The Dilemma of Iranian Women’s Movement: will it be solved?


International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated worldwide on March 8. However, Iranian women to celebrate this day hit the streets and stood in front of the Ministry of Labor, demonstrating against gender inequality.
The police did not allow them to stand in front of the ministry but for a few minutes and arrested 80 women and five men. The female protesters, who were detained, faced harsh treatment and were accused of “destabilizing national security.”
» Women returned to protest after 11 years
Iranian women had demonstrated in IWD calling for their rights 11 years ago. In March 2006, women assembled in front of the Iranian Parliament, as usual, their calls were thwarted down by the police, who used excessive force.
One of the women activists argues that the women’s movement in Iran has been lagging for a long period of time. Women have always had fears of suppression, especially during Ahmadinejad’s reign. She said, “The time has come for women to hit the streets, calling for their rights. No one can bet on Rouhani or on other reformists, any more. The Iranian women must snatch their rights by themselves.”
Iranian women participated in the 2009 “Green Movement” uprising and in the 2017- uprising, which mushroomed across most of Iran’s cities. In both uprisings, women did not call for their own rights exclusively, but they participated shoulder-to-shoulder with men, calling for economic and political reform.
However, lately, Iranian women have realized that they must change their “protest strategy.” After the 2017-uprising, a new generation of women activists, who are more courageous, emerged. A civil disobedience movement against the compulsory wearing of the hijab broke out; branded as, “Girls of the Street Revolution.”
This movement started when a woman, called Vida Movahedi, took off her hijab while standing on an electric utility box and waving her hijab on the end of a stick. Once she stepped down from the box, she was immediately detained. That energized other Iranian women, who followed the steps of Vida. Every day, new photos of new women, imitating the iconic-photo of Vida, are spread on social media, protesting the compulsory wearing of the hijab.
» Girls of the Street Revolution
The police used excessive force against women protesting the compulsory wearing of the hijab. The Iranian regime assumed the use of excessive force would deter this new wave. On February 2018, Mariam Shariatmadari stood on one of the electric utility boxes without wearing the hijab. She was circled by a group of police officers, then, suddenly one of them kicked her furiously in the back. She fell to the ground and her neck was broken.
The Iranian regime was truly shocked by this wave. Despite the excessive use of force, the girls did not stop protesting by taking off their hijab. Therefore, the regime resorted to distorting the image of the girls participating in this wave. Tehran’s Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dawlatabadi said,” The girls, who show up in public without wearing hijab, are children, they are not aware of what they are doing. And they take drugs.” Also, he threatened them saying, “If this [phenomena] wave continued more than it should, strict action will be taken against the protesters.”
Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code states that “Women who appear in public without the Islamic hijab can be sentenced to up to two months in prison and be issued a fine up to 500,000 riyals [$50].” But, in the case of the “Girls of the Street Revolution”, the civil-rights attorney Hussien Isac said, “the girls violated article 639 of the Iranian penal code, which is an offense against public morality, so they will face formal negative sanctions of one to ten years of imprisonment.” Few days ago, Tehran’s Prosecutor announced that one of the girls participating in this protest was accused of “promoting corruption”, and she was sentenced two years in prison.
» The Minister of Interior admits failing to contain the wave of hijab protests
The Iranian Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, during a meeting, said, “the strict measures to enforce hijab have not been fruitful.” He added, “the police cannot, alone, impose wearing the hijab. It [taking off hijab] must not be dealt as a criminal act. It is a cultural issue, which must be dealt with high caution.”
» Women now have more demands
After receiving positive public reactions, the women’s movement in Iran has aspired for more gains. Women have started calling for gender equality. They expressed their demands by writing on social media using the hashtag #برابربامن which means he is equal to me. Videos of Iranian women talking about their gender-inequality experiences in Iran have quickly spread on social media. Also,
they have talked about unemployment, which half of Iranian women suffer from; and they have spoken about the physical and verbal harassment women face in public, especially at work. And they have discussed the rights they are deprived of in divorce, inheritance, and child-custody cases.
» Khamenei warns women of the “Western Model”
This year, the International Women’s Day coincided with the birthday of Fatima Alzahra. Iran’s Supreme Leader did not spare a moment to use this occasion by criticizing the women protesting the compulsory wearing of the hijab. He described their protests as, “small and insignificant.”
He warned the Iranian women from following the Western model, which makes them mere “goods and means of pleasure,” confirming that the best thing a woman can do is to be a mother or a wife. Despite all the measures the government took, women have not stopped. The latest protests foretell that a better future for Iranian women is coming.

Editorial Team