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Women in Iran

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1. Women's rights in Iran have for many years been a very controversial and heated topic. The way women live and are viewed by men in Iran has changed in so many ways throughout the end of the twentieth century leading into current day. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was the last Shah of Iran and throughout his attempt to westernize his country he was overthrown by the Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution, on February 11th, 1979.[1] Religious rulers took over and influenced the Sharia Law, which are decisions on how to live life by studying religious texts. Ever since this change women have faced a struggle to survive in harsh conditions every day of their lives. Inequality between Iranian men and women is a major problem, even an issue due to the way women are viewed and through the eye of a man here.[2] The rights of women certainly have changed drastically since the start of the revolution, but still the daily life of an Iranian women without a doubt does not compare to that of a woman living in America.[3] Islamic women have tried to fight these discriminatory conditions, but these prevalent practices are in most cases required by the law. The laws that they are forced to go by are biased and in any outsiders opinion should be changed. After the revolution, Iran took a different turn from being a western influenced country to a being an Islamic fundamental government with strict rules led by the supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini. Since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1979 signs had appeared of Islamic fundamentalism. The laws that the women had gained under the leadership of the Shah were systematically, legislatively and religiously demolished. Under the new regime, families encouraged women to get a higher education and they began to find jobs. The country is dominant in Sunni Islam and more than 90% of the population follow Wahabism. Wahabism is a very strict conservative interpretation of Islam. Since the Saudi royalty follows Wahabism, majority citizens do as well. The government and culture of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia play a major role in determining the rights of women. Most women in Islamic countries are taught that a women’s main duty is to her family, husband, children and household and therefore it’s the husband or male family relatives role to go outside the house to work. Under the Quran, the Isamic Holy Book, women are said to be equal to man.[4] The Qur’an, however, forbids the act of enslaving women, saying that they were equal to men. It said that a woman should have respect in marriage and in divorce. A woman should help satisfy the desires of her husband and does not surrender herself to anyone other than her husband.[5] However this is just in theory, in practice they are not at all looked at as equal.[6] Theologians maintain that women enjoyed no rights whatsoever and were treated no better than a commodity. Not only were they enslaved, but they could also be inherited as a possession.[7] It is illegal for women to drive because they will be leaving the house more often and interact with men much more. Driving would also cause women to have to take off their naqab. Even public transportation is an issue because of men, so segregated buses have been developed. Women are not looked at as important enough. In most cases, the testimony of a woman is not valid in a court of law.[8] Women are legally obedient to their husband and can not do anything without their permission, not even go to their fathers funeral.[9] Islamic women are forced to live under their husbands ruling due to the laws made for them. Once the revolution started and men got this power over women, they have treated them simply as dirt.[10] The laws made against these women are not brought up by the Quran, but rather put into different wording to make men more superior and westernization non-existent. The status and conditions of women compared to men have always been an issue or point of concern. The abuse of women's rights in Iran is not only an adverse result, but the anticipated result of a state policy, which gives women fewer rights than men. This allows women to face discrimination in all walks of life, and which allows men the authority to exercise their power without any fear of being held accountable for their actions. The Sharia or Islamic law defines the roles of women which are that women are not equal to men when it comes to inheritance, but men and women are equal before God when it comes to their religious duties and the second is that women are placed under the protection and care of men. It says that men are not superior to women and that in the beginning men did not come before women and visa versa and that woman were not created for the purpose of man, but created in the unity of man.[11] After the Revolution, the attitude toward women by men has been condescending.[12] Although the Hadith states that women are "morally defective", it must ignore the fact that the vast individuals jailed for murder, rape, child abuse, etc. are men. The problem is that the laws have been derived from the words of men and not the words of God in which were intended. The Qur’an says “O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them twain has spread a multitude of men and women”.[13] Women in Islamic culture had a monopoly over the textile industry, mainly spinning and embroidery.[14] Muhammad said that women’s work in the household was extremely important and that “Muslim women establish intricate social contracts with each other”.[15] However, under Islam, women gained important protections which gained them a basis for gender equality. Women under Islam were segregated and subject to the practice of polygamy. Women do not however have equal testimony in a court of law, because it is believed that a woman’s temperament or lack of knowledge of legal matters would get in the way of the correct judgment.[16] Islamic women are by law legally obtained to her husband, her whole life is revolved around the order of her significant other in any situation.[17] A woman should help satisfy the desires of her husband and does not surrender herself to anyone other than her husband.[18] The ideal woman has no female friends and solely relies on her husband.[19] Women have gained some privileges but Islam stated that women should be separated from men and that a man was allowed to have multiple wives. Women had to cover themselves for it is indecent for a woman to expose any naked flesh to other men besides her husband.[20] Islamic women have a very strict dress code that must be followed, if a woman is caught in public revealing too much skin she is considered a whore. The dress code for the women requires them to wear a niqab which covers the face except the eyes and a full black cloak called abaya. The laws which apply to women`s clothing a Tre that it must cover the entire body except hands and eyes and the clothes underneath should be loose fitting.[21] The practice of hijab is based on religious doctrine, however the Quran does no mandate it.[22] It actually comes from the Hadith of Sahih Bukhari. According to the Hadith, "My Lord agreed with me ('Umar) in three things... And as regards the veiling of women, I said 'O Allah's Apostle! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.' So the verse of the veiling of the women was revealed.”[23] These women are forced to cover up their entire bodies to prevent men from talking to them. Even though the dress code must be followed at all times, many outsiders believe the dress code for women is much more strict than it actually is. It is allowed for women to wear colors other than black, in fact it is recommended they wear colored clothing in the summer.[24] If there cam a time where the hijab was no mandatory clothing for women in Iran, most say they still would wear it out of habit. It has become a big part of their life and even though the revolution has harmed women in many ways, they have grown accustom to it. [25] When the Shah was is power before the Revolution he had banned the hijab and women were not allowed to wear it in public. There was a time before the Revolution when women did not have to live this way. The shah was a very secular and westernized man who tried to shape his country into modernization. Islamic women before the year 1979 felt they could do anything they wanted.[26] Not only were women graduating from college, but there was work waiting for them right after. Becoming a judge, teacher, doctor, business woman, etc was common for women and no one opposed to it. No one felt discriminated or experienced any shortcomings. Women could have anything a man had and no one would feel it was subnormal in any way. Islamic women could live without a man in their lives and no one would be troubled by it. In fact meeting men and going out on dates was not a big issue at all. In 1967 Iran proposed a law, the Family Protection Law, which granted women more rights in their family. Islamic women had an effective place in society that meant more than being only productive in the kitchen. Women had all the freedom and opportunity they desired, it was shameful a time had to come where they would lose it all.

-----------------------
[1] Cherry Mosteshar, Unveiled: One Woman's Nightmare in Iran (Great Britain: Hodder & Stoughton, March 1996) pg 5.
[2] Ibid
[3] Haleh Esfandiari, Reconstructed Lives: Women & Iran's Islamic Revolution (Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson, 1997) pg 192
[4] The piety of public participation
[5] Engineer, Asghar Ali. The Rights of Women in Islam. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992. 20, 147-148. Print.
[6] The piety
[7] Ibid
[8] Politics of iran
[9] ibid
[10] Esfandiari
[11] Qur’an
[12] esfandiari
[13] Qur’an 4:1
[14]
[15] Stearns, Peter. World History in Brief. 7th. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2010. p. 61, 66-67, 140-141, 160. Print.
[16] politics
[17] Ibid
[18] Engineer p. 148
[19] Engineer p. 147
[20] Stearns p. 160
[21] cherry
[22] Unveiling the hijab
[23] Ibid
[24] esfandiari
[25] Ibid
[26] Esfandiari

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