In response to the kidnapping by Boko Haram of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria, the world has mobilised around the BringBackOurGirls hashtag, creating an online frenzy and taking to streets and embassies. Among those protesting for the safe return of the schoolgirls have been various friends and partners from around the Women Living Under Muslim Laws network.
While building solidarity between activists in the U.S. and Iran can be a powerful way of supporting social justice movements in Iran, progressives and leftists who want to express solidarity with Iranians are challenged by a complicated geopolitical terrain. The U.S. government shrilly decries Iran’s nuclear power program and expands a long-standing sanctions regime on the one hand, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes inflammatory proclamations and harshly suppresses Iranian protesters and dissidents on the other. Solidarity activists are often caught between a rock and a hard place, and many choose what they believe are the “lesser evil” politics. In the case of Iran, this has meant aligning with a repressive state leader under the guise of “anti-imperialism” and “populism,” or supporting “targeted” sanctions.