The DSA International Committee stands in solidarity with women and working class people in Iran as they bravely fight twin pressures of government repression against social movements organizing for change, and a maximum pressure campaign by the U.S. to destabilize both state and society through immiseration and poverty. Far from being separate processes, a historical pattern of imperial coercion and foreign interference has undermined reform-oriented domestic forces and strengthened the positions of more reactionary elements, to the ongoing detriment of Iranian working class struggles and progressive movements.
On September 13th, 2022 Mahsa (Zhina) Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish descent, was detained by the Guidance Patrol in Tehran for allegedly “improper hijab” and died in police custody three days later. Evidence and reports indicate she was beaten and repudiate claims she died from natural causes. Her death due to the Guidance Patrol sparked an outpouring of protests against the government and its policies, including the enforcement of mandatory hijab and ill-treatment of ethnic minorities. The ongoing protests have seen many people, including student activists and labor union organizers, flood the streets echoing the rallying cry of “Zan, Zendegi, Azadi” (Farsi) and “Zhen, Zhian, Azadi” (Kurdish), or “Woman, Life, Freedom.” The Iranian government has responded through mass arrests, repression, and killings in an effort to quell the uprisings and deny the social and political rights demanded by protesters. The International Committee strongly condemns these actions by the Iranian government and stands with the people in Iran struggling for political, economic, and social change.
The ongoing protests must be situated in a historical and international context. The U.S. and other Western powers have worked to destabilize Iran and the region for decades through coups, sanctions, military interventions, and other forms of imperialist domination. These actions helped undermine the development of secular and left-wing movements and aided the rise of the current repressive government in Iran. In 1953, the CIA and MI6 helped reimpose Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s autocratic rule as Shah by overthrowing the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh as he instituted social and economic reforms, including nationalizing the British-dominated Iranian oil industry. The Shah’s rule over the next 26 years became ever more brutal, while overtly serving US and Western interests. This culminated in the 1979 revolution and the subsequent birth of the Islamic Republic, which ultimately oversaw the decimation of left-wing organizations in Iran and later deference to IMF-pushed neoliberal measures.
U.S. unilateral sanctions began shortly after the revolution and with little reprieve have since grown to severely restrict Iran’s access to medicine, food, technology, and international banking. These sanctions have negatively impacted working class people in both Iran and the diaspora for decades. Harsh prosecution of businesses for purported violations of sanctions has created an atmosphere of overcompliance, putting the health of over six million Iranians suffering from complex diseases at risk, including causing thousands of preventable COVID deaths. This economic siege by the U.S. against the people of Iran is a form of collective punishment which aggravates existing strife and struggles by further harming the most marginalized demographics, including women, the working class, ethnic minorities, and the disabled. The Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or “Iran Nuclear Deal,” provided the Iranian people with some short-lived relief from sanctions, until 2018 when the Trump Administration reversed course and withdrew from the JCPOA, instating even harsher sanctions. These moves by the U.S., coupled with the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, dealt a blow to reformist elements in the Iranian political establishment who argued that the U.S. could be worked with. Contrary to Biden’s campaign promises, negotiations to re-enter the JCPOA remain stalled, partly due to lobbying by war profiteers in the US and Israel.
The DSA International Committee stands with the Iranian people in their ongoing fight for justice, and against external meddling in their domestic affairs. The U.S. and its allies, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, opportunistically seize on internal strife to push their regime-change agendas while promoting exploitative actors like Masih Alinejad and sponsoring foreign interference, which undermine grassroots struggles in Iran. These actions coupled with draconian sanctions give further sway to repression against internal dissent by a government faced with foreign intervention. Solidarity with the Iranian people requires supporting both demands for reforms made by progressive movements in Iran as they struggle for change from patriarchal repression, as well as demanding the U.S. rejoin the JCPOA and remove the sanctions that harm Iran’s economy, empower reactionaries, and further fuel the immiseration and repression of women and working class Iranians.