TitleGender equality and fight for democracy intertwined

Women’s Struggle and the Green Movement

1 Mar 2010

■ Azadeh Kian
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Iran undoubtedly has one of the most dynamic civil societies and women’s rights movements in the Middle East. From the 1990s onward, the Iranian civil society has been marked by the vitality of debates on social, civil, cultural, economic and political dimensions of women’s citizenship.
The civil society that started to emerge after the end of the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88) rejected political violence but was confronted with a closed political system. It was through « civil democracy » that female social actors advocated democratic rights, attempted to acquire full citizenship rights and a just and moral (non-violent, non-corrupt) political order. Women, from different generations and social categories, have become standard bearers of the ongoing genuine non-violent movement for democracy. The latter was set into motion by massive and unprecedented electoral frauds on the one hand, and the arrogance of the leaders on the other, which provoked moral indignation of millions of voters.

Women’s massive participation in the protest movement can be explained partly through the contradictions between women’s modern social, demographic and cultural behavior, and the archaic laws and institutions that attempt to reinforce patriarchal power relations, in both private and public realms. Because women were the first to bear the burden of the rule of political islam, they were also the first to challenge its legitimacy.
The revolution has indeed led to profound societal changes and has increased social, cultural and economic activities (especially in the informal sector of the economy that employs 50% of Iran’s labor force) of women and their authority and power in society, despite laws and institutions that attempt to enforce patriarchal authority and power in both public and private realms. The mounting of a civil society and a new women’s rights movement in Iran that brings together secular and islamic advocates of women rights are good illustrations of women’s empowerment.

Women whose self-perception has been radically altered now reject traditionalist values and divine justifications for segregation policies

Women whose self-perception has been radically altered now reject traditionalist values and divine justifications for segregation policies. They not only challenge the institutionalized gender inequalities by emphasizing their activity in the economic, social, and political realms that are not forbidden by the religious and political elite’s reading of the sharia. They also assert their authority in the religious and judicial realms where women were denied power. They have undertaken intellectual efforts to reconcile islam with modernity. Using hybridity, women reinvent and reinterpret traditions to the benefit of women and subvert official islam’s hegemony over islamic discourse and practice. The law on stoning for adultery is one example of such an undertaking. Women lawyers and activists demanded its abrogation on the grounds that no Quranic verse stipulated such punishment for adultery.

The presidential elections of June 2009 had offered a new opportunity for women’s rights advocates to challenge patriarchal political order. For the forth time since 1997, 42 women presented their candidacy for the elections. Secular and muslim women activists formed a large coalition and demanded that the future president undertake efforts towards the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The coalition also demanded the modification of the articles of the constitutional law and the civil code that are particularly discriminating against women. Through their symbolic actions, advocates of women’s rights, who are overwhelmingly middle class, also protested against the application of Islamic laws.
An overwhelming number of Iranian women have realized that gender equality and democracy are intertwined. As nomadic subjects, they increasingly refuse assigned identities, reject political and cultural borders and realize that in order to attain gender equality, the republican component of the regime should be strengthened to the detriment of its islamist component. The objectives of women’s movement thus go beyond corporate ones to encompass the entire society as illustrated in women’s active participation in the ongoing protest movement, that has transformed social demands of various social categories of the population into political demands.

Tehran Review
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    تهران‌ریویو مجله‌ای اینترنتی، چند رسانه‌ای و غیر انتفاعی است. هدف ما به سادگی، افزایش سطح گفتمان عمومی در مورد ایده‌ها، آرمان‌ها و وقایع جهان امروز است. این مشارکت و نوشته‌های شما مخاطبان است که کار چند رسانه‌ای ما را گسترش داده و به آن غنا و طراوت می‌بخشد. رایگان بودن این مجله اینترنتی به ما اجازه می‌دهد تا در گستره بیشتری اهداف خود را پیگیری کرده و تاثیرگذار باشیم. مهم‌تر از همه اینکه سردبیران و دست‌اندرکاران تهران‌ریویو به دور از حب و بغض‌های رایج و با نگاهی بی‌طرفانه سعی دارند به مسایل روز جهان نگاه کرده و بر روی ایده‌های ارزشمند انگشت بگذارند. تهران ریویو برای ادامه فعالیت و نشر مقالات نیازمند یاری و کمک مالی شماست.