Iran’s Women Are Unable To Seek Justice Against Their Many Abuses and Rights Infringements
The Iranian regime, governed by the religious diktats of its leading mullahs, systematically denies and abuses the rights of women; in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance, education, work and dress. The secondary role of women in Iranian society is stated clearly in the constitution, first drawn up and implemented after the 1979 Revolution, as belonging to the realm of motherhood, for the rearing of individuals in service of the regime’s ideology and the support of men in their life pursuits.
The constitution takes the family as the fundamental unit of society and directs all laws towards the the safeguarding of family structures and values. This emphasis makes women and their activities a key locus for government intervention and control. All abuses are tolerated because of the stipulation, enshrined in the second constitutional principle, that the law is carried out in the name of God and the Islamic faith.
The issue of women’s dress is particularly troublesome to the regime’s leaders. Khomeini declared, on the eve of International Women’s Day in 1979, that female government employees were required to wear the veil, giving birth to the infamous slogan: “either the veil or a hit on the head” chanted by supporters of this new draconian policy. Today, some 350 pages of laws and bills have been passed to enforce women’s veiling.
A bill, ratified in June 2014, lending license to citizens acting to “enjoin good and forbid vice” has resulted in numerous physical attacks against women. In fact, Mehdi Hashemian, deputy chief of the headquarters for Promoting Good and Prohibiting Vice stated that “Active employees and premier entities will be awarded substantially and spiritually for imposing virtues on women”.
Since late 2014, Iran has seen a wave of acid attacks and stabbings against women deemed to have been improperly veiled; at least 35 women were hospitalised after the passing of a criminal bill in September 2014 which essentially allowed citizens to abuse women in the name of “prohibiting vice”.
Moreover, in January 2015, a bill entitled the “Protection of Honour and Hijab” positioned improper veiling as a traffic violation. Now women can be pulled over in their cars, be subjected to harassment by state agents and receive expensive fines.
Not only women the primary victims of state-enforced clothing regulations, they also have little to no power within the judicial system itself. Historically, the mullah-ruled judiciary has barred Iranian women from seeking justice. For example, one of the first actions of the post-revolutionary regime was to replace civil courts with Family Protection Courts, placing religious judges in control of handling divorce cases.
Additionally, the Iranian Penal Code upholds that the testimonies of two women are equal to the testimony of one man, yet are not considered at all if not confirmed by a male witness. Despite not having equal status to men during judicial proceedings, women often face harsher punishments than their male counterparts. In fact, the age of legal accountability for girls is significantly lower than for boys, 9 compared to 17 lunar years.
The plight of women prisoners must also not be ignored. Political prisoner Zeinab Jalalian, arrested eight years ago for her alleged collusion with Kurdish parties, has been denied medical treatment for kidney problems.
Similarly grave is the situation of Safiyeh Sadegh, detained in Sanandaj Prison since her arrest in 2011 on the charge of inciting “enmity against God”, and suffering from heart and kidney problems. She is at risk of losing both of her kidneys unless she is not transferred to a health facility in the near future. Motahareh Bahrami, Reyhaneh Haj-Ibrahim, Sedigheh Moradi and Fatima Rahnama are just some of the names of women who have been deprived of medical attention for serious illnesses.
The systemic misogyny running through Iran’s social and judicial institutions requires a bold counter-ideological movement for its eradication. President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Maryam Rajavi, had laid out in a 10-Point-Plan her vision for a future Iran in which the rights of women and girls are firmly upheld.