Iranian Women Speak Out

Since Mahsa Amini’s death, women Speak Out in Iran and around the world.

Protests against the hardline laws in Iran have spread across the country into their third week.  I asked my Iranian friend Fariba, who teaches in the school near here, what Mahsa Amini had done to be taken into prison.  She had left out a lock of hair from under her hajib and under Iranian law all of a woman’s hair has to be covered.  Mahsa Amini’s mother says she was beaten to death by the guards in prison.   Fariba does not wear a hajib here, neither do any of the other Iranian woman I know.  Fariba visits her sister in Tehran and will of course, wear one there.  I asked her how she felt about Mahsa Amini and she was clearly upset.  My friends from Iran say the strict religious rule of the Islamic Republic, leads to boredom in Iran, but this is tempered by fear.   They love God but they hate the old religious laws that impact on their freedom to live in ease.  Now we are hearing of convictions of protesters in Iran and we fear for the protesting Iranian footballers in the FIFA world cup in Qatar. The first Iranian woman I met in Wimbledon, Aisha, told me that her husband had been the army and had fled Iran and come to the UK. Aisha was prevented from leaving Iran to join him, and it was 15 years before she and her mother obtained false passports enabling her to join him.  I often see her with her husband, her face lit up with a big smile.  I asked my Iranian girlfriends about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and what he’s done to help women in Saudi Arabia by speaking out against Wahhabi conservatists. Women in Saudi Arabia weren’t allowed to drive until 4 years ago.  In Saudi Arabia the environment for women is much better than in Iran.  The late Egyptian writer and feminist Dr Nawal El Saadawi, born in 1931 lived under a death threat from conservative clerics, most of her life. She was imprisoned and prevented from working. She campaigned  against women having to wear the veil, inequality in Islamic inheritance rights between men and women, polygamy and female genital mutilation (FGM) and brought into focus women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

There are many female writers in Iran but a lot of their work is being suppressed.  We need to perform and read the work of Iranian writers.   The actor Nazanin Boniadi who is an actor and activist supporting women’s rights in Iran is in a good position to encourage this.  I heard on French ARTE TV that experts are looking at the geopolitical links between the governments of Iran and Russia. Now Iranian made drones have been causing terrible damage in Kyiv and there are calls for sanctions against Iran.

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