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Iranian women – onerous path to achieve freedom

Photos: @ncr-iran.org

During the past 38 years, Iranian women have been suppressed in both law and practice.

All the fundamental rights of women have ceaselessly been violated by ideologically motived laws, which are approved by fundamentalist clerics who believe that a woman is worth half of a man. This means, for example, that if a woman dies in an accident, then her family receives only half compensation.

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Tahere Qurratu l-Ayn

In historic terms, although clerics have always tried to restrict Iranian women, those women have never given up against Islamic fundamentalist rules. One of the Iranian woman who broke the taboo and challenged all traditional religious laws was Tahere Qurratu l-Ayn. She lived in the nineteenth century and was executed in 1852 by fundamentalist clerics.

At the moment, women in Iran suffer greatly under the Iranian regime, as the theocracy views them as second-class citizens. They face many restrictions, such as compulsory hijab, to be under the tutelage of a man, gender barriers, and systematic discrimination and marginalisation.

A few months after the popular revolution in 1979, the founder of “the Islamic Republic”, Khomeini, decreed compulsory hijab in all governmental offices. However, in 1983, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the parliament) legislated a repressive law that imposed penalties for women who do not observe the compulsory dress code. Despite Hassan Rouhani, a purported “moderate” president, holding office, the Iranian regime has continued to use morality police to enforce this repressive law. For example, few weeks ago, a young woman was run over by police for improper veiling. If a woman resists against the morality police, she will be arrested. According to some reports, a majority of women who are arrested by the morality police are subjected to sexual harassment.

There is also an exploiter law, which is officially known as Non-compliance. If a woman refuses to have sex with her husband, she can be sentenced by the court. Some fundamentalist clerics say that husbands can and should punish their wives for “such violation”.

There are other medieval laws in place, such as inheritance and testimony. A woman’s inheritance is half of that of a man’s. The same goes for women’s testimony in a court, as its worth half of a man. This means that there must be at least two women who testify on a matter in the court, if they expect their testimony to be heard and approved.

For Iran’s religious dictatorship, freedom for women is a red-line. It is a known fact that the clerics do not believe that a woman can or is fit to be a president or a judge. Consequently, the regime’s constitution bars women from standing as a candidate for a presidential election or being a judge.

Another example of religiously motivated suppression is the suppression of Baha’is. The ruling clerics and their laws consider Baha’is as an enemy of God “Mohareb”. There are many prohibitions against them in the Iranian society, such as an education ban and deprivation of all public service. Many of their leaders are also imprisoned, because they challenge these repressive laws.

Overall, despite international warnings in recent years, the condition of human rights has gotten worse in Iran. This is proven by the fact that Iran is one of the few countries that have a Special Rapporteur appointed by the United Nations. This Special Rapporteur has the mandate to monitor and report on the human rights situation in the country. The Iranian regime and its allies in the UN used many resources to try to prevent this appointment.

How the Iranian women resist against mullah’s regime

Despite the suppression, the women in Iran continue to protest gender discrimination and challenge the repressive laws. In Iran, women form the core of a historical resistance against the theocracy. Women play a key role in the Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), which terrifies the ruling theocracy. Between 1981 and 1988, tens of thousands of political prisoners were executed. A majority of those killed were members of the Iranian opposition group, officially known as the PMOI. It is obvious that during the massacre, women were a huge portion of the victims. But women are still being arrested for supporting the PMOI and they are being sentenced to long prison sentences as a result.

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Maryam Akbari-Monfared

A prisoner of conscience, Maryam Akbari-Monfared, 48, was arrested in December 2009 and is serving a 15 year-prison sentence after being accused of supporting the PMOI. “She is facing reprisals after filing a formal complaint that seeks an official investigation into the mass killings of political prisoners, including her siblings, in the summer of 1988,” according to a statement by Amnesty on November 3, 2016.She was said that her conviction was only because of her family’s role in the PMOI.

In fact, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the broader opposition coalition for establishing freedom and democracy in Iran that includes the PMOI, is led by a Muslim woman, Maryam Rajavi, which is unique for the Middle East. This means that Iranian women are at the forefront of the struggle for democracy in Iran.

She has presented a 10-point democratic platform for the future of Iran that envisions complete gender equality in political and social rights and is committed to the equal participation of women in political leadership. This platform will abolish any form of discrimination against women and the compulsory dress code. It also establishes the separation of the church and the State, prohibiting any form of discrimination against the followers of all religions and denominations.

This platform represents a viable alternative to the current theocracy and should be recognised and supported by the international community.

About Hamids Bahrami (1 Article)
Freelance journalist, Hamid Bahrami, was a former political prisoner in Iran. He is a human rights and political activist. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland.
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