Why You Should Care About Iran
After a loose lock of hair fell into Mahsa Amini’s face, the Iranian morality police detained the young woman for a dress code violation. She would never be released from custody. Officials claim that the healthy twenty-two-year-old woman died from a heart attack and a subsequent coma, but Amini’s family is skeptical. Amini died while at one of Iran’s reeducation centers, which are known for using physical and psychological torture, according to Dr. Sara Hassani of the Providence College Women’s and Gender Studies Department.
With women taking to the street in the form of protests, they risk facing the same abuse that resulted in Amini’s death. Iranians are removing their hijabs and chopping off their hair. Young girls are yelling at school administrators. Even peaceful protest is met with deadly violence from the Iranian regime.
However, serious misconceptions exist about Iranian women. Dr. Hassani notes that the government still allows women to receive an adequate education, with women outpacing men in many higher education fields. Iranian women are not simply housewives, mothers, and daughters. Despite this, the government irrationally regulates their social norms.
Recently, the Iranian government has severely restricted Internet access within the nation in an attempt to suppress protests. Despite this, photographs and videos are still circulating on social media.
Given the complex gender relations, Iran has given women the tools to speak out against the misogynistic prejudices they face. Women across Iran are calling for change, even if they might die for the cause.
These compromises were not without protest from the theocratic parties. There have been attempts to eliminate the few rights Iranian women have left.
Why is this acceptable to the international community?
Unfortunately, foreign intervention within Iranian domestic politics eventually led to the current oppressive Iranian regime. Both the United States and the United Kingdom helped to decrease the Iranian Parliament’s influence within Iran in 1953 when the nations ousted a democratically elected Prime Minister. The new Iranian monarchy created the secret police system within Iran, which has continued through the 1979 Iranian Revolution into modern times.
The United States and other world powers need to adopt new policies that emphasize human rights protection and economic self-sufficiency for all instead of national interests. Furthermore, the international community is in part to blame for the human rights catastrophe in Iran, even if their actions did not have these intended consequences. Now, nations must apply this reasoning to future cases that arise to prevent more attacks on minority groups. Regime change is not an effective American foreign policy initiative. Therefore, the United States must shift its focus towards preserving human rights, promoting economic prosperity, and forming alliances with governments that uphold the will of the people.
Even though women actively participated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the outcomes for gender reform were less than ideal. In fact, women were crucial to the movement’s success. Once political groups competed for power, the theocratic and clerical parties emerged dominant. In fact, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is inspired by the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Many of the social restrictions Atwood emphasizes in her novel are like conditions for Iranian women: extreme dress codes, strict policing, and no tolerance for dissent. While Atwood’s novel is not an exact historical account, it does provide a point of reference for Americans.
Potentially the most chilling aspect of Atwood’s novel is that it conceptualizes a dystopian future for the United States that parallels current conditions in Iran. Americans do not even realize the parallels that already exist.
Severe gender discrimination might seem unimaginable in the United States. Dr. Hassani notes, however, that striking similarities exist between the Iranian Guardian Council and the American Supreme Court. Both have the power to veto legislation, which can be used to further oppress the masses. The Guardian Council blocks any reform-based legislation, even if it is highly favored by the Iranian people. The extreme political power combined with an extreme religious agenda contributes to the Guardian Council’s oppression. Americans should look to Iran when considering how personal religious convictions influence the Supreme Court. The outcomes are certainly dangerous.
The circumstances tackle the eternal question regarding the role of government in social issues. Given the spark in protests, Americans need to reconsider the restrictions legislation places upon various identity groups. Discrimination can occur anywhere. Iranian women supported revolutions, but they were neglected in the end. Women can speak out, but it does not mean society will listen.
To avoid another human rights crisis, everyone must stay informed about the situation and listen when any minority group speaks up for their rights. Everyone has a responsibility to remain open-minded in the fight for unalienable rights.
Read a news article or watch a video. Iranian women are risking their lives for freedom. If one values the liberties granted by the United States government, one should support Iranian women’s struggle for freedom. Standing in solidarity is not a major inconvenience considering the deadly situation. When another video from Iran appears in your feed, stop scrolling and take a moment to support Iranian women.
Bursting the PC Bubble: Britain Officially Leaves the European Union
by Alexandra Huzyk ’20
On Jan. 31, the United Kingdom officially terminated their membership as a part of the European Union—making the UK the first member state to withdraw from the Union since its early beginnings, as the European Economic Community, in 1957.
Now composed of 27 countries, the EU acts as a political and economic union that allows free trade and free movement of people within its member states.
Since the UK became a member of the European Economic Community in 1973, there have always been debates about the pros and cons of membership. However, “Brexit” became a controversial topic in 2013, when Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, raised questions about the economic challenges and migrant crisis facing Europe. In a 2016 referendum, 52 percent of UK citizens voted to leave the EU.
With London as a global financial center, many feared that Brexit would prompt international companies to relocate and would deter investment in the UK. Others, who perceived free movement and immigration to be a threat to their working-class jobs, viewed Brexit as a way to reclaim their country’s economy in the midst of mass refugee movements.
Although the vote in the 2016 referendum remained very close, there was a stark geographic correlation between those who wished to remain in the union and those who did not. Most voters within rural sections of England and Wales voted to leave, whereas the majority of voters in London, Northern Ireland, and Scotland voted to remain within the EU. This brought about questions of holding further referendums for Scottish independence—another highly contested topic within the UK.
After Cameron’s resignation in 2016, Theresa May assumed office and began to work towards formalizing the conditions for Brexit. Brexit day was initially supposed to take place on March 29, 2019, but was delayed twice after members of Parliament rejected May’s negotiations.
This delay was further extended after May resigned from office in March 2019, and successor Boris Johnson took the lead in revising Brexit legislation.
After calling for an early general election in which a conservative majority was established in Parliament, Johnson was able to successfully pass the deal for Brexit before the January 2020 deadline.
Although the UK has formally left the EU, there will be nearly a year of negotiations following. This period of time, in which negotiations are set to take place, is referred to as the transition period or the implementation period.
The terms of this transition period were previously agreed upon in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which states that the period is due to end on December 31, 2020 with no extensions. Within this “11-month period, the UK will continue to follow all of the EU’s rules and its trading relationship will remain the same.”
These upcoming negotiations between the UK and the EU will help to determine what kind of relationship will exist in the future. One of the biggest topics to be addressed is trade. If the UK is unable to negotiate a free trade agreement before the end of this transition period, the UK may be forced to trade with no concrete deal in place.
Potential consequences of this might involve EU states placing tariffs and other trade barriers on UK goods, which would negatively impact the UK’s economy and its status as a major exporter.
In addition to the matter of trade, a number of other concerns are to be negotiated. Some of these topics include law enforcement, data sharing and security, aviation standards and safety, access to fishing waters, supplies of electricity and gas, and licensing and regulation of medicines.
The biggest challenge for the UK will be getting all the new rules and policies in place by the end of the transition period.
Bursting the PC Bubble: Iran Admits Fault, Quashes Tehran Protests
Eileen Cooney ’23
Assistant News Editor
On Wednesday January 8, a Ukranian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed just before dawn near Tehran, Iran.
Shortly after takeoff the airplane, headed for the Ukranian capital of Kyiv, burst into flames. Of the 176 people on board, no one survived. Sixty-three of the passengers were Canadians, many students or faculty of the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Citizens of Afghanistan, Iran, Ukraine, Sweden, and the United Kingdom were also on board.
The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his anger with Iran and said that Canada will not rest until there is a full investigation into the events that transpired.
The Revolutionary Guard has taken full responsibility for the plane crash, claiming that shooting down the plane with a missle was a mistake. This admission of guilt comes after Iranian officials initially denied that the plane was shot down.
The crash comes in the wake of increased tensions between the United States and Iran. The tensions began last week when the United States assassinated Iranian military general Qassem Soleimani, and Iran responded by launching attacks on US military bases.
Brig-Gen Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the Revolutionary Guards’ aerospace commander, says that the firing of a missile was a mistake and they will work to upgrade their military technology to prevent such events from occurring again in the future.
The families of the victims mourn the loss of their loved ones and are angered that these innocent lives were lost because of foreign conflict.
Hundreds of protestors have stormed the streets of the Iranian capital of Tehran to vent their frustration with Iranian officials. Protestors want Iranian officials involved in the tragic incident to be held accountable for their actions.
In the wake of such protests, violence has broken out, and some videos on social media appear to show tear gas being fired. In response, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani released a statement vowing that those at fault will be prosecuted and brought to justice.
President Trump has praised the protestors, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has released a statement saying that the United States hears the Iranians’ frustration and that they deserve a “better future.”
These protests in Tehran follow some of Iran’s most violent protests in history back in November in response to economic sanctions that resulted in a drop in fuel prices.
Many were arrested as the violence broke out, and the government even shut down the country’s internet in attempts to curb the protests.
Bursting the PC Bubble: Flooding in Venice Causes Panic
by Maura Campbell
On Tuesday, November 12, Venice was flooded by the most severe high tide the city has seen since 1966. The flood lasted for several days and left profound impacts. At its peak, the flood reached six foot high tides, and covered 85 percent of the city’s streets.
One of the areas most devastated by the flooding was St. Mark’s Basilica, one of the world’s most famous cathedrals. This flooding has prompted global concerns for the fate of such cultural icons against the effects of climate change.
Luigi Brugnaro, mayor of Venice, declared a state of emergency, stating that the Basilica has suffered “grave damage.” Similarly, Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte called the damage “a blow to the art of our country.”
Although many artifacts were spared from the damage due to their storage high above the ground, countless other artifacts throughout the city have been damaged or destroyed.
St. Mark’s Basilica, which was built in the ninth century, has only flooded six times since its construction. Architectural and cultural experts are widely concerned about the future of this building, particularly since it houses so many important cultural artifacts, including paintings, texts, and historical and religious artifacts.
In addition, the integrity of the structure itself has been called into question. Salvo Nastasi, secretary general of Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism, said, “The situation is extremely complex and worrisome, not just for the water level, but also the number of hours the precious marble floorings and wooden coatings of the Basilica have been submerged.”
St. Mark’s Basilica is not the only building affected by the flood. Churches, museums, houses, monuments, and hotels have also been irreparably damaged throughout the city. However, it will be impossible to fully assess the damage until the water has completely subsided.
Officials have already begun the process of pumping saltwater out of structures. “The main issue is saltwater,” Toto Bergamo Rossi, the director of Venetian Heritage, says. “When salt permeates the materials of these buildings—be them marble, tiling, plaster or wood—it crystallizes and ascends vertically once the weather gets drier, from the ground to the first floor and so on. It’s almost like a cancer for these structures, all the more so when they are so old. The entire wall system can be affected.”
Venice is in particular danger of succumbing to the threats of climate change due to its location and low sea level. Over the past several years, countless smaller floods have submerged St. Mark’s Square and residents have been forced to adapt to the changing landscape.
The city of Venice has spent billions of euro to construct a flood barrier system in order to prevent disasters like this. This system, called MOSE, has been delayed several times; originally intended to be finished in 2011, the project has been delayed until 2022 and is still not expected to be finished oby the deadline.
“The MOSE has to be completed,” Rossi says. “Not in two years, but over the next months. Buildings, too, have to be guaranteed a better draining system, maintenance, material reinforcement. This could easily happen again, and we simply can’t afford that. There’s too much at risk.”
Even if the MOSE system is completed and becomes operational, many climate experts believe that it is not a permanent solution to the city’s constant threat of flooding. In fact, recent studies have shown that climate change could push Venice entirely underwater within a century.
Bursting the PC Bubble: Troops Withdrawn from Syria
by Brian Garvey ’20
The United States began the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from the Syrian-Turkey border this past Monday, a direct response to the impending Turkish offensive into their war-torn neighbor.
In a series of tweets, President Trump claimed that the United States was unfairly burdened with both the responsibility and cost of fighting ISIS. Trump stated, “It is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN.”
The withdrawal followed a Sunday night statement by the White House, announcing that the U.S. forces in the region would not interfere with a Turkish offensive. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to Turkey on Monday that the withdrawal began soon after an extensive phone call with President Trump, bringing a quick close to extensive discussions about this hotly contested region.
According to the The Washington Post, a U.S. official confirmed that American troops left their observation posts in the border villages of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ayn at 6:30 a.m. local time.
The main source of the tension between Turkey and the United States has been the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds, who have established an autonomous zone in Northern Syria in the past eight years of war.
The Turkish government has been increasingly outspoken against this Kurdish presence, as they assert that there is close ties between U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters (the SDF) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant group that has fought a long insurgency against Turkey.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that the Turkish military would “soon be moving forward” with dispatching troops to battle the SDF. Grisham went on to say, “The United States armed forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”
President Erdogan and the Turkish Government have labeled the SDF as a terrorist-linked organization. Yet the SDF has fought closely alongside the U.S. military as a primary partner against the Islamic State throughout Syria. President Erdogan has been threatening an offensive against the Kurds for months, and the Trump administration has been working to find a compromise that would appease Turkish demands for border security while also protecting the U.S.-allied Syrian-Kurdish force.
The SDF quickly released a statement condemning the withdrawal. “The United States forces have not fulfilled their obligations and withdrew their forces from the border area with Turkey,” the statement said. “This Turkish military operation in north and east Syria will have a big negative impact on our war against Daesh [Arabic acronym for ISIS] and will destroy all stability that was reached in the last few years.”
SDF also clearly stated that the group reserves the right to defend itself against Turkish aggression, hinting at potential conflict in the region.
President Erdogan has argued that a Turkish incursion is necessary to protect Turkey’s borders. Erdogan has also spoken in support of resettling millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey in a “safe zone” in northern Syria. This plan has been widely criticized by refugee advocates, as well as local Syrian Kurds currently living in Northern Syria.
Panos Moumtzis, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, said, “We want our message to all governments and actors on the ground to be to make sure that this latest development does not have an impact first of all on a new displacement of people.”
The U.N. already provides services to approximately 700,000 people every month in Northern Syria. Moumtzis stressed that any movement of Syrians must be done voluntarily and with safety and dignity.
In Washington, lawmakers from both parties criticized this move, saying it represented a betrayal to Kurdish forces and gives ISIS the opportunity to regroup and rebuild.
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a noted Trump supporter, tweeted on Monday morning that he and Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland plan to introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if it invades Syria. He said the senators would call for Turkey’s suspension from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization if its forces attack on the Kurds.
Brett McGurk, who resigned in December as the Trump administration’s special envoy on ISIS, said, “This appears to be another decision without any consultation, deliberation or process. This particular decision will significantly increase the risk for our personnel who depend on the SDF for sustainment.”
It is still unclear how extensive this Turkish invasion will be. The Turkish military has not informed the Trump administration the details and strategy of their invasion, with speculation being everything from a symbolic, small incursion to a major offensive push deep into the territory.
Ultimately, this withdrawal has increased the uncertainty and tension in a region already strife with war, and has a high potential to increase violence in the region.
Understanding DACA on a National Level
Bursting the PC Bubble: What is DACA?
By Thomas Edwards ’20
Last week, on Tuesday, September 5, through the words of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald J. Trump rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA was an American immigration policy established by the Obama administration in June of 2012. The policy gave protection from deportation to undocumented minors for renewable two-year periods, and allowed them to work in the U.S. As of 2017, approximately 800,000 individuals were protected from deportation by DACA.
For the time being, the rescinding of DACA has been delayed for six months in order to give Congress the chance to find a solution for the 800,000 young people currently under the policy and those who were previously eligible.
DACA received mixed responses when it was first initiated and has received nothing less with its termination. Democrats in Washington have especially been vocal about the issue, most of, if not all, denouncing the decision. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “President Trump’s decision to end DACA should break the hearts and offend the morals of all who believe in justice and human dignity.” Pelosi, with other Senate and House Democrats, has called on her Republican counterparts to work with the Democrats to form a solution. Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago, announced a half an hour before the Trump administration’s announcement that “DACA will continue to exist in Chicago,” calling the termination of the program “morally, politically, and economically wrong.”
While the response from Democrats has been largely unanimous, there have been mixed responses from the Republican Party.
Senate and House Republicans have announced their opposition to Trump’s decision to end DACA, among them Senator John McCain from Arizona. McCain said, “President Trump’s decision to eliminate DACA is the wrong approach to immigration policy at a time when both sides of the aisle need to come together to reform our broken immigration system and secure our border… I strongly believe that children who were illegally brought into this country through no fault of their own should be forced to return to a country they do not know.”
Just as there have been Republicans speaking against Trump, there have been those standing behind him. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “President Obama wrongly believe he had the authority to re-write our immigration law. Today’s action by President Trump corrects that fundamental mistake.”
Joining McConnell is House Speaker Paul Ryan who opposed the program when Obama implemented it and hopes Congress can find a permanent solution. “It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the President’s leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country,” said Ryan in a statement after the announcement. Most Republicans speaking in favor of President Trump’s decision have agreed on the unconstitutionality of Obama’s executive decision creating the program and that it should now be instated, though not verbatim, by Congress instead. “I have long supported accommodating those brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own; however, I have always felt that President Obama’s executive action was unconstitutional and that the right way to address this issue was through legislation,” said Senator Marco Rubio.
Lawmakers have not been the only group to speak out openly in response to last Tuesday’s events. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stated, “This is a sad day for our country.” Mark Ruffalo tweeted, “A cowardly act by a cruel, vindictive and heartless administration intent on tearing at the very fabric of the American dream.” Along with tweets and comments from celebrities, there have also been protests and marches, including one Tuesday which marched from the White House toward Trump International Hotel after the announcement.
While opinions from both sides have been voiced, the one common consensus is that now it is up to Congress to pick up the pieces. President Trump reportedly called on Congress to “legalize DACA,” to legislate a program similar to Former President Obama’s, which was created through executive authority, or he will “revisit [the] issue!”
“It is important that the White House clearly outline what kind of legislation the president is willing to sign. We have no time to waste on ideas that do not have the votes to pass or that the president won’t sign,” said Rubio. Other legislators expressed thier desire to continue to give protection to the children. “We must protect children who are already here in this country and those who are currently protected under DACA. That principle is fundamental for me. It’s also clear that we must work in Congress to provide long-term certainty for DACA recipients,” said GOP Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers. In a simliar spirit, Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin said, “It is time for us in Congress to do the right thing.”