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Women’s Rights Continue to be Oppressed Under ‘Moderate’ President Rouhani

Iran’s human rights abuses have been well documented by a variety of sources, including the latest report by the UN Special Rapporteur assigned to Iran. However, various factions have argued that Iran is dominated by hardliners and a more moderate faction. They point to the election of President Rouhani as proof that Iran’s regime can be changed from within.

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But has Rouhani’s record in office truly demonstrated a more moderate stance by the government? The facts seem to indicate that Rouhani’s ‘moderate’ stance is just more the same hardliner oppression packaged in a different box. One area of particular concern is women’s rights or lack thereof, within Iran.

As the world marked International Women’s Day in early March, Rouhani has attempted to cloud his own contributions to the oppression of women in Iran. Yet his record actually shows his support for the Iranian regime’s hard line against women. In his own memoirs, Rouhani even explains in detail how in 1980 he began enforcing mandatory hijab regulations as the mullahs began their historical campaign against Iranian women.

His time in office has also been marked by systematic oppression against women, workers, college students, writers, journalists, dissident bloggers, imposing poverty and unemployment on a majority of Iranians. Political prisoners, including women, are subject to ill-treatment and torture, as well as isolation from their families and legal representation.

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The number of executions is also averaging two to three people on a daily basis. While a member of the Iranian Parliament, Rouhani was quoted as saying, “Conspirators must be hanged in public before the people during Friday prayers to have more influence.”

While Iranian women have a high rate of college education, they are limited in their ability to enter the workforce, even in comparison to their counterparts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rouhani has pledged to set aside all barriers to women and provide them a larger share in politics and economics, but this pledge, like so many others, has rang hollow.

“Based on numbers, around 300,000 women were working and enjoying social security insurance. However, these numbers have diminished to 100,000,” said Soheila Jelodarzadeh, advisor to Rouhani’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Trade to the official ILNA news agency. This advisor also acknowledged that in many cases, women were only receiving less than a third of the set minimum wage.

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No Ministry of Women’s Affairs has ever been formed, despite the promises of Rouhani to do so. While there are no specific figures regarding the number of women that have been arrested, tortured, and executed under Rouhani’s watch, many in the international community fear those figures would be troubling.

Being stoned to death is still a punishment in Iran, and women are still sentenced to this punishment for a variety of reasons. Other within the international community have repeated pointed to the discrimination women in Iran face in terms of marriage, divorce, access to their children, and even inheritance. Women cannot even work or travel without the consent of their husbands or a family relative.

Women are also banned from attending sporting events, and female musicians are not allowed to perform in public. A large number of gender segregation rules also contribute to the regime’s goal of forcing women to stay at home and refrain from taking to the streets and potentially causing trouble for the state.

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