Iranian women face daily threats of violence. More than 50 girls schools across Iran have suffered from apparent poisonings.Just last week, Iran put on trial the brave female reporters who visited Mahsa Amini in prison and told the whole world what the regime had done to her.
But where are the voices of the feminists in the West? Where are the cries of the champions of human rights? Where are the women’s rights advocates calling for justice for Iranian women? Where are all the media headlines giving them the attention they deserve? Where are our leaders around the world drawing their red lines?
Do Iranian women deserve equal justice as much as anyone else? Rarely have we seen such desperate bravery, and rarely have we seen such global indifference. The hallmark of this era may very well be the absence of outrage when women are repeatedly abused by societal power structures.
As a human rights leader, I have watched human rights movements emerge for decades. I’ve witnessed many horrors. But rarely have I been as disheartened as I am watching the global indifference to the plight of the women and girls of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Their plight matters as much to me as women who are repeatedly sexually harassed and abused in my homeland here in India.
Shame on the leaders in Washington who profess their concern for Iran’s long-suffering people but seem to be on the path again, as in 2009, of ultimately abandoning them to their abusers. For those who struggle for justice and human rights, the United States is increasingly being found an unreliable ally.
I am even more disheartened by the silence of Muslim leaders outside of Iran.
The reality is that Islam, like all other religions, must contend with modern times and the unstoppable human quest for fundamental rights and human dignity. With global communications, increased education, and the freedom to engage on a global scale, citizens cannot be kept in the dark about what happens in other parts of the world. In a world where everyone knows everything that’s going on, it means that religious leaders must face their own reckoning, which will come sooner than expected when they fail to bring reformation in their own culture.
Muslim leaders worldwide must speak up.
That’s because these issues are religious as well. Nowhere in the world’s major religions, including Islam, is the quest for fundamental rights and freedom left to God alone, and in no religion are such expressions for fundamental human rights viewed as acts against God. In fact, it is an affront against God to subjugate or deny women their freedoms. It is a crime against religion.
Women in the West have rightly asserted their own dignity and rights for decades. Can those same women not raise their voices louder in support of Iranian women and their quest for the same rights and dignity?
They must forcefully call on their governments not only to speak up but to take action on behalf of Iranian women. Tweets are not enough. They don’t create justice, tolerance, harmony, and human rights.
Ultimately, we must take hope in the human spirit. Human dignity can never be suppressed indefinitely. One way or another, the Iranian regime as it is currently constituted will fail unless there is reform.
When it does, it will be women who played a crucial role in their liberation. Those women should not feel alone. To the extent they wish to be consistent with their own values, and the judgment of history, women in the West must stand by their Iranian peers in their quest for justice.
Archbishop Joseph D’Souza is an internationally renowned human and civil rights activist. He is the founder of Dignity Freedom Network, the archbishop of the Anglican Good Shepherd Church of India, and the president of the All India Christian Council.