Iran, the Republic of Female Discrimination

2010/03/13

Published by German daily newspaper “Die Welt” on 13. March 2010
Source (German): http://www.welt.de/debatte/kolumnen/Iran-aktuell/article6755997/Iran-die-Republik-der-Frauendiskriminierung.html
English translation by @germantoenglish

By Wahied Wahdat-Hagh

Although the International Women’s Day is prohibited in Iran, Iranian women on the occasion of 8. March have again raised their voices. Inside and outside the country the day was marked by peaceful protests against the politics of gender-related apartheid.

An Iranian protester demonstrates outside the embassy in Sweden (Picture: AFP)


The lawyer, women’s rights activist and publicist Mehrangiz Kar says that for Iranian women, the 8. March is not only the International Women’s Day, but also a day of civil and peaceful protests against the human rights violations of a regime that has grown out of the Revolution. [*]

The 8. March 1979 marked the beginning of the protests of Iranian women, targeting the forced hejab ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini. These protests never stopped, until after 30 years they evolved into a civil movement.

Mehrangiz Kar reminds us that Iranian women under conditions of “religious despotism” have for years celebrated the 8. March in private. Under the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the women’s movement took to the streets, and under Ahmadinejad it became so strong that it even caused former intelligence minister Mohseni Ejei to say that this movement pursues a “gentle and velvet revolution”, and the feminist movement with its demands for equal rights was just a pretext.

According to Mehrangiz Kar, many Iranian women have been educating and informing themselves in private throughout the years in order to develop the movement into a social movement. Their demands for reforms have gradually grown during the years preceding the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, and when he became president, the women started to express those demands in public. For many years, the women had silently and in private circles argued against the forced hejab and denounced the discriminating family laws.

Kar criticizes the rule of the Iranian “Aghas” – men who described the day of 8. March as illegal and against the Sharia law. They claimed that by means of violence, repression and censorship it should be possible to cripple the demands of Iranian women.

Unequal and unfair laws
In a statement, the Association of Iranian Writers also recalled that Iranian women had repeatedly opposed against “erroneous conventions and self-deception” .

In the past three decades, Iranian women “more than everyone else felt the pressure of executions and stonings”. They “more than ever before were caught in the claws of unequal and unfair laws”, since sometimes they are not even as much as the second gender, but their worth is close to nothing. Women have become mere objects whose hair represents a collective nightmare. Their clothing and their bodies are guarded by the police. Nevertheless, women courageously revealed the “rapes occurring in the prisons and torture chambers”. They “unveiled the abhorrent face and the brutish behavior of the suppressors.”

On the occasion of 8. March, the Association of Iranian Writers congratulated all women around the globe and expressed hope that the demands for freedom and equality will reach the common awareness in order to pave the way for a free society without discrimination and repression.

Iranian mothers demand the release of al political prisoners
Mothers who demonstrated for their detained daughters and sons outside the prisons ended up being detained themselves.

Even some of the supporters of those mothers got arrested. Other mothers and their friends continue to demonstrate. There is no rule of law, just arbitrariness. The detained mothers are incarcerated in the infamous ward 209 of Evin. Their only crime was to demonstrate for democracy, human rights and women’s rights, the release of innocent people from the most horrific prisons of the world. This is the reason why they get abducted, they disappear, or are officially arrested. Iranian mothers in a statement demand freedom and human rights and declare that they are “the mothers of this country” and as such demand “unconditional freedom” for all political prisoners.

Tahereh, a historic symbyol
One of the most significant symbols of the Iranian feminist movement is Tahereh, a supporter of the Babi movement who rid herself of the veil in the middle of the 19th century. She is one of the heroines of the Iranian feminist movement, and she had to pay for her courage with her life. For the Iranian ruling Qajar dynasty could not tolerate a female poet who even dared to lead debates with the scholars of Iran. When she was held in the house of a minister, she told him: “You can kill me whenever it suits you, but you will not be able to stop the liberation of the women.” She was eventually strangled to death.

On March 8, Ayda Fajr in an article for Roozonline wrote that already in the beginning of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905, Iranian women organized themselves in feminist groups and were actively involved in the social movement.

In the 19th century, there were no group activities.

Ayda Fajr recalls the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in which women took part as well. In the years before the revolution, the awareness of those women had increased, a process which was, last but not least, enhanced by several laws that granted women more rights than ever before in the traditional Islamic society. Ayda Fajr also reminds us that the Shah was able to implement his new laws to improve the family situation of women only with the approval of Ayatollah Hakim in Iraq – a cleric who was obviously much more progressive than the ayatollahs living in Iran.

Although Ayatollah Khomeini, at that time still part of the opposition, dismissed the voting right for women in Iran in 1961, he could no longer oppose to it in 1979. The women were not willing to give up this right they had been fighting for.

Ayda Fajr says that after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian women lost all the rights they had achieved in the previous decades. However, Khomeini still claimed he believed in equality of women and men. He obviously had a different understanding of the issue.

Nevertheless, in the protests of the past months Iranian women have proved that they are ready to fight for their rights. They now started to gather in private again, reports Ali Shirazi.

And, thinking of all the women who are still in prison for demanding human and women’s rights, we know that they have payed a dear price.

[* Translator’s note: All links in this article are also referenced in the German source]

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