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This post is jointly written by AYESHA KIDWAI AND NIVEDITA MENONIn solidarity with the Iranian people fighting for democracy and justice: Ayesha Kidwai & Nivedita Menon
On this international day of solidarity with the Iranian people, two feminists from India send you our greetings, in complete awe of your courage, your creativity, your solidarity with one another, your relentless resistance in the face of cruel and brutal repression.
Watching the panel discussion on Jadaliyya on the ongoing struggle of the Iranian people against the authoritarian regime, we were struck by the complexity of the arguments being made. The struggle is not against Islam, and it is not about hijab everywhere and at all times.
What we are witnessing in Iran is reflected all over the world wherever there is resistance to the gendered ways in which all states control populations – whether by compulsory conscription in wars the people have no interest in, or by making the hijab central to the reason of state – in Iran by compulsory veiling, in France and in India by compulsory unveiling of the Muslim woman; or in the USA by denying autonomy over their bodies to women by criminalizing abortion.
That the struggle in Iran is far wider than for bodily autonomy (and nowhere are struggles over the body only about bodily autonomy) is evident from the range of journalists, students, film makers and writers in prison over the last decade. for expressing dissent against different aspects of the authoritarian regime.
Writing as we do from India where a Brahminical Hindu supremacist, masculinist regime ruthlessly destroys Muslim and Dalit lives and livelihoods;
has subverted almost every democratic institution; criminalised dissent and free expression in universities; tries to eliminate practices of minority cultures;
violently attempts to control women’s right to choose their romantic partners;
unleashes mob violence against non-compliant women; appropriates the resources and lands of the people in the interests of corporate capital;
and imprisons without trial hundreds of voices raised in opposition to these policies – we say to you, our sisters and brothers in Iran, that everywhere in India, the stories of your militant, powerful struggle against dictatorship are being shared.
Your extraordinary courage gives us all strength.
The beauty of your protest actions moves us to tears.
The inclusiveness of your protest gives us hope.
The words you chant – Zan, Zindagi, Azaadi – are beloved and familiar, belonging to the lexicon of some of our many languages.
In our struggle for justice in India we take heart from the lines of the poet Faiz, written originally in Urdu:
That day, too, we shall see…
When the dark clouds of torment and oppression
Are blown away like wisps of cotton,
And the pounding of our indigent feet
Causes the earth to pulsate at its core.
And upon the heads of our rulers
Lightning will crackle and strike…
This poem has been an anthem of resistance across borders on the Indian subcontinent, from 1979 when it was written, to the 21st century.