The courageous uprising of the Iranian people has led to widespread international sympathy against the oppression of Iranian women. This has raised the question of how people outside Iran can show their solidarity with the movement. Never to let a good opportunity go to waste, the imperialist powers are taking advantage of the movement against their strategic opponent. They are hypocritically attacking Iran and are implementing sanctions, which will only impoverish Iranian women. We cannot trust Western imperialism or support imperialist sanctions.
On Sep.13, Iran’s infamous “morality police” murdered Mahsa Amini after arresting her for wearing her hijab “inappropriately.” The mass movement that followed has now spread to more than a hundred cities across the country, making it a nationwide uprising unprecedented since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. In response, all state forces were mobilized to violently suppress the movement. Solidarity has spread internationally, with marches organized in many cities around the world.
In the wake of this, we are treated to the great speeches of the powers of the “free world”, condemning the Iranian regime. After Donald Trump said he was “inspired” by the courage of the demonstrators during the last wave of protests in Iran two years ago, it is now Joe Biden’s turn to act. Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Sep. 21, the U.S. president said, “and today, we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights.” Biden seems to have discovered a sudden interest in defending human rights abroad, an interest he lacked when he visited the bloody Saudi Arabian regime last July. Perhaps he was too busy discussing black gold or giving a friendly fist bump to Prince Mohammed bin Salman to pay attention to human rights and the status of Saudi women. Nor does his defense of human rights seem to have disturbed his trip a few days earlier to Israel, where he discussed the “common values, shared interests and genuine friendship” between the United States and Israel.
It’s okay that Saudi Arabia is waging a war in Yemen that is pushing thousands into a deadly famine and that Saudi women are among the most discriminated against in the world. It doesn’t matter that Palestinians continue to be victims of the Israeli state’s brutal violence for decades. It is business as usual for U.S. imperialism, which does not want to undermine its business with its strategic allies. But now that the world’s attention has turned to Iran, a key Russian ally, the oppression of Iranian women becomes a useful issue for attacking its imperialist rivals and imposing new sanctions against Iran to weaken its power in the Middle East.
The United States and other Western powers have imposed brutal sanctions on Iran for decades, which have strangled its economy, pushing it deep into crisis. Economic misery has hit the Iranian working class hard, leading to major uprisings in recent years, and the current movement is part of that. After seeding misery and anger, Western imperialism is adding a new layer: new sanctions to affect the poor masses even more. What a great demonstration of solidarity! The situation would be laughable if it were not so infuriating.
Since the winter of 2022, the United States, Canada and other NATO countries have claimed on every platform to be standing up for the Ukrainians against Putin. In reality, they egged on the conflict in order to weaken Russia, at the cost of Ukrainian casualties. This summer, Democrat Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan to hypocritically support “democracy”, when in fact it was to defend the interests of US imperialism against China and the narrow electoral interests of the Democratic Party. Now, this fall, it is Iranian women who can count on imperialist support!
In reality, the representatives of capitalist America cannot be trusted for a moment to support oppressed peoples. In this case, while the U.S. government claims that the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini is “unforgivable”, it is silent about the U.S. treatment of the Kurds, which uses them from time to time as tools against enemy powers and then abandons them to the repression of these powers when Washington’s immediate interests change. Moreover, coming from a politician like Biden who has attacked abortion rights and once said, “I don’t think a woman has the exclusive right to say what should happen to her body,” words of so-called solidarity with women who are defending their rights is an affront to all the oppressed. And only a few months since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, this leaves a particularly bitter taste at a time when the rights of American women are facing severe attack under President Joe Biden.
European powers have also decried the violence of the Iranian regime against the demonstrators. But denouncing the violence of another state ironically did not prevent the police from suppressing demonstrations in solidarity with the Iranian masses in Paris and London! The murder of Mahsa Amini is reminiscent of the murder of Sarah Everard, a young British woman who was murdered by a police officer in London last year, which sparked a mass movement that was severely repressed.
Meanwhile, in Canada, a motion of solidarity with the women of Iran was passed unanimously in the House of Commons, a chamber made up of anti-abortion MPs, anti-immigration buffoons, staunch supporters of the Israeli regime, and plenty of politicians who are masters of racist innuendo. It’s hard to imagine that this institution, whose main achievement in recent years has been to siphon off public coffers to save big Canadian companies from the crisis, would now show any sympathy for anything other than the bosses’ profits.
For his part, our great feminist Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also has no problem doing business with Saudi Arabia, is demanding that the Iranian government “listen to its people” and has announced that the country will impose sanctions against senior Iranian officials. But does our PM himself listen to his people? For example, did he listen to the Wet’suwet’en before sending the RCMP to suppress them to make way for an oil pipeline? Speaking of solidarity with women, where is his solidarity with Canada’s Indigenous women, the poorest segment of Canadian society? Where is the money to help these women who are at a much higher risk of being murdered than the rest of the population? And where are the resources for Indigenous reserves that still lack clean water? In Canadian politics, the word “hypocrisy” has become a synonym for the Liberals.
In Quebec, too, we see hypocrisy among nationalists. After years of demonizing immigrants and Muslim women, Martineau, Durocher and other columnists for the Journal de Montréal are now complaining that the courage of Iranian women is allegedly not talked about enough in Quebec!
As one might expect, the fact that women are rising up against the obligation to wear the veil is an excellent pretext for decrying the “woke” left who dares to denounce Bill 21, which prevents veiled women from teaching. In the wacky realm of nationalist reactionaries, fighting for rights is the same thing as suppressing rights.
But of course, if a movement of such revolutionary proportions were to happen here, those great supporters of Iranian women— the little “nationaleux” as well as the big imperialists—would be the first to oppose it.
No trust in our ruling class
Western imperialism has held Iran in its grip for decades, keeping the country in backward conditions, and then directly aided the counter-revolution led by the mullahs. Also, the sanctions imposed by the West over the years and those currently being added are hitting the Iranian working class, especially women, hard. The same powers that drove the country’s masses into misery are now trying to make us believe that they are in solidarity with the movement.
The Iranian regime is certainly completely reactionary. But imperialist sanctions have not succeeded in bringing it down, and these new sanctions will not change that. On the contrary, Western aggression has for years enabled the unstable Iranian regime to hang on to power by rallying a section of the population behind a false anti-imperialist rhetoric.
The West’s response to the current movement is another opportunity for the regime to portray the protests as a creation of US imperialism, which can only create confusion and weaken the movement. Therefore, to support the revolution in Iran, our task in Canada is first and foremost to oppose sanctions, as well as all other forms of intervention, military or diplomatic, and to expose the hypocrisy of our own ruling class.
The Iranian masses cannot trust Western imperialism at all. Only the independent movement of the working class inside and outside of Iran can bring the movement to victory. There is already solidarity being organized in Canada. Let’s continue the mobilization and fight actively against our own ruling class, this false friend of women, the oppressed and all workers, in Iran as well as here. The fight against imperialism here is the same fight that Iranians are conducting against their own ruling class. It is the struggle against the violence and tyranny of a rotten capitalist system.
Bring down imperialism! Solidarity with the Iranian revolution!