As the International women’s Day came and went, the plight of Iranian women remains a blight on gender equality and women’s rights. Women in Iran continue to be suppressed and persecuted by a patriarchal regime in the name of Islam as if they were a miniscule minority not worth considering.
At times, it seems that the road to gender equality is an impossible one. There are too many people in power who want to keep Iranian women “in their place” and women in Iran in fearful of raising their voices to much which might lead them to a dingy cell.
But within the darkness of inequality, there are a few rays of light: the brave women who celebrate their “stealthy freedom” by uploading pictures of themselves without Hijabs is a one of these rays of light. Let’s hope this small ray of light will become a sun once all Iranian women will wear Hijab only by choice.
Another ray of light was Rouhani’s tweet on gender equality.
Rouhani Calls for Gender Equality
Rouhani’s tweet that “women must enjoy equal opportunity, equal protection & equal social rights” is unprecedented and shone through the dark laws of gender inequality enforced by the regime of patriarchs in Tehran.
Whether his tweet is simply a PR ploy to fit in to his efforts to sign a nuclear deal with the West or is Rouhani courageous enough to take on the regime in this issue is yet to be seen. But the fact that an Iranian president placed women’s equality as part of his agenda is unprecedented.
Alongside Rouhani’s tweet were some photographs of happy women enjoying some form of gender equality: Women voting for Rouhani, women studying and women in a volleyball match but only the first (voting) ensures gender equality. Women suffer from inequality in education, sports, the workplace and the law.
Sports as a Microcosm of Inequality
This week Sepp Blatter, the head of FIFA pleaded with Iran to let women into its sports stadiums. Blatter wrote: “I raised the topic at my meeting with President of Iran Hassan Rouhani, and came away with the impression that this intolerable situation could change over the medium term. However, nothing has happened.”
It’s not only football of course. Volleyball is the perfect manifestation of the problems with Iranian sports and women: while they are allowed to play the game, they cannot cheer in the stands. It is quite perplexing to choose, on international Women’s day tweet, a photo of such a known stronghold of gender inequality in Iran.
The Hijab as a Symbol of “Protection”
Rouhani’s call for equal protection is not shared by the parliament in Iran: The acid attacks on women were triggered by the call to allow Basij forces to help enforce hijab laws. What began in the comfort of the male-dominated Majlis ended in brutal attacks by men who felt empowered to throw acid at women’s faces.
The hijab has turned into a symbol of gender equality because it implies that women must hide themselves from men for fear that they might arouse men who would then enjoy the legitimacy of trying to fulfill their passions. As such, apart from being the victims of sexual assault, they would become accomplices to their own assault.
The Hijab which is a means the protection of women is a symbol of the lack of protection women have since without it, they become fair game for the sexual impulses of men.
The list of examples of gender inequality seems endless but every journey begins with a few steps. Two of these steps are ridding Iran of stringent hijab laws and allowing women equality in sports. If even one of these blights are removed, others will surely follow.