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  • Elizabeth Teleisha

What is Going on in Iran?

To answer this question, we must first look to the past of Women’s Rights in Iran. Starting in the 1920s and the beginning of the worldwide Women’s Rights Movement, Iranian women started to make headway in their strive for equality. The Iranian Women’s Party was formed in 1942, and with the help of the Shah’s sister’s work in the High Council of Women’s Organizations of Iran, a reform was passed by the Shah in 1963 that extended suffrage to Iranian women. More progress continued to be made and by the late 1970s, many women held parliament roles and were part of the workforce.

However, the Iranian Revolution in 1979 put a stop to this progress, and even led to its regression. The Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution, replaced the monarchy of Iran with the Shah as its leader to a theocratic republic with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as its leader. He began to Islamiscize Iran, leading to progressively worse treatment of women.

Following the revolution under this new leader, Iran began to enforce various strict laws. Harsh Islamic dress codes took over, the legal marriage age changed from 18 years old to just 9 years old, and women lost their government positions. Women also began to be ignored in almost every aspect of life. This included men having authority over them, and abuses such as sexual assault being overlooked by the government. Despite such extreme conditions, Iranian activists continued working. They managed to increase the amount of women attending schools, and increased the legal marriage age to 13 years old. However, even with their efforts, much of this misogyny and discrimination is still persistent to this day, which leads in to the present uprisings.

Flash forward to present day, on September 13, 2022, Mahsa Amini was visiting the Iranian capital when she was detained by police for wearing her hijab incorrectly. She was taken into custody, said to have been tortured, and died three days later on September 16. This horrifying death is what sparked the recent weeks of uprisings, with women at the lead.

Her death became a call for action, as every Iranian woman could relate to her and understand that this treatment is incomprehensible. As Roya Hakakian states, “perhaps what’s really most significant about Mahsa is that she’s every woman, she’s every Iranian who has ever walked on the street.”

Currently entering into their fourth week of protests, women are not willing to give up. People rush down streets, chanting “Women, Life, Liberty!” They are furious, they are loud, and they want and deserve freedom. Most importantly, they are unafraid. They are willing to face tear gas, being arrested or hurt in order to achieve their goal.

As we can see, this is only the beginning of today’s Iranian Women’s Rights Movement. After years of cruel and harsh treatment, Iranians are demanding change and are not willing to take no for an answer.

Donations and Sites to Help Iran: (Center for Human Rights in Iran) (German association that helps support refugee women) (Abdorrahman Boroumand Center)

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