Women press ahead with change in Iran

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No hope for change?

The British-Iranian historian Michael Axworthy writes that the country (after the elections of 2009 and the defeat of the green movement) was looking more and more like a military dictatorship — a tighter and more effective version of what the revolution had brought down in 1979.

Is there no hope for change then? It could come from Iranian women. “An important part of these protests (of 2009) came from women, like in the last 150 years,” activist Mansoureh Shojaee told DW. She was referring to the long history of the women’s movement in Iran, which began even before the constitutional revolution of 1906.

The Islamic Revolution did not take away the voting rights of women, but because the state is led by religious scholars, the women are automatically at a disadvantage in the political arena. Even in the family, according to Shariah rules, all important decisions are taken by fathers or husbands. In order to keep their autonomy as adults, women in Iran often have to deal with their husbands. Thus, after the marriage, the husband decides whether his wife will work. He also determines where the family will live and whether his wife can leave the city or even the country.

That is one side of the story. The other side is the unparalleled educational success of women in Iran: they represent a disproportionate number of university graduates and are strongly present in public sector jobs compared to other Islamic countries.

“The social change to a more urbanized, highly educated society in which women play a much more assertive role is of huge significance, and is bound to change politics in Iran too in the medium to long term,” wrote Iran expert Axworthy.

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