What happens when the females of a country decide to roar? The answer is what can be witnessed in Iran today. The country is going through one of the toughest phases of its modern history. Women are in streets cutting down their hair, openly burning their hijab. The police are using tear gas and arresting the protestors en masse, but prima facie it seems to have no effect on the protestors.
It all started with the alleged murder of a 22-year-old Kurdish girl Mahsa Amini on September 16. The girl was going to meet her relatives in Tehran from the province of Kurdistan in Iran. As per the family and other witnesses, she was arrested by the police for violating the law related to the dress of women. What has caused outrage is the fact that the girl was allegedly beaten inside the police van for the same. However, the police have denied the said claims. It was claimed by them that she was taken to an intensive care unit of a hospital because of a heart attack, while the family claims it was because of the injury.
What does the law state?
Amini was arrested for violating the hijab rules: Iran follows the Sharia or Islamic law. It is the same law which is followed by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in its stricter form. Article 638 of the Iranian Penal Code explicitly states “All females are required to cover their hair and dress modestly from the age of puberty”. Other than that, it also incurs a penalty of two months of imprisonment, or the offender has to go through 74 lashes.
Therefore, women in Iran are not allowed to go in public without covering their head. If this is not enough, the country also employs a morality police which keeps a check on these so-called “immoral” acts. This Guidance Patrol was instituted in 2005 especially to scrutinise women who are not following the prescribed dress code. Due to the encouragement given to these officers, Amini was allegedly beaten to death for wearing a loose headscarf.
However, this is not the first time that something like this has happened in Iran. The country has witnessed such harsh implications of laws several times. The protest has highlighted many voices which were unheard till now. One such case is of Nasrin Sotoudeh who was sentenced to 38 years of imprisonment for protesting the law mandating hijab. Similarly, Yasaman Aryani was granted 16 years of imprisonment for protesting the dress code.
It is noteworthy that the charges against such people were of “collusion against national security”, “encouraging moral corruption and prostitution” and “propaganda against the State”. The situation can be understood from the fact that since the incorporation of morality police, between 2005 and 2014, more than three million women has been reported for violation of the dress code.
Was Iran always like this?
Several photos of the life of women in Iran have been highlighted on the internet by social media users. The deplorable situation in Iran has again brought to notice the history of the country.
More significant changes happened after the formation of the Iranian Women Party in 1942. Later, in 1963, a reform was passed which allowed women to serve in the Parliament, the minimum age of marriage was increased from 13 to 18, and the right to vote was provided to them. Therefore, the gender gap was reduced to an extent in Iran.
However, the Iranian revolution took place in 1979, which brought the incumbent Islamic regime to power. Consequently, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a former professor of philosophy and the main leader behind the Islamic revolution, came into power. Following this, the country witnessed drastic reforms related to women. They had to give up most of the governmental positions. The marital age was reduced to nine years. Also, the dress law was enacted, which led to the current protest.
Also read: Hijab, skirts and a woman’s quest for choice
The burning streets of Iran are confessing a very long history of oppression on women. The actions of the authorities have resulted into the deaths of more than a dozen protestors.
Interestingly, even the Koran does not allow the use of force to implement a dress code. The scope of morality must be circumscribed in this 21st century. Fundamental human rights are called fundamental for a reason: they cannot be snatched away in any case. Women have always been the victim of persecution. Now, they are fighting for their rights, and require global support to hopefully let justice prevail.