Iran: freedom under the veil

(To Gino Lanzara)

The last remnant that has just begun of 2022 is proposing a series of events that find it difficult to place in a context that, historically and according to reason, should have presented itself in a different way. If in Holy Russia Patriarch Kirill intercedes for the remission of sins and the Kingdom of Heaven for the Russian conscripts, leaving the eternal anarchy of the damned to the unrepentant Ukrainians, in Iran the protests caused by the violent repression carried out by the moral police, responsible for the murder of a XNUMX-year-old Kurdish girl, found guilty of being one badhejabi, or not to wear the veil in an orthodox way, a piece of clothing imposed by law in the early 80s.

According to journalist Asieh Amini, the problem lies simply in the fact that women can be whipped or imprisoned for just defying Islamic dress codes. Moreover, many Iranian women have been victims of the religious police careful to apply the rules in force both to residents of Iran and to foreigners, and to highlight a gender discrimination that has found little attention in a West usually aware of the me too.

The Persian socio-political iceberg reaches abysmal depths and chance hijab, a garment institutionalized by Morteza Motahari, whose statue, not surprisingly, was set on fire in recent days, is the smallest part that has emerged.

Iranian Chronicles of the Last Weeks. While Tehran deploys its troops on the Azerbaijani borders, Mahsa Amini dies after being arrested and beaten by moral guards1. Nothing persuades Iranian Kurdistan to desist from an angry reaction2: while riots break out in at least 130 urban centers, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, apparently ill, burns in effigy. Even in Erbil, the Kurdish capital of Iraq, women took to the streets to denounce the Iranian repression, while the Revolutionary Guards attacked the positions of Komalaha Barbzin3 in Iraqi Kurdistan near Iran.

Just to increase the sense of the grotesque, recalling the well-known requests for cannons instead of butter, the state broadcasters have reported images of counter-demonstrations spintaneous where, between a thanks thanks thanks to the regime and an inevitable death to America, the availability to Jihad. Too bad that one of the videos broadcast showed the banners of a demonstration from several years ago.

As the fire of the revolt blazes, Artish (Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran, ed.) Makes it known that it will defend the state from anyone enemy intends to tear it down; a message that accords with the request for an iron fist against the demonstrators by the head of the judiciary, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei.

It is the first time that the Islamic regime has witnessed such a vast insurrection, whose eruption in the moment of maximum Russian instability cannot be fortuitous: Armenia is in Azerbaijani check, Central Asia of the stan doubts the actual geopolitical capacity of the Kremlin; everything suggests profound political upheavals in Moscow.

But who is in charge in Iran? Who holds control of a political system as complex as the Persian one based on the velayat-e-faqih, il government religious tourism of jurisconsult formulated by Khomeini?

Time has made possible the sedimentation of different realities: the coexistence of democratic and elective realities with the doctrinal and religious authoritarianism of the Ayatollahs; the consolidation of the power of Pasdaranqualified by the US as a terrorist organization and made even more powerful by Khamenei, capable of controlling a vast multi-billion dollar economic empire and protagonists of military activities across the border thanks to the funding of proxies such as Lebanese Hezbollah or Yemeni Houthis; the persistence of each individual over time fatwa decreed, as evidenced by the recent attack on the writer Rushdie: in fact, the Supreme Guide allowed the institutional architecture to make mutual support between the guild religious and its armed wing. However, it would be appropriate to ascertain, given the time that has elapsed, how much of the original pasdaran doctrinal essence has actually remained in symbiosis with the clergy.

If on the one hand the zeros increase, on the other hand the patriotic ardor decreases: every year at least 150.000 cultured Iranians abandon a motionless and folded country, young people desert the mosques; religion rigidly imposes its dogmas on a naturally open and well-versed society for a diversification that is currently impossible. Iran occupies a strategic position between the Middle East and Central and Eastern Asia; if equipped with suitable infrastructures it could turn into a valuable commercial hub; but what would happen if the power of the Ayatollahs failed? In the light of a regime change, the economy should be supported by lifting sanctions and, above all, by intervening on forms of management4 bankruptcies which are the triggering cause of the frequent transversal protests in a country hit by high inflation and water scarcity, elements that testify to an unstable socio-economic situation and a harbinger of further protests and consequent repressions.

Meanwhile, 3 aspects inherent in international relations have affected Iran's foreign agenda: the protracted negotiations for the JCPOA with a slow walking conditioned by the Iranian expectation that aims to slow down the IAEA investigations, as well as by the elections of midterm that favor the times of enrichment of uranium for military use5 and fuel legitimate Israeli concerns; relations with the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council; the Ukrainian invasion, which seems to have relaunched relations with Moscow, alternating them - medically - with relations with China, whose energy needs have brought to attention the possibility that Tehran, in possession of enormous stocks of gas and oil, could constitute an alternative to Russian resources. These hypotheses are politically and technically impracticable in the short term given the limitations of Iranian production capacity, penalized by a lack of investment and with crumbling infrastructures not able to supply even the internal needs of a country where, however, the control of information is so widespread. to be limited, as already happened in 2019 for the protests against the paradox expensive fuel, access to the most popular social networks, a decision that led the US Treasury Department to issue a license aimed at ensuring internet services in Iran without incurring penalties6.

Ma the series of unfortunate events for the Iranian establishment it did not stop there: the protests were contemporary in the presence of President Raisi7 to the United Nations where, excusatio not petita, considered it appropriate to accuse the West of adopting double standards on rights, especially with regard to women, a concept that he evidently felt he had to reiterate by refusing to give an interview already agreed with CNN, because the journalist Christiane Amanpour did not wear the veil. It is true that the Iranian theocratic regime with Western journalists and the veil has a difficult relationship; suffice it to recall what happened in 1978 between Ayatollah Khomeini and Oriana Fallaci, when the journalist of the Corriere della Sera, at the end of a pressing interview, took off immediately this stupid medieval rag8, anticipating his theory ofIslamofascism then enunciated after 11 September it Anger and Pride. Chronicles that today make us reflect in the face of statues covered so as not to offend a theocratic and anachronistic sense of modesty, or veils worn (badly, however, and punishable in Iran) after more than 40 years from the revolution ridden by Khomeini.

The key point, now, is to understand whether the ongoing protests will be able to overthrow a consolidated regime that is resistant to openings, to be considered in the light of the existence of the last presidential elections that have brought conservatism back to full power in a country that has not lost its inherent imperial sense, even in the face of the fact that only just over 50% of the population is of Persian ethnicity9.

But the warm pad the temporary reduction of the police presence in the streets to bring a fragmented and tired society back to calm? Difficult, especially in light of the Soleimani dispute which, despite the killing in January 2020 of the Ukrainian 737 and the death of the 176 on board, even with the compensations attacks on the American bases in Syria and Iraq, not least the one against the base of al Tanf, even with the attempted elimination of the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al Kadhimi, even with the attacks conducted on Israeli ships or property, does not find any kind of court policy.

The iceberg therefore goes, and as already said, in depth and touches on structural political and economic aspects that are difficult to reduce to the not very substantial dispute over a garment that in its silky intangibility had the merit of exposing the pathological fear of a theocratically distant from social issues.

And the West? In disorderly scattered order. Suffice it to recall the secular, secular and non-denominational stances of Paris which does not admit cracks in national cohesion, some generic stances in Belgium, Holland and Italy, the latter with the distinctions mentioned above and reminiscent of the touches of Daniele da Volterra known as the Braghettone, up to the EU which first publishes and then removes a video showing absolutely smiling women with and without a veil.

If, as Brussels says, beauty is in diversity as freedom is in hijab, it would be interesting to remember that the veil is not free but imposed, or to hear about some Iranian woman currently in the square, or perhaps some European protocol representative still in search of the elusive chair destined for the president of the European Commission in Ankara.

Conclusions. Middle Eastern protest movements rarely have a happy ending; even the killing of an autocrat hardly puts an end to absolutism. The deep state more conservative based on clergy, military and paramilitaries remains strong and rooted. In the face of some cosmetic adjustments on an economic level, Khomeinism will persist, as happened in Egypt with the post Mubarak.

However, there remains a doubt, the only one, based on the permanence of a revolution that has lost its driving force and with the revolutionaries of yesteryear become chaste; it is not surprising if Khamenei's successor could be his son Mojtaba, ready at the age of 53 for the investiture in Ayatollah as indicated by many and as already happened in his time with his father. Beyond dynastic and institutional considerations, as already highlighted, this would lead to a further autocratization with the definitive consecration of Pasdaran at the center of political power.

Honor therefore to the immeasurable courage, for many Westerners unprecedented, of Iranian women; but be careful to remember that the Iranian malaise cannot be limited tohijab, it is something worse and deeper.

1 The religious police are also present in Saudi Arabia, where however powers and prerogatives have been revised. The record of beheadings (120) is in the last semester of this year

2 During the funeral, many women protested against the regime by removing their veils, others publicly cut their hair and many sang Jin Jiyan Azadi in Kurmanci, Kurdish dialect.

3 Kurdish armed group

4 Oil reserves make up 10% of world reserves and gas reserves about 15%. Iran is among the top 10 countries in the world for iron ore, copper, zinc and gold

5 Iran continues to accelerate the program, including enriching uranium using cascades of advanced centrifuges

6 Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has also received permission from the US government to activate the Starlink satellite Internet service to restore communications networks in Iran.

7 The President is to the attention of Amnesty International for events that occurred in the Evin and Gohardasht prisons, near Tehran, in 1988, and for the repression carried out for the national protests of November 2019 ".

8 the chador imposed her

9 In addition to the Persians we find 20% of Azeris of Turkmen ethnicity and then the Kurds, notoriously discriminated against even in Turkey

Photo: web / France24