By: Addie Chauhan
The world has been watching in both horror and fascination as tens of thousands of Iranian women take to the streets under constant martial law to fight for equal rights. But to understand where the nation’s women’s rights movement is headed, we need to look at its history.
In 1963, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the ruler of Iran, put into motion a “White Revolution,” which consisted of vast Westernization and modernization. During this time, women’s rights were increased, and women were granted the right to vote and run for Parliament.
The White Revolution was greatly opposed by nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists, who believed that the implementation of Western policies and ideals was taking away from Persian and Islamic cultural beliefs. Popular nationalist Ayatollah Khomeini was among the leaders of the rebellion but was exiled.
Fifteen years after the beginning of the White Revolution, the rebellion was only getting stronger. Desperate, Pahlavi declared martial law (1978) but ended up fleeing the country a year later. Upon his departure, Khomeini returned and fueled the ever-growing fire of the Iranian Revolution.
In 1979, Iran was declared an Islamic Republic— which resulted in immense losses for the women’s rights movement. To quote Iran Primer, “Women could no longer file for divorce unless the right was stipulated in marriage contracts, and they lost the right to child custody. Restrictions on polygamy were also removed. The marriage age for girls was reduced to puberty, which is nine under Islamic law. Hejab, or Islamic dress and head cover, was forcibly imposed. Showing a bit of hair became punishable, with penalties ranging from heavy monetary fines to 70 lashes.” Iran has functioned as a dictatorship since the end of the Revolution, but that may change, as a new one appears to be taking root.
On September 13, 2022, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested for allegedly incorrectly wearing the hijab by Iran’s morality police, who enforce Islamic law in Iran. 3 days later, Amini mysteriously died in custody, sparking protests mostly led by women and young girls against the discrimination and injustices they face.
Chants such as, “Women, life, freedom,” and “Death to the dictator!” have been sung across the nation. Actions punishable by death in the country have been taken, many by schoolchildren.
Unfortunately, this lobby for rights has been met with an intense response from the government. To quote CNN, “Between September 20 and September 30, rights watchdog Amnesty International documented the killing of at least 23 children, it said last week, sounding the alarm about an already violent crackdown that is now targeting children.”
As sad as it is to say, more women will pay the prince for the closed mindsets of their leaders. Garnet Valley and the world stand in solidarity with Iran and watch attentively as this movement progresses. Garnet Valley’s Amnesty International chapter will be holding fundraisers and spreading awareness for Iranian women; follow @gvhs_amnesty on Instagram and keep up with emails for updates.