Iranian women are relentless despite four decades of repression – OpEd – Eurasia Review
The 1979 anti-monarchy revolution in Iran created a sense of participation among men and women of all classes. In the marches that led to the revolution, there were professional Iranian women without hijabs or headscarves and women from traditional backgrounds wearing the traditional black veil; there were women from lower and middle class families, accompanied by their spouses and children. All these women walked side by side, hoping that the revolution would bring them an improvement in their economic and social status and their political freedom.
The 1979 revolution brought out large masses of Iranian women demonstrating for the abolition of the monarchy and for an Islamic republic. They believed that an Islamic republic would give them equality, removing all existing barriers to women’s participation in the affairs of their country. In the turmoil of revolution and hopes for change, less attention was paid to what the regime’s founder and leader, Khomeini, was saying while in Paris. In Khomeini’s words, women would have a role in society but within an “Islamic” framework. Trusting him as a man of promise and hope, no one at the time bothered to ask, “What does the Islamic framework mean?” and “How is it implemented in society?”
In the early years following the 1979 revolution, Khomeini’s insistence on keeping women away from active participation in the political, social and economic aspects of society eventually led to the imposition of the hijab on Iranian women and resulted in forced many to become housewives. In fact, many women have been excluded from various fields of work. Over the following decades, various policies were pursued by the Islamic Republic imposing an array of restrictions on Iranian women.
One of the first acts of the so-called “revolutionary” government was to suspend the Family Protection Law and dismantle the family courts. Men were again free to divorce their wives by simple declaration; they were also granted sole custody of their children. Women can no longer ask for a divorce unless this right is stipulated in marriage contracts, and they lose the right to custody of children. In 1981, Iran’s parliament approved the Islamic Law of Punishment, introducing flogging, stoning and payment of blood money for crimes ranging from adultery to violation of Islamic dress codes.
The age of marriage for girls has been reduced to puberty, which is nine years old under Islamic law. By law, a girl as young as 13 can marry, while even younger girls can legally marry with judicial and paternal consent. In the first half of 2021, more than 16,000 girls aged 10 to 14 got married, according to official government figures.
On November 16, 2021, UN human rights experts called on Iran to repeal a sweeping new law that severely restricts access to abortion, contraception, voluntary sterilization services and related information, in direct violation of women’s human rights under international law.
The regime sets up two new organizations to impose the hijab on Iranian women
However, in June 2022, the regime announced the creation of two new repressive organizations to “control the absence of hijab”. The mandate of these new repressive entities is nearing completion and its policies will be dictated to 120 government offices. Each office is required to demonstrate ways to apply these restrictive policies to its employees.
In 2020, Fars news agency named 25 government agencies active in the area of enforcing and spreading hijab. Other media later named other institutions; So much so that this year, the Red Crescent also announced its volunteering activities with the same objectives. It was in April 2022 that the Secretary General of the Red Crescent Society announced its entry into the field of “promotion of the hijab and chastity”. According to him, this is in line with their humanitarian and relief services.
Iranian women still as relentless
The story of Iranian women is the story of heroism, sacrifice, resistance, integrity, hope and optimism. Today, tens of thousands of courageous political prisoners, human rights activists and courageous Iranian women have joined their fellow men in rejecting brutality and demanding freedom in Iran. Iranian women are at the forefront of most social demonstrations and protests throughout Iran. The Tehran regime fears the hidden potential of Iranian women, who are braver and more determined than ever. They have become a weapon against the tyrannical regime in Tehran.
I end this piece with a poem by the famous Iranian poet, Simin Behbahani, which I think best captures the feelings of Iranian women.
“You want to erase my being, but on this earth, I remain
I will keep dancing as long as I support
I speak, while I live: fury, roar and revolt
Your stones and your rocks, I am not afraid of them. I’m a flood, you can’t stop my flow.