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  • Lucio Gamez Rios

Iranian Women and their Fight for Equal Rights

My friend grew up in Iran and moved here in middle school. Life in Iran is good for you, if you’re a man. If you’re a woman, like my friend, it is horrible. My friend wants to return to Iran to visit her family because who wouldn’t like to visit their family and home? But she’s scared because going back home means returning to a misogynistic society that believes men deserve more rights than women.

The history of women’s rights span centuries, and it is different depending on the country they are from. For example, the history of women’s rights in Mexico is vastly different from the history of women’s rights in Nigeria. In America, women have only had the right to vote in America for 103 years. Three years later, 100 years ago, women were granted the right to be a citizen. However, despite being recognized as voter-eligible citizens, they were still assaulted, harassed, and taken advantage of by men in power for decades, and they still are. The only difference now is that the #MeToo movement rose to prominence in mainstream media around six years ago. However, the movement started before that, back in 2006, by Tarana Burke, who sought to help abused women of color bring their abusers to light. Now, more men are being held accountable for their actions, and more women are finding the courage to speak up.

America still has a long way to go regarding achieving gender inequality. The inequalities women face in America should not be brushed over or diminished. However, for the sake of this article, I will talk about the vast inequalities women face in Iran. Last year, the government limiting women’s rights and treating them as second-class citizens led to public uproar and anti-government protesting.

The constitution of Iran grants equality to all citizens under the law, but in practice, the state continues to discriminate against women. Four articles of the constitution address women, yet within the framework of Islamic law, they provide space for discrimination. Neither the Constitution nor the civil status law protects women’s rights. As a result, last year, one brave woman, Mahsa Amini, stood up to the unjust system she was living in and Iran’s so-called Morality Police when she improperly wore her headscarf. As a result, she was arrested, placed in police custody, and killed.

In the days following her death, many protests followed, which the government cracked down on. According to rights groups, the government jailed and killed thousands of people who were in these protests. After that, small pockets of women chose not to wear their headscarves to support the thousands who died protesting so that their deaths would not be in vain.

According to NPR, a 63-year-old woman and her daughter stopped wearing their headscarf in a village in North Tehran after Mahsa Amini died. Many other women also stopped wearing their headscarves after Amini died, yet they asked NPR not to be identified because they feared government retribution.

Even though the hijab is still enforced in Iran, there is hope. NPR interviewed one of the women who stopped wearing her hijab. When asked if they’d been stopped by anyone trying to enforce the law, she said that the morality police had stopped neither her nor her friends since last year’s protests. Before, they would stop women in the streets, detain them and make them watch a two-hour educational video. There were even reports of beatings and harassment of women in custody. Now, except for restaurants being fined for letting women eat uncovered, the policing of women has reached a slight pause in Iran.

Though the hijab is less policed in Iran, that doesn’t mean women in Iran won’t stop protesting for more rights. Women have been underappreciated and mistreated by men for most of human history. It will take time for women to have as many rights as men because changing learned behavior and policies that have been in place for thousands of years isn’t easy. However, just because women gain more rights does not mean they should stop reaching for new heights. If the women in Iran gained as many rights as the women in America have, that wouldn’t be enough. Although American women can vote, are citizens, and are exposing the behavior of men in power, they are still faced with many disparities. Luckily, over the span of history, women have found the voice to speak out against injustice and they are not going to stop now.

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