For 40 years, Iran has been ruled by religious extremists and women have been forced to live in the shadows and prohibitions. February 11, a public holiday in the country, marks the victory of Ayatollah Khomeini and the fall of the last Shah of Iran, overthrown by a starving people: the beginning of a dark era in the land of Scheherazade.

Forty years ago, the Islamic Revolution huddled the country back on its feet and hindered social progress and the advancement of women. The last Shah of Iran Mohamed Reza of the Pahlavi dynasty went into exile to make way for Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini. It is an event that has marked the end of the prosperity of the Persian heritage and the liberation of morals with the indelible ink of generations of Iranians. Let us lift the veil on the status of women.

Islamic Revolution: What future for Iranian women?

Women, who are prevented from leaving the country, are certainly the most to be pitied in this patriarchal society where there are strong inequalities. Before the Revolution, Iranian women were, as in Egypt, almost as free as in the West: they walked proudly, dressed in skirts and short dresses and let their hair float in the wind. Indeed, Monarch Reza Pahlavi was more in favour of women’s rights and the Westernization of society, preferring the greatness of pre-Islamic Persia over the Shia Iran of his time. Visit to learn more about women rights in Iran. Today, Iranian women cannot do anything without the permission of a male member of their family, are legally considered inferior to male individuals and are forced to hide their hair.

The only development in the right direction: access to education. Although educated and open to the world, Iranian youth remain miserable. To survive, young workers often have to work several jobs. In a country where women are forced to dress like men to attend a football match and where wearing a headscarf has been compulsory in public places since 1979, even hobbies are controlled by the government. Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, and Google: the American giants all have an Iranian equivalent that has been blessed by religious leaders (it should be noted that the United States has placed the country under embargo, banning US companies and the slightest flow in dollars).

Islamic Revolution: Towards the Emancipation of Women?

At the end of 2017, numerous demonstrations in the streets of Tehran, the capital, shook the country. Women want to free themselves from the laws dictated by the Shia mullahs, while men take to the streets to scold against the high cost of living. In response, President Rohani eased the law against “poorly veiled” women citizens by stating that “those who do not respect Islamic codes will no longer be placed in detention centres and will not have a criminal record”. Another step forward in terms of individual freedom: Iranian women are no longer dressed in black from head to toe, as they were 40 years ago, but are free to dress in a Western and colourful way.

Although moderate, Hassan Rohani, re-elected in 2017, has no real control over the country. Iran, a country that once ruled one of the world’s greatest civilizations, is now seen as a backward homeland damaged by obtuse politicians and supporters of a policy of terror.

According to Amnesty International, 112 women human rights activists were arrested or imprisoned in 2018, as was Nasrin Sotoudeh. This human rights lawyer was sentenced to 5 years in prison for defending activists who questioned the wearing of the veil.