The women of Iran are forbidden to stand in the upcoming presidential election on June 14, and are being strangled by ever-increasing restrictions. What has happened to the courageous Iranian women’s movement of dissent that gave inspiration to the protests of the Arab Spring uprisings?
A member of the Guardian Council, who vets election candidates according to their Islamic credentials, declared that women were barred from running. Under the constitution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot stand for a third term, and out of 686 candidates competing to fill his place, only eight were cleared by the Guardian Council. Two have since resigned. All six remaining are associated with the supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They include the frontrunner, Saeed Jalili, an Islamist ideologue and protégé of Khamenei.
Women’s rights activists are hampered by restrictions in freedom of speech and assembly. Moreover, the Iranian constitution is founded on velayat-e faqih, the principle of absolute rule by an Islamic cleric, and a strict interpretation of sharia (Islamic law). Women not wearing the Muslim hijab or scarf in the public space can be sentenced to flogging, and the law stipulates that a woman’s life has only half the value of a man’s. Article 1133 of the Civil Code states a man can divorce his wife whenever he chooses, and Article 1117 ensures a husband can veto his wife’s choice of profession.
The Iranian women’s movement has a history of fighting state-mandated discrimination and violence, including stoning sentences for adultery. It emerged as the most defiant movement of its type in the Muslim world, and during the reform period of President Khatami, activists established more than 600 NGOs and took to the streets in a series of peaceful protests.
Read the rest of Ida Lichter’s article: Iranian Women Face Restrictions