In Iran today, women hold a variety of jobs—they are doctors, lawyers, teachers etc.. Unlike in Saudi Arabia, the US’s long term ally, where women are forbidden from driving cars Iranian women have long done so. Women comprise 65% of university students, making them more educated than their male counterparts and putting them on par with women in advanced capitalist nations. Female literacy rates stand at 80%. There are many women’s rights groups, several feminist magazines, and many women’s magazines. Iranian women have fought for their rights in court and have been supported by outspoken female lawyers.
In addition to legal battles, women and their male allies have participated in the electoral process, gradually increasing the number of women in government. Women voted in large numbers for the reformist president Khatami in 1997 and in 2001. But, while Khatami relaxed cultural restrictions and censorship, he did not do much by way of reform. This along with other betrayals lead to his defeat in 2005, and saw the emergence of Ahmadinejad.
The women’s moment in Iran today is stronger than in many parts of the Middle East. And while the movement faces challenges both from within (secular vs. Islamic Feminism) and from without (the brutality of the current administration), it will not be helped by US bombs. If anything, war typically gives governments the excuse they need to crack down on internal dissent. As Shirin Ebadi, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist in Iran and a recipient of the Nobel Peace prize put it,
American policy toward the Middle East, and Iran in particular, is often couched in the language of promoting human rights. No one would deny the importance of that goal. But for human rights defenders in Iran, the possibility of a foreign military attack on their country represents an utter disaster for their cause.
Furthermore, reams of data from various human rights organizations show quite clearly that the US did not “liberate” Afghan women. It would be naïve to think that they have an interest in championing the rights of Iranian women. If anything the women’s movement in Iran serves as an inspiration for the kind of grass roots activism so badly needed in the US where abortion rights and other rights for women have been whittled down over the last few decades. Women’s rights advocates in the US should stand in solidarity with the women’s movement in Iran and reject all appeals to war.READ MORE