Skip to content

Knowledge Action

We rewrote this text hesitantly and reflected on it several times. In a situation where the Baloch people receive much sympathy from other parts of Iran, despite the distorted image which has been built by the center, we were afraid that this article would raise the stigma that is aimed toward the Baloch people which negatively affects their personal and social lives. We have heard such stigma and accusations many times on social media while encountering our friends from other regions of Iran. Unfortunately, neglect of the history of liberation and the colonial changes of the last century, along with visual productions in the media, have created a simplified and violent appearance. Previously, we have written that activism in Sistan and Baluchistan resembles acrobatics. Writing this text and the fear of turning it into something against itself reminded us of this expression once again!

​The Makki Mosque and Woman, Life, Freedom Movement

You ask: “Where are the women?”

During the past two months, the Sistan and Baluchistan Province [of Iran] has gone through many incidents that have received little attention in written and virtual media. Zahedan and Khash have been drawn to blood one after the other on Fridays of justice[1] [dadkhahi]. During these fifty days [since the murder of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the so-called morality police, at the time the article was written], we witnessed that Molavi Abdulhamid has turned from a supporter of the Taliban to a reformist and critic of the regime, whose sermons are making the news not only in Sistan and Baluchistan, but all over Iran.

In the essay “Why Chabahari girl is our code name?” we mentioned that we are writing on shaky ground. Incidents happen one after the other and there is no time to stop and look back. Emotions disrupt the opportunity to linger and remember.

The influential forces that we discussed previously in the essay on Chabahari girl, and their relationships with each other and with the governing body of the Islamic Republic, have now found a different configuration. As we mentioned in that text, how the opposing forces are confronting each other and orienting against the people is not predictable. Despite all this, we did not doubt that these forces will enter the field, to control the accumulated anger of the people and channel the protests. After the recent bloodshed, these powerful and dominant forces in the region want to control the protesters, deny their long-term beneficial collaboration with the regime, present themselves as advisers to both the people and the regime, and possibly express themselves as the leaders of the protesters in the aftermath of the revolution. We have also witnessed that all the analyses and reports of the “alternative” media and the oppositional TV broadcasting outside Iran revolve only around the Makki institution.[2] Everyone is silent about this institution’s background and its conflicting nature with the Women, Life, Freedom movement. Yet we believe that addressing the background of the Makki Mosque and its historical roots may help to understand the apparent univocality of the latest protests.

Today, the most important issue that all the reactionary forces of Sistan and Baluchistan are focusing on after the recent bloody massacre is not justice [dadkhahi], but the risk of their loss of leadership over the lives of the Baluch people. Remaining in poverty and being deprived of development is a structural and historical fact in this province. The looting of the ecosystem, resources, and lives of the Baluch people has been carried out by the central government through non-Baluch affiliated forces and their representatives such as Sardars (tribal heads) before the revolution, and Molavis (Sunni religious leaders) after the revolution. The changes in the power balance after the revolution and the escape of influential clan leaders paved the way for the graduates of the Dēobandi school (which had spread rapidly in Baluchistan). Furthermore, the suppression of nationalists and leftists at the beginning of the revolution facilitated the Dēobandi’s influence. Most Dēobandi members are educated in religious schools in India and Pakistan. The war in Afghanistan and the financing of extremist schools in Pakistan in the 1970s, and the rise of jihadists in Afghanistan at the same time, were among other reasons for the growth of this extremist tendency in this region. Within the Sunni-Dēobandi current, Baluchi identity was further stimulated and protected following the establishment and consolidation of the Shia-Persian government after the revolution, thus attracting profound interest among the identity-seekers [هویت‌طلبان] in the region.

In response, although the Shiite government violated the demands of Molavi Abdul Aziz Mullahzadeh regarding religious freedom, education in the Baluchi language, and the assigning of Baluchi officials to some high-level positions from the beginning of the revolution, it nevertheless recognized the role of this institution in maintaining unity and influence in Sistan and Baluchistan. In the face of all those years of disenfranchisement and looting by the government, the clerics of this school either remained silent or limited themselves to only giving advice, in order to protect themselves. The government also used the clerics when necessary to control the people of the region, as well as rewarded them to diminish the influence of the armed extremist-fundamentalists.

Molavi Abdulhamid Ismail Zahi has always condemned armed extremist movements, opposed the extremism of the Taliban’s use of violence, and has tried to prevent religious wars in Sistan and Baluchistan by using his influence to mediate and end many hostage situations. The Makki Mosque institution, however, cannot be considered as the foundation of popular protests, because of its fundamental contradictions vis-à-vis the demands of the people in general and women in particular, and thus should not escape criticism. In the years after the revolution, Molavi Abdulhamid’s relationship with Tehran had ups and downs, the details of which are beyond the scope of this essay. But in general, the demands of the religious establishment on the government during these years always concerned religious affairs. Despite the growing poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, informal settlements, and widespread dispossession in this province, they have never seriously pursued and demanded social and economic justice. Even their closeness or distance in relation to reformist or fundamentalist bodies of the government has always been based on demands for religious freedom. For instance, the latest incident of the murder of fuel smugglers [by the border police] in Shamsar Saravan in 2020 was easily forgotten, despite the coverage and disclosure of the details of this crime in social media, to the point that Molavi supported the candidacy of the head of the judiciary in the presidential election.

Without the above introduction in which we tried to show the power mechanism within the Makki institution, understanding the recent events in Sistan and Baluchistan would not be possible. After the Bloody Friday in Zahedan, if Molavi Abduhamid would have remained silent, as the only “safe and official” authority for justice, this would have endangered his social position and capital. Just as happened to Imam Juma of Sunni in Chabahar, who lost all credibility and reputation in a single stroke after calling the protesters “rioters” [اغتشاش‌گر]. On the other hand, despite the presence of younger, more outspoken, and more nationalist clerics than Abdulhamid, he could not maintain a neutral position in relation to the event, although he joined the ranks of the protesters only after the Zahedan massacre. Also, the release of threatening videos of government clerics and IRGC officials about Abdulhamid united the reactionary forces behind him even more. At the same time, rumors such as “Molavi has given his life and his life is in danger” generated a renewal of covenants of the clan of Sarhad (and later Makran) to him. Considering the weakness of the quasi-caste system, these clans are more concentrated and unified and have always been among Abdulhamid’s closest allies. These clans are collaborating with the Makki Mosque in obtaining administrative positions, exerting influence, gaining power and wealth, and every year they make great financial contributions to it. In fact, in Sistan and Baluchistan, Baluch officials will not last long, regardless of their merits, if they are not allies of the Makki Mosque. Therefore, they are always pledging, negotiating with, and financing it. But Molavi Abdulhamid’s recent speeches surprised many. He talked about civil rights and freedom, girls’ education, and even hijab. His words even aroused the sympathy of some of the supporters of the protests and the Shia community such that it was stated that a Baluch Sunni cleric speaks from the heart of the people in Persian Shia Iran. He mentioned a referendum with foreign supervision as a solution, but he didn’t mention the referendum for what? To change the hijab or governmental system? Or reform of religious affairs? Although Molavi is not an official of the ruling system, the Makki institution has never been a powerless, irresponsible, and passive spectator in the construction of the current socio-political situation.

Now that the protests in Sistan and Baluchistan are linked to the nationwide protests, Abdulhamid’s seemingly “progressive” slogans have been sufficient to attract the support and attention of the center-oriented oppositional groups, but also the Woman, Life, Freedom movement protesters. Although he did not mention a word about women’s conditions in the region in his previous sermons, the opposition media abroad recognized his speech as radical. His lack of attention to the women’s conditions in his sermons was nevertheless criticized by women on social media and in social networks. Talking about women and criticizing the past could have been a big challenge for Molavi Abdulhamid, and he refused to do it. Such refusal takes place in a situation where women had protested against the rigid and anti-feminist laws of religion, customs, and sharia for years. Women in this province have not been passive subjects to be affirmed by Molavi. During these years, women did not give up their agency to the Makki institution, and they are the expression of Women, Life, and Freedom. Faezeh Brahooi[3] is one of those and the first one who sought justice, having the least possibility of protesting and with the lowest prospect of being recognized by the [Makki] institution or receiving support for her freedom, to the day she received her verdict.

So, despite Abdulhamid’s unusual speech in which he mentioned women’s issues, his words cannot purify his relationship with the issue of women. During these years, the Makki institution has not only failed to improve the situation of Baluch women, but has also attempted very hard to silence them. Abdulhamid has indeed never officially opposed the education of girls, but many of his followers in small towns and villages warn families against girls’ education in high school and university in the Friday sermons. These followers have always opposed birth control as an interference in God’s work, they have remained silent about the rights of undocumented people, and they have not spoken about the right of Baluch mothers to have birth certificates. Abdulhamid is talking about having a female minister while he has not spoken for years about the educational situation of girls, men’s polygamy, forced marriage of children, and femicide in Baluchistan. He brings up the issue of burning hijab and mentions that women set fire to hijab as a symbol of protest against the oppression they endure. But he does not mention anything about the obligation to wear the black veil [chador] as Baluchi women’s dress code, which was part of the process of Islamization of Baluchistan and gradually replaced the customary and traditional clothing of Baluch women. If anyone has studied in their schools, must have heard that “If it was allowed for a person to prostrate to another person, we would force a woman to prostrate to her husband!” We want to highlight that focusing on Molavi Abdulhamid’s verbal confirmation or condemnation of the government will not give a full image of what is going on in the region, since in that case the political economy of Makki’s institution will remain overlooked.

While Baluch citizens have not been able to achieve basic livelihoods and dignified life, the upper layers of the society close to the Makki institution have been able to achieve great wealth. Makki’s possessions, which are managed by Molavi Abdulhamid’s family network, include houses, retail stores, boarding houses, shopping malls, business holdings, and even concessions in the province’s mine reserves. In fact, since the time that the reformists entered the province with slogans such as “Iran for all Iranians” and began the redistribution of wealth and privatization in the country, Makki’s institution took advantage. In a situation where dispossession and marginalization are some of the biggest problems on the southern coasts, the Makki institution not only did not object to these issues, but also became an accomplice of large-scale constructions and other projects in Chabahar port. The port with the highest rate of informal settlements and marginalization!

While the institution does not emphasize the education of Baluch girls on the one hand, and the government has deferred its responsibilities to charities in many of the inaccessible areas on the other hand, Makki’s religious schools are running in the most remote cities and villages and promoting the institution. While playing political games to gain maximum benefits from the government, the suppression and oppression of women are one of the main pillars of their education system. Molavi’s relatives have special judiciary authority (so-called shari’a) dealing with criminal matters, as well as divorce and femicide, by which they implement customary and shari’a anti-woman laws with their rulings.

Apart from exerting influence on the daily lives of men and women, the sanctified influence of this institution on politics is such that parliamentarians in the Baluchistan region (and not Sistan) cannot announce their candidacy without Makki’s favorable opinion. Also, in the appointment of all executives in the Baluchistan region, the opinion of Makki mafia matters. Makki’s most important demands until today have been on having a Sunni Mosque in Tehran, publishing religious books, and appointing a governor approved by Molavi. For many years, civil society activities in this region have been disrupted and undermined by not only state security agencies but also by Makki’s allies. Baluch activists have either been under the pressure of their own clans, through the heads of clans allied with the Makki institution, or the forces close to Makki have directly threatened them. Such threats can have deadly consequences for activists and their relatives due to the availability of weapons in this region. These threats have even more oppressive aspects for women and direct more pressure and violence toward them.

It must be remembered that the rape of the teenage girl from Chabahar by a police officer, which became the spark of the protests in Zahedan, has been sidelined amid other demands and protests. We still do not know the fate of the suspect(s). The judicial system is obviously not interested in expressing its opinion, but in the pulpit where women’s rights are discussed, it seems that Chabahari girl has been deliberately forgotten.

We believe that Makki’s institution has a fundamental conflict with the Women, Life, Freedom movement. Unfortunately, however, all internal reactionary forces, local virtual tribunes, and the apparent ‘revolutionary’ oppositional media are standing in line with this tendency of not reflecting the voices of the women and freedom seekers. While any protest of the status quo cannot be interpreted in relation to Women, Life, Freedom, it seems that the centrist opposition movement in Sistan and Baluchistan is not interested in hearing other independent voices; voices that have fought for years to survive. Willingly or reluctantly, these media streams are eradicating the civil struggles of Baluch women and men for freedom and equality. We will write more about these issues in the future.

November 18, 2022

[1] Zahedan massacre.

[2] The Grand Makki Mosque of Zahedan (Persian: مسجد جامع مکی زاهدان) is the largest Sunni Mosque in Iran and is located in the center of Zahedan, the capital of the Sistan and Baluchistan Province.

[3] Faezeh Barahooi, a 25-year-old woman, was arrested in Zahhedan for exposing and protesting the rape of a 15-year-old Baloch girl by a police colonel. She was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.

​The Makki mosque and woman life freedom moment
You ask “Where are the women?”

Authors: @thevoicesofbaluchwomen, Dasgoharan

Translated into English by Tanide

Progressive Mothers

Tanide’s introduction: Mothers’ activism in Iran has a longstanding lineage of struggle, resistance, persistence, and remembrance. Dadkhah mothers of Iran from Khavaran to Aban have reclaimed history with their invaluable contributions to doing gender and politics in Iran and transnationally, their dadkhahi mission, and their multivarious forms of activism and reclamation. In the aftermath of the Jina revolts, and with the potent presence of schoolchildren and youth participating in protests and advancing the fight, there is a new wave of mothers’ activism emerging in Iran. They call themselves Progressive Mothers, and their activism focuses on defending the rights of youth, schoolkids, and all children in Iran and fighting alongside them. 

They have introduced themselves in the following words: 

“We are women and mothers who carry on the struggle and resistance alongside our children and youth. The idea of the Association of Progressive Mothers was formed from an encounter with the Woman, Life, Freedom revolts and in response to statements by some children’s rights activists stressing that kids and youth should be kept away from politics. While their aim was to support children, we witnessed only bravery, consciousness, and awareness among young people in Iran, which was inevitably intertwined with the political environment of the country. The agency and bravery of children during the Jina revolution were indefinable. Girls and boys took down the image of the dictator from their classrooms, threw the hijab off of their heads, and chanted “Woman, Life, Freedom.” This bravery moved us to found the Progressive Mothers. The terror of the murderous, child-killing regime is endless, and our fight to free all women [and marginalized bodies] will continue. The Islamic regime has recently been targeting our girls’ schools with serial chemical attacks. We do not separate the fight of children and youth from that of the ongoing revolution. In fact, we acknowledge the anger of our children and youth, and we support and draw inspiration from them. Furthermore, we will tirelessly strive to protect them and will not let anyone hurt them. For the Progressive Mothers, the only way to achieve this goal is to comprehensively fight the Islamic republic and negate the core of its ideology: compulsory veiling. We have already begun these efforts, and we are becoming more determined every single moment.”

This emerging form of mothers’ activism in Iran is inspired by their children’s fights in and outside of schools and classrooms. It is a unique form of mothers’ activism that, as its name conveys, is progressive and carries many affirmative potentialities. It is not based on grief, sorrow, or melancholia for the “lost ones.” Rather, it pursues dadkhahi along the path of the justice-seeking that has come before it, though with a slight difference: it actively attempts to protect its territories by petitioning, publishing statements, and going in front of schools to protect the youth. These mothers do not want to lose their children at the hands of a fascist, murderous regime, and they do not claim to have “better knowledge” than these youth. On the contrary, they are inspired by and learn from these young people while actively supporting them and their current fight. Such accurately progressive mothering continues the work of previous dadkhah mother-activists and paves the way for futurities to be imagined otherwise for youth and all people of Iran. 

The following piece is a translation of three of their series of statements published in Farsi on their Instagram account, @madranepishro. 

The first statement 

The school should be a haven for freedom, science, and truth. We are going through turbulent times. What happened to our dear Jina (Mahsa) Amini has affected the whole country. This teenager was arrested by the morality police due to the compulsory veiling law, and her corpse was given back to her family. Those her age, fellow sufferers, and all who are angry at this blatant injustice have revolted. It is apparent that this revolt is not going to stop. After one month of this country-wide protest, we are witnessing the burgeoning of more protests in schools, at universities, and on the streets. 

Today, the same students who have been subjected to your superstitious education for years are removing the veils from their heads and shouting alongside the protesters, ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’. You might have watched the videos of school students who, in response to interrogations by intelligence officers on the streets, have subtly replied, ‘we are students of the school of freedom’.

These students’ names are Mahsa, Nika, and Sarina. 

This generation has revolted against all that is rotten and illogical. The lively soul of these teenagers has given a new meaning to hope and a belief for a [better] future. It is this hope for a brighter future that drives the determination of these youth in their [protest] and questioning. 

They want nothing but freedom.

But your answer is brutal suppression. Today, schools have become palpably unsafe places for this country’s kids. You [the oppressors] are strip-searching, insulting, and humiliating children. You force them to perform state propagandist acts; you punish those who disobey, and you take them to correction centres. While suppressive forces are assaulting women protestors in broad daylight, we are worrying what is happening behind the walls of detention centres. We witnessed one of our teenage students in the city of Ardebil lose her dear life at your hands when you beat her to death – you who shamelessly threaten our children to tear their mouths and pull out their nails at your intelligence centres. 

One of the marvelous characteristics of youth is their ability to ask simple but hard questions. They do not give up until they get their answers, and they don’t listen to anything less than an answer.

Be aware that you are dealing with such a generation. We, as parents of these students, warn you that you and your thoughts have no place in the minds or futures of our children. You are directly responsible for this situation. 

We urge you to apologise as soon as possible to the noble students and teachers who want nothing but freedom. 

Just as quickly, free all political prisoners, students, university students, and women of this land – all whom you have imprisoned with the excuse of protecting the safety [of the country]. And beware that we, the parents of these schoolkids, stand side by side with our children. We will not let you abuse our children anymore. 

We compel you to rid all educational environments of suppressive forces, threats, and ideological, political, and security intimidation. You are responsible for providing the basic standards of a scientific education for our children – an equal, free education where our children enjoy the freedoms of speech and thought and are not treated as shapeless masses at the service of governmental politics. We ask all supportive parents to join us in not sending our children to school. 

We, as parents of this country’s schoolchildren, are seeing the risks of psychological, mental, and physical damage to our children and feel obligated to insist: if you cannot provide for the most basic needs, close the schools!

The association of Progressive Mothers. 

November 10, 2022.


The second statement of the Progressive Mothers

Forty-six days have passed since Jina’s name became a symbol of freedom and hope in our children’s lives. Her name shook the world, but for us as parents, it brought a greater lesson: we found our children in the continuation of this name’s valour. Moment by moment, these youth and teenagers are amazing us as their parents. They are twinkles of light despite the suppressive violence being waged equally against everybody.

Our teenagers are breaking the silence at schools and on the street. They are tearing up photos of the dictator. Standing elbow to elbow, these boys and girls are shouting, ‘death to the dictator’. They are the seedlings that have inevitably sprouted amidst your ideological and political suppression; now, no force will be able to confront them.

We told you to beware – to quickly free all political prisoners, especially schoolchildren and teachers, and apologise to them. But what did you do? You killed more than 40 kids and arrested many others. You went after our children with the support of your suppressive security network. You threaten them everyday. You inspect their books. Through heavy torture, you killed Parmis Hamnava on October 25, 2022 for the ‘crime’ of tearing up the dictator’s photo. You naively thought that you could silence our kids by stealthily granting them freedoms: ‘provided that its news will not spread to other schools, and on limited account, you can take off your maqna’e (school veils), but don’t shout slogans and don’t make a fuss’. You have tried to show a rosy image of the situation and create a false atmosphere of happiness by staging musicals so that you can continue your policing through lies. This is such an insulting and villainous attempt to humiliate the same kids who have already confronted the dictator in their schools. 

You have attempted to pressure students to spy on each other and give out each other’s names. You have threatened families and asked us to police our kids to make your jobs easier. 

But these are the schoolchildren and schools who have already sung your end. Sepah, go away! Basij, go away! Islamic Republic, go away! We will not get tired of repeating this truth that we have learnt from our children. What is rotten and on the point of death is you. Tomorrow is 13-e Aban[i] (4th of November). You will again try to gather our children en masse to commemorate your general. We say it clearly that you are responsible for providing safety for our kids. You do not have the right or ability to abuse them. 

We ask all worried parents to join us. Do not let the bodies and souls of our children become the suppressor’s battleground. Find your local and family networks. Stay beside your children who have broken down the walls of fear. Our long march towards freedom needs your company. Staying worried is not enough. We no longer want to hear news of the torture, killing, or arrest of schoolchildren. 

Our children’s demand is our demand. Immediately remove your ideological and security forces from all educational spaces. If you are unable to do this basic act, close down your suppressive schools. 

Association of progressive mothers. 

November 10, 2022

In praise of life and hope

At the chehellom of Kian Pirfalak, who was killed by this child-murdering regime, the fascist Islamic republic has not only refused to take accountability for any of their systemic killings but actually continued to kill systematically and take people hostage. On this same day, the 12-year-old Soha Etebari from the Bastak region was shot and killed by the regime’s forces. Her lifeless body is another testament that the blood of more than 70 kids is on the hands of this Islamic regime. We, as mothers, are fighting to stop these bitter deaths and obvious crimes. Right in the midst of this fight, we hear the news that a young man, exhausted from the crimes of the Islamic republic, has committed suicide to attract world’s attention to the ongoing hell in Iran, and we are saddened. 

That young man, as he himself shared in an Instagram video, preferred an epic death to the vulgarity of life. But this death has added more grief on top of the other pains we feel. This is a grief that we find it necessary to talk about. We, progressive mothers, are fundamentally in opposition to such an approach to fighting. The Islamic republic has held our thoughts and abilities captive for over 40 years with the ‘martyr’s culture’. The outcome of this insulting religious doctrine is that we undermine hope, life, struggles for freedom, and what is called human dignity. 

The rotten culture of the Islamic Republic has indoctrinated us into believing that there is nothing to achieve and no way to success. They want us to believe that all values are summarised in death and another false world. This spell has been broken by the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ revolt. Our children – our boys and daughters – have shattered this paralysing spell. Instead of praising death, they are chanting songs of hope and life. Jina’s revolt is first and foremost a revolt against the politics of praising death that rules us. For this very reason, our martyrs are not just the dead for whom we mourn and grieve, and we should not let them become as such. On the contrary, they are each the lively pulse of perseverance and justice-seeking. We see the ultimate instance of such resistance and persistence in all Dadkhah (justice-seeking) mothers – mothers who now believe in [more firmly] victory and freedom and continue to fight for a new world [order]. 

December 30, 2022.

Statements of Progressive Mothers

Authors: @madranepishro 

Translated into English by Tanide


Tanide’s introduction: The following piece is a translation of one of the statements of Dasgoharan, the Voices of Baluch Women, which was formed in October 2022 during the Jina revolts in Iran. Dasgoharan refers to a longstanding social and convivial tradition among Baluch women in Iran that connotes empathy, solidarity, and sisterhood. 

The quote below is the English description that Dasgoharan published soon after their launch on Instagram on October 7, 2022:

We, the Baluch women living in Iran have suffered under intersectional discrimination and oppression day and night. The oppression, poverty, discrimination, unemployment, insecurity and exploitation of Baluchs’ labor and resources have become normalized. We, Baluch women, along with our brothers have been suffering under national/ethnic and classicist/religious oppression. On top of that, as women, we were considered as “namus” [honor], not only by our fathers, brothers and husbands, but also by our tribes as well as by the religious system and the state. For years, sometimes passionate and openly and sometimes at home and in small groups, we, along with our sisters and brothers, have been sisterly resisting patriarchy, religious fundamentalism (Talibanism), ethnic and class discrimination, and the ruling shiite regressiveness. But we were under the impression that the guideline of the fight for a better life has already been written down for us in the form of democratization, progress and development programs, and that we needed to follow up our demands parallel to these programs. However, with Mahsa’s tragic death and the wave that rose in whole Iran, we found ourselves in the forefront of the struggle. “Woman, Life, freedom” gave us a new life. Suddenly, this slogan, word by word, filled us with passion; we said: We want to live! Women seek to liberate their lives, and their liberation is the liberation of us all. Before this we were subjects trying to improve a few paragraphs of the law regarding marriage/separation, we demanded less discrimination for Baluchs regarding employment, we asked the clergies not to prevent girls’ education, we asked fathers and brothers not to force child marriage upon their daughters and sisters, we documented and publicized femicides, we tolerated the tribe and its laws of conduct, we tried to have an impact on the rigid patriarchal structures, we asked the state for permission to establish safe houses for protecting women against violence, and to provide birth control measures so that unwanted pregnancy could be avoided. These were all no small efforts in their own right, but in the face of the feminist uprising that has spread all over Iran seems insignificant, if not trivial. All of a sudden with indescribable passion and energy, along with our sisters all over Iran, we, Baluch women, started to demand life and freedom, not only for us, but also for all people in Iran; a life free of all chains, of all forms of oppression; we said NO to the fathers’ brothers’, tribes’ and the state’s authority and control over our body, life and freedom. “Woman, Life, Freedom” denounces all forms of oppression imposed on us. How wonderful it is that in the course of past weeks we learned this through our sisterhood with women of other nationalities in Iran: kurdish, lur, arab fars, and so on. There is still a lot to learn on this path.

The intersectionality of the Baluch women’s struggle is undoubtedly invaluable and historically significant. Dasgoharan’s statements, of which English translations will gradually be published by Tanide, are so historically unique because these women have been gathering and voicing their demands during a feminist revolution-in-the-making in Iran. Alongside numerous other collectives and groups in the country, they are reclaiming their indigenous, resistant subjectivities and making their epistemic, material, and bodily struggles visible to everyone. This, in and of itself, is a revolutionary act that highlights the revolutionary momentum of Zan, Zendegi, Azadi or Janin, Zand, Ajoyi in Iran. 


Wearing the black chador has only been common amongst Baluch women for less than four decades. According to the oral history and memories of our mothers and sisters, Baluch women were mostly unfamiliar with the black chador attire prior to the 1979 revolution and even until the late 1980s. In those days, society was not open to or welcoming towards the black chador and even considered it ominous. After the revolution, the Baluch women’s hijab – which, not so long before, consisted of colourful thin chadors in line with the traditional Baluchi dress – was somehow replaced by the black chador. Thus, the same traditional rural society that had associated this garment with ominous, supernatural powers suddenly required a black chador as part of the traditional dress.

To understand the black chador’s dominance in Baluch women’s lives and lived experiences, we must inevitably trace the history of these women’s marginalisation and further exclusion from social life as well as the supremacy of religion and its unholy alliance with the tribal/sectarian patriarchy in the region.

The issue of hijab in the region of Sistan and Baluchistan underwent fundamental changes during the 1970s and the so-called Saudization of Pakistani society. In fact, after Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq assumed power in Pakistan in the 1970s, the government became focused on the Islamization of Pakistan to such an extent that feminist women in the nation burnt their hijabs in 1983 to protest the fundamentalist attack on all aspects of their lives. Still, women in Pakistan could not stop this process, which gained momentum with the help of Western powers and the massive budget devoted to religious schools in Pakistan. In addition, the growth of Deobandi rituals, which marked the beginning of the religious shift in the Baluchistan region in Iran, the abdication of tribal chiefs due to the Islamic Revolution, and the increasing influence of graduates of Deobandi schools fostered fundamentalist Islamism amongst the Sunni Muslims in Sistan and Baluchistan. In other words, the Islamic Revolution was a ‘golden opportunity’ to cement religious sects in the region, where the existing power gap after the revolution enabled reactionary forces to promote their misogynist religious laws. These forces dictated that women are fundamentally evil creatures and repeatedly proclaimed to both men and women that hell is mostly comprised of women. The patriarchy was substantially strengthened in the region by tribes, governments, religion, and the strict religious rules that supplanted the previous practice of religious tolerance. 

Yet, the oppression of women in Baluchistan cannot be fully grasped solely on the basis of the growth of religious fundamentalism, as the dominant political economy in the region of Sistan and Baluchistan also contributed to the marginalisation of Baluch women’s roles in the economy. Specifically, the informal economy gained precedence through the smuggling of various goods and drugs, and male-centred ways of earning income were emphasised. Women were consequently excluded from the economic sector, thus reinforcing their oppression. With the burgeoning capitalist relations and factory productions, women’s communities and household labour lost their economic value. Previously, women had been part of the cycle of production and the family economy. Their communities, such as rural women who gathered for embroidery or to grind wheat to make bread, achieved economic and income-earning outcomes. As the economic labour cycle became more male-dominated, women were gradually removed from the public sphere and, in the eyes of the patriarchy, viewed only as consumers who must have a convincing reason to socialise outside of the private sphere of the home. In addition, the growth of fundamentalism and religious circles justifying the omission of women from the public sphere effectively intensified the marginalisation and separation of women from society. Because of this process and their lack of a role in the family economy, women progressively lost their social and intelligent independence, which in turn forced them into obedience on issues of forced marriage, child marriage, compulsory veiling, lifestyle, polygamy, and other forms of oppression. 

Notably, the central government was amongst those prominent forces that capitalised on such processes of subjugating women. By enforcing discriminatory and predatory policies in Sistan and Baluchistan, the state benefitted greatly from the marginalisation of women in the region. In collaboration with mullahs and the patriarchal traditions of the tribes as well as with other cultural and traditional excuses, the state excluded women from educational, welfare, and health services. The state’s actions towards the exclusion of women even escalated to its removal of the citizenship status of women who married Afghan men, though there are unfortunately no clear statistics on this matter. Nonetheless, it is no exaggeration to state that poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province are definitively feminine problems. Indeed, the combination of the above issues with the suppression and omission of any freethinking radical movement in post-revolutionary Iran led to a fixation on the dress code for Baluch women, which culminated in the black chador. 

In the aftermath of the national resistance to racial apartheid in Pakistan, our sisters in eastern Baluchistan (Pakistan) were able to reduce the influence of fundamentalism there, which explains why the dress code for women in eastern Baluchistan is different and less strict (than ours). Nevertheless, despite the actions of fundamentalist forces against women in Sistan and Baluchistan, everyday forms of resistance by women have always existed. Baluch women, like their sisters in this geographical region (Iran), have never been mere observers or passive recipients of oppression or the imposition of extremist views on their lifestyles. Many girls have resisted their families’ and tribes’ requests to wear the chador. Given that a woman’s refusal to wear the chador can subject her family to significant pressure from religious leaders, such resistance is often a psychologically exhausting effort. In many villages, girls must wear the chador from the age of eight. Even careful replacements, such as the manteau, are not accepted without consequences for the family and the girl, including humiliation, mockery, threats, harassment, and possibly physical violence. 

Even amidst the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement, Baluch men are expressing criticism of Baluch women on social media who are demanding to dress how they wish as part of their equality and freedom. In fact, Baluch women are currently facing an avalanche of accusations on social media: many Tehran-centric/centralist individuals have mediatised Baluch women’s presence and way of dress and looked upon them with insult and shame. In our view, the adoption of such a perspective amidst a movement revolving around the emancipation of women in society is the result of a highly disappointing lack of awareness of everyday lived experiences and the history of our region. 

Over the past two months, Baluch cities have been periodically full of protestors. However, the absence of Baluch women at some of these protests has also been challenged on social media platforms. Dasgoharan has attempted to address these challenges and answer the questions they raise, while we have endeavoured to dissect the society we live in and share its historical, political, and religious background, which is mainly oral. In a situation where women in Baluchistan are seizing any opportunity to participate in the ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’ movement, and women in Zahedan and Chabahar have taken to the streets, we are constantly confronted by a repetitive question: ‘where are the Baluch women?’ It is as if a centralist, homogenising gaze is chasing us; while we are creating our own innovative means and strategies of civil participation, analysts are not changing their old, entrenched frameworks. Faezeh Barahoui, a Baluch woman who sought justice for an assaulted sister living miles away from her, is being criticised for her way of veiling in her social media content even though she has long been under arrest and deprived of a lawyer or other legal options. Meanwhile, Somayeh Mahmoudi Nejhad, a Baluch woman from Ghale Ganj in Kerman, was killed by six bullets in front of her child. A report published by BBC Farsi television stated that Somayeh resigned from her job at the morality police centre because of its violent practices. She received death threats every day and was shot dead a month later. 

Faezeh and Somayeh are only two cases of Baluch women who have resisted but been constantly omitted from the centralist discourse. If a Baluch woman does not serve the reductionist representational understanding of herself, her agency is completely denied. The centre has already dehumanised her, and she is obliged to constantly respond to questions of, for example, where she is, why she is not present [in a public sphere or a debate], and when and where she will come to the fore. These questions are familiar to us – it is as if our brothers and fathers are everywhere! Is it not true then that, by asking these questions, the centre is trying to claim a superior identity and position? Such attention to the Baluch woman does not seek to understand the complications of her life or the challenges of her struggles. Rather, the centre treats her as a mirror to look into to understand itself. The Baluch woman is ‘that Other’ which the centre should not become; on the contrary, she should – while keeping her distance – become like the centre. 

Today, new forms of resistance are being cultivated amongst Baluch women and girls. They are creating graffiti, circulating protest videos, and slowly joining the protests. Nevertheless, a phenomenon that may not be particularly visible on social media platforms is the real resistance of Baluch women to the traditions of their patriarchal society. They are discarding the black chador, which has itself played a major role in invisiblising Baluch women’s existence in the previous decades. Their micro-resistances are ongoing, even in the most remote villages with no access to media. Baluch women, like women in other parts of the country, are struggling to reclaim the streets and their right to choose how to dress. The suppressive forces that have been reinforcing each other for years and fortifying undemocratic structures in society are being challenged by these women, which is a huge achievement. 

At the same time, the Baluch woman is reclaiming another site. She wants to speak up, but, in the representation of her image, she becomes the reflection which is directed at her. Any action or text from her side can be used against her. She must be constantly careful that talking about inequalities, challenges, and depredation does not cause them to be considered essential cultural features of the Sistan and Baluchistani society. Moreover, she must always reiterate that her omission from historical and political discourses does not indicate that she has remained silent. Although she has suddenly become the centre of attention, she was not born in the past two months; she has existed and resisted for years. 

The vast Sistan and Baluchistan Province is home to diverse ecosystems, cultures, and religions. Accordingly, there is a range of models of political resistance amongst its women (Baluch or otherwise). Failing to heed such multiplicity and history silences the voices of Baluch women and their lives and struggles. Enforcement of the black chador – and the complicated resistance to it – is only one of the many issues that affect the Baluch woman, which should be understood in direct relation to her life in that particular local geography.

The black chador, the Baluch woman, and media representation

Authors: @thevoicesofbaluchwomen, Dasgoharan

Translated into English by: Tanide 

Paintings by Nane Hassan (Monavar Ramezani)

Tanide’s introduction: The workers of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Industry Company are among a group of workers in the south of Iran who have held many demonstrations, marches, and strikes in protest against privatization and their unjust working and economic conditions. In all these years, the voices of working women in Haft Tapeh have been heard less, but at the beginning of the Jina uprising, Haft Tapeh women published a statement protesting against their chaotic economic, social, and political situation. In a simple, and eloquent language, they presented the policies of the Islamic Republic regime in the direction of suppressing workers, especially women workers, and demanded to change and disrupt the regulation of this regime. We hope that these working women’s brilliant statements and significant activities will continue. 

You can read their statement below:

​Greetings to female and male colleagues in HaftTapeh [sugarcane factory] and all the families in HaftTapeh and Shush and other cities of Khuzestan [province] and throughout the country. We wanted to break the silence, say a few words, and make a request. In Iran, from childhood, [the Islamic Republic of Iran] imposed gender conflicts on us, segregated schools, and did not let us look at social individuals as human beings; rather, we should have looked at them as the opposite sex, from whom we should be kept away.

​We started to have a mandatory hijab from the age of nine. They gave us programs like robots and we were forced to act on them. They took freedom from women and girls to remove their [social] awareness and their ability to raise enlightened children for society. At the workplace, we must stay away from our colleagues and they should stay away from us. They enforce our separation, occasionally restricting us from working: “That place is unsuitable for your work”. They have alienated colleagues from other colleagues.

​Why should I stare at my colleague with sexual intent? Why should my colleague look at me sexually? We are all human. Every person makes decisions about whom they want to live with or build relationships with. We do not need anybody to decide for us. We can protect ourselves and do not need them to “protect” and restrict us by their laws, norms, orders, and beliefs.

We can live and work together in the most humane ways without these laws and beliefs. You made society sick with your approach. If you have a sick and misogynistic approach to everyone, that is your problem. Go to another place and cure yourself, or at least do not dare to think that you can guide us to the correct pathway of life.

​As female workers, every day we understand more than yesterday what oppressions are forced upon us. We ask male colleagues who protest, those who have a humane perspective and want a humane society to be created for themselves, their sisters and mothers, wives and children —in which they all live in a humane, moral, healthy, and free manner — to support this nationwide movement for the human, social, and political rights that have been lost, as well as to fight all the poverty and misery and economic deprivation and exploitation that have been imposed on us. Let’s not be like potatoes and do something.

​How well did our dear fellow citizen, the Arab lioness in the video, say that these protests are not against hijab — they are against mandatory actions? They are against the mandatory removal of hijab from someone’s head and the mandatory hijab on someone else’s head. Don’t you have any problem with this oppression, the cruelty and calamities that happen to the people of Khuzestan, both men and women? I’m sure you have a problem.

​Published by HaftTapeh Workers Independent Channel.

Translated into English by Tanide 

Waving headscarves in the air in Aychi cemetery in Saqez, (Kurdistan, Iran), women and men chanted “women, life, freedom” to protest the death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini under police custody. This moment fueled what would become the “Woman, Life, Freedom uprising” in Iran, followed by waves of countrywide protests initiated by women activists inside Iran. Since then, Kurdistan has played a significant role in the continuation of the movement. The day before her funeral in Kurdistan, protesters gathered in front of Kasra Hospital-where Jina died-chanting, “From Kurdistan to Tehran, stop the oppression of women.” This slogan emerged eight days before the revolt broke out in Kurdistan, where people held rallies to protest the tragic death of Shler Rasouli, a 38-year-old working-class woman who had thrown herself off a two-story building hoping to evade a rapist, Goran Qassempour. At the time of the incident, Shler’s husband was in Iraqi Kurdistan trying to earn a living. Notably, the assailant, Goran Qassempour, escaped after hurting and harassing several other women on his escape route. Unconfirmed reports say Goran Qassempour is an Intelligence Ministry agent in Marivan.

While the conservatives absurdly admired her for committing suicide to protect her virtue, women’s rights activists held a rally in front of the city court on September 6, to protest misogynous laws and demand security for women. On September 8, thousands of protesters attended her funeral and marched in the streets of Mariwan and chanted, “No to femicide, yes to life,” “Patriarchy and capitalism are the perpetrators of this crime,” “We are all Shler,” and “We want justice for Shler.” The presence of women in this rally was impressive. The people of Mariwan also chanted in support of these women. After the march, the protesters read a statement calling for a more orchestrated struggle to uproot violence against women:

Egalitarian men and women’s statement:

Yesterday, an unfortunate and dramatic incident shook our society, tugging at equality advocates’ hearts. In this tragic incident, another woman was victimized. Women’s victimization is deeply rooted in capitalist laws, reactionary forces, and patriarchal traditions. In a society where women are treated as the second sex and often considered as the possession of men, women are constantly subjected to violence, assault, killing, or forced to commit suicide. Without a doubt, the perpetrators should be held accountable. However, dispensing justice to individual perpetrators cannot prevent the repetition of such crimes. The ruling class that dominates society and culture through its power and wealth should stop patronizing thugs. We want to live in a more accessible and equal society where every woman is able to exercise their freedom and where men and women can live together peacefully. Undoubtedly, building such a society necessitates women’s and men’ class consciousness. Promoting gender equality and ending class oppression—among other intertwined forms of aggression and violence–involves class struggle and collective solidarity.

Viva equality for men and women!

No to violence and oppression against women!

Women-right activists’ statement (Sanandaj/Sena)

On September 8, a group of women’s rights activists gathered in Sanandaj to protest the death of Shler Rasouli and the lack of security for women in society. Below is the statement read by activists in front of the city’s court:

What brings us here today and makes us act is perfectly clear: this is systematic violence against women. Unfortunately, not only is there no mechanism to stop those in power from committing violence, but in an unwritten agreement, violence against women is normalized and there are no serious consequences for this type of crime. While it seems ubiquitous, for too long has sexual harassment been overlooked. While condemning this heinous act, we women urge all the human rights activists in Iran and in the world to break their silence and take a step forward in this regard. We ask all the security and judicial authorities not to underestimate the suffering of women who have been raped and to provide a safe environment for society by enforcing strict laws and deterring crimes by increasing the perception that criminals will be caught and punished.

We are seeking justice for Shler and all the victims of violence, and we condemn these inhuman actions.

Mariwan’s civil organization statement

Civil organizations and civil society activists in Mariwan collectively issued a statement denouncing the ongoing violence against women and systemic patriarchy. The death of Shler Rasouli, a Kurdish woman who was a victim of patriarchal violence and crime, was heartbreaking and tragic for her family, relatives and all men and women seeking liberation. Such a horrible crime is intolerable to the women and people of Kurdistan. We, the civil organizations of Mariwan, would like to express our profound sympathy and condolences to the family of Shler Rasouli and all noblemen and women. We appreciate all of you people–freedom and justice-seeking women and men, organizations and civil society of Mariwan-for defending the rights of the women victims and expressing your condemnation of this evil crime. You have turned another page in the history of the struggles of the Kurdish people in Mariwan on September 8.

Clearly, Shler Rasouli, like thousands of oppressed women in our society, was victimized by the patriarchal law and culture of society before she was victimized by a sick man. Far more terrifying than this is the way gender discrimination and class oppression work in tandem to situate women in our society. Therefore, it demands that all equality advocates, while supporting the victim’s family and the victim community, direct criticism towards discriminatory laws, the lack of legal protection for women, and the patriarchal culture within society. 

It has been obvious to all the people in Mariwan for years that the fearless presence of patronizing thugs and crooks has become a social phenomenon.  Operating under the protection of officials and their networks, they continue their assault on our natural resources while brutally attacking teachers who gathered several times this year to defend their legal rights. Unfortunately, the low transparency, and inefficient administrative structures with a high level of political dependence, made it easier for them to continue their criminal acts and victimize people in Mariwan from time to time.

Undoubtedly, the glorious protest on September 8, 2022, along with supporting Shler Rasouli and women victims of rape and other victims of insecurity, has a strong message against the government’s failure in defending the legitimate rights of citizens. This unforgettable gathering is a stark warning of the growing presence of thugs and the absence of public security. Our historical mission–all justice-seeking and freedom-fighting organizations–is to make every effort to eliminate discrimination against women and end insecurity for women and all citizens.

Civil Organization in Marivan, September 8, 2022

Mariwan Association for Culture and Literature
Assembly for Science and Culture
Chya, The Green Organization, Mariwan
Vejin, Culture and Arts Institute
Rojiar, Association for Culture and Literature
Xianweh, People’s Association for Preventing Addiction
Jin, Health Organization
Mariwan Association for Performative Arts
Kurdistan stands up against gender-based violence

Retrieved from: Radiozamaneh
Translated into English by: Tanide