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As part of the world ascent of women for democratic and economic demands, Iran women carried out a demonstration on last March 8th, despite all the oppression they suffer.

 By Lena Souza.

 

The last demonstration attempt on women international day had been in 2006. When the women gathered, and the police said “this demonstration is not authorized, please disperse”, and violently dispersed them.

The summoning was clandestine, anonymously disseminated due to the risk of being imprisoned. It called for a demonstration before the Ministry of Labor, because the economic crisis implies deep consequences for working women.

The Iran people went to the streets again last year in December to protest against the increase in living cost and corruption. Women participated actively in the demonstrations.[1] Along with the general workers’ movement, they have been facing authorities and struggling against oppression and inequality. On December 27, a woman went to the Revolution Street, in the central region of the capital, Tehran, and took off her hijab (veil over the head). She was imprisoned for a month, and she set free only after paying a fifty minimum wage fine. But, her action became viral on the internet and was followed by many other women.

In Iran, since 1979, women have been forced to use the hijab before non-related male adults. This practice is seen as a sign of modesty by women before the unknown adult.

The movement begun in December became known as the “Girls of the Revolution Street”, where several women took off their veil is a sign of protest. This action radicalized further in the “White Wednesday”, a movement that emerged on the internet in mid-last year, stimulating the use of white clothing on this day of the week as a symbol against the clothing rules for women.

Until February, the police had arrested around 30 women for taking their veil off. Until 1997, the sentence was 74 lashed. Now it is either two months of prison or a fine. A website called MyStealthyFreedom, on the air since the 2009 revolts, created by journalist MasihAlinejad who lives outside Iran has been disseminating the act of taking off the veil in the network, defined as an act of civil disobedience. Fatmeth’s statement, a mechanical engineer, shows the meaning of the movement, “To have to cover up our hair to go out on the streets is not the greatest of my problems as a woman in Iran. But, I hate it the most because it symbolizes our discrimination.” [2] During 2014, according to official statistics, 2,917,000 women received warnings for misuse of the hijab.[3]

The use of the veil, besides uncomfortable, is a retrograde imposition. In addition, the use of makeup is forbidden and clothes must cover women’s arms and legs. Women are exposed to violence that goes from insults to death.

“In October last year in Isfahan, four women were attacked by men who threw acid in their faces, according to official government sources. However, Facebook users claim they were eight. All victims were under 30 years old, and they seemed to have been showing part of their hair. One of them died due to the wounds and the rest lost partial or complete vision.”[4]

Women have also been attacked with knives for not wearing the “correct clothing”. This has been promoted by Church authorities, who encourage their worshippers to organize citizen patrols to call on women’s attention if there are breaking the clothing code. According to the report on the situation of Iran,[5] in 2016, 64,000 women were “warned” for inappropriate clothing.

Besides, women workers suffer even more discrimination and oppression. The husband must give permission for her to work. He may judge that work is not compatible with the woman’s obligations, and stop her from exercising the right to work.[6]

There is also a bill in parliament, The Population and Family Excellence Plan, which seeks to increase the pregnancy rate for population growth. Consequently, it advises hiring men over women both in public and private companies. “According to official data, by the end of 2014, there were 39% unemployed women between the ages of 15 and 29 and only 17.9% men with the same age.[7] In addition, men earn on average five times a woman’s wage.

The government imposes these conditions over women, limiting further their possibility of financial independence. Therefore, forcing them to be victims of all sorts of violence.

In Iran, just as in other countries, oppression is stronger on poor and working women. As seen in an interview with an architect residing in Tehran,[8] “Luckily, as she said, she found a gap in the system. She lives alone in the north of the city, the rich zone of the capital. It is the only place where she is not stigmatized, nor denounced for being single. She says, if you have money, you have freedom. That is one of the great contradiction of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Oppression does not stop there. Iran women face many other problems. For example,

– The need of a tutor (father or husband) to be allowed to travel, have a passport, and even carry out some surgeries.

– The statement of a woman in a process must be verified by another woman to be valid. A man does not need such a procedure.

– The Law of Talion (“only an eye for an eye”) means the punishment shall correspond to the crime committed in case it involves two men. In case it were against a woman, punishment is decreased in half.

– Women are not allowed to engage in sexual intercourse before marriage. Women may be rejected by husband and family if she does.

– Divorce is only allowed if the husband accepts and, in case the woman divorces, she loses custody of the children over 7 in case of boys, and over 13 in case of girls.

– Women cannot go to a soccer field.

All this without mentioning the forced marriages imposed on girls, who may legally be wedded at the age of 13. In itself, this is violent, but there are weddings before this age. Between 2013 and 2014, 41,000 girls were married between the ages of 10 and 14. Besides, polygamy is allowed just for men.

Due to this situation, we must support the struggle and rebellion of women in Iran, even from afar. We must support their organization so that along with the working class as a whole, which must take on their vindications, they struggle to end all oppression and exploitation.

***

Notes:

[1] See article https://litci.org/pt/mundo/oriente-medio-mundo/ira/mudando-historia-da-resistencia-popular-do-ira/ [Portuguese]

[2]http://periodismohumano.com/mujer/la-batalla-diaria-de-ser-mujer-en-iran.html

[3] Idem

[4] Idem

[5]Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. March 2017

[6] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/CountriesMandates/IR/Pages/SRIran.aspx

[7] http://periodismohumano.com/mujer/la-batalla-diaria-de-ser-mujer-en-iran.html

[8] https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/02/16/planeta_futuro/1487255523_665346.html