May Hijab Protests in Iran Spark another Arab Spring?
Thousands of Iranian women have taken to the streets in their country and have shaken the Ayatollahs' regime. Can this spread throughout the Muslim world and create another Arab Spring?
LatinAmerican Post | Santiago Gómez Hernández
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Leer en español: ¿Protestas por el hiyab en Irán pueden despertar otra primavera árabe?
For several weeks now, the world's major media outlets and social networks have been filled with women in the streets of Iran protesting against Ayatollah Khomeini's regime. Likewise, thousands of images of women in the rest of the world cutting their hair in solidarity have been disseminated. Regardless of whether the forms of solidarity in networks are sincere or a simple way to attract the attention of other women from different parts of the world, the question now is: Can what happens in the Persian country spread to other regions?
To answer, we must first make it clear that more than a new Arab spring, this would be more of a Muslim spring. First, because Iran, being a country located in the Middle East, is not Arab. The Iranians are Persians, they do not speak Arabic but Farsi and are Shia Muslims by religion. These variations with respect to the rest of the Middle East, which is predominantly Arab, are important when it comes to finding the differences between Iran and the rest of its neighbors. But in addition, these demonstrations that Tehran is experiencing today can be replicated in other Muslim countries, neighbors of Iran and that are not mainly Arab.
Can the Protests Against the Repression Against Women Spread?
The simple answer is: yes, maybe not in the same proportions and with different results. In the hyperconnected world we live in, it is easy for social struggles to spread beyond flags, borders, and languages. We saw it in 2010-2012 during the Arab spring, where local protests in Tunisia spread to almost 20 countries, with different nuances and consequences. From the fall of 4 rulers (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen) to small localized protests in other countries.
We also saw this event a couple of years ago in Latin America, when various protests against national governments triggered various social outbreaks in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, and even Cuba.
According to The Conversartion, currently, social media users in Iraq have closely followed the demonstrations in Iran. Iraqi women have shown solidarity with their Iranian counterparts. Despite the fact that today in Iraq, in theory, the mandatory use of any veil or hair covering for women is limited to cities considered sacred, feminist movements do not want to leave the legal ambiguity to the interpretation of the most conservative sectors.
Additionally, despite the fact that the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the moral police for not wearing the veil properly is the trigger for the events in Tehran, women in Iran are protesting for greater rights and freedoms. Likewise, due to a change in several misogynistic laws and in a social change that can be seen replicated in other countries.
You may also be interested in: Why Are the Women Protesting In Iran?
The historical relationship between Iran and Afghanistan is extensively detailed. The Persian country has been a friend, collaborator, and cradle of much of the Afghan culture. Dari, one of the official languages in Afghanistan (along with Pashto) is similar to Persian.
Although the vast majority of Muslims in Afghanistan practice the Sunni branch of Islam (in Iran it is Shiite), there is a sizeable group of Shiites in the country. Today's protests in Iran, led by women, may even be a consequence of the consecutive protests by women in Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power and pulled out US troops.
According to La Vanguardia, the marches in Kabul (the Afghan capital) carry the slogan “From Kabul to Iran, say no to the dictatorship!” . This already demonstrates a connection between these protesters that can be clear evidence that if progress is made in a dictatorship as restrictive as the Iranian one, the feminist movement can reach other countries in the Muslim world.
Although the wearing of the burka or hijab for women is mandated by law only in Iran, it is quite possible that feminist protests in Iran will be replicated in other Muslim countries. Beyond the Arab world, a change in the dictatorial theocracy in Iran could have repercussions throughout the Central Asian region and beyond.
At the same time, women continue to recover ground in the Arab world. An example of this is the return of women to the Kuwaiti parliament, which since 2020 had lost any female representation. In the last elections, Jenan Bushehri and Alia al-Khaled were elected and represent a voice for women in the country to the south of Iraq.