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Women in Iran

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

The 1979 Revolution in Iran replaced the authoritarian monarchy with a theocratic government under Ayatollah Khomeini. Under this regime, women's rights got heavily curbed, and women were restricted per the Islamic religion.⁣

Under the reign of the Pahlavi dynasty, women in Iran were granted many freedoms they did not have previously. Modern westernised ideas influenced the Pahlavis; hence, women were given rights and privileges similar to that of the Western world. However, Shah Pahlavi's reign caused a revolution, and Islamic fundamentalist groups replaced him in power. Women had participated in the protest in large numbers, yet Khomeini started limiting women's rights as soon as he came to power. During the Revolution, Khomeini used the image of the hijab as a revolutionary symbol as the Pahlavis banned the hijab in Iran.⁣

The new regime celebrated everything that the old regime had declared to be illegal. Women and men were banned from wearing western-style clothing and maintaining western hairstyles. Head veils were made compulsory in the 1980s. Makeup and brightly coloured clothes were declared illegal. Khomeini, a Shia cleric, considered a woman's place to be within the house, raising children. However, by the 1990s, women had regained their political rights and right to vote. They were allowed to join the military and workforce, but many limitations were placed on them.⁣

The situation worsened in 2005 when the Morality police or Gest-e-ersad was established to force women to follow Islamic dress codes. As a result, multiple cases of assault have been reported by human rights groups, where women have been apprehended on the road for wearing 'wrong' clothing. They would be taken to police stations, lectured on proper clothing, and their data would be taken. In some cases, women could be jailed for up to 60 days and fined 5 lakh Rials. Sometimes, they would also be lashed.⁣

The protests against the Morality Police concerning Mahsa Amini's death have now merged with the more significant pro-democratic movements. Similar to the case of the 1978 Protests, women have taken frontline roles in condemning the police, the government, and leader Ali Khamenei.⁣

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