This statement will be read at today’s International Women’s Day protest action in Washington DC at 1:00 in front of the Islamic regime’s offices, organized by Unity for Democracy and Justice in Iran.
We, like many others, always say that there can be no real revolution without women’s emancipation and equal rights. And on 8 March 2012, as we look back over a year of uprisings throughout the Middle East in which women stood prominently on the front lines, we can see this bitter truth playing out before our eyes, over and over again.
“There can be no real revolution without women’s equality,” and we are witness to the fact that it is an urgent demand that shapes the revolutionary movement itself, and not a “promise” to be deferred for “later,” promised for “after success.”
In a single year, from Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria, we have watched women take the lead in organizing marches and occupying the streets, caring for the injured, building the barricades, coordinating intelligence, and taking up arms. Women have been an essential life-force for each of these revolutionary uprisings. Yet nowhere have their demands for freedom and equality been acknowledged by these revolutions. Each revolution, succumbing to the lure of populism, has failed to lift the question of women’s equality. And the consequences are dire, as one by one, each is being countered by reactionary forces. In Egypt , in Libya, the revolution has resulted not in progress for society, but regression.
Egypt, a country with a leading role for the entire Arab world, a country with a huge working class, spread over the entire Middle East, half of which are women bleeding under double exploitation, is a sad representative of these revolutions. We say that unfortunately, this great upheaval with such an enormous effect on the entire world, has so far not been honest with itself about its demands for bread, freedom and dignity. It has totally failed to lift the question of women’s equality, of women’s demands for their full share of bread, freedom and dignity — and it has paid the price.
This is a revolution in which its frontrunners and their vital and historical demands, whether by physical or political force, have been driven from the center of Tahrir Square: from the 8 March 2011 attacks on the women’s march to Tahrir, crystallized by rapacious “virginity tests” inflicted on the demonstrators, to the driving of a giant like Nawal el Saadawi to a corner under the force of populist political pressure, rather than raising her up on a wave of passion for real liberation.
The result of choosing not to stand for women’s equality is not only a moral black hole where the blood-red heart of the revolution should be pounding, but the theft of the revolution itself by anti-woman, anti-revolutionary and reactionary forces.
This tragic irony certainly has more than one single explanation, yet the neglect of women’s emancipation has been the most outstanding single reason that these revolutions have pulled Islamists out of the ballot box. And as 33 years of the Islamic Republic in Iran has shown, Islamism and women’s equality cannot co-exist; in fact, the rights and autonomy of women are Islamism’s first target.
We have said it on many occasions before and now we must insist again that the Egyptian revolution has to shake off the dirt of a social revolution polluted by populism. This revolution — all of these revolutions — have to cleanse themselves by lifting the immediate implications of the demand for women’s equality.
Between last 8 March and this one, we have witnessed uprisings that have so far failed to address the most central questions of themselves, the freedom of the society through the freedom of women. With great regret, we warn these revolution of the grievous consequences for the whole society, and especially women. These consequences can be predicted based on the bloody gender apartheid that has been imposed on women in Iran for the past three decades.
And so on this 8 March, we call on our sisters in the entire world, especially those in the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East, to take what by the force of history is theirs: the leadership of the 2000s revolutions. These are Nawal’s, Aliaa’s, Mona’s, Nasrin’s and Neda’s revolutions — and not the muftis’ and mollahs’ and Salafis’ and Muslim Brotherhood’s. These revolutions ought to emancipate the women now and not tomorrow. These revolutions ought to emancipate women not only in Cairo, but in New York City and in Manama and Jedda of Arabia.
The women of the Arab Spring, like the women of Iran in 1979, did not have a revolution to go back! On 8 March of 2012, we declare our solidarity with freedom-seeking women throughout the Middle East and worldwide. Real freedom and a real humane society are dependent on real equality for women – not after the revolution, but now.
Down with dictatorship!
Down with gender apartheid!
Long live freedom and real equality!