Iranian women-a closer look
07 June, 2007
By Amir Latif
The usual stereotyped portrayal of Iranian women in western media is that of oppressed women in a man-dominated society under a theological regime. I closer look from inside Iran indicates that is not entirely true.
Amid the continuation of the liberal policies of former Iranian President, Syed
Ali Khatemi, Iranian women are getting more economic opportunities, even in the fields which earlier were meant for men only.
However, Iranian women demand more social liberties, including a choice whether to wear Hijab or not.
"We have been getting more and more opportunities for last 10 years. No doubt, the credit goes to Syed Ali Khatemi, and then to Mehmood Ahmedinejad", Monir
Kerimi, a businesswoman told Daily PakTribune.
Ms Kerimi is a partner in a Tehran-based import and export firm, located at Wal-ul-Asr Square, the downtown of the city. Her firm mainly deals with oil products.
" The liberal policies introduced by Ali Khatemi are being followed by Ahmedinejad too. He (Ahmedinejad) has not done anything against women", Ms Kerimi said.
She thinks that the Iranian women should have more social liberties, including the choice whether to wear Hijab or not.
" I think , there should be a choice. However, I believe that a majority of Iranian women including me will opt for Hijab because it is our religious and cultural obligation", she maintained.
" Even before Islamic revolution, a majority of Iranian women used to wear Hijab. And this is my point that even if the government gives the choice to the women, most of them will opt for Hijab", she added.
She observes that Iranian society to an extent is a liberal society.
" No doubt, the situation for us is much better as compared to last two decades. Earlier, it was taboo if a woman works outside, but nowadays the situation is totally different. But , I must say that more room is available in this regard. We should have more cultural and economic liberties, including equal salaries", she added.
Ms Kerimi condemns the lesser salaries for women in government departments.
" This is unjust that women workers are paid lesser than their male colleagues. Both are working together and equally hard, then why are the women paid lesser?
In fact, women are working more hard. After work, they have to take care of their homes and children", she contended.
In private companies, Ms Kerimi says, the situation is relatively batter.
" In most of the private firms, women and men are paid equal. We, like men, need money. That is why we work. Most of us support our families like our male colleagues, therefore this bias must be eliminated", she said.
Ms Kerimi thinks that even if a woman does not have to support her family, she should work.
" I work not only because I have to support my family, but also because I like that. I want to be independent, and unless, I have my own income resources, I won't be treated as independent", she thought.
Asked whether Hijab creates problems for her as a working woman, he instant reply was a plain "No".
" No, not at all. Hijab has nothing to do with my business. I want to impress the men by my ability, not by my appearance or figure. We can do everything while wearing Hijab. We do not have to leave our (this) Islamic and cultural tradition", she said.
Ms Kerimi is not happy with segregation between men and women in some areas.
" Women have limited opportunities in army, police, engineering and some other sectors. It's not that women's entry is barred in these areas, however they are discouraged. For instance, women have limited opportunities in civil and mechanical engineering as compared to other fields of this sector", she said adding that situation is getting better in armed forces vis-à-vis women.
Fatima Maqsood, who works as a secretary at a private firm, believes that Iranian woman is safer and honored than the woman in west.
" We do not have to look like them (western women) to show that we are free. We feel ourselves free and honored in our society. We do not have to borrow their culture to prove our freedom", she said.
Ms Famita, who has been working for last 10 years, says she takes Hijab as an Islamic obligation instead of a government binding.
" I feel more secure and comfortable in Hijab. When , the western critics blame the Iranian government for forcing women to wear Hijab, then what would they say about France, Holland, and other European countries, where women can't wear Hijab in educational institutions and work places?", she asked.
" It is our own will when we wear Hijab", she maintained.
Ms Fatima says that Iranian woman is working in all fields with confidence and a sense of security because of Hijab.
" It is not essential for us to throw our Hijab. It is not creating any hurdle in our work, then why should we bother about that", she added.
Culturally, she thinks, Iran is much a head of even various western countries. Look at our movies, in which heroin is in Hijab, and they qualify for the Oscar award. On the other hand, Indians films are full of nudity, but their one or two films hardly qualify for that", she opined.
Ms Fatima admits that there are some instances of sexual harassment at work places.
" These incidents are not frequent as they are in other countries. But of course, such incidents do happen in some rough fields, like transport. But generally, we don't feel this threat at large", she said.
Farogh Khanum, a retired working woman says she is satisfied with the changes brought by successive governments to make the women's life more comfortable in Iran.
" I worked for 30 years in a government department, and now living a retired life. In line with my age, I feel I am living a comfortable life due to good policies of the government for retired people, especially women", Mrs Farogh, a mother of two said while walking in sprawling Laleh park in the north of Tehran.
This park was constructed by Queen Farah Deeba, the wife of the last emperor of Iran, Reza Shah Pehlvi.
Mrs Farogh, who is the witness of pre-revolution era, said it was initially difficult for her to accept the cultural changes brought by Imam Khomeni-led revolutionary government.
" Now I am used to it, and feel comfortable. But young girls may not feel like me", she said.
Shukria Hussein, a young student of Tehran University said that she would be in trouble if she speaks of her heart.
" Younger generation, including me does not accept this (Hijab) obligation whole heartedly. I would just say that there should be a choice in this regard", she
said while sitting with his male classmate in a corner of Laleh Park.
Laleh Park is known as a dating place for young couples in Tehran. Scores of young couples can been seen sitting and chatting on the benches or corners of the park in the morning and evening. Even some of them, were holding each others hands.
" It's not that we can hold each other's hands with impunity. Sometimes, if a Pasdar (revolutionary guard) notices us doing like this, he snubs us but not arrests us", Shukria said refusing to answer further questions. " I will be in trouble. So please, don't ask anything more", she said.