Chomsky: US Sanctions on Iran Don’t Support the Protests, They Deepen Suffering

Noam Chomsky Interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou

November 23, 2022. Truthout

Protests have been raging in Iran since mid-September in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman who died in a hospital in Tehran after being arrested a few days earlier by Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaching the Islamic theocratic regime’s dress code for women. Protesters are widely describing her death as murder perpetrated by the police (the suspicion is that she died from blows to the body), but Iran’s Forensic Organization has denied that account in an official medical report.

Since September, the protests — led by women of all ages in defiance not only of the mandatory dress codes but also against gender violence and state violence of all kinds — have spread to at least 50 cities and towns. Just this week, prominent actors and sports teams have joined the burgeoning protest movement, which is reaching into all sectors of Iranian society.

Women in Iran have a long history of fighting for their rights. They were at the forefront of the 1979 revolution that led to the fall of the Pahlavi regime, though they enjoyed far more liberties under the Shah than they would after the Ayatollah Khomeini took over. As part of Khomeini’s mission to establish an Islamic theocracy, it was decreed immediately after the new regime was put in place that women were henceforth mandated to wear the veil in government offices. Iranian women organized massive demonstrations when they heard that the new government would enforce mandatory veiling. But the theocratic regime that replaced the Shah was determined to quash women’s autonomy. “In 1983, Parliament decided that women who do not cover their hair in public will be punished with 74 lashes,” the media outlet Deutsche Welle reports. “Since 1995, unveiled women can also be imprisoned for up to 60 days.”

But today’s protests are a display of opposition not just to certain laws but to the entire theocratic system in Iran: As Frieda Afary reported for Truthout, protesters have chanted that they want “neither monarchy, nor clergy.” And as Sima Shakhsari writes, the protests are also about domestic economic policies whose effects have been compounded by U.S. sanctions.

The protests have engulfed much of the country and are now supported by workers across industries, professionals like doctors and lawyers, artists and shopkeepers. In response, the regime is intensifying its violent crackdown on protesters and scores of artists, filmmakers and journalists have been arrested or banned from work over their support for the anti-government protests.