I recently had the pleasure of writing an op-ed on Women's Human Rights and Pro-Democracy movement in Iran for the "American Military News"
Please see the op-ed below with the original link on the American Military Website.
“Female Chess Players threaten boycott after being told to wear hijab at the World Championship in Iran.”, “Iranian women defy Supreme Leader’s Fatwa against bicycling.” These are the news stories we have become accustomed to reading about women in Iran, the attempts by the Islamic Regime to repress women’s rights, and the fight of brave Iranian women against the Islamic tyranny in Iran.
Living in secular democracies may sometimes cause us to take for granted some of our most basic rights including the right to choose one’s own clothing, the right to choose what subjects to study, the right to choose a career path, the right to choose when and where to travel and the right to choose our partners and the type of relationship we would like to have.
Unfortunately in many Islamic countries, including Iran, women don’t have any of these basic rights that we enjoy in secular and democratic countries.
As young women grow up in Iran they are told that they have to cover themselves and wear the “Islamic Hejab” which is prescribed by law. From the very beginning this very basic right to choose what to wear is taken away from young women and lack of compliance often leads to arrests, imprisonment, and flogging.
Young women are not allowed to wear makeup or nail polish. They are not allowed to travel without the permission of their male guardian. Women are not allowed to enter relationships outside of marriage. Any relationship outside of marriage will lead to arrests, lashing, and even stoning. The barbaric act of stoning is still carried out by the Islamic Regime in Iran. Same sex relationships are also outlawed and a woman that chooses to enter into a same sex relationship can be flogged or even stoned.
In November of 2012 the Islamic Regime passed a new law banning women from entering 77 different degree programs from English Literature to Biology to mining engineering. This was part of Islamic Regime’s efforts to push women back in to the home instead of allowing women to be productive members of society. Fortunately this plan was not successful, Iranian women continue to attend university in large numbers and work outside of the home regularly.
Family Law in Iran is also stacked against women due to the oppressive nature of Sharia Law. Under Sharia law men can legally have up to four (4) permanent, and many temporary, wives and men are generally awarded the custody of their children after divorce. In 2013 the Islamic Regime approved a new law which allows men to marry their step children who are 13 years or older, essentially legalizing pedophilia.
While things might appear bleak for women in Iran, there is a bright light: the strength and determination of Iranian women to tirelessly fight for their rights. While women face systematic and widespread persecution by the Islamic Regime, they still manage to be in the forefront of the pro-democracy and human rights movements in Iran. In 2015 as part of the “Stealthy Freedom Movement” Iranian women took to social media to post pictures of themselves without the mandatory hejab, creating a major uproar not only within social media but internationally.
Most recently after the Fatwa of Ali Khamenei banning Iranian women from riding bikes, women took to social media once again posting pictures of themselves writing their bikes, clearly and openly defying this oppressive fatwa.
One of the things that has been significantly lacking in the past 35 years is the lack of support from women in democratic countries for women in Iran, however that seems to be changing significantly as women worldwide start to realize that violations of the rights of women in one country can affect the rights of women worldwide.
The most recent example of this is female chess players being told they must compete at next year’s world championship (which is being hosted in Iran) wearing the hijab. World’s top female chess players have reacted with horror to being forced to wear the mandatory hijab and have threatened to boycott the tournament. With strong international pressure from women worldwide I am hopeful that the Islamic Regime will be forced to take a step back, and every step back for the Islamic Regime is a step forward for the Iranian Women and the women’s rights movement in Iran!
Sayeh Hassan is an Iranian Pro-Democracy activist. She is the author of the shiro-khorshid-forever blog (www.shiro-khorshid-forever.blogspot.com) which focuses on the pro-democracy movement and Regime Change in Iran.She regularly speaks at conferences, has appeared on television and radio programs and her writing has been published by publications such as National Post, Toronto Star & Ottawa Citizen. She can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org