Gendar Apartheid

In 2005 I attended a conference in Montreal and presented a paper on The Discourse of Cultural Authenticity and the Impeding of Women’s Movements in Iran – it was to be a rough sketch of my PhD dissertation and looks explicitly at the writings of some of the Islamic revolutions ideologues…Ali Shariati in particular. It also looks to see how feminism is viewed as a derivative concept, “Western”, and how this assertion is made by opponents of women’s rights in order to bring any movement into disrepute.

I am now building upon that paper in order to also show how the rise of a non-critical scholarship about the Islamic Republic has further impeded any advancement that women might make. What is very disheartening is that this rise in non-critical scholarship is due mostly to SOME Iranian so-called academic feminists who, a decade ago were promulgating the oxymoronic notion of an Islamic feminism is inherently secular and view all religions as patriarchal constructs and are now touting the new recycling program of the Islamic Republic known as the Green Movement; where ex-prime ministers clamour to become presidents and ex-presidents become Guardian council leaders; one big regurgitation every four years that is what an Islamic Republic looks like.

On another note, adding insult to injury, the United Nations has given a seat to the Islamic Republic on its women’s council, despite a petition signed by Iranian women activists urging them not to allow this most perverse form of satire. The United Nations have now enshrined my right to be stoned, they have enshrined my judicious right to be half a person; my right not to divorce or child custody, my right to no freedom of mobility, my right not to higher education after marriage without permission of my husband. The country that guarantees my subjugated role in society is now sitting on the women’s council of the United Nations.

The Islamic Republic has refused to ratify CEDAW based on cultural and/or religious reasons since its inception. Meaning, somehow it is in our Iranian culture to treat women as subordinate beings. That the only thing available to us, the only woman that we are to emulate or strive to be, as Islamic ideologue Ali Shariati advised, is Fatima. Fatima, daughter of Muhammad; Fatima wife of Ali, Fatima mother of Hassan and Hussein, Fatima nothing of her own. This is what is offered to the women of Iran and now the United Nations is complacent in this. If I sound indignant it’s because I am.

We all know that to see signs which display – COLOURED ONLY – or – WHITES ONLY – is wrong and morally repugnant. And yet, when it comes to women and gender apartheid all these other factors are brought into play to justify and further demean women, in the name of social mores, religion, culture, etc. For hundreds of years Southern Americans referred to slavery as being an integral part of their socio-cultural fabric and so for the past 31 years the Islamic Republic has tried its hardest, even bringing on board a lot of comprador female intellectuals who advance their agenda, to convince the international community that women in Iran are different but equal.

The ‘different but equal’ argument comes from Islamic feminism and Islamist ideologues like, Muhammad Abduh, Ali Shariati, Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al Banna and the like, who allocate different rights and responsibilities to men and women based on their biological make-up. This form of thinking is so base and from Schopenhauer to Shariati women’s biological reality has been used to keep women out of certain positions. The noble laureate SHIRIN EBADI, who now only can speak ad nauseum about the commonalities of Islam and democracy, was actually a judge before the Iranian revolution and after she and all other female judges were fired and asked to take secretarial positions, while uneducated clerics took their positions and became judge, jury and executioner all in one. Women are thought too emotional to be judges in the Islamic Republic, they are thought too arousing to walk around without a head covering or an all encompassing shroud; they cannot ride bicycles because the physical act is again arousing to men. It is high time that we begin to reject our position as the carriers of the male burden and we cannot begin to do that until we name all the ways in which we are burdened.

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