Feminists claim to be champions of women rights around the world. They argue that "universality" is a key component of their cause.
Perhaps it is worthwhile, though, to examine their nice slogans against reality.
Women took to the street recently in the front lines of protests in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The demands of the women were clear: Remove Sharia law, eliminate the obligatory hijab, improve the rights of women, and not to treat women as slaves and second-class citizens. Simple.
Many women demonstrated their resistance by bravely removing their hijab, thereby violating the Islamist law of the land. One photograph that has become a symbol of the protests on social media, is of an Iranian woman raising her fist in the air while she goes walks through tear gas. A video and pictures that also have become a symbol of the protests, show an unidentified woman removing her hijab, placing it on a stick and waving it. She was reportedly arrested shortly after her act of defiance.
The video and pictures of an unidentified woman in Iran removing her hijab, placing it on a stick and waving it, which circulated widely on social media, have become a symbol of the recent protests in the Islamic Republic. The woman was reportedly arrested shortly after her act of defiance.
In a video, a woman protesting in the streets is seen saying, "You raised your fists and ruined our lives. Now we raise our fists. Be men, join us. I, as a woman, will stand in front and protect you. Come represent your country." Another woman, in a crime punishable by death, courageously chanted against the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Her chants encouraged and prompted men behind her to chant also. These women can be labeled true heroes.
During the protests, in Iran, however, Western feminist groups did not even issue a simple statement of support for these extraordinary women, let alone take any concrete actions to help them.
The Iranian regime brutally cracked down on the protesters. It killed more than 20 people and injured many more. The regime also arrested more than 3,700 people, including young girls and women.
Again, there was not one statement from Western so-called feminists condemning the Iranian regime.
Leila, a young Iranian woman interviewed by the author via Skype, pointed out that, "The regime wants you to think that either there are no protests, or that the protest are solely about the economy. But I am not protesting the economy. Women are protesting the repressive Islamist laws. I am sick of Hijab, Sharia law and Sharia police. Women are sick of the Sharia police monitoring them constantly for what they wear, what they say, what they drink, where they go, and what kind of relationships they have".
What now is the fate of these women? The history of the Islamist Republic of Iran shows us that arrested women are faced with atrocities such as rape, torture or execution. Some die in detention surreptitiously. In the Sharia court, ambiguous charges will be brought against them as you are reading this, charges such as "Moharebeh" or "Waging war against God", a capital offense in Iran; "insulting Islam"; "being corrupt on earth"; "endangering the national security"; "insulting the Supreme Leader", or "insulting Allah (God)" for defying the rules. With no due or fair process, the detainees are also denied access to lawyers. The Islamist judiciary of Iran has already announced that some of the detainees face the death penalty.
Where are the feminists and mainstream leftist media? These women need support right now. They are facing severe retribution. If you want to see true feminists, these women are the real promoters of women's rights: they are risking their lives. They are not just uttering nice slogans in a nice, safe environment.
No one is asking Western feminists to be as brave as these women. Cannot they just simply issue a statement of support from behind their comfortable desks? Can they really keep on turning such a blind eye on what they claim is their important cause?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is the author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu.