Woman, Life, Freedom

Honouring the Unyielding Resistance of Iranian Women

March is International Women’s Month, marking six months since the protests in Iran began. We’ll be exploring resistance to violence in this article, so please take care of yourself as needed.

The protests were sparked by the murder of 22-year old Mahsa Amini by morality police in September 2022. Amini had been arrested for wearing the hijab “improperly” and wearing tight pants. Her murder gripped the country, with protests and outcry not only for the end of forced hijab wearing for women, but also an end to the oppression that women have been subjected to for decades. While broader issues such as the regime’s repression of all citizens were also part of the demonstrations,  chants for “Zan, Zendagi, Azadi!” which means “Woman, Life, Freedom!” in Farsi have been ringing out during the protests. 

And for good reason. The lives and freedoms of women and marginalized people in Iran are extensively limited, monitored and controlled. According to a 2021 report from the United Nations on the status of human rights in Iran, women are treated like second class citizens. While other violations of human rights are present, such as police brutality, disproportionate number of death sentences, failure to grant arrested individuals a fair trial, lack of freedom of expression and access to information etc., women’s rights remain the main issue in the country, taking up about half of the UN report.

Violent enforcement of dress codes, gender segregation, unfair judicial penalties and unequal economic, political and cultural opportunities, are some of the systemic oppressions women face in the country. In marriage, women can be brutally raped and face domestic violence which is not considered a crime in Iran. According to the report, the legal age for a girl to marry in Iran is 13, and girls younger than 13 can be married with paternal and judicial consent. Child marriage is a gross violation of any child’s human rights, and is a form of gender-based violence

Women are restricted from working despite advances in equal access to education.

Even though the Iranian labour code grants equal protection and free choice of profession to men and women, men can restrict their wives from gaining employment in work that they consider against family values. This means that sometimes, women do not have a choice in the work that they do, if they work at all. Women are also prohibited from participating in recreational activities, such as riding a bicycle, and attending sporting events. 

March also marks two celebrations in Iran. The Persian new year, Nowruz, which means “new day,” symbolizing rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. Following Nowruz, Ramadan is a time of reflection and symbolizes a clean start.

Iran is being born anew, with women at the forefront of resisting the regime’s violence. The country is awakening, with renewed calls for justice, equity and empowerment. While protests have quieted down somewhat, women are still resisting oppression in various ways, from openly walking in the streets in their own choice of clothing, to not wearing the hijab, to openly interacting with men in public, defying the law on segregation of men and women.

As Nowruz and Ramadan begin, let’s celebrate the unyielding courage of Iranian women, LGBTQ2S+ people, and their allies in the face of violent oppression. Let us stand in solidarity with their resistance to an oppressive regime that continues to control almost every aspect of their lives.

Here is how you can do your part:

Stay informed about what is happening in the country.  You can visit organizations such as the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Centre for Human Rights in Iran, Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran, and other reliable sources of information that can inform your action in solidarity with the people of Iran. Most of these also have donation links for urgent action and other ongoing human rights work.

Donate to the Centre for Human Rights in Iran which is a non-partisan organization that researches and documents critical human rights issues. They are an authoritative source of information about the violations of human rights going on in the country, and engage in international advocacy for human rights. Read more.

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