I will not pretend to be an expert on what’s happening in Iran. All I can do is offer you what I understand to be facts. I’ve included links so you can read the sources of my information, and I welcome clarification because I don’t get it.
Iran has “morality police.” They are nothing like our “fashion police.” And although the “morality police” police women’s fashion, there is nothing tongue in cheek about them. These are groups of six, four men and two women, who drive around looking for women in violation of the dress code imposed on women. They’re required to wear loose clothing and hijabs, a head covering to hide all of their hair. These “morality police” are chastised if they don’t round up enough women. They apprehended one woman and her daughter for wearing lipstick. Before the police released them to the husband, he had to sign a form stating they would wear hijabs. Oppression is not as extreme in Iran as in some middle eastern countries, but depending on whom they’ve elected president, it fluctuates. Women may vote, but less than 3% hold office. Women are literate and a majority move on to higher education. They work, but like the U.S. equal pay is not a thing.
On September 14, 2022, a 22-year-old woman named Mahsa Amini, also known as Jina Amini or Zhina Amini, was arrested by the “morality police” in Tehran. She had been in her brother’s car at the time of her arrest. The reason they gave was “improper hijab.” Some of her hair was visible.
Amini was put in the back of a van where, her family believes, police hit her on the head with a baton and slammed her head against the side of the van. She fell into a coma and died of her injuries after three days in the hospital.
After news of her death spread, protests broke out across Iran. Her death set off a movement throughout the country, with women burning hijabs, cutting off their hair and fighting back against oppressors.
The following is from the BBC story, link above.
‘In a rare interview, one morality police officer spoke anonymously to the BBC about his experience working in the force.’
“They told us the reason we are working for the morality police units is to protect women because if they do not dress properly, then men could get provoked and harm them.”
Why not police the men who harm women?
This week I watched a video clip of a woman crossing a street in Iran. A random guy passing by punched her. A group of bystanders caught him and returned the favor. That ended better than a viral video last year of a young woman walking by a restaurant in Paris. A man shouted sexual comments at her, and she responded by flipping him the bird. That triggered him, and after delivering several blows to her head, he ran off before anyone in the shocked crowd stepped forward. One more video. Three teenaged boys surrounded and groped a modestly dressed woman crossing the street in India. Then they continued on their way, as did she.
At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, I will say, it goes on here; it takes place there; women are assaulted everywhere. We need more representation in government who will enforce the laws we have, and more judges for fair trials and to issue longer sentences.
Aaaanyway… I’m trying to stay on topic. The unrest against the government in the streets of Iran now includes men. Crowds chase police cars, smash windows, set fires. Large groups are protesting. There are still passers-by who shout at the women, “put on your hijab!” But the crowds of men deter them. Men are the distinction this time, and with a patriarchal government, they might make a difference.
The government is responding to demonstrations by blocking access to the internet and cutting off messaging on WhatsApp and Telegram — a tactic it has used in the past.
The military is planning to “confront the enemies.” They say, “various plots are to ensure security and peace for the people who are being unjustly assaulted.” This was reported by state-run Tasnim News Agency, and I have no idea what it means.
Supreme Leader, Sayyid Ali Hosseini, Khamenei, is said to be “gravely ill.” (Who knows what’s true.) While he has condemned the act of the “vigilante” police, (um, can they be called vigilante if they’re on government payroll?) he did not mention the death of Amini. Tasnim News Agency also claims a representative for said supreme leader, visited the home of Amini’s household to offer condolences. He promised “all institutions will take action to defend the rights that were violated.”
They do not fool Iranians as to his beliefs. Videos of Mr. Khamenei are circulating, in which he says they should punish women who dressed immodestly, are flooding social media.
Since protests began, there have been at least 31 deaths and countless injuries.
Iran has a President and a Supreme (religious) Leader. President Raisi just returned from a trip to New York, and was met with chaos.
He says there will be an investigation into Amini’s death, and also expressed condolences to Amini’s father by phone. Despite that, he too has made clear his opinion on women’s clothing.
Christiane Amanpour Chief International Anchor for CNN had an interview scheduled with President Raisi of Iran. Forty minutes after the anticipated appointment, an aid approached Amanpour telling her to put on a hijab for the interview:
“I politely declined. We are in New York, where there is no law or tradition regarding headscarves. I pointed out that no previous Iranian president has required this when I have interviewed them outside Iran.”
The interview did not take place.
CBS, 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl complied with the demand and wore a Hijab. She got the interview (and well-deserved flack.)
Some background on President Ebrahim Raisi, was elected last year, signed an order on 15 August to enforce a new list of restrictions.
They included the “introduction of surveillance cameras to monitor and fine unveiled women or refer them for ‘counseling’, and a mandatory prison sentence for any Iranian who questioned or posted content against the hijab rules online.”
What about reproductive rights? Iran has a history of progressive family planning policies, but with this new president progress has regressed. Raisi’s administration doesn’t like the declining birthrate and his bill: “Rejuvenation of the Population and Support of the Family” was approved by the Iranian Guardian Council last fall. “The bill tightens existing limitations on Iranian women as it further restricts abortions, bars public health-care providers from offering free contraception, and prohibits voluntary sterilization.” (Sounds familiar.)
Many people take offense when comparisons are drawn between the attempt by conservative Christofascists who would silence American women’s voices regarding healthcare, and the Islamic patriarchal oppression of women in Iran.
There is no comparison… or is there? It starts when women are deprived of autonomy.
Supporting women trapped misogynist regimes should be a priority. Our rights should also be a priority in government. They aren’t priorities because we have corrupt politicians. There are corrupt politicians because we don’t vote. We don’t vote because we aren’t paying attention. We aren’t paying attention because it doesn’t affect us… until it does, and then it’s too late.
November 8, 2022, is the day. Take your friends. Vote. Go to vote.gov now to register, or to confirm your registration.
So, what did I get wrong?