“Not Like Iran” and How We Must Learn from Iranian Feminist Movement-Building

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

On September 13, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a national abortion ban bill in Congress, flanked by the faces of smiling mostly-white women who were absolutely giddy to strip away even more rights from Americans than they did with the fall of Roe earlier this year. [1] Despite the frequent chorus from conservatives, Big ‘Pro-Life’, and many in media, the narrative of “sending the issue back to the states” became threadbare rather quickly – as we knew it would. Their goal was never state-level regulation of abortion access, but totally banning and ultimately criminalizing those who seek or provide it.

In his speech, Senator Graham parroted out the lie [2] that America’s abortion laws are out-of-step with “the rest of the world.” When he named the countries he was thinking of, they were all Western European. In fact, he was very clear to name which countries he was not including in his worldview, stating plainly, “Should we look like Iran and North Korea?” and “We’re going to be like the rest of the world and not like Iran” and “Why [is it] okay to be more like Iran and less like France on abortion?” [1]

He name-checked other countries as well, but “Iran” seeped from his mouth the most, in a racist, vile dog-whistle that amounted to a scream. [3]

That same day, Jina (Mahsa) Amini was detained in Iran by the state’s “Guidance Patrols” otherwise known as Morality Police, allegedly for wearing the mandatory Islamic head scarf (hijab) improperly. [4] She died in custody three days later, a twenty-two year old life was extinguished by misogynist violence and state control of women’s bodies and autonomy. Graham can claim all he wants to that his aim is not to be like Iran, but he and his allies are working for just that: total control over bodily autonomy, and punishment for those who do not comply.

Graham is wrong about another thing, too: We should be like Iran. Not like the state, but the hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to demand an end to their oppression, led by women and even young girls still in primary school. [5] Workers striking in solidarity with the protest, especially in the profitable Iranian oil sector, undergirds the deep feeling of unity against oppression felt by Iranians – across religious beliefs, classes, ethnic groups, and genders. [6] Iranians have a familiarity with revolution and uprising, and know the costs of protest can be steep, even deadly, but they also know that the risks are worth the reward of freedom.

I believe in a brighter future for Iranians, like myself, and for Americans, also like myself. But only if we fight for it, even when the odds are steep beyond belief.


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