For many Iranian women, their political access is limited to non-existent. The result is over half the population is silenced and marginalized to keep a fundamentalist Islam and keep the mullahs in power. Those who attempt to speak out against the discrimination and oppression of women in Iranian society, find themselves suffering degrading public punishments or ill-treatment and torture during long prison sentences.
Other female prisoners simply disappear, as in the case of Shahnaz Akmali. Her son, Mostafa Karim Beigi, was one of the victims of the 2009 uprising in Iran. Akmali was arrested at her work by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on January 25. She was then transported to her home, where her premises and belongings were searched. The agents then confiscated all of her property and she has not been seen or heard from since. Her family has continued to follow up, but it is difficult to get information on prisoners.
Others have chosen to commit suicide after being abused within the Iranian prison system. A young engineer from Kermanshah was sexually abused in the detention of the Ministry of Intelligence and took her own life. Mahdis Mir Ghavami did this immediately after coming out of detention. The reason for her detention was unclear and intelligence officials warned her family not to publicize her suicide.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian citizen, has been sentenced to five years after making a two-week trip to Iran with her daughter to visit her mother. Prior to her arrest, she was the director of a number of projects belonging to Thomson-Reuters Charity Foundation. She has also been involved in some humanitarian activities in Bam following the earthquake there. Her charges were not specified, but her conviction was upheld through an appeal court, according to judiciary officials.
“It is alarming that the patterns of drug use have transformed from traditional drugs to industrial and psychotropic substances among the girls in particular,” said Shahindokht Molaverdi, vice president in the Cabinet of Hassan Rouhani in the Section of Women and Family Affairs. She expressed concern regarding the rise in drug addiction among Iranian women. Molaverdi also noted that social changes in the country have also impacted women, with the ratio of married women dropping 10.5%. In a country where women are limited in terms of the work they can do and their ability to engage in an active public life, marriage is a safety net of sorts. Without it, they often fall to the bottom of society.
Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), has spoken out against the struggles of the women of Iran, noting that parity for women in Iran would be beneficial to Iranian society. “Mandatory veil is an all-inclusive and permanent tool for the suppression of women. In a matter of only one year, 3.6 million women were inspected and questioned on the streets for ‘improper veiling’ and 18,000 women were put on trial. Common practices of violence and rape against women and widespread addition and misery of women are among the products of the mullahs’ corrupt Sharia,” said Rajavi in her 2016 speech celebrating International Women’s Day.
Anything that promotes compulsion, denies people’s free choice and anything that denies women’s equal rights is not Islam but against Islam, said Rajavi in 2016.
Part of the NCRI 10-Point plan involves equality in basic rights and freedoms for both men and women, as well as calling for a separation of church and state. For now, women continue to remain second class citizens in Khamenei’s Iran.