Iranians protest restrictions, lack of rights for women – The Tide


Woman, life, freedom! In the last months, ther song has been heard around the world in a series of protests for women’s rights in Iran. Iranian women are burning their hijabs and cutting their hair to fight for their rights in a revolutionary movement advocating for regime change.

On September 13, 22-year-old Jina “Mahsa” Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman, was arrested by Iran’s moral police in Tehran for wearing a “too loose” hijab. Three days later, after being tortured and beaten by the authorities, he fell into a coma and died.

As news of Amini’s death emerged, towns and cities erupted in protests that are being recognized around the world. As of November 30, Amini’s name has been used as a hashtag 79 million times.

Authorities have responded with violence, and at least 448 Iranian protesters have been killed, according to Iran Human Rights Watch.

Iran’s restrictions on women don’t end at the mandatory hijab; women face discrimination over marriage, divorce and child custody, and have been sent to prison for speaking out publicly for women’s rights. Women cannot divorce, they cannot have abortions, and Iran’s morality police, established in 2005, enforce these restrictions by regulating women’s bodies.

“No woman should fear for her life because she’s showing her hair,” said junior Hana Mahdood. “That’s not the reality, and I think these restrictions are nothing but inhumane and controlling.”

According to the Islamic Penal Code, “women who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab will be sentenced to ten days to two months in prison or a fine of between five hundred and fifty thousand Rials”. These harsh policies sparked a wave of anger across Iran, and tensions have been building since the 1979 revolution.

“Restrictions on women are outdated, and young Iranian women are rising up against years of oppression and humiliating treatment,” said sophomore Humsa Tammera.

If women do not wear the hijab, they cannot receive services from institutions such as banks and hospitals. Now, Iranian women are fighting for the right to choose. “All people should be able to express themselves freely,” said Jaidon Faircloth-Scott.

People have been protesting mandatory rule before the current protests, and this unrest is nothing new. The non-profit organization My Stealthy Freedom started the “White Wednesdays” movement in 2017, where men and women wear white veils, scarves or bracelets to show resistance to the mandatory hijab rule. The campaign is open to women who willingly wear the hijab, but are against imposing it on others.

“This is not a fight against Islam,” Mahdood said. “Women should be free to practice their religion, whatever it is, and women are tired of being forced into something they don’t want to be forced into. This is one more fight for freedom.”

In response to the protests, the Iranian government announced that it had disbanded the morality police. However, the validity of this claim remains controversial.

“I still have a large part of my family still living in Iran, unfortunately, and I was told that’s not true,” Mahdood said. “Instead of taking you to a specialist car, the morality police will now take you to an ambulance. So it will be like your average ambulance, but inside it will probably be women who may be in danger of losing their lives.’

After months of protests, Iran continues to enforce the mandatory hijab law. “The fact that the hijab is still compulsory in Iran shows that the Iranian government has no intention of changing the basic laws and restrictions on women,” Tammera said. “The government is reducing external pressure after three full months of violent protests around the world, so I’m not sure if they will continue to take action.”

Some argue that any tangible change resulting from the protests must come from politics. “Protests can help spread the movement, but I think to make full change, you have to start by convincing people in key positions or getting into positions that actually effect change to implement that real policy,” Faircloth-Scott said.

Advocates of revolutionary reforms agree that specific government action is needed. “The only way there can be change in Iran is if government officials decide to take action and change things,” Tammera said.

Despite the various accounts of Iranian women’s struggle for their rights in the past, some look to the future with renewed hope. “I don’t like to call it a protest, because at this point this is a revolution. No matter how long that takes, I know women will continue to fight for freedom,” said Mahdood.

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