Iranian Political Transformation and Women's Security

On the eve of the Islamic revolution Iranian women had experienced a whole history of social, cultural, political and individual transformation founded implicitly and explicitly in the idea that they had rights not because they were Muslims, Christians, or Jews, but because they were human beings. Almost all that they had achieved as right, control, and power, they had done so in spite of clerical objections and against the patriarchal structures that were reinforced and sustained by cultural and religious traditions that dictated a subservient position for women. More importantly, this transformation was the momentum that the process had achieved and the potentials it suggested for the future.

With the most essential of these rights and freedoms curtailed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, women's security has become one of the core issues in the ongoing confrontation between the regime and Iranian society. The reformists' claim that any improvement in the area of human rights and security, may best be achieved within the existing constitutional and political framework has already been proved illusory since the constitution of the Islamic Republic formulates the woman's place in the family and society in traditional terms. Indeed, it is wholly geared to Islamic principles as defined by the clerical hierarchy. To have a real shot at women's security in Iran one must insist that women have rights because they are human beings and that governments are deemed legitimate only when they avow in law and respect in practice the universality of human rights irrespective of color, creed, nationality, religion, or gender. This is no reflection on Islam or on any religion. It only means that if human beings, including Iranian women, are to be free, which is an essential prerequisite of their security, they must be in a position to choose freely what to think, what to say, what to do, and, of course, how to relate, or not relate, to God. This can not be had if government and religion are one.

Mahnaz Afkhami
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