Iranians women struggle for freedom: after and before the revolution

There are various studies done on the subject of the Iranian women and struggle for freedom from religious and equality oppression. Even though the women’s contributions have in the past received very little attention, their role is never the less very articulate. The most memorable role that the women in Iran demonstrated is during the anti-sharia revolution. This women struggle cases has been mainly classified as before and after the revolution. (The National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee) The contributions of Islam in the interpretation of certain laws have led to insurmountable oppression of women.

Thus in the 19th Century era, the women in Iran were largely regarded as being lesser to their male counterparts in most issues. This era is best remembered during the rule of dictator Reza Khan and his sibling. This era drew back the Iranian women progress while the rest were keeping trend with globalization. Reza Khans regime was very instrumental in pressing for the women to unveil and leadership was tending towards the Western world. However, there are certain aspects that were very indicative of their oppression of the women progress towards political power. (The National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee)

The later regime in Iran by Khomeini also had its toll on the women struggle from oppression. Whereas they had a lot of promise to reverse the style of Reza Khan Leadership, their way was worst. This observation is credited by the fact that Khomeini used to pass rules and law on the pretext of religion. Thus, the Khomeini regime was faced by other religious rebellion such as the Shiite Muslims which has made considerable progress towards recognizing the more than 30 million Iranian women rights. (The National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee) Iranian women and their struggle for freedom

A lot of credit has been given to the Iranian women participation in the revolution in Iran. Before the revolution the Iranian women were subjected to the Shah laws that forced them to abide by secular cultures such as unveiling while promoting the secular dresses from the west. But these reforms were regarded as shallow since the same women were barred from active political participation. This oppression forced the women to clamour for change by uniting in the Islamic revolutionary movements that hit a climax by 1979. The women then did not trust that the Shah regime was for them other than cosmetic reforms that they implied were in place.

The women decided to do away with some western culture dressing code such as mini skirt and favoured the chador because they did not wish to be associated with the communist movement. In this case, the women wanted to make an Islamic point by true identity. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) When Ayatollah Khomeini came to power, he promised the women a lot of freedom in the cultural, social and political platform post revolution. But all this promises were in vein even as he tried to imply that he was the true Islamic leader. The failed promises angered the women in Iran as slowly; more restrictions were systematically put in place.

These restrictions did not dampen the spirits of the women as they continued to clamour for their freedom and rights. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) As a testimony of their relentless struggles, the Iranian women were publicizing their progress in journals and articles lead by popular women’s right activist Afsaneh Najmabadi. As globalization caught up in the rest of the world, the women agendas were treated with a lot of caution. This was because most of the colonial masters were scared stiff of the potential power of the women unity and struggle for leadership.

At least the women had the numbers that could be exploited by anyone who had intentions of bringing down regimes. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) The true nature of the Iranian women struggle was based on their ability to transform on their own. Women in Iran were very vocal and instrumental in the prioritising of their issues that had previously been considered petty, secondary, nonsense, to make these urgent and substantial. It is the Iranian women’s attempt to define the authenticity of their agenda that was not going down well with regimes before and after the revolutions.

The misconceptions arose when women roles were being weighted against that of their western world counterparts who are from the Islam faith. Thus whereas some middle leaders in Iran wanted the women to subject like those in Afghanistan who have now say even in the village level, the Iranian top leadership thought otherwise. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) This diverse view on the role of women in Iran was well capitalised on by the activists who led revolutions from a feminist advocacy point of view. Therefore we can now experience secular views in women Islamism, feminine revolutions and advocacy.

Even the most conservative Islamic leaders in Iran have been forced to recognize their powers and roles in modern Iran. These leaders try as much as possible not to suppress the women struggles any more. But the women struggles also meet stiff resistance occasionally from the same clergy on religious grounds. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) Iranian women alliances that have been formed for the sake of resisting the oppressive forces have often been isolated by the authorities, because the authorities are cautious of their revolutionary consequences.

This latest reception has often caught the women activist with dismay. Never the less, the past women revolutions took active role in the disposition of previous regimes in Iran. These women took courage from their understanding of the role of an Islamic woman such as promoting good rule and consciousness. The heart of Islamic women revolution has been at the institutions of higher learning. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) At this realization that academic institutions were strengthening the Iranian women’s struggle, they have been oppressed even more.

In the 1990s the women were subjected to very stiff rules that impacted on their social welfare. But their struggle for freedom has been very well calculated without application of deceit as is common with their male counterparts. Today, many women in Iran are no longer at the mercy of the ruling regime. They stand out occasionally when their welfare has been trodden. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) Therefore, the Iranian women lead other women in Islamic nations especially in the Arab world due to their consistency in the struggles.

No wonder other Arab nation country women in the gulf region envy them. Consider the case in Kuwait where the women are yet to get full rights to vote. The situation in Iran is two fold progress, the women can vote as well as get elected to office including the second top job in the country. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) Post revolution, the women in Iran have managed to bargain for a lot of legal reforms that touch on their lives. Taking an example of a divorce case, if the woman is not liable for the proceeding causes, she has a right to own half of the wealth accumulated in their marriage life.

There is no other Muslim country where this kind of law exists. The best efforts were seen in Egypt when Anwar Sadat’s wife forced the husband to transfer the name of their house under her name. But this law was shot down with the death of Anwar Sadat courtesy of the Islamic University. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) Other mileage that the Iranian women have won include divorce proceedings that when the man be is not responsible for their upkeep more that half a year or is incpacitaed or generally uncooperative to this responsibility.

Women can also file for divorce proceedings if they are mistreated. Women in Iran have the right to file for divorce proceeding if the spouses are alcoholic addicts and irresponsible to the family for period not less than six months. Women in Iran can also see divorce if the husbands marry other women without their prior consent or if the husband is unfaithful. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) Thus the above legal gains are an example of how women in Iran have transformed themselves as compared to the others in the Muslim world.

An Iranian woman has also got the right to be compensated for the lifetime spent in marriage if during a divorce proceeding, it is proven to be the husbands fault, according to the Iranian law. This has implications that the men in Iran are much subjected to many pro-women clauses in the legal platform. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) The whole process of Iranian women struggle is very forceful and influential. The women do so by the freedom of media publications which current and past regime find very hard to gag. It is this freedom that has gradually transformed to radical feminism in Iran.

This freedom for the Iranian women has revolutionized their thinking capacity and dimensions. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) In the current Iranian state, the female literacy levels are very high due to the affirmative action and pressure from the women revolution. The female literacy has been very instrumental in promoting women awareness in the Iranian struggles. These efforts have also been seen in the decisions of family planning. The Iranian women role in the revolution as such cannot be undermined as they have managed to shape the law, politic, economy and social status of everybody in Iran.

However it remains to be seen how the Iranian women will come to match the men in revolutionary aspects as most of the sceneries are still male dominated while the women only get as far as the vice positions. (Ali, “Women and Personal Law in Iran. ”) Assessment of the Iranian women freedom situation before the revolution As early as 1905, the Iranian women had started agitating for freedom and democracy. These women were more interested in the political mileage as they viewed this as the fundamental way to change their destiny. However, when the Shah rule that was western oriented set in the women felt more sidelined and oppressed.

The Shah regimes ensured that the women were actively involved in the economic developments so that the country could achieve its capitalistic aims. But the shocking differences in all this Shah Regimes efforts were the disparities that were accorded to the women as opposed to their male counterparts. These disparities slowly degenerated to human right abuse directed to the women. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”) So when the opportunity presented itself in 1979 following the burst of the flammable plant, the women and noticeably the traditional genre were all out in the streets and roads to press for change and liberty.

There sheer numbers made a very significant point to the regime. In the pre-revolution period, the women activists were well coordinated and were against the patriarchal dominance. They were of the strong opinion that they could produce just as much as their male counterparts. In the 1970, the women in Iran were getting impatient with the discrimination at homes and work places. The drive for equality appeared realistic but still needed some stronger feminist advocacy. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”) The women in Iran were very instrumental in the toppling of Shah’s regime.

They were every where. They took strategic positions in barricading the major roads to press for a regime change. They lead massive demonstrations and workers strikes to paralyse the economy and seek recognition. Women in Iran took active roles in the wars in the country. But as soon as the Shah regime was toppled in 1979, the women were backstabbed. The Khomeini regime was very suspicious of the women power and leaned on religion to declare decrees that would incapacitate the women power afresh. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”)

The first bump that the Iranian women met when Khomeini came to power was the abolition of the Family Protection Law that was instituted in 1967. In less than a week, Khomeini announced that no woman in Iran would be appointed a judge and cited sharia law prohibitions. 48 hours ahead of the international women’s day, the Iranian leader set a new dress code for all Iranian women. This new decree required women to wear veil at work and even out of work. This was the most prolific and enigmatic decree ever in the Islamic Republic of Iran and would be the centre of feminism and revolutions to follow.

(Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”) On 10th March, 1979, just two days after the International women’s day, the Iranian women set up a rally to oppose the veil decree. The Khomeini regime responded with might. But the Iranian women were to learn that their male counterparts were not willing to support their course. Their lack of support was also an issue the women progressively disliked as the Iranian regime continued to crush the women organizations systematically. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”)

In the same year, the ruling regime officially used Sharia to crush women revolts and would give flimsy reasons such as morality for the arrests and detentions. In essence the women’s sexuality was under attack. The women were segregated every where in public, private, institutions and at social places. The ruling class came up with all sorts of imaginary laws that would target women and their sexuality. This included women’s private life, foods, drinks, studies and even when to travel. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”)

Later, the Iranian women struggles in the pre-revolution received another blow as they were barred from contesting presidency, holding any religious cleric positions, judiciary and also in the academic fronts. In essence Khomeini reintroduced 13 century old law such as the Qisas which allows women to be reattributed. Thus any woman who was allegedly ‘caught in the act’ would be punished by arm amputation or stoning. Those who did not wear the veil would be jailed and if virgins would be raped while in prison ahead of eye gouging. This law was applicable to ages 9 and above. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution.

”) During the pre-evolution era in Iran the women were further subjected to laws in the marital life that only allowed the men to have up to four wives and the decision of divorce was exclusively the mans prerogative. The man would have al the children rights and sexual assault was at record high getting a nod from the ruling class and supervised by religious laws. Religion was systematically sanctioned to take preference whenever key political, social, legal and economic decisions were to be made. Any formal or informal women resistance would be treated as subversion and met with the full might of the Sharia law.

In fact the women movement were monitored throughout the day. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”) As this went on the women in Iran plotted a revolution. They were tactical enough not to face the Islamic decrees to begin with but started from rejection of the western ideologies. While their voices and unity grew, they slowly started questioning the oppressive sharia rules and regulations on their public and private lives. The piecemeal imprisonment did not deter their effort up to the famous 1979 revolution. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution.

”) Assessment of the Iranian women freedom situation after the revolution After the revolution, the Iranian women have made some socio-political gains. The literacy standards when men are compared to the women have seen real narrowing gaps. Indeed, the women make up nearly two thirds of the population of higher learning institutions. But the population of women in the workforce is still lower than their male counterparts. Similarly, the women who have been allowed to vote from 1963 only managed to get 13 memberships in the parliament in the 2004 elections.

The women have also made remarkable progress towards the millennium development goals. (Abootalebi 42). Post revolution, the Iranian women made several progresses in literal and real world due to their persistent and consistent pressure and struggles. Having survived the previous Pahlavis restrictions and oppressions, that were characterized by western world ideologist, political suppressions and favour for men, the women set out to prove a few points. These progresses were captured by literal works from the sympathizers of their course. Never mind that the literature works were also previously dominated by the male folks.

(Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) The women strugglers in Iran were able to be metaphoric, imaginary and figurative in their struggles. Where as the Iranian clerics were still adamant about the women position and dimensions in the society, they still used the same old religious justification to champion for some unpopular and antifeminist leadership. Post revolution, the Iranian women were successful in undoing a lot of the systems that were put in place and perfected by the Reza Khan Pahlavis regime.

The women did this by redefining the womanhood from their own perceptions and reinstated the veil to signify ideology shift and transformation. (Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) But since not all women were for the revealing shift, the post revolution regime took the idea too far and asked for total veiling in the Iranian women fraternity. The pre Reza Khan’s Pahlavis regime was pressing for an unveiling that was at least exposing the faces of the women but covering their heads and ears.

This post revolution clamour for new veiling laws was perceived as being worse as compared to the pre-revolution regime requirements. This move agitated the elite Iranian women who stood out and defied the ruling class. This was the beginning of the Iranian women centre-left wing revolution. (Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) Post revolution, the veil stood out as the ultimate test and symbol of defiance or conformance to the political and religious leaders’ wishes.

Therefore the women activists who are in the literal world were aggressive in expressing their opinions by unveiling in their literal works. This latest women freedom of oppression has been very instrumental in exposing how Iranian women were oppressed sexually. This is a subject that they could not have managed to discuss in public in the past regime even though they were being impressed upon to dress in a secular manner. The post revolution freedom of expression for women in Iran has made very candid progress in exposing how the society is run by patriarchal flaws.

(Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) These flaws were traceable to the pre revolution where women were exploited and abused sexually. The fact that many journals, articles and books are gaining preference in the Iranian feminine world is a testimony that previous regimes were insensitive to sexuality issues by using religious teachings as a bias platform. Due to this positive development, the post revolution women in Iran have gained from new values, are thinking liberally and are socializing more freely as compared to the pre revolutionary period.

(Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) Post revolution assessment of the Iranian women struggles show that there is raising radicalism. Picture a woman suicide bomber targeting a foreign ideology or western infrastructure! Similarly, many women who are not attached are expressing their affections more radically as compared to the previous period. The women do not want to be tied down to the old motherhood and childbearing pressures. The women are rebelling more from any form of psychological and physical oppression from their male counterparts.

(Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) Post revolutions, the women in Iran have the power to run and organize cultural shows that depict where they have come from and where they would want to be in the next millennium. The women are coming out bravely to talk about what they undergo with their spouses which was unthinkable before the revolution. Literature has been used as a powerful tool by the Iranian women to speak their minds and state their political exceptions with the male political proposals.

This point is strengthened by the resolve of the Iranian women to write books journals and magazines for their course of struggle. (Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) The impact of globalization on the Iranian women struggle During the advent of globalization, the women in Iran have made some significant gains. Globalization has enabled the women in Iran to compare and contrast their social, political, economic and legal status vis-a-vis their counterparts in other countries.

(Gohari, “Women without Borders visits UNIFEM Switzerland/ Liechtenstein” ). Globalization has enlightened the women of Iran to defy any forms of violence, abuses, sabotage and misdemeanours. Globalization has enabled the women of Iran to seek international legal redress whenever their human rights are under oppression. Due to globalisation ideologies, the Iranian women have managed to bargain for political positions by affirmative action. The rest of the women are occupying very high level professional positions. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”)

The future of the Iranian women 30 years after the Iranian women actively participated in the memorable revolution straggle, they are more interested in bigger mass movement after experiencing the insurmountable benefits. The Iranian women who are in the higher learning institutions are taking these positions as a launch pad for their political careers to voice more changes in favour of the women. The modern Iranian women struggle is against future patriarchal rule that proposed to suppress the women. (Hill , “Iranian women- Vanguard of the World Revolution. ”).

The future Iranian women generation are more focused on moderate religion that extremist religion as this has been their undoing in the past. (Kar 1-25). The future Iranian women generations are relentless in the struggle for democracy and good governance and earn feminine credit for it. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”) The future of the Iranian women will be based on alliances that are progressive in liberating feminism from capitalistic exploitation, religious suppression, and social condemnation, political under cuttings, economic discrimination and imperialist ideologists.

The future of the Iranian women is to pear head the liberation of the women in Afghanistan and Iraq who are their Muslim sister but under intense oppression. The Iranian women expect to continue the Iraq course that was championed by the US led invasion following among other reasons, abuse of the regimes to the women cause. (Red Pepper Magazine, “Women of the revolution. ”) Conclusion: Is it better before or after revolution? Overall, there are ideologies and issues that cut across the pre-revolution and post revolution Iranian women struggle and advocacy. (ICG Middle East Report N°5 1-45).

First, the women’s sexuality, social, economic and political views are oppressed by the ruling class and Islamic clergy. The only difference is that the post revolution Iranian women are able to take advantage of the literal world to write about the struggles for independence, equality, feminism and power. After all even the western world which is the benchmark for modern civilization, has evidence of their reservations about some of these themes. Yet it is the persistence of the Iranian women to presses for the freedom and recognition of these ideologies that led to collapse of the Reza Khan Pahlavis regime.

In terms of the women sexuality struggles, the Post revolution Iranian women are better off than the pre revolution women because they have literary mileage. In term of political class, the post revolution Iranian women are better off that the pre revolution Iranian women because they can vote as well as seek elective offices. In terms of literacy levels, the post revolution women have made more progress than their predecessors as evident from the enrolment figures. In term of employment opportunity, the two eras are somewhat a tie because most of the job positions are still dominated by the male folks.

In terms of social positions, the two eras are also a tie if not worse going by the veil views and rules. In fact Iranians women are yet to embrace subject of sexuality in the public forum even though there is literal evidence that they are orientating just like the West, a view that was also held in the pre-revolution era. (Talattof, “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women, Literature. ”) Works Cited Abootalebi, Ali. “Iran’s Struggle for democracy continues: An evaluation of twenty five years after the revolution. ” Middle East Review of International Affairs, Vol. 8, No.

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“Iranian women- Vanguard of the World Revolution. ” September 1979. Los Angeles Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women. 17th April 2009. <http://www. socialism. com/library/iranwomen. html > ICG Middle East Report N°5. “ Iran: The Struggle for the revolution’s soul. ” 5th August 2002. Amman/ Brussels. 17th April 2009. < http://www. iranwatch. org/privateviews/ICG/perspex-icg-revolutionssoul-080502. pdf. > Kar, Mehrangiz. “A Leading Feminist Activist and Human Rights Lawyer. ” 7th March 2007. Mazda Publishers, Inc. , 17th April 2009.

< http://www. mazdapublisher. com/Documents/Mehrangiz%20Kar. pdf. > Talattof, Kamran. “Gender, Feminism, and Revolution: Shift in Iranian Women Literature. ” 1st March 2007. Gozaar, Freedom House. 17th April 2009 < http://staging. gozaar. sawco. com/template1. php? id=459&language=english> The National Council of Resistance of Iran Foreign Affairs Committee. “Women, Islam & Equality” August 1995. A publication of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran. 17th April 2009. < http://www. iran-e-azad. org/english/book_on_women/introduction. html >