Women’s Rights in Iran

Cate Russo, Reporter

Women have long faced oppression in Iran. They have been persecuted under the law and have had their rights stolen away from them for decades. Now, however, despite violent repression, Iranian women are using their voices for the sake of their freedom and peace.

Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old Kurdish woman, was arrested and detained by the Iranian morality police on September 13th, 2022, for wearing her headscarf too loosely, and therefore violating the country’s conservative Islamic laws. Ms. Amini died in custody on September 16th. The Iranian government has claimed that she died due to a heart attack, which her family has disputed by stating she had no former health problems, and it is therefore believed that her death was due to a brutal beating by the police (Fassihi, 2022).

The Gasht-e Ershad, or the Guidance Patrol, are Iranian morality police that violently enforce the country’s laws demanding women wear hijabs, or headscarves, to cover their hair and loose-fitting clothes to hide their bodies (“Iran protests: Mahsa Amini’s death puts morality police under spotlight,” 2022). These confining laws are based on the country’s interpretation of Shariah, which is an Islamic law code based on the Quran, and is used as justification in claiming a woman’s chastity is protected by her hijab (Yee et al., 2022). The laws represent the ultraconservative Islamic morals of the Islamic Republic in Iran, which rose to power during the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and they force women below men in every aspect of life in the country (Yee et al., 2022).

In Iran and globally, people have begun protesting against the government since September 17th for their basic human rights and to show their standing in solidarity with Ms. Amini. Thousands of Iranian women have burned their hijabs and cut their hair in public, defying authority (Yee et. al, 2022). Police have met and repressed protesters with violent force, injuring and killing citizens (Kohli, 2022). Nonetheless, popular chants at these riots include “Death to the dictator!” referring to Iran’s corrupt leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and “Women! Life! Freedom!” The government cut off internet access to and from the country recently as well, making it impossible for Iranians to reach out nationally and globally in difficult times, which has led Iranians coming from a variety of backgrounds to grow widely intolerant of the country’s authoritarian dictatorship that asserts power with violence (Yee et al., 2022).

Civil unrest and opposition to the Iranian regime is not new. Ms. Amini’s death was not only a tragedy, but the rightful spark to the many protests taking place all over the world. She has become the face of this both feminist and anti-government movement Iranian citizens have been holding inside of themselves for so long, which has now found its voice (Summers et al., 2022).
The news reporting on the protests currently going on in Iran is complicated, but is very accessible to young people. I was first made aware of Mahsa Amini’s story through social media platforms, such as Tik Tok and Instagram. It is now easier than ever to educate ourselves on the world’s issues, and it is crucial to do so for the sake of vital change.