Women’s freedom is neither Eastern nor Western, but universal!    (Nahid Siamhoust)

Women’s freedom is neither Eastern nor Western, but universal! (Nahid Siamhoust)

Posted by Bronwyn Newnham on

Iran is a most beautiful nation, with snow-capped mountains and superb beaches. It is the 17th largest nation on earth, and has 1,648 million square kilometres of territory. The climate in Iran varies, with 4 distinct seasons, and a huge diversity of landscape.  Since 1979, twenty-six different sites within Iran have been World Heritage listed.


It is also a nation that has embraced education for both men and women, with a 91% literacy rate (of people aged 15 years and above) as measured in 2002 by the United Nations. 

While women in Iran are highly educated, their rights and freedoms have been increasingly disappearing. 

Since the overthrow of Iran's Monarchy in 1979, Iran has had a government controlled by a 'Supreme Leader'.  There have been only two Supreme Leaders since, and the current leader, Ali Khamenei, has controlled the nation for over 30 years. He is in control of the government, the military and the media. He is supported by a 'Guardian Council'. This council has the responsibility to assess all candidates for government, and can and does disqualify any who do not support the Shah and Islamic law. Increasingly, the Guardian Council positions are held by hard-right Islamic clerics who dominate political and religious life in Iran.




These hard-right clerics have been enforcing behaviour codes, lifestyle and family relationships, as well as dress codes for women in Iran since 1979.

In 1979 tens of thousands of women in Iran came out on March the 8th, International Women's Day, to protest mandatory veiling. They marched for six days. 


This did result in a temporary back down in Government . However, in 1984 this rule was re-introduced as law, and is now enforced with violence and arrest.

Women are not fighting against the Hijab, they are fighting their loss of freedoms, they are "fighting a male dominated government using their bodies for theatre politicking". (Nahid Siamdoust)

Many women protesting are wearing the Hijab, and will continue to do so, but they protest for freedoms and safety, both for themselves and their daughters who may or may not want to wear the Hijab. 

"We are in hijab, our daughters are not. Let us be who God made us to be."

- Azadeh Tabazadeh

Women are now forbidden to enter Government and public buildings and can not go to work without their veil covering all their hair.

Since 2015 women have been using social media to post pictures of themselves without their Hijab. Many younger women began wearing the Hijab loosely, with most of their hair showing.

The 'Guidance Patrols ' have the right to beat and arrest women who are seen not wearing the hijab correctly.

The risks are high, with many women in jail for their courage. The women prominent in the protests have been violently arrested, some suffering broken arms and legs as police carry out arrests.  They have been jailed. Two have died hours after being arrested. Even defending the women in court is an offence, with Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer, arrested with charges of 'encouraging corruption and prostitution', was given a horrific sentence of 38 years and 148 lashes. 

These women, they are our sisters, and we hope and pray for their safety as they fight this battle. Their courage is inspiring. On this International Women's Day, we hope, for the sake of the nation of Iran, that they win the freedoms they are fighting for.


Want to read more from The Fair Trader about International Women's Day?

Read our blog 'International Women's Day 2023 - Fair Trade Embraces Equity' here.

References :

1. Zainab Salbi: Social Activist https: TED Talk: Here  

2. Ideas.TED.com: A Sweet Perspective on the Burka; Behnaz Babazadeh; Here

3. March 8th 1979, Anti-Veiling Protest in Iran; Here

4. Iran Reviewing Mandatory Headscarf Law amid Ongoing Protests: The Guardian, Sunday 4 Dec, 2022: Here 

6. Wikipedia: International Rankings of Iran: Here

7. Women, Life, Liberty; a Slogan 100 years in the making. Nahid Siamhoust: Here

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