We publish a video of Nasim Sedaghat, an ex-political prisoner in Iran who, as a teenager, participated in Iranian revolution 1979. Nasim is a member of the Iranian Revolutionary Marxist Tendency and is currently living in Canada. She addresses the online public meeting of Free and Combative, the Greek feminist campaign (see more here).
We also publish her transcribed speech.
International Women’s Day – 2022
My warm 8th of March greetings to all comrades who fight for women’s rights and liberation. Once again, on international women’s day we review the past year’s struggles, successes and setbacks. And with renewed hope, we plan for new victories in the next 12 months.
As we gradually come out of the pandemic, we see that women throughout the world have borne the brunt of the ravages of the COVID-19 virus and the way capitalists treat working-class and dispossessed women. And the capitalist state, often women workers’ main employer, treats them no better than the private sector: exposing them to further dangers at work, at home and in every social setting where they might expect limited state services and provisions.
In Iran, as in every country, the status of women depends on the general balance of class forces – what historic victories the proletariat has had and how far the bourgeoisie has managed to destroy them. Although Iranian women have been politically and socially active since the Constitutional Revolution of 1906-11 – during which they organised their societies and published their journals – the main advances in women’s rights were achieved during the 1979 revolution.
All the limited reforms of the Pahlavi dynasty were basically introduced to bring women into the capitalist system’s direct sphere of exploitation. Whether it was the right to vote, to work, to education and so on, the monarchist regime always gave them rights within its ideological construct of women being ‘the weaker sex’. They were brought into society and economic activity primarily to make capital more profitable.
The reactionary clergy’s wave of violence against Iranian women – forcing them to cover themselves, to only take ‘women’s jobs’ and to be subservient to their male relatives – has its historical parallel in Reza Shah’s forcible removal of the veil (by a government decree) in 1936!
The real history of women’s rights in Iran is that of liberties won through their own movements and self-organisation. These are closely linked to their struggles when fighting alongside the movements of workers and all exploited and oppressed layers. In 1979 women were active in the workers’ movement, both as striking teachers and nurses, but also as workers in workshops and factories. They were also involved in the guerrilla groups, students’ organisations and other movements fighting the Shah’s dictatorship.
The counter-revolution therefore hit Iranian women’s rights and progress very hard. It drove their legal rights and social engagement back by about 80 years! But decades of capitalist crisis, corruption and despotism have led to many movements for social justice and democratic rights. These have brought many women, particularly young students, on to the streets – demanding everything from their lost votes to the demilitarisation of universities.
However, it is the revitalised workers’ movement of the past few years that shows us the most promising prospect for working-class women and all women and girls in Iran. The militancy of the new workers’ movement, and particularly the very active role of women in it, have been very significant. For example, women have been involved in organising and leading the Haft Tappeh strikes. Women activists have also used tactics like blockading roads, supporting the families and communities of strikers and organising protests outside government buildings.
These struggles show us the best way to getting rid of the discrimination in the labour market, including unemployment. In summer 2021 the official national unemployment rate for women was 17.7% (as opposed to 8.1% for men). But the situation in the provinces is even worse: in 20 provinces women’s unemployment is over 40%. Promoting workers’ unity – male and female – in all workers’ organisations and actions is the only method for fighting this disparity.
Women workers are a vital section of the Iranian working class. They hold the key to liberating themselves and all other women and girls. To become the most radical tendency within the women’s movement socialist women workers and socialist female students have to pose transitional slogans that raise the consciousness of female activists in their fight against the current regime and the capitalist system. These demands must include the right to full legal equality and an end to all social discrimination; an end to child marriages, an end to honour killings; equal pay and access to jobs; free 24-hour nurseries; socialisation of domestic work; and free abortion and contraception on demand.
Long live socialism! Long live women’s liberation!