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Not property, live-stock or slaves

Not property, live-stock or slaves


The acceleration in the rate of literacy among Iran’s women, paired with their significant achievements in education during the last three decades has empowered them to fight for their rights, and challenge the institutionalized discrimination against them.

Advancements in communication technology play an important role in the wave of women’s empowerment, as it is one of the most effective channels through which to advocate equality, and to educate other women on how to reclaim their rights. The increase of female bloggers, and their participation in the virtual world exposes Iran’s women to viewpoints that they might have never had the opportunity to consider.

After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iranian women were stripped of many of the rights they had gained through the years prior. Still today, the fundamentalists deny the equality of women through outdated laws and regulations, meant to oppress the sector of society, and restrict the role of women in public life. Just as an example, the Islamic laws upheld by the regime are highly discriminatory towards mothers just as outrageous; violence against women is not always considered a crime. Today, it is not secret that women are suffering from violent and suppressive force under the Islamic laws, the laws which are the founding principles of the Islamic Regime.

Islamic Republic is one of the most discriminatory regimes in today’s world. Tens of thousands of women have been executed in Iran since the infamous Islamic revolution- among them were 13 years old girls, pregnant women as well as the elderly. According to the 2009 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme, the Islamic Republic of Iran ranks 103rd on the Gender Empowerment Measure among the 182 countries surveyed. But Iran’s discriminatory vision is not confined to Iran, its backwardness is being exported to Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkey, among other Islamic countries. Women in these states are increasingly experiencing the wrath of discrimination as preached by Iran’s Ayatollahs.

According to the Islamic Republic of Iran, the value of a women is half that of a man. A Jewish, Christian or Zoroastrian woman is worth a quarter of a Moslem man. There is no value for not recognized religions like Baha’i—killing them is no crime.

In Iran, the right of divorce is absolutely with men. Women do not have legal custody of their children; even if the husband is deceased- custody is given to the nearest living male relative. Women’s inheritance rights are half that of men. Iran’s women are not allowed to leave home, work or enroll in university or travel without their husbands’ permission. Women are excluded from working as judges or holding positions in main organs of the government. Their testimonies as witness in court are half as credible. The Islamic Laws consider women “immature,” stating they need guardians; yet a nine year old girl can be punished as an adult by flogging, and execution.

In 2007 a family protection bill was presented in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Parliament. This bill, despite its name, only further destabilizes the family by robbing women further of their rights. Under this law, men are allowed temporary marriages without consent of the first wife.

During Khatami’s presidency, parliament passed a bill to prohibit the publication of materials that defended women’s rights and announced that advocates of women’s right are subject to “imprisonment and lashing for violations.” Also a proposal for sexual segregation in hospitals and medical institutions introduced to parliament but was rejected only for the cost.

More than 60% of Iran’s students today are women, yet they receive a mere 13% of job opportunities. Recently, Kamran Deneshjou, Minister of Science, Research and Technology announced his support to limit the acceptance of female students in universities in certain fields, in favor of male students.

This is all just a glance on discriminatory laws and policies against women in Iran.

Despite the knowledge that breaking the law might lead to execution, women have been noticeable at the forefront of the movement for democratic change in Iran. These activists have faced harassment, torture, travel bans and detention. The most inconceivable types of torture are inflicted on female prisoners who are only provided with the minimum of health services behind prison walls, if any.

Execution, imprisonment, flogging and denial of work have starkly increased in the last few years. Verdicts for the death penalty cases have been shamelessly obtained based on confession during tortures in Iran infamous hidden prisons where ‘secret’ executions are known to take place as well.

More than 50 percent of Media and Communication graduates are women, which perhaps explains why Iran is ranked highest in the world in the imprisonment of journalists. There are 325 journalists believed to be in prison, about 100 of which are female. They punished solely for the exercise of free speech, which is not a right under Islamic Law.

The treatment of women under Islamic Rule in Iran is blasphemous. Women are not property, live-stock or slaves to be pushed around and dictated to, denied their natural rights and humiliated on a daily basis. The 21st century is a time for progress and forward thinks- equality, camaraderie and integrity. The Islamic Republic’s legal code which, is cleverly devised to maintain the elevated position of men in society, is an outdated tool being used against Iran’s women. Unfortunately, the world has chosen to stand by- idly, allowing for the oppressive nature of radical Islamic to re-assert itself in today’s world.

Inhumane, irrational and outdated laws against women must come to an end.

Award-winning journalist in Islamic Republic’s prison

Award-winning journalist in Islamic Republic’s prison

In a cold, concrete cell at Tehran’s Evin prison sits 36-year Hengameh Shahidi, a single mother to one little girl.  The well-respected, award winning journalist and fervent women’s rights advocate was recently sentenced to a 6-year prison term for “conspiring against the Islamic regime.”  In the Islamic Republic of Iran, promoting Women Rights and speaking out against violations at the hands of the reigning Ayatollahs is clearly, a grave crime. Some of Hengameh’s distinguishing work includes acting as the first female Iranian journalist of the Iran-Iraq war, as well as being one of the earliest voices in the campaign against the stoning of women in the Islamic republic.

While studying towards a PhD in Human Rights at the University of London, Hengameh returned to Iran to act as the advisor for women’s issues in then-candidate Mehdi Karroubi’s National-Trust Reformist Party (Etemad-e-Melli) during the June 2009 [S]elections, a candidate who as the head of the 6th  Islamic parliament intervened to halt the proceedings of a bill proposing to reform repressive press laws and ordered the bill to be removed from the docket. dedicated to loosening the laws governing press and media.  Her politically charged arrest on 29 June was an attempt to choke her communication with other similarly minded Iranians, as well as foreign sources.  Her crime led to her solitary confinement in Iran’s most notorious prison.

The Islamic Republic of Iran ranks highest in the world in the imprisonment of journalists. Doubly infuriating, this week the International Campaign for Human Right in Iran released the Regime’s execution statistics since January 1, 2011—within the last three weeks alone, the Ayatollahs have shed the blood of close to 50 of their nationals; on average, one person has been executed every 8 hours since the start of the new year

Today Hengameh lives a grim reality.  Not only is she physically and psychologically tortured, but she also continues to be denied appropriate medical treatment.  Her pre-existing heart disease has since progressed, and she has further developed new ailments and low blood pressure.  Although the prison doctor has repeatedly stated that Hengameh must be cared for at a proper facility beyond the prison walls, he too is continuously ignored, which further begs the question of whether or not his position is simply symbolic.

Furthermore, Hengameh is kept from consistently and thoroughly communicating with her lawyer, and is also allowed only minimal contact with family. Just two weeks ago, she was officially banned from using the prison phone, for no substantive reason. Along with her young daughter, her parents and siblings are kept completely in the dark regarding her health, and her fate.

As an Iranian woman myself, Hengameh’s case is particularly distressing.  Her imprisonment has lead Iranian dissidents like me, to start a campaign demanding her immediate release.  The “Free Hengameh Shahidi Campaign” has gained momentum both inside and outside Iran, as civil society raises its voice against the Regime’s brutality, especially in the treatment of women.

Although I am an unwavering proponent of regime change, while Hengameh is a proponent of regime reform, our political discrepancy makes no difference.  Free Speech is a natural right deserved by all, even those we may disagree with it must be upheld across the globe, and it must transcend the boundaries between differing political persuasions.

Hengameh’s imprisonment and our campaign for her immediate freedom, eerily coincide with the run-up to International Women’s Day.  Celebrated annually on 8 March, women from all corners of the world gather to address women’s issues which transcend political and religious borders—the infringement on Hengameh’s rights is one such issue.

This story is no anomaly– it is one of thousands of Iranian women, like Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mahdieh Golroo, and Nazanin Khosravani, imprisoned yearly for similar “offenses,” or engaging in outlawed “western” behavior.

The oppressive nature of the Islamic Republic controls every aspect of one’s life—from hairstyle to what one may express.  The cultural riches, intellectualism and advancement which characterized the ancient Persian Empire are seemingly void in today’s Iran, occupied by self-interested Ayatollahs. The obvious vacuum, where one easily senses the loss of what was, and perhaps, what grandeur could have been was no natural occurrence—it was the intentional imposition of an Islamic Regime seeking to rid Iran of Western values, liberal perspectives and societal progress.

These ayatollahs don’t spare oppression on any sector of society.  Recently, however, the Regime’s brutality has been increasingly focused on local journalists, seeking to suffocate any attempt at free speech.

The leaders of Islamic Regime claim that obtaining nuclear technology is Islamic Republic of Iran’s indisputable right while they can’t even respect basic human rights, dignity and freedom for people.

Hengameh’s case is the forefront of the battle for freedom of speech in Iran.  Unfortunately, her story has received very little western attention—her American and European colleagues seem fairly complacent, unconcerned about the fact that journalists in Iran are facing the unimaginable.

The reality of Hengameh’s forced silence anoints us each with the conscious responsibility to be her voice for women’s rights and civil liberties, but also to be the voice advocating for her freedom.  The “Free Hengameh Shahidi Campaign” will utilize these next weeks prior to International Women’s Day, demanding Hengameh’s release.  Consider doing what you can, and be her voice for freedom and free speech—join us at for more information on how to be a voice for regime change in Iran.