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Sara Dehghan

Sara Dehghan

Posted: September 1, 2009 02:03 PM

Iran: Male Clerics Call for Justice While Female Parliamentarians Advocate for Discriminatory Laws Against Women

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Iranian women have been expressing their opposition to discriminatory laws and calling for equality and justice. Through campaigns such as the One Million Signatures Campaign, they have approached Iran's judiciary officials and legislature to ask for the revision and reform of current discriminatory laws against women. These reforms include equal rights in marriage, equal rights to divorce; an end to polygamy and temporary marriage for men; equal inheritance rights; reform of laws that reduce punishment for offenders in cases of honor killings; and elimination of laws such as stoning as a form of punishment.

In the month before the 2009 Presidential election in Iran, the women's movement formed a coalition with other activists to inform the presidential candidates of their main demands. These demands were to eliminate discriminatory laws against women including not being certified to run for president, and to revise the constitution.

After a massive fraud in the election and re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's misogynist government, women raised their expectations and became the frontline of the Green Movement. They bravely confronted the Basij militia, Revolutionary Guards, and plain-cloth forces and protected their brothers. They became the emerging voices of democracy and liberty in Iran. They put their lives at risk, and were subject to arrests , insults, rapes, and killings to call for justice.

Neda Agha Soltan, the 27-year old student who was shot in Tehran's streets, became the symbol of the freedom movement.

Taraneh Mousavi -- another young girl -- was abducted , tortured and raped for 22 days before she was killed and burnt with a strong acid to hide the evidence of her brutal ordeal. Her story caused a lot of controversy . While there were reports of her rape and murder in Iranian blogs, IRINN -- the Islamic Republic of Iran News Networks -- claimed to have found Taraneh Mousavi's family, who they then interviewed. In response , Mehdi Karroubi, who was continuously speaking out against rape in prisons, explicitly condemned these "false" calims by the Iranian authorities.


In the most recent incident, Saideh Pour-Aghaei, another young girl -was reportedly raped, killed and her body was burnt. Her story emerged Online on Monday, August 31th.According to a letter sent to the pro-reform Majlis Followers of the Line of the Imam , that was published on Parliman News -- a Website affiliated to this Parliament's fraction- Saideh's father , who was an injured veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, passed away two years ago after years of struggling with the effects of chemical exposures.

There are many more victims we don't hear about.

For the past 30 years, Iranian women in particular, have suffered from discrimination , oppression, social injustice , as well as religious and traditional restrictions.

The only change in Iran now is that even some influential clerics have been speaking out against rape and torture in Iran's prisons. Mehdi Karroubi, one of the defeated candidates in Iran's disputed election is one of the major voices in that cause. Mr.Karroubi alleged that the abuses took place at Tehran's Kahrizak prison, which was later closed down by the order of Ayatollah Khamenei. Karroubi kept insisting that he would not remain silent over the "medieval torture and corruption" in Iran's prisons.

More victims of rape who previously refused to talk about what happened to have been bravely speaking out and telling their stories. Even though it's considered a social taboo and shame in the Iranian society.

While the Iranian women continue their quest for freedom and equality , Mr.Ahmadinejad, who didn't show any desire to consider women for his cabinet during the presidential campaign, has now nominated three women to his cabinet. He has proposed Fatemeh Ajorlou for the Welfare and Social Justice Ministry , Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for the Health Ministry, and Susan Keshavarz for the Ministry of Education.

Many foreign analysts considered this move as an attempt by Ahmadinejad to soften his hard-line image especially in the eyes of the world. Only a few analysts mentioned that none of these hard-line conservative appointees -- who are yet to be approved by the parliament -- believe in women's rights and freedom as perceived by the international community.

Could Ahmadinejad, who has ignored the tortures,rapes,killings ,and arrests of civilians and activists be equipped to appoint a cabinet able to advocate human rights?

Do these female appointees really believe in women's rights and equality?

As a member of Iran's parliament, Fatemeh Ajorlou has been advocating for discriminatory laws against women and placing more obstacles to women's progress. She has opposed the bill that could have led to Iran joining the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. She has nullifyed the efforts of reformist parliamentarians to respond to women's demands. She is fully devoted to Islamic laws including severe penalties including stoning and execution for prostitution and adultery yet believing in temporary marriage to prevent what they consider "social corruption".

Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi represented Tehran in the fourth and fifth parliament. As the chairwoman of the Majlis Committee on Women, Family and Youth, she proposed for gender segregation in hospitals and medical institutions and opposed Iran joining the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Hard-line female parliamentarians do everything in their power to remove women from society and drag them home for their full devotion to their husbands and children. In order to obtain higher positions in Ahmadinejad's cabinet, these women should be able to harm the women's rights movement in sync with Ahmadinejad's misogynistic policies more than they can promote it.

Although women who are less educated and have stronger religious beliefs might look up to conservative women who have climbed up the political ladder in the Islamic Republic , neither of these appointees represent today's women in Iran and they cannot be the voice of Iranian women in the parliament.

The appointees would become the first female ministers since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 if they are approved by the parliament. This is an unprecedented move by the hard-line President, but the world should not be fooled.

Meanwhile, no matter how conservative these women are, many hardliners within Ahmadinejad's conservative camp including the majority of Imam fraction in the Parliament- Majlis Followers of the Line of the Imam -- along with several top clerics have criticized Ahmadinejad for the appointment of these women to the new cabinet.

Clerics have opposed this because it is"counter to Islamic beliefs". Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabaeinejad, said during Friday prayers that "if a woman becomes minister, then she must constantly stay in contact with men and she won't be able to carry out her religious duties to the full".

Whether these women are approved by the Parliament or not -- in Iran's disputed politics today -- appointing loyal hard-line females to ministries does not translate into women's equal rights. This is another cunning strategy by Ahmadinejad's government to fool the world.