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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


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