As a massive women’s movement erupts in Iran after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022, people are looking for ways to help women in Iran who are experiencing injustices. Amini died while in police custody after allegedly breaking Iran’s strict dress code policy for women by showing part of her hair. Word of her passing sparked protests across the country and solidarity protests worldwide. This movement is an intersectional, human rights issue with teen girls at its forefront. Even for ordinary citizens, there are several ways to help women in Iran.
Understanding Women’s Rights in Iran
With any movement, becoming well-informed about the facts is key to making change a possibility. In 1963, the White Revolution aggressively modernized Iran into an industrial capitalist nation, which led to Westernization.
By 1979, a new Islamic revolution occurred and the monarchy in Iran was overthrown, bringing forward the new Islamic Republic; a theocracy that remains in power, squandering the progressive turns visible in Iran up until the political unrest.
Since then, Iran has remained extremely conservative, abiding by Sharia law or Islamic religious law. Sharia law is typically patriarchal in nature and contains strict rules for living a “responsible moral life,” with many rules regulating the conduct, duties and appearances of women.
These rules, though open to interpretation, tend to favor men and discriminate against women. These rules include the mandatory donning of a headscarf or hijab for women. Women are banned from attending stadium sporting events and cannot leave the country without the permission of their husbands. Even more concerning, the legal age for the marriage of girls in Iran is 13. The clerical legal system even provides loans to families to “facilitate child marriages” despite a bill proposed to the parliament in 2018, calling for a rise in the minimum legal age for marriage — 16 for girls and 18 for boys, the NCRI Women’s Committee says.
The so-called “morality police” in Iran have subjected women to degrading and often violent treatment for their dress code violations. The movement to remove headscarves by choice is challenging these laws. Even activists who choose to wear the hijab are attending rallies, along with many men, because this movement is about exactly that: the right to choose for one’s self.
Posting on social media is one of many ways to share knowledge. Sharing links to reputable charities, articles and other recourses shows support for a cause and gets people interested. People on the inside of the movement see posts from people all over the world and feel supported and empowered.
Sharing information, such as the importance of the Girls Leadership, Engagement, Agency and Development Act (Girls LEAD Act) can also help women in Iran. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the bill in the Senate on September 3, 2021. The bill aims to “strengthen the participation of adolescents, particularly girls, in democracy, human rights and governance” through U.S. foreign assistance. In light of the current events in Iran, there is an urgency for the U.S. Congress to pass this bill. U.S. citizens can take action by emailing their representatives and asking them to support the bill.
Support Human Rights Organizations
Additionally, several organizations are working to uphold human rights, empower women in Iran and attain justice.
- The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center is an organization that works to uphold human rights in Iran and attain democracy through “education and the dissemination of information.” It seeks to protect the rights of all Iranians indiscriminately by documenting and publicizing every execution and assassination incident in Farsi and English. These stories are contained in the Center’s Omid database, a memorial of the people who have faced human rights violations in Iran and were deprived of “the right to life.”
- Amnesty International has created a petition to “call on states to set up an independent U.N. mechanism” to investigate the grave human rights violations in Iran, including the case of Amini, to ensure accountability on the part of Iranian authorities. Amnesty International says, “there is a crisis of impunity in Iran and it has emboldened the Iranian authorities to kill hundreds of protesters and torture and ill-treat thousands more in recent years without fear of consequences. It is time for states engaging at the U.N. Human Rights Council to help tackle impunity for grave crimes in Iran.”
- The OMID Foundation helps marginalized young women in the “Persian-speaking world” who have experienced trauma, abuse and violence. Through therapy, programs, education and interventions, the Foundation helps these young people overcome trauma and reach their full potential. Skills and knowledge-building programs ensure these young women know their rights and develop the capabilities to live independent, successful lives.
Joining the Movement
There are many online resources, such as Amnesty International and the Associated Press, that will give a clear picture of the situation as it has developed as well as effective ways to show support is by attending meetings and protests. These events present an opportunity to interact, connect and collectively stand up in the face of injustice.
The people of Iran have endured human rights violations for decades. The efforts of every individual, organization and movement contribute to safeguarding the human rights of Iranian citizens, especially among marginalized groups such as women.
– Shane Chase