Over twenty mothers who were mourning the deaths of their children and protesting government violence were arrested and jailed this past weekend in Iran. Valerie Young wrote a great post about it over at her blog, Your (Wo)man in Washington, which can also be found over at MomsRising. Connecting Iranian mothers’ activism with mothers’ activism elsewhere, she writes that

Motherhood instantly ups your ante in the human sweepstakes. It gives you a very personal stake in the future, and makes you vulnerable in every way. It can also empower. Women who hesitated to speak for themselves may find their voice and advocate energetically for themselves as mothers and for the welfare of their children.

Mothers in Iran have been organizing online, on twitter, and on the streets. They have set up a Mournful Mothers Committee with a blog and have been staging anti-government protests on a regular basis in Tehran. They were arrested before Student Day demonstrations planned this past Monday. Watch the video here. Supporters in LA have submitted a petition to the U.N. calling for an investigation of human rights violations in Iran.

I am reminded of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo who protested regularly during Argentine’s Dirty War–when tens of thousands of Argentinian citizens were abducted, tortured, and “disappeared” by the government–as well as China’s Tiananmen Mothers, or the Welfare Warriors in the U.S. (The picture above is a poster from the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.) Motherhood can not only be a powerful political motivator for individual women but also provide a potent moral ground from which to protest human rights violations and other injustices. Women in various movements around the world have mobilized the symbolic power of motherhood in ways that work within traditional notions of motherhood to claim authority and demand justice to leave the private space of the home and enter into the public sphere with potentially radical demands.

While it’s true that this form of activism can run the risk of perpetuating traditional definitions of motherhood, it’s also true that it can inspire a powerful activism grounded in an ethics of care. Women who may never have considered themselves activists can suddenly find themselves standing their ground in the face of soldiers with guns, as an anonymous Iranian journalist observes in an article about the ongoing women’s anti-governmental activism in the October 5 issue of The New Yorker.

I am inspired by the brave and media-savvy Mournful Mothers Committee and the mothers who have not let fear stop them from speaking out. They inspire me to consider how caregiving, by women and men, provides us all with an opportunity to extend our circle of concern to our larger communities, both locally and globally.