Women and the Protests in Iran
If you were unaware of the events in Iran last year, it is possible that you missed the demonstrations. From the very beginning, women played a prominent role in these protests, and surprisingly, schoolgirls emerged as a powerful force of defiance.
As a matter of fact, the demonstrations that swept Iran last year was the largest revolt since the 1979 Revolution. Iranian women have undeniably achieved remarkable success across diverse fields, ranging from writing best-selling novels to creating acclaimed films and artwork. Their accomplishments are further highlighted by outnumbering men as STEM college graduates. Nonetheless, it is critical to acknowledge that they still confront one of the most severe forms of gender discrimination in the world.
For the past forty years, Iranians have been obligated to strictly follow dress codes which include wearing a head scarf and loose-fitting cloak, known as a manteau. The so-called ‘morality police’ diligently enforce these requirements in public.
In September of last year, Mahsa Jina Amini, a young woman, was tragically killed while being held in police custody for allegedly violating the dress code. In response to this injustice, people took to the streets and demanded an end to clerical tyranny. During the month of October, a video emerged showing a large group of teenagers in Tehran tearing apart images of Iran’s first Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini. They were also heard chanting assertively, “Death to the dictator.” Girls and young women flooded the streets, proudly waving their veils in the air, creating a unified spectacle that spread across the entire country.
Many parents in Iran believed that in order for their children to receive an education, the children needed to adhere to the rules. After all, isn’t education only possible when rules are followed? However, educated Iranian women rose up in protest, but their outcry was swiftly suppressed by the state. These courageous women were demanding an end to the oppressive Iranian government.
Why are women in Iran educated but still marginalized?
When Mohammad Reza Shah, the first Pahlavi monarch who came into power in 1925, aimed to modernize Iran, he prohibited the wearing of veils in public and allowed women to attend universities. The Shah shared similar goals with Christian missionaries at the time, such as increasing education and emancipating women. However, he aimed to downplay the Islamic religion, while the missionaries sought to promote Christianity.
It is easy to see why education can be viewed as an initial step towards religious conversion. When people are literate and able to read scripture, they often undergo changes in their beliefs. However, governments frequently impose restrictions on citizens’ access to sensitive information. The question then arises: who should decide what qualifies as sensitive? Consequently, the education and partial emancipation of Iranian women seem to be closely intertwined with their yearning for freedom.
The educated can read the Bible, which emphasizes freedom and equality. When the Bible is printed, distributed, and understood, it can inspire revivals and promote human flourishing. However, the enemy opposes this and is inciting harmful violence, sexual assault, and chaos. Let us remember to pray for the people in Iran and pray that they are able to find freedom through our Messiah.
Currently, Islamist radicals have assumed control and formulated their vision for an Iranian society, which revolves around the subjugation of women. Legal rights granted to women have been taken away, restrictions on polygamy and child marriage have been lifted, and now the wearing of the veil in public spaces is mandatory.
The Lord has revealed Himself and bestowed His favor upon His people in Iran. Reports indicate that as of 2022, the revival in Iran is the largest in the world. Let us pray for its continuation and for Iranian women to be recognized as God views all women.