Women to advance change in Iran

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40 years ago, Ayatollah Khomeini established the Islamic Republic of Iran. From the enthusiasm at that time, little remains, but also the forces of Reform are exhausted, except the women.

A lot of Sadegh Zibakalam expected not from the 40. Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution: “On the anniversary of the politicians will keep Talking. You are talking about the Export of the Islamic Revolution, of the destruction of Israel and the fight against the United States. What occurs but, in their Speeches, as well as never, are the true goals of the Revolution 40 years ago,” says a political analyst in Tehran compared to the DW. “The Revolution promised us democracy, the rule of law and freedom of the press. You promised us the right to freedom of expression, without subsequently arrested and tortured.”

As a young Student Zibakalam has supported the Revolution. For two years he had spent previously under the Shah’s Regime in the prison. He knows, but also the oppression in Iran today. The winner of the “Freedom of Speech award” of the German wave had been convicted in March 2018 in the first instance to 18 months in prison. The reason: In an Interview with DW, he had shown understanding for the protesters in Iran. From December 2017 to January 2018, it came in several Iranian cities in the last ten years, the largest anti-government protests.

DW-winners Sadegh Zibakalam has understanding for the anger of Iranians who commented over a year ago on the streets in many cities in protests and harsh reactions by the regime.

Islamic Republic – then and now

Zibakalam had declared, among other things, many citizens of the country had been brought by “the long pent-up desires and receivables” and “your disappointment about the whole system-apparatus” of the air. It praises the former Shah Reza Pahlevi, who was overthrown in 1979 by the Revolution were in some cases even. A maximum of 30 percent of the Iranians would still believe in the Islamic Republic, the evaluation of the political scientists.

40 years ago it was different: at that Time, 98 percent of the Iranians voted in a Referendum on the future form of government of Iran for an Islamic Republic. Even if this number “was wrong”, as German diplomats said in Tehran at the time, the overwhelming acceptance of Khomeini as the leader of the Revolution and of the country no doubt.

Khomeini’s System of government by the best qualified jurist (welayat-e faqih), which applies until today.

Consolidation of the system

So he could scholars be in exile, formulated the System of “government by the best-qualified law” as a core element of the Iranian Constitution against competing notions of moderate and left-wing forces prevail. He achieved this mainly thanks to its popularity, but additionally have been used very soon, later on tried-and-tested means of oppression of a free press, and thugs like Hezbollah (party of God).

After the loss of the war with Iraq (1980-88) that began under Saddam Hussein, the System was able to strengthen (based on the main pillars of conservative clergy and revolutionary guards) his Power. Nevertheless, there were always phases in which reform-oriented and liberal currents are able to confer validity, but never with a lasting change effect.

Reform President Mohammad Khatami (terms of office 1997-2005) was not able, against the massive resistance of the system to enforce.

Phases of the Opening of

Such a Phase is associated with the name of Mohammed Khatami, who emerged in 1997 with its reform agenda – including cultural freedoms, women and minority rights – as the clear winner of the presidential elections. But the response of the system. Student protests against the closure of a newspaper in the summer of 1999, was put down bloodily, they expanded yet, it came to arrests of hundreds of students, (not fully stretched) death sentences and the forced confessions of collaboration with foreign powers. The press has been heavily restricted, liberal intellectuals have been arrested, the later Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Young Iranian women chat to discuss AMIS’s election victory in 1997

The “green movement”

The second great upsurge of democratic forces manifested itself in the protests against the obviously rigged presidential elections of 12. July 2009. The ruling Clique was determined to be the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s against the looming victory of the opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi to enforce. After the announcement of the result – incredible 63 percent worthy for the incumbent – were hundreds of thousands of Iranians in the big cities on the road. The protests of this “green movement” lasted sporadically until November of the following year, until they were eventually suffocated by the security apparatus, including the revolutionary guards as the most faithful allies and profiteers of the system.

In the case of the protests against the irregular election victory of Mahmoud Ahmadineschad in June 2009, women were at the forefront of

No hope for change?

The British Iran-historian Michael Axworthy writes: “The country resembled (after the election of 2009 and the repression of the green movement), more and more of a military dictatorship – a more efficient Version of the system, which was overthrown by the Revolution of 1979.” No hope, therefore, to change? You could come from the women. “A significant proportion of these protests (of 2009) came from the Iranian women, as in the last 150 years,” says the activist, Mansoureh Shojaee, compared to the DW. It speaks to the long history of the women’s movement in Iran, whose beginnings go back even further than the constitutional Revolution of 1906.

Protest against the rule to Wear the veil in Iran requires courage – more and more women have

Disadvantaged and, on an equal footing, at the same time

Although the second has not taken away, the Islamic Revolution women the right to vote. But since the government is led by religious scholars, you are at a disadvantage in the political sphere, automatically. And also in the family to be taken anyway, according to the Sharia rules – all important decisions of the fathers, or husbands. For their self-determination as adults, women are the Iranian women have to deal often with their husbands. So decides after the wedding, the husband, if his wife is allowed to work. He also determines where the family lives. He decides, even if his wife is allowed to leave the country or even the city.

This is the a side. The other is the unprecedented educational advancement of women in Iran: they represent a disproportionately high number of high school graduates and are over-represented compared to other Islamic countries, very strong in high-skilled Occupations in the public sector. “The change (since the Revolution) to a more urbanized society with a high level of education, the women are always self-conscious role-playing games (…) will inevitably result in the medium to long term to political changes in Iran,” writes Iran expert Axworthy.

One of the many Pioneers for women’s rights in Iran: Mansoureh Shojaee

The women’s movement and social change

Inevitably not, as Mansoureh Shojaee says: “Particularly in the past ten years, women have used every opportunity to make their demands clear – even in prison. Under Ahmadineschad the concealment was abolished duty for incarcerated women (you had to stand up there with a long Chador in court. – DW). This has made the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh in prison with their hunger strike.”

The Iranian Sakharov prize winner Nasrin Sotoudeh was arrested in 2018 and re-sits, since then – due to the alleged spying, but also due to the support of the Anti-veiling protests in the prison. She and many other Iranian women’s rights activists have repeatedly stressed that they believe in change through peaceful resistance, emphasizing Shojaee. In the past year, the icon was forced by the public Protest of several women against the Veil. But it’s the women more than exemption from dress regulations, says Shojaee: “The women’s movement in Iran is trying to renew itself at the moment. They tried to do with the thematization of civil rights, a compound with the General demands of the society, to mobilize the General Public for change.”

Also, the “reform President” Rouhani is acting in the shadow of Khomeini, and in the framework of the after the Revolution the established system

What is the end of the Era of Rouhani?

The election of reform-oriented incumbent President Hassan Rouhani in 2013 has at least brought in the eyes of women and more liberal Iranians to reverse – and for the everyday life of the population, which is suffering from the economic misery’t have to worry about. “If a political System does not find a way to reform and the demands of its citizens, will lead sooner or later to serious crises, up to a Revolution or a collapse,” warned at the beginning of February of this year, the former US Embassy occupiers, and later dissident, Abbas Abdi, Tehran, in an article for DW-Persian.

Although the current Situation in Iran is, in many respects, the Situation before the Revolution, comparable. But many who have experienced the Revolution 40 years ago, be disappointed and feared the price of a new revolution. Abdi himself has experienced the Revolution in 1979. But today, he says: “If we had known back then that 40 years, none of our wishes would be fulfilled, we would not have used us for a Revolution.”