Hopi: growing activity

Anne McShane reports Hopi Ireland's successes

Hopi Ireland held a number of successful meetings last week to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Dali Jeyran spoke at a lunchtime meeting in Dublin at Lourdes Community and Youth Services (LCYS) on March 5. She focused on the life of women in today’s Iran, and explained her opposition to US and UN sanctions or military intervention, which would only make things even worse for the vast majority. Afterwards there were about 45 minutes of questions and discussion before people had to rush back to work. LYCS asked to be kept informed of future Hopi events.

The next day she spoke to three meetings held in community centres in Finglas, Dublin, jointly organised by Hopi and Parents Alone Support Service. All three were well attended and the discussion was wide-ranging. Bernie Hughes, the chair, opened the meetings with a reminder of the origins of Women’s Day in the struggles of working class women in New York in 1908. Clara Zetkin, inspirational Marxist and pioneer of the working class women’s movement, then took the initiative in 1910 in making the day an important part of the political calendar for all those committed to women’s liberation.

Comrade Jeyran talked of the sexual apartheid that exists for women in Iran today. She connected the mental and physical insecurity for women with both the regime itself and the threat of war. She argued that this threat was being used by Ahmadinejad to suppress the people further. The regime is only playing at pretending to be anti-imperialist when it fact it would be willing to hatch any deal with the US in return for greater influence in the Middle East.

Dali described the anti-woman nature of sharia law and pointed to the fact that girls as young as 13 are now prostitutes in Iran. Many women feel so stressed at the conditions they live in that they resort to suicide, with self-immolation being a particular problem.

But despite all of that Iranian women continue to struggle for their rights. They organise independent education and other assistance, including protection for women under threat. They also hold meetings and other events to discuss and campaign, although they do so against the odds. At the moment the political climate in Iran is extremely oppressive because of the threat of war. Women’s Day in Iran this year was very low-key because of the danger to protestors and the large number of activists in prison.

But demonstrations did take place in Brussels and elsewhere in solidarity with Iranian women. Hopi Ireland took part in a number of events, including a feminist walking tour of Dublin and an event in Cork organised by the Independent Workers Union. We also held a meeting at that event and signed up 30 new activists to the campaign. We were able to draw attention to the need for solidarity that is based on opposition to imperialist intervention and independent working class action in solidarity with those in struggle in Iran. We are glad to report that there was a great deal of interest and support for the campaign.

... and elsewhere

Edinburgh: Around 40 students, many from the university’s Stop the War Society, attended the official launch of Edinburgh University Hopi on February 27. The organisers had prepared Iranian food and the meeting was part informal, part discussion. Hopi secretary Yassamine Mather spoke about the continued threat of war against Iran and the effects of existing sanctions on workers and the poor. She pointed out that inside Iran labour and student activists were amazed at the illusions held about the regime by some in the Stop the War Coalition.

Oxford: Over 50 students attended a Radical Forum meeting on February 28 addressed by comrade Mather on shia islam and the women’s movement. She gave a brief history of the women’s movement in Iran from the early 1900s to the present and argued that the current strength of Iranian women has been achieved in opposition to the islamic regime, not, as some apologists claim, thanks to it. There are plans to set up a Hopi branch at Oxford University.

London: Hopi steering committee member Torab Saleth spoke at the March 1 conference organised by the Critique journal on ‘1968 and its influence on the Iranian left’. Comrade Saleth spoke of the origins of the Trotskyist movement in Iran after 1968, while emphasising that the majority of the Iranian left in that period were influenced by Latin American guerrilla movements or Maoism. In response to questions, comrade Saleth described the current situation regarding workers’ protests in Iran in opposition to the regime’s neoliberal economic policies.

Glasgow: On March 4 comrade Mather spoke on ‘The threat of war and social movements in Iran’ at a seminar at Glasgow University’s Centre for the Study of Socialist Theory and Movements, attended mainly by academics. Again she warned against the continuing imperialist threats and pointed to the genuine anti-imperialists inside Iran - most importantly the workers’, students’ and women’s movements.

Brussels: Three members of Hopi’s steering committee were at the March 8 demonstration called by the Campaign Against Misogynist Legislation in Iran. Houzan Mahmoud spoke about the plight of Iraqi women under occupation at the rally held in front of the US embassy at the start of the demonstration. At the subsequent rally at Brussels University, Hopi’s solidarity message was read out in English and French.

London: Yassamine Mather addressed a Jewish Socialists’ Group meeting on March 9 on the topic of ‘Women, peace and liberation in Iran’. Yassamine ridiculed the US pretence that it cared about the rights of Iranian women, or anyone else; but said the anti-war movement was losing credibility and weakening itself if it pretended nothing was wrong in Iran. Sharia law had been part of the legal system under the shah, said comrade Mather, but was of course strengthened under the islamic regime. Under the law of retribution, a family could pay money for taking a life - and a woman’s life was accounted as worth half that of a man. Likewise evidence from two women witnesses was only weighed against that of one male.