The Jina uprising is a turning point in the history of the people’s political struggles after the 1979 revolution in Iran. The foreshocks of the Jina earthquake were uprisings such as December 2017-January 2018 protests against the government’s economic policies, “Girls of Enghelab Street” movement, November 2019 protests and July 2021 protests against the shortage of water in Khouzestan. When on September 16th 2022 Aichi cemetery of Saqqez in Kurdistan was shaken by the slogans “Jina, my dear, you will not die” and “Jin, Jian, Azadî”, it was already 44 years since slogans such as “bread, shelter, freedom” had been forgotten and replaced by “Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic”. The outcome of the latter was the firm establishment of all kinds of oppression and sexual-gender discrimination, national, religious and lingual discriminations and oppressions.
On this first anniversary of the Jina revolutionary movement it is of utmost urgency, even though totally heavy, to review what has happened. The Jina revolutionary movement is abundant in senses. It is a space between resistance and helplessness; from Jina’s picture on the hospital bed to the dance of headscarves in Aichi cemetery and the echo of “Jin, Jian, Azadî” to the outcry of “Jenin, Zand, Ajouie” – in the wake of the outbreak of the news of Mahoo Balouch being raped in Chabahaar (Balochistan), from the loneliness of the beheaded to the ceaseless outcry of justice seekers. Since the Jina uprising, we are not who we were before. This signifies a rupture with a past that is no longer normal in any sense, even though the regime ceaselessly implements all sorts of economic, political and unleashed violent means in order to oppress the movement. The regime constantly kills people, murders children, uses femicide, torture, rape, forced confessions and disappearances as tools of oppression; it uses various violent means such as mutilation, hostility against refugees and arresting women, queer persons and people with marginalized gender identities, environmental activists, students, activists from workers and students milieu, families of victims, while also expelling university professors and issuing long term prison sentences with heavy bails; it exiles activists and tightens the ropes of gender apartheid in order to revert everything to the dark years of 1980s. “Jin Jian Azadî” emerges from Kurdish resistance movements, spreading from Bakur to Rojava and from Saqqez to Rojahalat, began in Iran in September 2022. “Jin, Jian, Azadî” is still inscribed at the gates of this Revolution in becoming, even if the Iranian regime and other authorities are trying to confiscate the soul of this discourse from the multi-layered and differentiated society, which is on a unitary move.
The current statement is a collective endeavor by different feminist networks, collectives and groups in the diaspora, in collaboration with our comrades inside Iran, who try to reflect on the question facing the Jina revolutionary movement from a feminist perspective. Where do we stand now on the first anniversary of the Jina movement? What have we learned? What lies ahead of us?
Moreover, we would try to address questions such as the following: what is the significance of feminist reflection? In which sense and why do we argue for a feminist politics? Our struggle begins from daily life where real conflicts take place and which is represented as insignificant by the politics from above. Indeed Jina was murdered due to the interference of the regime in this very daily life. This is a space where our private sphere becomes political, and power relations, patriarchal and capitalist and Shiite relations of power and oppression are (re-)produced. This is also a space within which our daily routines are formed: issues such as what we wear, how we make love and who do we love, in which language we speak, which jobs we take and which jobs have a higher value, how do we render housewives work visible, how do we deal with costs of life and health care, who among us had the right to education and who doesn’t, who has the right to a national ID and who doesn’t, which deaths are to be lamented and mourned; all such daily routines are subjects for our feminist reflections. The feminist approach begins from these daily, banal evidences of life and from our political perspective.
What have we learned from the Jina Revolutionary Movement? Where are we standing now?
Reclaiming the notion of the revolution
The “woman, life, freedom” movement has revolutionized each and every one of us in one way or another. The Jina revolution is led by women and oppressed peoples who have reclaimed the sense and notion of revolution and have taken it back from the regime’s discourse. Now, the post-Jina society can imagine a future without the Islamic Republic. The oppression of women and other gender and sexual groups is at the heart of the political struggle. We have learned that we must fight for our right to our bodies, our lives and our destinies.
Following the Jina revolution, high-schoolers have learned to organize themselves, and the student movement has been revived. The youth and the adolescent play an original and key role in the movement. Now, at every moment and everywhere, one can witness resistance, solidarity and clever collaborations of the people that raise awareness about discrimination, violence and oppression and the necessity of the revolution.
Revolutionary movements could be identified on the basis of the ruptures they create with previous situations. The Jina revolution has created various ruptures in our conception of resistance and solidarity. Some of these ruptures go beyond previous situations and present us with new political horizons. Before the Jina revolution, there did not exist so much awareness about how the centre geopolitically, in terms of gender and sexuality and in terms of discrimination, oppresses the margin. On the one hand, the rupture made the divergence and variance of demands visible and on the other hand, it showed us the oppressed people’s power of leadership. Moreover, the rupture brought the LGBTQI+ issues and the queer and trans community’s issues to the centre of attention. The oppressed people of the margins are at the centre of the revolution. The success of the revolution depends on keeping these displacements in place. The “woman, life, freedom” movement has firmly resisted obligatory hijab and dressing codes, police violence, state femicide, and alienation of the Other within totalitarian regimes. In so doing, it has succeeded in creating conditions and possibilities for creating intra-movement connections. The latter has led to unprecedented achievements in organizing resistance movements.
Despite the inspiring nature of these ruptures, the situation is still precarious. In other words, imagining and delineating a democratic future is no less important than imagining a future without the Islamic Republic.
Yes to the Expansion of Connections, No to Uniform Resistance
The form of the struggle following the Jina revolutionary movement is an intersectional resistance of divergent groups that make the idea of the revolution possible. However, this does not amount to any unification or universalization of the various demands, needs and images of the future. It is in respecting differences and yet reinforcing our connections that we distinguish ourselves from centralized and fascistic discourses of “man, homeland, prosperity” and “all together” which are both characterized by their Shiite-Persian-masculine-patriarchal approaches. Even though the Jina movement enabled us to develop significantly towards creating bonds between various groups of people and feminist activists and justice seeker groups, the prevalent discrimination and centralized oppression could be reproduced and emerge from its ashes at any moment. The struggle has so many faces and we are only then on the path to success that all these faces shine through our movement. The Jina revolutionary movement showed us that freedom does not have one single path. There are many paths and they can be varied, they can be small or they can be big. If women, queer and trans people took off the hijab in the street, we should not forget that at home they also fought their patriarchal families. The Jina movement has made the intrinsic connection between struggle and daily life much more visible than ever and has reclaimed the sense of such a struggle, freeing it from scattered, individuated and lost forms of lifestyle.
Ruptures in predominant discourses and the establishment of new discourses are among the most significant achievements of the movement. This has led to the formation of committees, resistance groups and collectives of families pleading for justice. These groups address class, gender, national, religious and environmental issues on a par with anti-capitalist, anti-militarist struggles, taking firm constant steps towards the expansion of common struggles.
Justice, Feminist Care and Defending the Right to Life
Following the Jina revolutionary movement, justice and pleading for justice have acquired much broader and far-reaching meanings. Pleading for justice is a political movement represented by “Khavaran” Mothers who have pleaded for justice for their murdered children throughout the past four decades up until now. It is the movement of The Saturday Mothers in Turkey and Eastern Balochistan/Pakistani women on strike pleading for justice for 40 thousand disappeared Balochis. Now, pleading for justice is not only echoed in the voices of witnesses, survivors and families of the murdered but also it is an ongoing and continuous struggle based on deep solidarity against systematic discrimination. Mothers and families play a pivotal role in this movement. They underscore the fact that pleading for justice is indeed defending the right to life itself. Their approach should remind us of this undeniable truth that we are all vulnerable to oppression and not only those of us who are in prison or have been killed. It should remind us of the fact that caring for life – or taking care of life – is not an individual task but a collective act. Women and especially mothers pleading for justice, are the pioneers of such a collective attitude in the Jina revolutionary movement. This is an achievement that we should safeguard.
The Future of the Jina Revolutionary Movement
The future of “Jin, Jian, Azadî” movement is not separated from its present. In Iran, we witness a shared solidarity in struggling against discrimination and injustice, not only among women and girls but also among many different groups of people. Fighting against mandatory hijab is no longer a merely juridical issue but a collective resistance against systematic discriminations. Our collective resistance manifests itself in our solidarity movement and constantly transforms and affects unequal cultural and social relations. Political struggles also emerge from such transformations and join forces with one another. The Jina revolutionary movement has shown us that there is no hierarchy of priorities. There is no queue or hierarchy. A future without the Islamic Republic means building a diverse and pluralistic society right now and from this very moment at the heart of this very daily life. As a result, having a deep understanding of our current situation, our present challenges, problems and necessities will help us to expand our feminist approach and have a sharper feminist grasp.
Preservation of Achievements and Accomplishments
“Jin, Jian, Azadî” means liberating ourselves from all types of authoritarian approaches in all patriarchal and capitalist systems. Therefore, it is absolutely crucial to conceptualize its liberating approach and spread its liberating spirit. Despite numerous texts composed about the history, context and meaning of the slogan “woman, life, freedom”, so far there has not yet been any structural and systematic effort towards its development and expansion as a feminist praxis and program. However, on the other side of the story, the media of the regime and the radical monarchists, along with supporters of Velayat-i-Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), are ceaselessly trying to confiscate the slogan and empty it of its spirit. “Jin, Jian, Azadî”, has various significations, and in the current political and historical intersection, it has different significations for different groups. For some groups, it means freedom in choosing their lifestyle, for others, it means fighting for the mere possibility and right to life; and yet for others, it means the liberation of the land. The point here is not reaching one unified definition; rather it is about acknowledging how members of a pluralistic and divergent society identify themselves with the liberating, justice-oriented and equality-centered approach of this feminist slogan.
Our experience of the Jina Movement in the past year has shown us that even though the struggles have been far-reaching, it is extremely difficult to fight against a regime who sees its only way of survival in relentless oppression and violence. This oppression is both aimed at the regime’s survival and at killing all hope in the hearts of the political activists. Despite a dramatic fall in the number of its supporters, the Islamic regime of Iran does not refrain from killing in order to survive. It is taking its revenge from the margins. Military threats, political-economic contracts and changing its regional policies are all aimed at this survival. Let us remember that the Jina revolution began from the margins that are harshly oppressed and discriminated against and were yet invisible. Now, these margins are not only oppressed by the regime, but also the centre-oriented opposition groups threaten it. Consequently, despite the fact that we believe in the eventual defeat and collapse of the Islamic Republic, the difficult question which lies ahead of us is how to eradicate the Islamic Republic. Our experience with the Jina revolutionary movement but also our historical experiences show us that even if the regime manages to silence the movement, it cannot hinder its creative organizational capacities. It is exactly such self-organization that bothers the regime. And yet, one of the fundamental challenges facing us, the activists of the diaspora, is how to support the struggles inside Iran. It is of utmost importance to use feminist interventions, actions and politics of care in order to echo the struggles happening inside Iran and to expand the achievements of “Jin, Jian, Azadî”. Feminist politics and its liberating capacities should be practiced in daily life, a life which is constantly in danger of harassment. We need to pursue these politics with the maximum solidarity and in all aspects of life and the movement.
Raising Awareness and Staying Creative
The “Jin, Jian, Azadî” movement has taught many lessons to its participants and its observers alike. One of these lessons is that it is possible to imagine a democratic and free future through reflective acts of issuing statements, manifestos and other collective productions based on an understanding of our diversities and differences and yet our shared ground which is the radical sense of “woman, life, freedom”. Contrary to this approach, in the past year we have also witnessed a counter-revolutionary movement by a dogmatic group called “Saving Iran” that calls for a hasty and rapid revolution in order to replace the IR with a monarchy or a military regime; a movement which led to the disappointment of many of the diaspora. Now, our aim should be leaving the burnt ground of disappointment and hopelessness. We should continue the struggles of our comrades in Iran and we should go back again to manifestos and statements by various resistance groups – statements that emerge from collective collaboration and exchange – in order to once again underpin our convergences and reflect on our divergences. All these should be led by the central idea of “Jin, Jian, Azadî”. In the face of these disappointments, hopelessness and challenges that lie ahead, we should stay sharply awake. We should have a precise analysis and understanding of the colonialism and exploitative approach which lies at the origin of all oppressive, patriarchal and dogmatic forces in our world today.
Workers strikes and protests have been the heartbeat of the resistance in various regions of Iran. Even though the “woman, life, freedom” movement was accompanied with the individual participation of many workers, nurses, teachers and pensioners and led to their killing or imprisonment, it did not lead to a unified organization of all workers unions. One of the main challenges faced by the “Jin, Jian, Azadî” movement lies in building bridges between this movement and the economic demands of workers and the activation of feminist circles within the workers milieu. Various workers and women organizations issued statements on the anniversary of the Jina revolutionary movement, which already signifies their strong bond. Another major step was taken by the call of political parties of Eastern Kurdistan for a major region-wide strike on the 16th of September in memory of the Jina revolution. Kurdistan is and has been a historical example and a pioneer of class, political and social struggles and resistance. It is time for the achievements of the margin to become our practice guide.
A Future of Freedom for All
We fight for freedom and equality for all. Our stand against any form of alienation of the Other based on gender, sexuality, class, religion, nationality or race. Feminist politics does not only address women, queers and trans people, it seeks liberation and freedom for all the oppressed. Our fates and futures are interwoven in what happens to us in Iran or any other place in the world. Those boundaries that separate nation-states are meaningless. They only expand racism and hostility towards the Other. What is happening to Afghan refugees and immigrants in Iran, and what is happening to women inside Afghanistan is not separated from the struggles and issues of other oppressed nations and the Iranian women. It is here that one can clearly see the significance of intersectional and transnational feminism. From a feminist perspective, environmental crises and the situation of oppressed peoples around the world are direct outcomes of colonial, capitalist and misogynist regimes. The outcomes of such regimes’ policies are nothing but poverty and homelessness for these people. Implementing and promoting feminist politics and moving from bottom to top with a solid political action plan is absolutely necessary. Each geography and each period of time defends the liberating goals of “woman, life, freedom” in its own particular way. The actualization of these goals calls for an ever-deepening solidarity and organized promotion of our links towards collective action. It means creating potential for the realization of an alternative perspective in the liberating struggles in Iran, in the Middle East and in the Global South.
Liberation is no longer a dream, it is a necessity
Jin, Jian, Azadî
Woman, Life, Freedom
Liberation is our right/Jina is the symbol of our fight
Iranian Circle of Women for International Networking (ICWIN), Iranian Women in Networking (IWIN), Together 4 Women’s Health, Zanan Group in Northern California, IKRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women Rights Organization), Tanideh Collective, The Circle of Iranian Woman for International Collaboration (California), Roja Collective Paris, Women’s Liberation Organization, Red Roots Collective (Manchester), Woman*, Life, Freedom (Belgium), Woman, Life, Freedom (Rome), Woman*, Life, Freedom (Hamburg), Jin, Jian Azadi-NRW, Activist Iranian Women in Exile (Berlin), The Dallas Society of Iranian Women, Jina Collective (Netherlands), Feminists4Jina Network