The 1979 anti-monarchy revolution in Iran created a sense of empowerment among men and women of all classes. In the marches leading up to the revolution, there were working Iranian women without hijabs or scarves 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 shoulder to shoulder, hoping that the revolution would bring them an improvement in their economic and social status and political freedom.
The 1979 revolution produced large crowds 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 and remove all existing barriers to women’s participation in their country’s affairs. In the excitement of the revolution and the hope for change, less attention was paid to what the regime’s founder and leader, Khomeini, said during his stay in Paris. In Khomeini’s words, women would play a role in society, but within an “Islamic” framework. Trusting him as a man of promise and hope, no one then bothered to ask, “What does the Islamic framework mean?” and “How is it implemented in society?”
In the early years after the 1979 revolution, Khomeini’s insistence on barring women from active participation in the political, social and economic aspects of society eventually led to the hijab being imposed on Iranian women and many being forced to become housewives will. In fact, many women have been excluded from various professional fields. In the decades that followed, the Islamic Republic followed various policies that imposed a number of restrictions on women in Iran.
One of the first acts of the so-called “revolutionary” government was to suspend the Family Protection Act and to abolish the family courts. Men were again free to divorce their wives by simple declaration; They were also given exclusive custody of their children. Women could no longer file for divorce unless the right was specified in marriage contracts, and they lost custody of children. In 1981, Iran’s parliament approved the Islamic Retribution Law, which instituted flogging, stoning and payment of blood money for crimes ranging from adultery to violating the Islamic dress code.
The age of marriage for girls has been lowered to puberty, which is nine years according to Islamic law. By law, a girl can marry from the age of 13, while girls younger than that can legally marry with court and paternal consent. According to official government figures, more than 16,000 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 got married in the first half of 2021.
On November 16, 2021, UN human rights experts called on Iran to repeal a sweeping new law severely restricting access to abortion, contraception, voluntary sterilization services and related information, in direct violation of women’s human rights under international law.
The regime introduces two new organizations to impose hijab on Iranian women
Now, in June 2022, the regime has announced the creation of two new repressive organizations to “control the lack of hijab”. The mandate of these new repressive entities will be finalized and their policies will be dictated to 120 government agencies. Each office is required to provide ways to implement these restrictive policies for its female employees.
In 2020, the Fars News Agency named 25 government agencies active in the field of hijab imposition and dissemination. Other media later named other institutions; So much so that this year the Red Crescent also announced its volunteer activities with the same goals. It was April 2022 when the Secretary General of the Red Crescent Society announced his entry into the field of “Promotion of Hijab and Chastity”. According to him, this is in line with their humanitarian and relief services.
Iranian women as relentless as ever
The story of Iranian women is one of heroism, sacrifice, resistance, integrity, hope and optimism. Today, tens of thousands of brave political prisoners, human rights activists and brave Iranian girls have joined their fellow human beings in rejecting the brutality and demanding freedom in Iran. Iranian women are at the forefront of most social demonstrations and protests across Iran. The regime in Tehran is afraid of the hidden potential of Iranian women, who are bolder 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 well-known Iranian poet Simin Behbahani, which I think best captures the feelings of Iranian women.
“You want to erase my essence, but in this country I remain
I’ll keep dancing as long as I hold on
I’ll talk as long as I live: anger, roar and revolt
I do not fear your stones and rocks. I am a tide, you cannot stem my flow.”