Not only Iran: Women’s Protest Index offers a glimpse into female demands
Kallipolis introduces the monthly Women’s Protest Index. Sadly, it seems timely, as Iranian women have taken to the streets all over the country to protest the decade-long excesses and abuses against women by the Islamist government that imposed restrictions based on shariah law following the 1979 revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
(Illustration: Courtesy of Sajjad Alip)
The Women’s Protest Index is based on a simple formula that factors in the scale of female-led protests relative to the coercion—restrictions to freedom of expression and suppression of other liberties—existing in the relevant countries, with the highest score indicating the relevance of the protest.
Even by their own grim standards, the clerical regime’s crackdown has been so violent and extreme that it suggests the government fears for its survival. The month-long protests in Iran began after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian who died in police custody after being detained for wearing her hijab, or veil, in an unbecoming manner. The repression unleashed by the regime has crossed several red lines even for the staunchest hardliners—the police have killed dozens of children, in addition to some 200 demonstrators—leading to believe that there are reasons to believe the government of the mullahs is living on borrowed time.
Women have taken centre stage in this time of trials and tribulations throughout the world. In Afghanistan, where women face far worse restrictions than those existing in Iran—where they are fully allowed to receive higher education and work, incredible as it sounds to acknowledge that as a mark of progress in the 21st century—Hazara women have challenged the oppressive Taliban rulers to protest persecution and a campaign of genocide against their ethnic group, which has faced consistent discrimination by the Pashtun majority.
Women all over Russia have also protested, sometimes defying police who fired shots in the air, against the draft of reservists for the invasion of Ukraine. Many of these women are from non-Russian ethnic groups in autonomous regions or republics, including Dagestan and Yakutsk.
How the index is calculated
The index follows the relative grading model, according to which all protests are measured against the most significant one according to the formula employed by Kallipolis. In this case, all demonstrations for the period between September 16th-October 15th are graded using Iran’s score as the baseline. No scientific accuracy is claimed or intended. The monthly index only purports to offer a general picture of women’s protests around the world.
To calculate the score, the index measures the number of protests multiplied by a coefficient that is directly proportional to the degree of coercion. Thus, the more repressive the regime, the higher the ‘coercion coefficient’. In this chart, the highest coercion coefficient is, of course, Afghanistan’s, which surpasses even that of Iran. This means that a bigger number of demonstrations in the United States or Switzerland, where barriers to freedom of expression are minimal or inexistent, will score much lower than much smaller and few protests by women in Afghanistan, where almost all their rights are curtailed by the Taliban government.
The month-long protests after the death of Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police are not showing signs of abating. Human rights groups have denounced that dozens of children have also died in the repression, which may compromise the existence of the regime if cracks within the religious establishment emerge.
Russian women have protested against the Ukraine war and the draft in Chechnya, Dagestan, and Yakutia, as well as major cities including Moscow and St. Petersburg. They have paid the price of their defiance: women made up 51 percent of 1,383 people arrested in the Sept. 21 anti-mobilisation protest and 71 percent of the 848 detained on Sept. 24, according to data from OVD-Info, a Russian group that monitors protests.
A suicide attack on September 30th on ethnic Hazara students at Kaaj Educational Center in Kabul has sparked protests by women and girls in provinces across Afghanistan. The attack occurred as female students sat for a practice university entrance exam, leaving 53 dead, most of them girls and young women, and 110 injured. The exam presented a rare window of hope for girls who had been forced out of school because of the Taliban’s ban on girls’ secondary education over a year ago.
Women in India will often take to the streets to protest everything from abuses and mistreatment and better working conditions to support political parties or causes. In Sangrur, Punjab, female farmers staged a protest over unequal treatment by the government. In Demow Chariali, Assam, women from different parts of the state protested the alleged assault of 10 young people by the police. In Uttarakhand, a Himalayan state, they gathered to demand justice after the murder of a woman, Ankita Bhandari. In the state of Manipur, the reason for their discontent was the lifting of restrictions on the sale of alcohol. In Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, Muslim women protested against the ban on the Popular Front of India, a political party. In Muppalla, Andhra Pradesh, women farmers held a protest over land disputes. In Rohaniya, Uttar Pradesh, women demanded the shutdown of liquor shops, complaining of the pernicious effects of drinking in private and public life. In Udaipur, Rajasthan, a large number of tribal women held a protest against a schoolteacher, who allegedly passed objectionable comments about the religious practices of the tribal women. In Hyderabad, Telangana, women launched a tattoo protest. Also in Telangana women got together to denounce the poor quality of sarees distributed by the government for a local flower festival, Bathukamma. They burned some of the sarees to show their discontent.
In Pakistan, a small group of women held a protest on October 4 against officials of the National Rural Support Programme for unpaid wages and unfulfilled promises.
Women with stands in a local marketplace in Alimosho, in the state of Lagos, Nigeria, held a protest over the bad condition of Iyana-Ipaja market road, where inescapable traffic jams expose motorists to thieves.
Hundreds of women protested femicide in Ecuador. The country, where according to an NGO more than 200 women have been murdered so far this year, was shocked by the death in police custody of María Belén Bernal, a 34-year-old lawyer.
Pregnant women protested in front of a hospital in Maracaibo to demand medical care. A community leader said three women lost their babies due to a lack of medical attention. Pregnant women are denied entry if they do not comply with a list of supplies for their deliveries.
Baringo North women protest the sale of illicit brew in their localities, leading men to abandon homes ‘and not perform their marital duties’. Said protester Magdalen Kipkichem: ‘Men have failed in their daily duties; they no longer provide to us like they used to… We cannot even sire children anymore’.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
In Chaguanas, the Women’s Arm of the United National Congress (UNC) staged a protest against the rising cost of living in Trinidad and Tobago.
Women groups in Mexico City protested on October 8th to maintain the Glorieta de las Mujeres que Luchan (Roundabout of the Women who Fight), which the government was seeking to dismantle. The women say it symbolizes their struggle against gender violence.
Kurdish women supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took to the streets of Beirut with portraits of their jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, during a protest against the death of Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish Iranian woman whose death unleashed the hijab protests in Iran.
Bolivian Women’s Day on October 11th was marked with a protest against femicide. ‘The 11th is not celebrated, it is fought’, was the slogan of the female protesters.
Women farm workers held a protest in the capital Tunis and called for support for their demands for better working conditions and the right to form trade unions.
Ahead of the upcoming midterm elections, the Women’s March held multiple rallies around the country to solidify support for women and pro-choice candidates, including Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Washington.
Hundreds protested in the Swiss capital Bern against a pension reform that raises the retirement age of women from 64 to 65, making it the same as for men.