of simple pleasures
Women's rights in Iran
By Ghazoll Motlagh
February 27, 2004
Equality does not take precedence over justice...
Justice does not mean
all laws must be the same for men and women. One of the mistakes that Westerners
make is to forget this.... The difference in the stature, vitality, voice,
development, muscular quality and physical strength of men and
women shows that men are stronger
and more capable in all fields... Men's brains are larger.... Men incline
toward reasoning and rationalism while women basically tend to
be emotional... These
differences affect the delegation of responsibilities, duties and rights.
-- Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian Parliament Speaker, 1986
Before 1979, women
in Iran were not as oppressed, they were not as controlled and far less scrutinized
for their behavior. Since then, conservative radicals
have made women's rights a thing of the past. In more recent years, the
UN and other Women's Rights activists have been lobbying for support, and
many things could begin to change if outside help was introduced.
In the 1960's, before the revolution that lead to the Khomeini Regime,
the Pahlavi kings had ruled a monarchy that was over 2500 years
old. They implemented voting rights of women to help quell any uprisings
or malcontent among women. This was not the only new reform, others soon
women loyal to the Shah were admitted into Parliament. They also began
to enter the work force as cheap labor; they were eventually given the
their husbands, with limited and restricted rights thereafter, of course.
The marriage age was raised to 18, and polygamy was subjected to certain
But despite all of these superficial reforms, women were subjected to
horrible social conditions.
Illiteracy was a large problem among
the poor and rural
female population, as well as health problems. This was worsened by the
fact that there
was only one doctor per 55,000 women in the city. Shah Reza Pahlavi,
the last shah of Iran, implemented a compulsory unveiling. This
of all ages, to forgo the Islamic dress code and enjoy the western and
eastern fashions of the world…at least the wealthy could enjoy it.
Azita (as we'll call her from now on) was
raised in a wealthy household who benefited from the Shah's regime.
In fact her father
Minister of Education and very well compensated for his high
status. She was college-educated and very well versed in the equality
of women worldwide.
After marrying a member of an underground organization against the
government post revolution, she finally realized the terrors of
life as a woman in post-revolution
In 1981, Azita remembers getting a package at her
father's house in Tehran, the capital. Azita's favorite aunt went
missing 9 months prior,
with her husband and their golden retriever. They knew all too well
in the large white box. The body of a tortured woman laid there decomposing
in the summer
heat, she was shot in front of a firing squad with her husband and
All of this anguish and brutality was inflicted on
her family because
Nani, as she was called, would not say she was Muslim. She was in
a religion founded in Iran and only two centuries old at the maximum.
This religion along with Judaism and Christianity are violently opposed
Azita was married and pregnant with her first child when they received
the package. She wasn't permitted to see the body.
Her violent husband warned her many times that if
she fled the country, that he would find her and her children and
kill her for taking them
away. A book
that relates to this story and the hardships endured by women after
the revolution is "Not without My Daughter" where an American woman who married
an Iranian man suffers through years of trying to get her daughter back despite
After enduring many hardships under the Khomeini
government Azita finally saw her chance; she fled the country with
her two children
her husband was imprisoned. Azita, a 47 year old single mother,
now living in Pennsylvania, reminisced about shopping in Italy
for the newest and finest
Western Fashion. High-heeled shoes, bell bottom pants and bikinis
were all top items, as well as makeup, dark makeup; she felt liberated.
She was living
life and enjoying every last minute of it. She also, sadly, remembers
going to her family beach house, after the revolution, on the
Caspian Sea and having
to wear jeans and a veil just to go swimming. She felt robbed
of the simple pleasures.
Many other executions have taken place since, and
age was definitely not an issue when these young women met their
Islamic Republic of Iran Coroner's Office "Burial
document, authorizes the burial of Maryam, daughter of Mohammad
Kazem Ghodsi-Mo'ab, aged
16, whose death on 7th October 1981 resulted from eight bullets
entering her chest, eight her back and one her head. (Executed
by the Revolutionary
Coroner- Dr. Pazhuheshi
Sediqeh Sadeqpour, a political activist, was arrested
and severely tortured to the point of paralyzation, and thus released
be captured again,
tortured. Her eyes were gouged out and she was killed in Shiraz
on November 4, 1985, when her throat was cut. She was 20 years
A disturbing quote from an online book published
on this effort found here states:
According to a "religious" decree, virgin
women prisoners must as a rule is raped before their execution, "lest
they go to Paradise." Therefore,
the night before execution, a Guard rapes the condemned woman.
After her execution, the religious judge at the prison writes out a marriage
certificate and sends
it to the victim's family, along with a box of sweets. In a written
confession in January 1990, Sarmast Akhlaq Tabandeh, a senior Guards Corps
interrogator, recounted one such case in Shiraz prison: "Flora
Owrangi, an acquaintance of one of my friends was one such victim.
before her execution,
the resident mullah in the prison conducted a lottery among
the members of the
firing squads and prison officials to determine who would rape
her. She was then forcibly
injected with anesthesia ampoules, after which she was raped.
The next day after she was executed, the mullah in charge wrote
Guard who raped her took that along, with a box of sweets,
to her parents.
Muslim law dictates the laws that Iranian people
must follow in order to be safe from torture, imprisonment and
as shown by the quote that opens this article. For instance,
if a woman is raped, and she fights off her attacker, she must
that he meant
her, a court that is already favoring the male before the trial
even began. If she does get raped, she is a shame to her family
documented cases where the eldest boy in the family killed
his raped sister in order
bring honor back to a family.
Even so, a woman that is married
and raped is charged with adultery, a crime punishable by
a woman kills her
aggressor, she is automatically charged murder and subject
to death by hanging. These laws leave no room for a woman to
has occurred; it's not even considered a violation.
in the article on womensenews.com the
life of a woman, even Vice President Massoumeh
Ebtekar, is worth
that of a man's
in monetary compensation
in the event of accidental death. Moreover, she has to
ask her husband for
written permission to leave the country on business.
If a headdress is worn incorrectly
in public, it is considered that a woman's crime was
evident and a she is flogged for her crime without a court
necessary because of the nature of the crime.
clear violations of a woman's
right to a trial, but with these laws, what would a
The UN has slowly been applying pressure to Iranian
Parliament to change the laws against women. Most of them are in
clear violation of CEDAW, also known
as the UN's Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women. Unsurprisingly, Parliament vetoed the organizations presence
in Iranian laws. The clergy often state that such laws and movements
from Western influences that are meant to "undermine Islam" as Ayatollah
Hossein Nouri-Hamedani stated. In recent years, the European Union lobbying
has been attributed to the suspension of public stoning women accused of adultery.
Currently, many more women are receiving university
degrees and the literacy rate has been at a steady climb. The younger
generation in Iran, those in university
and at the age their parents were during the revolution, are trying to reshape
Iran's future. Girls go shopping and wear colorful scarves in place of
veils. Their clothing is more transparent and clingy than ever before. Some
clothing stores in area malls are even shut down by the police for their
advertisement of western ideas. But nonetheless, the students persevere
and shed their drab
clothes for the tasteful and flattering.
Women worldwide can aide in this effort as well
as men; students in Iran have been lobbying for international support
in the effort. They claim that
underground organization known as the People's Mojahedin should be removed
terrorist organization list and be aided in its effort to change the government.
They say that the UN should supervise the supposedly free elections, especially
after the most recent election proved the fallacies of the Mullah clergy.
In the most recent election, students boycotted the
election, and as a result, the number of turnouts for the election
inflated, the mullahs
not account for the boycott. Their credibility has reached a stand still
the people want change. Now is the time for other organizations to step
in and aid in the fight for freedom and equality.
Ghazoll Motlagh is a Junior at Penn State University Majoring
in Civil Engineering. She left Iran in 1986. She has not returned
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