After a loose lock of hair fell into Mahsa Amini’s face, the Iranian morality police detained the young woman for a dress code violation. She would never be released from custody. Officials claim that the healthy twenty-two-year-old woman died from a heart attack and a subsequent coma, but Amini’s family is skeptical. Amini died while at one of Iran’s reeducation centers, which are known for using physical and psychological torture, according to Dr. Sara Hassani of the Providence College Women’s and Gender Studies Department.
With women taking to the street in the form of protests, they risk facing the same abuse that resulted in Amini’s death. Iranians are removing their hijabs and chopping off their hair. Young girls are yelling at school administrators. Even peaceful protest is met with deadly violence from the Iranian regime.
However, serious misconceptions exist about Iranian women. Dr. Hassani notes that the government still allows women to receive an adequate education, with women outpacing men in many higher education fields. Iranian women are not simply housewives, mothers, and daughters. Despite this, the government irrationally regulates their social norms.
Recently, the Iranian government has severely restricted Internet access within the nation in an attempt to suppress protests. Despite this, photographs and videos are still circulating on social media.
Given the complex gender relations, Iran has given women the tools to speak out against the misogynistic prejudices they face. Women across Iran are calling for change, even if they might die for the cause.
These compromises were not without protest from the theocratic parties. There have been attempts to eliminate the few rights Iranian women have left.
Why is this acceptable to the international community?
Unfortunately, foreign intervention within Iranian domestic politics eventually led to the current oppressive Iranian regime. Both the United States and the United Kingdom helped to decrease the Iranian Parliament’s influence within Iran in 1953 when the nations ousted a democratically elected Prime Minister. The new Iranian monarchy created the secret police system within Iran, which has continued through the 1979 Iranian Revolution into modern times.
The United States and other world powers need to adopt new policies that emphasize human rights protection and economic self-sufficiency for all instead of national interests. Furthermore, the international community is in part to blame for the human rights catastrophe in Iran, even if their actions did not have these intended consequences. Now, nations must apply this reasoning to future cases that arise to prevent more attacks on minority groups. Regime change is not an effective American foreign policy initiative. Therefore, the United States must shift its focus towards preserving human rights, promoting economic prosperity, and forming alliances with governments that uphold the will of the people.
Even though women actively participated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the outcomes for gender reform were less than ideal. In fact, women were crucial to the movement’s success. Once political groups competed for power, the theocratic and clerical parties emerged dominant. In fact, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is inspired by the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Many of the social restrictions Atwood emphasizes in her novel are like conditions for Iranian women: extreme dress codes, strict policing, and no tolerance for dissent. While Atwood’s novel is not an exact historical account, it does provide a point of reference for Americans.
Potentially the most chilling aspect of Atwood’s novel is that it conceptualizes a dystopian future for the United States that parallels current conditions in Iran. Americans do not even realize the parallels that already exist.
Severe gender discrimination might seem unimaginable in the United States. Dr. Hassani notes, however, that striking similarities exist between the Iranian Guardian Council and the American Supreme Court. Both have the power to veto legislation, which can be used to further oppress the masses. The Guardian Council blocks any reform-based legislation, even if it is highly favored by the Iranian people. The extreme political power combined with an extreme religious agenda contributes to the Guardian Council’s oppression. Americans should look to Iran when considering how personal religious convictions influence the Supreme Court. The outcomes are certainly dangerous.
The circumstances tackle the eternal question regarding the role of government in social issues. Given the spark in protests, Americans need to reconsider the restrictions legislation places upon various identity groups. Discrimination can occur anywhere. Iranian women supported revolutions, but they were neglected in the end. Women can speak out, but it does not mean society will listen.
To avoid another human rights crisis, everyone must stay informed about the situation and listen when any minority group speaks up for their rights. Everyone has a responsibility to remain open-minded in the fight for unalienable rights.
Read a news article or watch a video. Iranian women are risking their lives for freedom. If one values the liberties granted by the United States government, one should support Iranian women’s struggle for freedom. Standing in solidarity is not a major inconvenience considering the deadly situation. When another video from Iran appears in your feed, stop scrolling and take a moment to support Iranian women.