I Dream of Iranian Feminists

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Lily Stewart

As an American woman, the societal pressure and expectations around clothing are immense . This sort of pressure is a common issue among women across the globe. This past Wednesday (October 22, 2014), thousands of Iranians took to the streets in the city of Isfahan to protest a number of recent brutal attacks on Iranian women - attacks stemming from women not wearing their clothing properly. This bellwether event has proven a feminist victory for a country whose rulers propagate some of the worst women’s rights abuses. Both men and women gathered on the streets to show their support for the victims and their disgust with the attackers. The attacks, aimed at women accused of an infraction of improper attire called “mal-veiling”, occurred when mullah-affiliated gang members on motorcycles splashed acid in the faces of at least eight girls.

The New York Times reported that the attacks have coincided with the passage of a law designed to protect those who take it into their own hands to correct people for acting in an “un-Islamic” way.

“While strict rules on dress, alcohol, sexual relations and much more are not new,” the report states, “the law is aimed at defining crimes against propriety or decency, which in the past would often be corrected informally. In Iran, where most people live in cities and many are highly educated, conservatives are trying to avert changes in attitudes by enforcing traditions.”

Demonstrators at the event chanted, “Veiling cannot be achieved by coercion” and “Misogynistic laws must be annulled”, and called the victims “sisters”.

Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian resistance, was among the first people to express outrage at these crimes, and on October 18th called on human rights and women’s rights groups to condemn these attacks, which have killed, blinded, and disfigured the victims. She stated that the international community’s silence “is tantamount to encouraging the mullahs’ regime to continue these atrocities in Iran.”

In light of the protests in Isfahan, Mrs. Rajavi praised the demonstrators and called on all Iranian people to join the national movement in defense of Iranian women. The movement’s vision has been laid out in Mrs. Rajavi’s Ten Point Manifesto for Gender Equality in Iran. She added that the the mullahs’ regime is using brutality and intimidation to prevent popular discontent among women and young people in Iran.

Despite having a seat on the UN Commission of the Status of Women since 2011, Iran remains one of worst places in the world for women’s rights. Women face violence and segregation as a result of the country’s influential faction of hard line conservatives. Concerts are cancelled for being co-ed, sexual assault victims are sentenced to die for defending themselves, and, unfortunately, the recent wave of acid attacks are not unprecedented in the country.

The recent protests are a good sign, though, a promise of a feminist pushback against a misogynistic regime. That the attacks have occurred are horrible, that the protests have sprung up are hopeful!

Your StoriesErin Bagwell