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The Liberation Movement of Iranian Women – Year Zero

A Historical Document from Iran on the Occasion of the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March

By Fathiyeh Naghibzadeh

March 2009

On the 7th of March 1979, only weeks after the revolution in Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini ordered that women should only be allowed to enter public buildings dressed with a headscarf. After this – and on the occasion of the International Women’s Day on the 8th of March that year - there were numerous demonstrations against mandatory veiling. As a direct result of these demonstrations, the Islamists were forced to rescend their order, if only temporarily.

„The Liberation Movement of Iranian Women – Year Zero“ is the title of a film made by women of the French Politics and Psychoanalysis Group in 1979 in Iran. The film sought to convey the message of these Iranian women: „Freedom is neither an eastern nor a western concept – it is universal“.

At that time, the meaning and explosiveness of this slogan may not have been very clear to many in the West. But it summarizes in one sentence the critique of Islamism. It inverts Khomeini’s slogan: „Iran is neither eastern [meaning communist] nor western [capitalist], but Islamic“ and debunks this slogan as a fundamental attack against enlightenment and secular emancipation.

The highlight of this film is the statement of two veiled Muslim women, who justify their participation in this demonstration as fighting for the rights and freedoms of their daughters. Not only do they question the claim to power of the Islamists, they also dismiss entirely all concepts of cultural relativism which proclaim Islamic virtue-terror as folklore of the Orient.

The postmodern romanticizing in the West of Islam turns things upside down. It describes Islam in the language of the Islamists: as innocent in nature and as a patron saint against pornography and western imperialism. Western cultural relativists, who see themselves as feminists, are the ones who invent justifications for Islamic rule that grow more absurd by the day. Already in 1978 the Iranian woman, Atoussa H., wrote to Michel Foucault, a fan of Khomeini: “It seems that for the leftist movement in the West, which lacks humanism, Islam is desirable… for other peoples.” Because Iranian women knew very well from the beginning what they could expect from the so-called ”protection” by the Islamists: the abolition of all so far gained civil rights, the adoption of Sharia Law, disenfranchisement, torture and stoning.

When the Iranian women took to the streets and protested against Khomeini, they could not have imagined that thirty years later, elements of Sharia Law would be introduced into legislation concerning family and women’s rights even in western countries. Hence they fought their audacious battle not only against the Islamists in Iran, but for women’s rights around the world.

All Iranian oppositionists, whether they call themselves communist, liberal or even Islamic, refer to these demonstrations time and again, and some even pretend to have participated in them in the front lines. In reality, these demonstrations were spontaneous protests which took place over the course of several days and in all major cities in Iran, and women of all ranks were present.

A Film like ”The Liberation Movement of Iranian Women – Year Zero“ could hardly have been produced in the Europe of today. With all their might, parts of the European media instead insist on drawing the picture that for people from the orient, there can be no other form of society than the Islamic one.

So much the greater is the historical significance represented by this tiny film documentary, as it debunks in thirteen minutes tons of Islamist and cultural relativist propaganda as cruel lies.

Fathiyeh Naghibzadeh took part in the women’s demonstrations in March 1979, fled Iran more than twenty years ago and is co-author of the book: „Iran – Analysis of an Islamic Dictatorship and its European Supporters“(German). She is member of the Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin and the Stop the Bomb Coalition.