Monday, January 31, 2005

Why do I oppose war?

Sima Shakhsari *
shakhsari [at]

A few friends on this blog have taken different approaches and provided their reasons for opposing war. By expressing their concern about the inevitable loss of lives, and by questioning the intentions of a U.S. attack on Iran, Parastoo and Omid have taken strong stances against the possible war on Iran. These are all good reasons and I certainly agree with both posts. Here, I want to add my reasons for being against war. As my reasons for opposing a war on Iran are many, in order to keep my posts short, I will bring one reason a day.


As a feminist anthropologist who is interested in issues of gender and sexuality, I can recall the gendered effects of different nationalist discourses that often accompany war. For Iranian women who lost many of their rights after a revolution that was followed by a destructive war, the narrative of sacrifice for the nation is a familiar story. In times of national crisis, women’s demands for rights are often deemed as unpatriotic, and are thus suppressed. It has taken Iranian women many years to gain some rights through their struggles before and after the revolution in Iran. War will undoubtedly halt the efforts of Iranian women and will push them back to the roles ascribed to them in the drama of nationalist domesticity. Women will have to perform the role of the patriotic wife and mother who reproduces citizen soldiers. Growing up in Iran during the war years, I can all too well remember Imam Khomeini’s famous sentence written on the walls of my high school: “It is from a woman’s lap that a man goes to war!”
This drama is not limited to Iran either. We all witnessed the proliferation of images of 9/11 moms and breadwinning fathers in mainstream U.S. media. To me, among other things, war will re-consolidate normative heterosexuality and will reify the dichotomized gender roles upon which it relies.
Unlike what U.S. legislator’s claim, this war will not bring democracy and freedom, especially not to women in Iran. If a war is in making, the discussions for it started a long time ago. The foundations of a war on Iraq, for example, were planned during Clinton’s time and well before September 11. Talks about “democracy in Iran,” have also been in making for a while now. Remember senator Brownback’s “Iran Democracy Act"? The bill expressed concern for freedom in Iran “especially with regards to women.” Curiously, the text of this corporate-sponsored bill did not include even one sentence about women. While the “liberation” of women in Iran may be used by U.S. war mongers to legitimize their expansionist agendas, I know all too well that war does not bring liberation. Especially, not for women!

*Sima Shakhsari is a Ph.D. Candidate at Stanford University and Teaches at San Francisco State University.