There has been a great struggle over the rights of women in Iran; this move has created a battle ground between modernity and tradition forces in Iranian society and in its politics. The move entered a new phase in the Islamic republic in 1997 due to the emergence of a reformist movement. This issue of women rights brought a broader conflict over two Islamic issues which were; one, the absolutist and legalistic Islam which emphasizes on duty and tolerates neither dissent nor consent of contemporary realities in life.
The second is the pluralistic and the tolerant Islam which promotes values of democracy as well as human rights. (Ziba, 37-53). According to (Ramin 15), modernization can therefore be referred to as a process that societies go through and transforms their lives; they are such as industrialization, urbanization and other social changes in people’s lives.
It involves a standardized evolutionary pattern away from barbarism to high development and civilization levels in a society, which makes a country more powerful and wealthier and its people free to exercise their rights and have high standards of living. For many years now, Iranian people have made all kinds of sacrifice and have suffered almost all kinds of injustices with the slight hope of having a better future for their homeland, children and people themselves but all in vain.
The tyrannical regime ruling them is insensitive and is unwilling to help them even with the most basic needs and rights. People have been killed mercilessly, their little wealth stolen, denied their rights but even with the promised change of regime by Khomeini, the same cruelty on people especially women has continued and there seems to be no hope of reform or any achievement of gender modernization by the Iranian women. In this paper therefore, I Am going to discuss the plight of women and the struggle for modernization which seems to have hit a dead end.
According to (Said 100), theocratic laws have been used in Iran for a long time and they have affected the Iranian women for decades. The revolution which took place in 1979 in Iran gave birth to the theocratic rule in Iran and affected the women in a great way. The Islamic fundamentals have dominated women’ world and everything that comes with it; they have taken their rights, rejected men and women as equals and have allowed men to topple over the women and beat them if necessary.
The theocratic laws are used even in current times and have continued to suppress women and deny them their rights as well as their freedom. After taking over the regime, Khomeini and other leaders betrayed the work of women who fought for revolution and humanity by implementing a system which crushed the system of gender apartheid. They further build a theocracy on the basis that women are inferior to men physically, intellectually and morally. This move by the fundamentalists’ eclipsed possibility of equal participation by women in political and social activities.
They positioned the place of women at homes where they were only meant to rear children, caretaking and providing satisfaction and comfort to their husbands who were meant to participate in politics, culture and economy building. The theocratic laws have gone as far as creating official laws against the Iranian women which prohibit them from leadership, presidency, judgment, inheritance laws and some educational fields as well as control over their public and private lives and roles.
According to the constitution, married women should be granted permission by their husbands to apply for a passport or to travel to another country and the government ensured that women rights are in conformity with the Islamic set criteria. A penalty of flogging (100 strokes) is administered to unmarried women who have committed fornication and women who appear on the streets without the Islamic jehab are condemned to 74 strokes for the offence. Women are also not allowed to put on any kind of makeup otherwise they will be punished for that as it is not allowed in the Islamic culture.
(Said 100), The constitution further states that lives of women are valued only half those of men; if a man slain a woman intentionally, he will only be executed after the victims family has paid his family a certain amount of money ‘Deyeh’ for physical damages or his death and the fine is usually half of a Muslim woman over a Muslim man. The Iranian women should not have the same inheritance rights as the men, a motion which was passed by the Iran’s parliament in 1998 with the argument that it is contrary to the Islamic law.
Another law was passed in 1998 to fully segregate women and girls’ health care; this move by the parliament has seriously compromised the health of women since the trained female physicians are not enough to offer the health care professionalism needed by women and girls in Iran. Khomeini curtailed many of the freedoms enjoyed earlier by Iranian women during the Pahlavi regime, he expelled women from the judiciary, forced them to wear hejab, repealing the family protection Act and even limiting their freedom of movement.
Although women played a big role in the revolution process and formed a part of the Iranian politics, the state of post-revolution has failed to meet their expectations of improving their conditions of live in the country. The Iranian women have tried to challenge the status they are in by serving as political representatives with the hope of shaping the country’s political life; however their efforts have not been recognized because only a small number of seats in the majilis have been won by women.
The revolution has toppled over what was considered to be the pseudo- modernist monarchy in the Islamic republic, under the leadership of Khomeini, all the myths of secular modernization has been defied and political ideologies have also been shattered. The Iranian Islamic republic has institutionalized the ideas of the rule of the jurist and it is the first theocratic state to do so. The revolution in Iran has attracted great attention of intellectuals and scholars and has been perceived by many as a revolution against secular modernity which is being experienced in the western countries.
It is said to attack the aspects of the culture in western countries and has protested against the political prudence of the modern era. The revolution was seen as a sign of progress towards freedom and modernization just like the revolution which had take place in France several years ago; however, the progress was dimmed as the sign of modernization remained invisible because it was never institutionalized in the Iranian political system but instead, the Islamic regime’s political system was designed with the intention of involving and dominating the political process and the government functions with the clergies.
The transformation brought great tension between the dark and backwards forces of traditions and the liberal and enlightened values modernity in Iran. (Ramin xiv). All these aspects in the politics of Iran show that it is hard for the Islamic country to be able to achieve modernization while still holding on to theocracy which seems to dominate the country in all aspects. The Iranian women in the pre revolutionary Iran when the country was ruled by Shah had began to adopt the secular changes which were taking place in the country.
In Shah’s regime, modernization had begun to form and women had begun to become modernized as they embraced the new culture from the west. They did not have a strict dress code and their rights were more lenient and accommodating as compared to Khomeini’s regime. With the onset of the theocratic regime of Khomeini, women’s’ lives became a living hell as the regime was set to control their lives, education and careers. (Ramin xiv). The new government was determined to islamatise the country and creates a new image of the women to a ‘typical Muslim woman’.
Their lives turned to strict Muslim laws, dictatorship and lacked freedom of exercising their rights. The women were publicly segregated and no woman would go out of the house without a veil or show her face in front of male persons who were not family members, they were also not allowed to be accompanied by a male counterpart who was not a family member otherwise they would be arrested and punished severely. This shows that the Iranian women were affected by the politics and Islamic laws more than before. (Hammed 99).
Various strides have been made towards modernization in Iran, the sad truth however is that the process of modernization ended up in a big crisis in the country. There was confusion between the traditions and the modernization and chaos erupted as a result of the attempt adapts modernization. Actually, what was experienced instead was an economic disturbance and instability at a very slow pace which almost brought the economy of the country to its knees. The social changes were superficial, unrelated and poorly thought; this is because the Iranian government tried brings change to Iran by carbon copying other country’s cultures and thoughts.
(Cyril, Louis, Elizabeth 268). The results were devastating as Iran experienced neither cultural change nor political or democratic transformation. This therefore shows that the strides taken towards modernization in Iran did nor bear fruits for its people but left them more devastated. Existence of the theocratic law has also hindered modernization because the laws are traditional and strictly of the Islamic culture which does not allow a lot of modernization aspects like the secular changes which involves opening of businesses such as clubs, movie houses and public social gatherings.
The secular modernization also involves new clothing design for women which may not be allowed by the Islamic culture. Although there is change of culture surrounding inferiority of women in Iran, women are still found to be inferior to men and they are still denied many of their rights by the government. There has been creation of organizations which fight for women rights but they are met by a strong opposition from the Islamic laws which are used and the Islamic clergy men who don’t want to leave the Islamic culture.
In any case the inferiority seems to enter new dimensions to the worst due to the unbelievable laws existing and others which are passed in the parliament advocating against women. A plan has also been made by the Iranian government to make the girl schools a no go zone for males. It requires all the staff and the teachers to be women a move which has lead to higher rates of girls’ school dropouts due to lack of enough teachers to handle the many girls who are coming to school. ( Fathi 95)
The parliament has gone a mile ahead to deprive women of their rights by approving a law which prohibits any discussions of issues concerning women outside the interpretation of the Islamic law. The parliament went further to hinder any possibilities of women rights discussions by passing a bill which prohibited publication of any materials that defended women rights. They argued that if some of the rights were published in the media, they would bring conflicts between genders which are not acceptable. (Hughes 22).
The Iranian women suffer from inferiority complex; they feel that they are inferior to men and the world at large therefore making the culture surrounding their inferiority hard to change among different people and especially their government and men because they use this as an excuse to tumble on their rights of humanity. Movements such as the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) have been formed to fight for Iranian women’s rights. The organization brings the women together to strengthen their esteems so that they can be able to fight for their rights and a sense of freedom in their lives.
It also involves the media so that to communicate with other women and people who may be willing to be of help to them. They also protect the women against violence. However the government is making it hard for the organization to run smoothly as it emphasizes on sticking to the Islamic laws set in the country. (Hughes 22). It is still hard to change the inferiority culture of women in Iran today, this is because the laws are still against most of their rights and most leaders and especially the clergy view them as weak people who are inferior to men and should be used as sex objects by men.
An official network of prostitution by prominent religious leaders has been created; in one particular case, Ayatollah Haeri Shiraz called for clerical leaders to have a religious based sexual relationship with women where they would be given women exclusively for their sexual satisfaction. This move by the clergy shows that women are still viewed as inferior and as objects. Women who are appointed in the government have also ganged against the Iranian women rights and they are in support of the Islamic laws.
To be precise, the highest publicized woman Massoumeh Eb tekar does not favor the idea of loosening the restrictions put against women. She support the law that women should only be allowed to travel by their husbands by saying that the men are responsible for the finances as well as security of their family thus the women have to seek for permission from husbands since they are the one’s who will provide th finances for traveling. She also supports the punishment by stoning of women who are accused of fornication and adultery by saying that considerations of the psychological and legal affairs of the society have to be looked into.
She further says that if rules of families are broken, it would lead to a complicated consequence and therefore precautions should be taken to ensure that they are not broken. In conclusion therefore, equality, the right of participating in social, economic and political activities as well as respect for human is what the Iranian women want. They desire a dignified and productive life which will make them feel part of the developments in Iran.
They want to see a modernized Iran which recognizes them as people who can make decisions and participate in nation building so as to achieve a better political stand and a better economy for the country. They want their government to lift the many laws which they have put against them so that they can live freely and be able to possess their rights which they have been deprived off for a very long time; The dress codes for women, arrests, inhuman punishments and mistreatment of women can be looked at by the government and find a way of eliminating them or finding other methods of punishments which are more agreeable and less intense.
Donna Hughes, Women in Iran; a Look at President Khatami’s First Year in Office, Z magazine, (October 1998), pp. 22-24. Fathi Ashghar, Women And The Family In Iran, Brill, ISBN: 9004074260, (1985). Hammed Shahidian, Women In Iran, greenwood publishing group. ISBN: 0313314764, (2002). Kousha Mahnaz, Voice From Iran, Syracuse university press, ISBN: 0815629818, (2002). Ramin jahanbegloo, Iran: Between Tradition And Modernity, Lexington books, ISBN: 073910530, (2004).
Cyril Black, Louis Dupree, Elizabeth Endicott, The Modernization Of Inner Asia, M. E Sharpe, ISBN: 0873327799, (1991). Said Amir Arjomand, The Turban For The Crown, oxford university press, United States, (1988). Ziba Mir-Hosseini, International Journal Of Politics, Culture, And Society: The Conservative-Reformist Conflict Over Women’s Rights In Iran, Springer Netherlands, 16(1) September 2002,Sample Essay of Paperial.com