As the world marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women this week, the regime ruling Iran finds itself facing renewed criticism over its worsening oppression of women and girls. Just one year after the eruption of mass anti-government protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in custody, Iranian regime authorities have intensified their clampdown on women’s rights through increasingly harsh laws and brutal enforcement.
The death of 16-year-old Armita Geravand last month served as a tragic reminder of the dangers faced by Iranian women in simply living their lives freely. She succumbed to her injuries weeks after an altercation with the regime’s “morality police” at a Tehran metro station over her attire. Like Mahsa Amini before her, Armita fell victim to the misogynist regime’s discriminatory compulsory veiling laws and the unrestrained violence used by agents tasked with enforcing them. Her funeral was held amid a heavy security presence, with numerous participants arrested for mourning her in public.
Rather than address the root causes of outrage, the regime’s Majlis (parliament) passed legislation in early October aimed at further subjugating women. Dubbed the “Bill to Support the Culture of Hijab and Chastity”, it provides for prison sentences of up to ten years for anyone who defies compulsory veiling. If approved, the law would significantly expand the powers of security agencies to police women, allowing arbitrary arrests and human rights violations with impunity. It has drawn strong condemnation from UN experts who warn it could amount to “gender apartheid” and institutionalize state-sanctioned gender discrimination. Coming just over a year after Mahsa Amini’s death triggered massive women-led protests against similar oppressive laws, it has already exacerbated tensions. There are also reports from Iran’s state media regarding an increase in the number of Hijab patrols in Tehran’s metro stations.
The bill appears aimed primarily at preventing a resurgence of dissent ahead of November’s anniversary events commemorating the Iranian people’s popular uprising. The past year has seen regime authorities respond to continuous calls for reform with overwhelming brutality, killing hundreds of protesters and arresting thousands more. The yearning of Iranian women and society at large for basic freedoms and dignity remains unfulfilled as hardline factions consolidate control. Prominent activists such as Noble Peace Prize Lauerate Narges Mohammadi have highlighted a troubling escalation in reported incidents of physical and sexual violence targeting women inmates, with the intent of instilling terror.
Long the target of regime scrutiny and pressure over social mores, Iranian women face legally enshrined discrimination and second-class status. Regressive laws upholding male guardianship and restricting women’s rights in the areas of divorce, child custody, inheritance persist, while underrepresentation in political and economic spheres is pervasive. Domestic abuse also remains a pressing issue, with proposed legislation to criminalize violence against women stalled following conservative opposition. Civil society groups have campaigned for reform of the family code and greater protections for over a decade, yet conservative backlash has repeatedly stalled progress even on modest reforms.
The repression and violence employed by regime authorities constitute egregious human rights violations by any measure. Though the regime denies wrongdoing and claims devotion to Islamic principles, the widespread dissent seen in cities across Iran over the past year makes clear that repressing over half the population contradicting their basic rights and humanity will only sow further unrest. As international scrutiny mounts ahead of next month’s UN observances, Iran must urgently revoke all infringing restrictions on women and end the culture of impunity encouraging violence by security forces. The country’s future stability and progress lie not in ever greater oppression but reform that respects the dignity and equal rights of all citizens, including Iranian women demanding nothing more.
Pressure from both inside and outside Iran will continue advocating for these long-denied freedoms. Activists at home risk great danger publicizing abuses and urging solidarity, yet their brave activism gives hope that one day justice may prevail. On the global stage, women’s rights defenders and supportive governments must likewise raise their voices against the Iranian regime’s well-documented crimes, through advocacy, sanctions, and investigations where possible. As countless lives have already been lost to the struggle, sending a message of empowerment and caring solidarity to Iranian sisters in their time of need could help sustain their courageous movement’s momentum for change.
In conclusion, the situation facing women in Iran underscores the urgent need for fundamental changes to the current repressive regime. As the crackdown on women’s rights intensifies with increasingly harsh laws and violence, international pressure and advocacy are crucial to support Iranian activists fighting for basic freedoms. While the road is long and progress will not come easy, the brave activism of women across Iran in risking their lives for this cause gives hope that one day justice and equality may prevail.
This hope will come to reality when the misogynistic ruling has been changed, made possible and only through regime change and an end to the mullahs’ rule. Ultimately, enabling Iranian women to live as freely and safely as their fundamental humanity demands remains not just a noble cause, but a basic necessity for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future in Iran.