Edinburgh played host to a rally in solidarity against sexual assault on Saturday, originally meant to be in direct contention against “neomasculine” meetings organized by rape-apologist Daryush Valizadeh, known more commonly as Roosh V, and his followers.
The protest took place despite the cancellation of these meetings, and was a intended to create a forum for people to stand against potentially harmful and sexist ideas pervading society.
Various feminism-imbued slogans could be heard throughout Grassmarket on Saturday night, with chants such as “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Whatever we wear, where ever we go: yes means yes and no means no!” being shouted by protesters.
One of the protest’s organisers used a megaphone to establish what she said the rally was really meant to be about.
“We aren’t doing this for him, we’re doing this for you,” she said, addressing the crowd. “We’re here to tell you that we will believe you, and that we will support you, no matter what anyone else says to you.”
The “you” appeared to refer to victims of rape and sexual assault, who say their voices have been silenced by the threat of groups led by Roosh V who has in the past made statements in favour of legalising rape.
One attendee, a first year student, said her decision to participate was personal. “I’ve had experience with rape before and this is a really important issue for me,” she told The Student.
“It’s not acceptable for anyone to meet up to talk about rape and exchange tips on where to assault women in Edinburgh. It’s fucking disgusting.”
“It’s not enough to just cancel one event or anything,” Jacob Zyse, second year astrophysics student told The Student.
“Just the very idea that the event was even considered for a moment—it’s important that we protest that.”
“We were going to be here even if no one else was going to be here, because this is not just about Roosh; it’s about every instance it happens across the world,” echoed Emilia Watson, first year French and Spanish student.
Scotland’s cities went into uproar early last week when controversial “neomasculinist” Roosh V announced that on February 6 he had organized multiple “tribal meetings” for his followers across the globe.
Protests against the meetings taking place as scheduled in Edinburgh and Glasgow sprung up quickly, along with a petition garnering 50,000+ signatures, pressing MSPs to condemn Roosh V’s gatherings under the government’s hate speech legislation.
As resistance and mobilisation increased against Valizadeh and his followers, the meetings were first pushed underground into secret locations, and then cancelled altogether.
However, Valizadeh and his group of followers, Return of Kings (RoK), lashed out throughout the week against those who stood against their ideals, before finally deciding to cancel their meetings on Wednesday evening.
The RoK public forum has been censured since the cancellation of Saturday’s events, however earlier in the week a post was made on the forum laying out plans for what was called “Operation Bull-Horn”, a means of collecting information and intelligence on journalists and public figures who had spoken out against RoK.
Forum users supported the operations. One said that the backlash their meetings had received was “because women are scared that they won’t be able to get a free lunch anymore by virtue of having a vagina. Meanwhile their white knight beta bitch soldiers are there at their beck and crawl to fight their battles for them.”
Female journalist Emma Healey wrote about her discovery that she had been added to the forum’s list of enemy journalists.
“After writing an article regarding Roosh’s planned meet-up in Leeds, I have been included on the list – along with my Twitter, my Facebook and even my photo” Healey said.
According to Roosh V and RoK, Operation Bull-Horn was organised as a means of drawing attention to false reporting.
Valizadeh firmly states that his piece which garnered him the title of “rape-apologist” was meant as a satire, and that while he has stated that he supports the legalisation of rape on private property, he is not “pro-rape”.
While Valizadeh contends being called a rape-apologist, he has spoken many times on the faults he finds with modern society.
In his opinion the world has turned against the patriarchal values of old, which allowed men to act as they pleased and not to have their sexuality or sexual urges constrained by the government and by society’s expectations.
When discussing his self-made brand, “neomasculinity”, he stated in a blog post: “Neomasculinity is simply the ideas of traditional masculinity combined with modern truths of the world, including the truth that the mainstream establishment is actively marginalizing heterosexual men.”
Siobhan Mitchell, organiser of Glasgow’s protest against Roosh V and Return of Kings, spoke to STV News last Wednesday on the importance of standing up to figures such as Valizadeh.
“His entire ethos is that woman are submissive or can be manipulated, that there are natural, biological gender roles that allow us to take a back seat. I think that by ignoring him we are just feeding that, we are giving that more power, when what really need to do is make a stand against it”, Mitchell said.
Reporting contributed by Ethan DeWitt.
Image: Jacob Forsyth-Davies