A speech given by Mona Roshan, a revolutionary communist leader, at Revolution Books, NYC

In Support of Political Prisoners in Iran and Condemning the Death Sentence of Toomaj Salehi

In Support of Political Prisoners in Iran and Condemning the Death Sentence of Toomaj Salehi

Global Movement News

June 17, 2024

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The following is the text of a speech by Mona Roshan, a revolutionary communist leader and former political prisoner, at the emergency program on Toomaj at Revolution Books, NYC, on June 9 (see report on event). The speech was given remotely in Farsi and translated into English at the program. The IEC is posting it here because it contributes background and analysis relevant to political prisoners.

My name is Mona Roshan. When I was 20 years old, I was arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran, because of my activities as a revolutionary communist woman. I was imprisoned for three years, giving birth to my first child while I was under torture by the Islamic Republic.

Forty-five years have passed since the rebellion against Khomeini’s compulsory hijab decree. The war on women by the theocratic fascist regime of Iran is still going full force. The 45 years of resistance by women reached its height in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising of 2022-2023, but as yet has not been able to go beyond protest and become a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. After the repression of the Mahsa/Jina uprising, coinciding with the Netan-Nazi genocide in Gaza, the fascist supreme leader Khamenei felt that he could proceed freely, more than ever before, to carry out even more repression against women, and murder more prisoners.

In the past seven months, the repression against women has intensified and executions have accelerated. Every five hours, a prisoner is executed in Iran. As we speak, political prisoners go on a hunger strike every Tuesday to protest against the executions. Some Kurdish political prisoners who have been imprisoned for more than 10 years have been part of those executed.

Police attacks on women without hijabs in the cities have expanded along with special operations against female students—with the Department of “Security” handing over arrested female students in groups to police forces. The police have made the release of those arrested conditional on virginity and addiction tests (according to the statement released by Social Studies students of the University of Tehran, broadcast on BBC on 6th of June 2024).

The rape of women in prison and detention centers has been documented by Amnesty International.

Narges Mohammadi, the imprisoned Iranian human rights advocate who won the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize, has requested that her upcoming trial be held in public, so she can expose the rape of detained and imprisoned women by the regime’s male authorities.

Iranian women activists are documenting the rape and sexual assault of women prisoners by the authorities. I was one of the victims of sexual harassment by Islamist torturers many years ago. All those who fight against the Islamic Republic are considered “at war with God,” and in this war, any woman who is captured is treated as a slave who can be sexually assaulted according to Islamic laws. Sexual assaults against women have always been a component part of reactionary wars. But in the Islamic Republic, a legal fatwa/decree is issued to “legalize” this rape.

When the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979, Khomeini, then the supreme leader, issued a decree making the Islamic hijab mandatory. As I mentioned earlier, there was a great mass revolt against this which lasted five to six days. In that revolt, the Association of Fighting Women, which was formed by the cadres of the Union of Communists of Iran, now the Communist Party of Iran (MLM), played an important role. Women were the first forces to challenge the Islamic Republic. Many leftists at that time considered the revolt to be insignificant and unnecessary because it was not about the “rights of workers,” despite the fact that reality shows the oppression of women is indeed a sharp fault line and a very explosive contradiction in Iranian society.

With the Islamic Republic in power, traditional forms of the oppression of women were added to more modern forms of oppression, and this social contradiction became even more explosive. The Islamic Republic brought forth a strange combination of Islamic slavery and capitalist-imperialist social relations—and tightened the chains on women.

The case of Iran illustrates the point made by Bob Avakian that wherever religious fundamentalism prevails, extreme patriarchy and aggressive misogyny will prevail.

Let me say some things about imperialism.

The Islamic Republic and Islamic fundamentalists have propagated and promoted a twisted concept of imperialism that not only does not correspond to reality, but is also highly reactionary. In short, it is against any rational thought, culture, and relations that arose after the rise of capitalism and the anti-feudal revolutions in the 18th century, whose progressive aspects were compressed into the “Enlightenment” movement. One of the Enlightenment’s important achievements was critical thinking, scientific and rational thought in opposition to idealistic and superstitious religious views that reinforce the system of serfdom and servitude.

Today all of those outmoded views have been integrated into traditional patriarchal relations.

But it is important to note that the Islamic fundamentalists present their reactionary views as “Anti-Imperialist struggle” or “Liberation from Imperialism”—using the fact that the “West,” which was the cradle of these anti-feudal developments, became a destructive, plundering, and colonialist vampire. Yes, these fundamentalist forces use the fact of what imperialism is to portray their reactionary return to traditional views and oppressive theocratic social relations as “emancipatory.”

While integrating themselves within the framework of dependence on the global imperialist capitalist system, they revived and promoted traditional, oppressive social relations—especially the traditional relations related to the oppression of women. Therefore, in Iran, the imprisonment of women in loose clothes and hijab, and honor killings, have been legalized.

Unfortunately, many intellectuals dissatisfied with imperialist oppression helped formulate this reactionary worldview and social program. Take, for example, Ali Shariati in Iran, who was inspired by the likes of Frantz Fanon in Algeria, Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya, Léopold Senghor in Senegal...

He advocated “returning to self,” returning to Shiite Islam, as the way to liberation. In this way, he prepared the theoretical basis for the Ayatollah’s regime to rise to power in Iran. One of his students is Zahra Rahnavard, wife of Mir Hossain Mossavie, who integrated the hijab into an anti-colonial discourse and tool for the Ayatollah’s regime to use.

In the view of these theorists, the unveiling of women was collective aggression of the imperialist West against the Iranian people. This theory [of unveiling as a Western creation] did a great service in diverting attention away from the fact that in the age of capitalist imperialism all countries, regardless of what version of government they have, are integrated into this world system and operate and function largely according to the laws of world capital. And the capitalist exploiting classes, regardless of their particular ideology, act in accordance with the laws of capitalism and in the service of the requirements of exploitation and super-exploitation for profit.

In Iran, capitalist laws drag women into the abyss of capitalist exploitation. The Islamic Sharia superstructure tries to keep them in the chains of religious bondage. It is interesting that Rahnavard’s criterion for the “perfect woman” includes both of these. She says that a “perfect woman” is one who is both active in society and has “originality.” By being “active” she means becoming a capitalist employee under the dynamics of capitalism. And by “authenticity,” she means to submit to the bondage of the traditional/religious patriarchy. And the observance of the Islamic hijab by women is a signal to the religious capitalist system that acquiesces to both capitalist exploitation and traditional religious oppression.

I am giving this background because many intellectuals who want to join the struggle against imperialism resort to outmoded theories instead of a scientific approach: the new communism. You most likely have encountered these kinds of views in the college encampments that have been set up in many universities to defend the Palestinian people. They mainly look at the problem as colonialism rather than the whole capitalist-imperialist system itself. Even though they call their movement “The movement of liberation from Imperialism” or “Anti-Colonialism”—nevertheless, their understanding is not to end all outmoded systems of oppression and exploitation.

There are many contradictions in the world and there are certain particularities to these contradictions, including the oppression of women and patriarchal relations in the world. These contradictions are intensifying with increasing ferocity. The fight between the fascist Republicans and genocidal Democrats in America is intensifying as well.

These two outmodeds are not choices for humanity, with their oppression of women, imperialist wars, destruction of the environment, and the genocide in Gaza… these are all part of the basic functioning of this system.

But what should we do? Or, what is to be done?

While we are engaging in many different battles against all of these crimes against humanity, we revolutionaries are waging these battles with the aim and goal of a real revolution.

The revolution we need requires revolutionary theory, which has been further developed by Bob Avakian. This is the new communism. “It is a continuation of, but also represents a qualitative leap beyond, and in some important ways a break with, communist theory as it had been previously developed.”

Just as the socialist revolutions of the 20th century, first in the Soviet Union and then in China, would not have been possible without Marxism, which was founded and developed by Marx, and further developed by Lenin and Mao, socialist revolutions in our time are not possible without the new communism developed by Bob Avakian.

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