Somayeh Kargar Speaks at the Festival Soleil d’Iran in Paris, France

Global Movement News

August 13, 2023

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Poster for Festival Soleil d'Iran, from Somayeh Kargar IG

We are reprinting a speech by Somayeh Kargar on the Situation of Women that she gave on July 29, 2023.  Somayeh Kargar is a former political prisoner in Iran. She was arrested in October 2020 (just before the first anniversary of the November 2019 uprising).  She was charged with establishing and running the Osyan Women's Collective1 and acting for the Communist Party of Iran (MLM).  Her co-defendants included Nahid Taghavi, Mehran Raouf, and Bahareh Soleimani… She was in solitary confinement in Evin Prison for months and then transferred to Qarchak Prison. Her lawyers' vigorous defense of her, and proof that she could not physically tolerate imprisonment due to acute illness, led to her release and her case being closed. Below is her speech translated and edited for publication by IEC volunteers.

Note: Somayeh Kargar is speaking at a 7-city Germany tour August 11 -20, 2023.

Many of you saw and supported the uprising for “Woman, Life, Freedom” [in Iran].  But maybe it took you by surprise, and you may have asked yourself what was it that caused the whole of Iran take up the struggle against the Islamic Republic and the mandatory hijab with such fury and such heroism?

The Women, Life, Freedom uprising was ignited by the state murder of Jina Amini.  And … there was a transformation. It turned into an uprising against broader issues in society – especially the oppression of women –as well as oppression of lgbtq+ and [non-Persian] nationalities. But also, this rebellious uprising gave voice to, and is part of, the struggle of humanity against the conditions of oppression and exploitation that the capitalist system has imposed on us all.

The workings of the imperialist-capitalist system have knit together the lives of people all around the world, making slaves not only of all human beings, but also of the environment of the whole planet! If anyone has still not noticed the relationship between capitalism and humanity, they have not fully grasped the destruction and degradation it causes.  A look at the environment should clarify this!

If we look at it and understand it correctly, we will see that the globalization and intertwining of the social life of humankind is our strength in the struggle against this system.  But people have illusions about this - Iranian people as well as people in the rest of the world. We need to recognize and cast away these illusions.

Your solidarity with the people of Iran, the solidarity of the people of France and around the world, is valuable and important. But it must not be limited to solidarity only.  You shouldn’t look at the uprising of people in Iran like it is an uprising of people who are deprived of rights that you enjoy, and give them your sympathy. Similarly, people in Iran should not look at it like people in Europe and North America have the kind of life-style and rights that we wish to have. This prosperity and lifestyle is not attainable without exploitation and super-exploitation. Wishing and working to get a share of this because of Iran’s integration in the global capitalist system, is not only impossible, it is immoral.

We are fighters in a common struggle against the system that has created such horrors for us and for all life on Earth. The living conditions of our people in Iran have a direct connection to your situation and the lifestyle and living conditions in Europe.  It is only because of exploitation and super-exploitation in the global South that imperialist governments can provide relative prosperity and rights for their citizens. The difference in the living conditions of our people in Iran and people, for instance, in Europe is not because we are living in two different worlds, on two planets; it is the product of a common system. The uprising of our people for Women, Life, Freedom is part of this common struggle.

During the uprising of Women, Life, Freedom, a section of the right-wing opposition to the Islamic Republic came to France to beg Macron and the French government for freedom and to save them from the Islamic Republic. I hope that the atrocities that occurred during the murder of Nahel has revealed the emptiness of that to those swept up by that trend. Macron cracked down on the protest and announced that he was even willing to shut down the internet.2

Our opposition to the Islamic Republic is not like that of the monarchists,  who hope to replace the Islamic Republic with the help of Israel and the United States, nor like that of the MEK [People’s Mojahedin], who have set their sights on likes of fascist Mike Pence. No government or power in this capitalist world sympathizes with us or is our friend, and we have no illusions about them. What we rely on is the people of the world and their internationalist support against this system. We try to carry out our internationalist responsibility in Iran. Support for us by the people of the world should be taken up in the same spirit and framework of a common battle against this life-sucking system that destroys so many lives.

How many of you have had, or have heard of the experience of many, many people in the murderous waters of the Mediterranean Sea and elsewhere, who lost their lives or risked their lives to reach Europe? Or who were captured and displaced by a ruthless bureaucracy, held in desperate asylum camps in Europe, only to be declared “undesirable” refugees? These displacements, injury and death are the product of the same system of capitalism-imperialism that created the conditions that forced people to risk their lives.

During the Jina uprising the Islamic Republic not only killed, arrested and tortured many people, it also blinded many others by firing shotguns directly into the faces of protesters. Afterwards, people gathering the shell-casings from the ground saw that the bullets had been made in Belgium or Germany, and I'm not sure if they weren’t also made in France.

The reality of the world shows us that not only are we like one body, but our exploiters and oppressors and suppressors are also like one body.   We are on the opposite side, against them. This is the reality of our lives and our world. If we don't see it that way, we're delusional. And we are wasting the opportunity and possibility to put an end to this system, and while giving them more time to destroy the lives of more of us around the world.

The mandatory hijab is one of the main ideological pillars of their theocratic rule. It not only is the most prominent emblem of the Islamic Republic’s oppression of women, it is fundamental to the Islamic Republic. They utilize the mandatory hijab both to institutionalize social relations around a lower, second- sex status for women, and to organize the whole society around this way of thinking, and to promote master-slave relationships throughout society.

The struggle of women against the Islamic Republic and against the mandatory hijab is not limited to this uprising. It began with the Islamic Republic's rise to power [in 1979].  For the regime to remain in power, they must enforce the mandatory hijab. Without it, if it were to fall, the survival of the government in its current form would be impossible. The mandatory hijab must be kept in place in order for their theocratic rule to stay in power. The mandatory hijab is not just a head cover, but an unmistakable symbol of the social relations and power relations in society, and is used to strengthen them.

The view that the Islamic Republic is softening on the issue of the hijab or is making reforms is just an illusion. The amplification and propagation of this illusion by intellectuals or representatives of various political trends is not merely complicit with the Islamic Republic.  It is opportunist, against reality, and harms the interests of the people for liberation. For this reason, the hijab is not a neutral thing, it has political and social content, and because of that the views of different individuals and groups about mandatory hijab also have class and social content.

The situation of women and their struggle in Iran must be viewed in the context of the global situation. In Iran, as in the rest of the world, the political, social, economic order is in great disarray and no longer works as before. The signs of this worldwide turmoil include the intensification of imperialist rivalries, such as the rivalry between China and the United States, the Ukrainian war and the risk of nuclear war, the far right’s rise to power and risk of the consolidation of fascism, systematic attacks against women, Black people and other minorities, and the escalation of the environmental crisis.

Take a look at France and see how immigrants are treated, even second-and third-generation immigrants. They are met with a declaration of a state of emergency and repression when they protest.

The situation is getting worse and demands an answer. The moderate and reformist answer doesn't work. The future will be radically different – either radically reactionary or radically revolutionary. If things are left as they are, they will get worse. But within this objective reality there is also the potential and possibility for revolutionary change. Here the role of the organized conscious forces is crucial — to work on the contradictions to move the situation towards revolution and fundamental change. As a part of the people of the world, this is the responsibility of us all.

The worsening situation of women in Iran and all over the world is connected. Religious fundamentalism, whether of the Islamic, Jewish, Christian, or Buddhist variety, spearheads assaults on women everywhere.  Look at the repeal of the right to abortion in the US. Positive change in the situation in Iran will not only affect Iran. It could have a positive effect of altering the hegemony of a world power, and could have a direct effect on the lives of people around the world.

In Iran and Afghanistan the lives of women and people in general are held hostage by two reactionary and obsolete forces. On the one hand, imperialism is the principal cause of devastation affecting the whole world including in Iran and the Middle East. On the other side is religious fundamentalism is a reactionary response that emerged from these capitalist-imperialist dynamics, and has turned against it. Such forces are historically and socially past their expiration dates and can and should be swept away. Supporting either of these two, or putting your hopes in either one of them only strengthens them both, and can only lead to more oppression, exploitation, and destruction of the environment. For generations, the lives of the people of Afghanistan have been the manipulated by the imperialists and the fundamentalists. The Taliban and the US presence have brought only war, destruction and the displacement of Afghan people.

We are the inhabitants of one planet which is in serious danger of being annihilated. We don't have time to waste by putting our hopes in reactionary forces. Staying focused on our own interests or trying to keep stability in our own lives comes at the cost of destroying the lives of others. Besides when we are in the midst of crises and worsening conditions worldwide, even the concept of creating stability is meaningless.

Right now we are engaged in a class war. Now is the time to consciously choose. Which side we are on, where we do we stand?  What do we contribute to, who do we serve? It makes no sense to stay in the middle. Standing in the middle eventually ends up serving reaction. We are fortunate, because we have a chance [to get beyond all this]. We are the people of the world who have a common interest in saving the world and ourselves from this capitalist-imperialist system.


1 Osyan means Rebellion in the Farsi language.  It is a group of Iranian and Afghan women who are the voice of women’s rebellion to express the determination, and to serve the struggle against the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Taliban.

2 Powerful Uprising Against Police Murder and Racist Oppression Rocks France for Six Days, Defying Massive State Repression and Fascist Menace |

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