The most striking images coming out of the Iran human rights protests are not of men – they are of women. And while American media was slow and even hesitant to pick up that anything at all was actually happening – this, while protests ignited for what is now six full days around Iran, nine years after the Green Movement protests began – Twitter was flooded with videos and photos on the ground, in defiance of the Iranian regime’s social media policy, Fox News reports.
Almost none was more striking than a young Iranian woman standing atop a container and shedding her hijab – a garment mandated and enforced upon her and all women in Iran – while simultaneously waving it as a flag. It was an act of defiance much like that of the Iranian chess champion Dorsa Derakhshani, who was expelled from competition in Iran for refusing to wear a headscarf in competition.
There were unconfirmed reports that the unidentified girl was taken into custody and the spot where she stood had become a makeshift shrine, but because of the scattering of information on the ground, there’s no way to confirm that. Nevertheless, she became an immediate symbol for the growing movement now in its fifth full day. Twitter avatars were changed to an illustration capturing the moment. The drawing was spread on Facebook. But she wasn’t the only one.
Another video spread on social media shows a woman confronting security forces and proclaiming “Death to Khamenei” while crowds around her join in. Political support for the women of Iran would, of course, contradict the careful echo chamber narrative Democrat politicians spent months crafting in support of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.
Mind you, this wasn’t inauguration protests from January of last year with celebrity activists screaming freely into microphones about how much they’ve thought about blowing up the White House. This was a woman endangering her life and possibly the lives of her loved ones to stand up to government forces of a hardline Islamic theocracy. She was risking death. And yet, nevertheless, she persisted.
Another woman was seen on tape declaring “You raised your fists and ruined our lives. Now we raise our fists. Be men, join us. I as a woman will stand in front and protect you. Come represent your country.” Another image that managed to make its way into some mainstream coverage shows a young woman – reported to be a student – covering her face as she runs from tear gas just outside the University of Tehran, her fist raised defiantly in the air. She was a symbol of a growing secular youth movement merging with thousands of others protesting the regime’s involvement with Hezbollah, Hamas, and Syria.
And as the protests entered their fifth night, another striking video on Twitter shows a woman demanding fair wages and an end to regime attempts to silence them. Women reportedly led protests in the city of Isfahan. Every one of these searing images are of women. Women are the predominant face of this blossoming revolution. Women are risking the most to speak out against the Iranian Mullahs.
So the question must be asked: Where are the women’s movement supporters in the United States and Europe, which gathered en masse to protest a newly inaugurated American president last year? More specifically, empowered by the cultural muscle of #MeToo celebrity leaders and Women’s March organizers such as Linda Sarsour: Why are you silent? If these nameless women can speak out in the face of true tyranny, risking actual imprisonment and death, why can’t you?
Iranian women are not adorning pink knitted hats, or costumes resembling female genitalia. They won’t be attending award shows. They aren’t wearing red cloaks and bonnets inspired by their favorite Netflix show. No, these brave women are caught on videotape and in photographs for the world to see, and the women’s movements have yet to barely offer so much as a tweet or a Facebook post of support. The official Women’s March Twitter account has tweeted exactly zero times in support of women protesting in Iran. Zero.
Women in Iran are shedding their hijabs while progressive women’s movements in the United States try to hold them up as a symbol of empowerment and feminism – going so far as Shepard Fairey-esque illustrations attempting to mainstream the hijab into pop culture.
What’s empowering about the hijab is the choice to do one. Muslim women in the United States have that choice. Women in Iran do not. If these pro-women groups are all about choice for deprived women around the globe, now would be a good time to speak up on behalf of them. Women in Iran are standing in defiance of the regime’s financial support of Hezbollah and Hamas rather than fair wages and human rights.
Sarsour, as a self-professed leading advocate for Muslim women in the United States and around the world, should be asked to clarify her position by journalists who are all too eager to present her with awards and speaking gigs: Does she support the women of Iran or the hardline theocracy that is currently brutalizing them?
Hillary Clinton has not offered support of the women beyond a tweet stating she hopes “their government responds peacefully and supports their hopes.” Hate to break it to the onetime self-declared ceiling breaker, but the government is very much not responding peacefully nor are they supporting their hopes. They are, indeed, emboldened financially by an Iran Nuclear deal she herself claimed partial credit for.
More importantly, the women of Iran have had enough and are leading the way, with or without public support from the self-declared women’s groups on the left around the world, who have decided they are the public voice of resistance for women – except in places where a collective voice of support could actually help women the most. Despite a world attempting to rationalize looking away, a solitary woman stood up in defiance of the rule of law, risked her life and removed her headscarf. She did this at the risk of arrest, or death. She did this without public support from women’s groups who claim their entire existence is to support this very act of defiance. While they remain silent, I’m with her.