A young woman’s death in police custody for not complying with Iran’s strict dress code has sparked mass protest in that country and worldwide condemnation of the Iranian government. Yet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., known as “the squad,” have remained unusually quiet. What happened to these self-proclaimed defenders of women’s rights and warriors against patriarchy?
Mahsa Amini, a beautiful 22-year-old Iranian woman, died on Sept. 16 in Tehran after the so-called “morality police” arrested and beat her for the crime of “unsuitable attire” — she allegedly had some hair visible under her headscarf. Since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the Iranian government has mandated that women cover their hair with hijabs and wear loose-fitting clothes in public. Those who fail to comply have been treated like criminals and often faced severe punishment.
Masih Alinejad, a U.S.-based Iranian activist, tweeted, “only in one year, the morality police arrested 3.6 million women in Iran.” While it is difficult to independently verify the exact number of Iranian women arrested by the morality police, what is evident is that the Iranian government has intensified its oppression of women. Last month, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi imposed even more restrictions on Iranian women, including using “surveillance cameras to monitor and fine unveiled women or refer them for ‘counseling,’ and a mandatory prison sentence for any Iranian who questioned or posted content against the hijab rules online,” the BBC reported.
The Iranian regime did not expect its medieval dress code and heavy-handed enforcement would be so unpopular with Iranians. Amini’s death has become the canary in the coal mine and sparked nationwide mass protests. Many Iranian women demonstrated their solidarity with Amini by posting images of cutting their own hair and burning their hijabs, and many Iranian men joined their resistance. Some protesters chanted “death to the dictator.”
The Iranian government responded with an iron fist. At least 57 protesters were killed, according to The Iran Human Rights Organization. Alinejad said in a Twitter thread that some victims were young women like Amini. Many protesters were also reportedly either injured or arrested by the government. The Iranian government shut down the nation’s Internet service to cover up the truth of the protests and its own brutality. The last time Tehran cut off the Internet was in November 2019, when Iranians protested against the country’s failing economy. Then, the Iranian government’s lethal crackdown left at least 304 people dead, Amnesty International said.
The Biden Administration’s Empty Gestures
The Iranian government is facing international condemnation over Amini’s death and the government’s brutal response to protesters. The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police, and the U.S. Treasury also imposed sanctions on several high-level Iranian military and security officials. But these actions seem like empty gestures for two reasons. First, the Biden administration wouldn’t deny Iranian President Raisi’s entry to the United States to attend the United Nations meeting in New York City, despite a request by a bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers. Raisi took advantage of his U.N. speech to shamefully proclaim that the Iranian government always fights against injustice.
Second, the Biden administration continues its nuclear negotiations with Iran. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan claimed, “The fact that we are in negotiations with Iran on its nuclear program is in no way impacting our willingness and our vehemence in speaking out about what is happening on the streets of Iran.” Unfortunately, few see it that way.
By being unwilling to walk away from negotiating with Tehran, the Biden administration has already lost its credibility and the moral high ground. Why should Tehran change its behaviors when the Biden administration is so desperate to reach a deal? The sanctions relief provided by the Biden administration as part of the nuclear agreement will likely sustain the current Iranian regime, giving it even greater ability to suppress the human rights of Iranianians, fund regional terror groups, and endanger Americans abroad. Most importantly, many predict the nuclear deal will not stop Iran from building nuclear weapons.
Some Women Take a Stand, Some Are Silent
During his stay in New York City, Iran’s president Raisi was scheduled to have a sit-down interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. According to Amanpour’s Twitter thread, Raisi’s aide demanded Amanpour wear a hijab during the interview. Amanpour said she declined the request and walked away because “We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves.” Amanpour won wide praise for taking a stand. But the four “squad” congresswomen have been noticeably silent about Amini’s death, the government’s compulsory law on hijabs, and women’s rights in Iran.
These four congresswomen have branded themselves as defenders of women’s rights. They pretended to be arrested in July at a rally protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. Despite their professional success, which resembles some of the best examples of the American Dream, the squad never hesitates to criticize the United States and cast it and people who disagree with them politically in the worst light possible.
Omar’s Vile Words
Last year, Omar compared the United States and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban by claiming, “We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.”
Yet, Omar has remained silent over Iran’s human rights abuses. Instead, she focuses her criticism on Alinejad. In 2020, Alinejad tweeted, “Ilhan Omar shared a defamatory article about me on social media by a Koch-Brothers funded ‘think tank’ co-founded by a known sympathizer of the Iranian regime.” Last year, after Alinejad penned an article opposing Omar’s anti-Islamophobia bill, political consultant Tim Mynett, Omar’s husband, tweeted of Masih, “this lady … doesn’t like Muslims.” Are either of them aware that Masih Alinejad survived several likely assassination attempts by the Iranian government because of her activism and outspokenness?
It seems that the four progressive congresswomen are only vocal about defending women’s rights and social justice when they get to criticize the United States and when their activism is politically beneficial (Ocasio-Cortez started fundraising immediately after posting her fake handcuffing video). They are known to be sympathetic to foreign authoritarian regimes and dictators, and somehow they always find a way to blame the United States for miseries in other nations caused by their dictatorial governments. For example, when asked about Venezuela’s economic hardship and social unrest, Ocasio-Cortez condemned the United States rather than Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro. So did Omar.
So we shouldn’t be surprised that we haven’t heard any of these four progressive congresswomen condemning the Iranian regime’s gross violation of women’s rights. Next time, when any of these four slams the U.S. as the worst country for women and says American women live like handmaidens, will someone in the press please ask if the congresswoman will say Mahsa Amini’s name?