During Iran-Wide Protests

As the largest wave of protests since the 2009 Green Movement erupted across more than 80 cities and towns in Iran, we again saw women’s active participation.

Women have played an active role in people’s fighting back against the economic hardship, increasing corruption, and oppressive rules in Iran, especially discrimination and violence on the bases of gender, sexuality, religion and ethnic differences. Furthermore, in the past 30 years, the women’s rights movement has become an essential part of the civil rights and pro-democracy struggles of Iranians under the theocratic regime.

However, as in many other Muslim-majority countries, Iranian feminists and gender activists frequently get caught within a double bind: On one hand, there is a patriarchal cultural and legal system reinforced by the ruling clerics and fundamentalists inside the country; on the other are interventionist forces in the West who exploit women’s rights for their own benefit.

On December 26, just a couple of days preceding the surge of  protests in Iran, the photo of a brave Iranian woman objecting to the compulsory hijab in Tehran went viral. The woman, seen standing on a platform with her white scarf tied to a pole she is waving gently and her head bare, was not the first one to defy the compulsory veiling; her action was part of the women’s rights movement in Iran, specifically the campaign for freedom of choice concerning women’s dress code.

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همین امروز چهارشنبه خیابان انقلاب – روبروی نان فرانسه، دختری که روسری خود را به چوبی اویزان کرده بود و در هوا تکان می داد. این دختر پس از پایان کار توسط نیروهای نظامی دستگیر و جوانانی هم که از این دختر حمایت کردند بازداشت شدند . دختر از آزادي و حق انتخاب پوشش حرف مي زد و جوانان ديگري هم او را حمايت مي كردند. جنبش مطالباتی در حال پیش روی است به نظر شما آيا نظام به مطالبات به حق اجتماعی پاسخ خواهد داد ؟ پليس ايران امروز يك قدم عقب نشيني كرد و گفت از اين پس كسي به جرم بدحجابي بازداشت نمي شود. #چهارشنبه_های_سفید #چهارشنبه_های_بدون_اجبار #whitewednesdays

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Unfortunately, some right-wing individuals or media outlets have used the aforementioned anti-compulsory hijab action to score points against American feminists who have been at the forefront of the resistance movement against the sexist actions and regressive policies shown by any governments in the U.S., past or present—especially those of President Trump. Some who have no record of advocacy for American women’s rights at home have suddenly become advocates of women’s rights abroad, particularly in Iran—and, ironically, have used their sudden fervor as an excuse to attack women’s groups, activists and feminist activism in efforts such as the Women’s March and the #MeToo movement. Of particular note were their attacks on some  participants or organizers of the Women’s March who were wearing headscarves; attempting to pit them against that brave Iranian woman who had taken off her headscarf.

We hereby raise our objection to such opportunistic and divisive tactics. The struggle of Iranian women should not be used to undermine the work of American feminists, especially those who have worked to build the largest day of an inclusive global protest in the history of the world. While the Iranian women protesting compulsory hijab policies reckon with them by removing their scarves, the campaign’s message is even more astute. Their campaign is one for a woman’s right to wear or not wear a headscarf by their own choosing—not by force and state imposition. Painting an American Muslim woman activist with a headscarf as a “fake feminist” and pitting her against that bare-headed Iranian woman is no more than a cynical attempt to cause conflict—and does nothing to further international solidarity and transnational sisterhood among women fighting for equal rights and freedom of choice.

The women challenging the compulsory hijab in Iran are fighting for their dignity—just as generations of Iranian women have since the first Iranian feminists began organizing in the early 20th century. Iranian women have been tirelessly challenging inequality in every possible area of their public and personal lives—from fighting unjust family laws, to the equal access to education and employment, for the right to play and watch sports in stadiums, to the right to participate in political leadership of their country as a presidential candidate. And so are the women marching in the U.S.—who are, with more energy than ever, fighting hard to end sexual harassment, demanding freedom of choice and challenging racism, homophobia, xenophobia and exploitation.

Just as Americans stood with Iranians and other immigrant groups opposing the unjust travel ban, American feminists have and will continue to stand with Iranian women in their fight for equality at home in Iran and abroad as immigrants.

We will not let our mutual struggles for freedom and justice be appropriated and used to attack other defenders of women’s rights. We will not allow the fight of Iranian women for freedom, equality and justice to be co-opted and used against women elsewhere.

We can, and must, ensure that our fight for women’s rights and freedoms are aligned and intersectional. We will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this fight for the common causes of democracy, equal rights, peace and non-violence—nationally and transnationally—across ideological or sectarian, racial, ethnic, sexual or national backgrounds.

Feminism is a movement built on solidarity and intersectionality, and our fight for gender equality knows no borders.

Association for Middle East Women’s Studies – Task Force for Human Rights
Feminist Majority Foundation
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Iranian Circle of Women’s Intercultural Network
Ms. magazine
Women’s Intercultural Network
Women’s March San Francisco

Alyce LaViolette, MFT, Alternatives to Violence, Long Beach, CA
Amy Tahani-Bidmeshki, PhD, Occidental College
Angie Abdelmonem, NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Faculty Association, Arizona State University School for the Future of Innovation in Society
Anousheh Machouf, Psychologist
Asieh Amini, Iranian Poet, Journalist human/women’s rights activist
Ava Homa, Writer and activist-Sunset Beach, CA
Azadeh Davachi, Iranian Poet, writer and women’s rights activist
Azadeh Kian, Professor of Sociology, Director of CEDREF, University of Paris 7-Diderot
Azadeh Pourzand, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Siamak Pourzand Foundation
Barbara B Wilson, LCSW, EDPNA, Mental Health Hook Up, Valencia, CA
Breny Mendoza, Chair of Gender & Women’s Studies, California State University, Northridge
Carmen Perez,  Executive Director of The Gathering for Justice, Women’s March Board Member
Carmen Rios, Ms. magazine
Carol Stabile, Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park and Fembot Collective
Chelo Alvarez-Stehle, Journalist and Documentary Filmmaker, Malibu, California
Claudia Sobral, Brazilian Documentary Filmmaker and Cultural worker, Los Angeles, United States
Delaram Ali, Women and Children’s Rights Advocate, Iran
Dolores Huerta, Dolores Huerta Foundation
Efat Mahbaz, Writer and Human Rights Activist, London
Ehteram Shadfar, Women’s Rights Activist, Iran
Elahe Amani, Chair, Global Circles of Women’s Intercultural Network
Elahé Chokraie, Feminist Activist
Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Krister Stendahl Professor, Harvard University Divinity School
Ellen Dubois, Research Professor, History, UCLA
Fariba Boghraty , Business woman, Irvine, CA
Farideh Kioumehr, Founder & Executive Director, International Health & Epidemiology Research Center
Farzaneh Fathi, Women’s rights activist, Vienna
Fatemeh Farhangkhah, Women’s Rights and Civil Society Activist

Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, Former Parliament Deputy, Reformist Faction and Women’s Rights Advocate
Fatemeh Keshavarz, Director School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, Chair of Roshan Institute for Persian Studies, University of Maryland, College Park
Firouzeh Mohajer, Translator and Human Rights Activist, Iran
Frances S. Hasso, Associate Professor, Duke University, and Editor, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies
Freeda Saba Limonadi, JD, MS Communications, TV Journalist / producer, California
Haideh Moghissi, Emerita Professor and Senior Scholar, York University, Toronto, Canada
Hasmic Nazarian, Glendale, CA
Hellen Nooshei, Accountant, CA
Hengameh Abbasi, Radio Producer, Freelance journalist
Homa Hoodfar, Professor of Anthropology, Emerita, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada
Homa Mahmoudi, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, Los Angeles
Homa Sarshar, Author, award winning journalist & media personality, Los Angeles, California
Jamileh Nedaie, Filmmaker, feminist activist
Janell Hobson, Ph.D., Chair and Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University at Albany., SUNY
Janet Afary, Professor, Gender and Religious Studies, UCSB
Judith Plaskow, Professor, Manhattan College, emerita
Karen S. Harper, Advocate for the Hmong population, Long Beach, CA
Karon Jolna, Ph.D., Ms. magazine and UCLA Center for the Study of Women
Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor, Ms. magazine
Kelly Dennehy-Schumann, Women’s March Bay Area Board Member
Khadijeh Moghaddam, Iranian Women’s Rights and Environmental Activist
Khanum Shaikh, Assistant Professor, Gender & Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies, CSUN
Laleh Ramezani, President, Always Best Care Senior Services, Beach Cities
Leslie Salzinger, Associate Professor, Gender & Women’s Studies, UC Berkeley
Lieve Snellings, UZ Leuven, Campus Gasthuisberg, Belgium
Linda Sarsour, Racial justice and civil rights activist, Women’s March Board Member
Mahasti Afshar, Ph.D. Independent Scholar
Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Iranian Women Rights Activist, Founder and Director of ZananTV
Mahdokht Sanati, Board Member of Iranian Children’s Rights Society in LA, LA, California
Mandana Zandian, MD. Iranian Poet, Journalist
Mansoureh Shojaee, Writer, Researcher and Human Rights Activist
Margaret Towner, Educator, Long Beach, USA
Martha Shaughnessy, Communications Lead of Women’s March SF, Founder of The Key
Mary Elaine Hegland, Professor of Dept. of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, CA
Maryam Ahari, MD, Human/women’s Rights activist
Mehrangiz Kar, Lawyer, writer and women’s rights activist
Meredith Tax, Writer, New York City, US

Minoo Riahi, Orange County Library, California
Mitra Saffari, Social Activist
Nahid Husseini, Kingston University, London, and Women’s Rights Activist
Nahid Mirhaj, Human/women’s rights activist, Iran
Naida Tushnet, PhD. Retired Education Researcher. Long Beach, CA USA
Nancy Gallagher, Research Professor, Emerita, University of California, Santa Barbara
Nasrin Rahimieh, Professor and Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, UCI
Nasrin Sotoudeh, Attorney at Law and Human/Women’s Rights Activist, Iran
Nayereh Tohidi, Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and Director of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, CSUN
Nazy Azima, Journalist, translator & writer, Washington DC
Neda Bolourchi, Founder/Executive Director, FarsiVoter, CA
Nehzat Farnoody, Ph.D., Psychotherapist
Nelly Farnoody-Zahiri, Ph.D. Psychologist, Media/Host of Mom Talk-LA
Nima Machouf, Epidemiologist
Parastou Forouhar, Artist and Women’s Rights Activist
Pardis Ghandhari, Women’s Rights Activist
Partow Nooriala, Poet, writer and women’s rights activist
Parvin Ardalan, Iranian Women’s Rights Activist
Parvin Malek – Retired teacher , Fresno CA
Rezvan Moghaddam, Iranian Women’s Rights Activist
Roja Bandari, Ph.D. Iranian Women’s Rights Advocate, Co-lead of Women’s March San Francisco
Rouhi Shafii, Writer, Translator and Executive Director of International Coalition Against Violence in Iran (ICAVI)
Sabri Najafi, Women Rights and Human Rights activist, Florence, Italy
Sepideh Jodeyri, Iranian Poet
Shahin Navai , Entomologist, Berlin, Germany
Shahla Haeri, Associate Professor, Anthropology, Boston University
Sheena Malhotra, Associate Dean, College of Humanities, California State University, Northridge
Sherna Gluck, Former Pacifica Radio producer, Emerita Faculty, California State University, Long Beach
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate, Founder of Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran
Simin Rouzgard, Human Rights Activist, Canada
Sofia Sadighpour, Educational Psychologist  
Sondra Hale, Research Professor, Emerita, University of California, Los Angeles
Sophia Andary, Women’s March San Francisco Co-lead
Soraya Fallah, CSUN, Researcher at CTL
Soudeh Rad, Iranian Gender equality advocate , President of Spectrum
Suad Joseph, Distinguished Research Professor, University of California, Davis
Sudi Farrokhnia, Women’s Rights Activist and ICWIN Member
Suzanne Safar, Board Member of A More Balanced World, Oxnard, California
Wendy Griffin, Academic Dean, Cherry Hill Seminary
Zahra Biloo, Civil Rights Attorney & Community Organizer
Zamaneh Mofidi, PhD candidate ‘Women in Religion,’  Claremont Graduate University, California
Zayn Kassam, John Knox McLean Professor of Religious Studies, Pomona College
Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Professorial Research Associate, Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, SOAS, University of London