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Iranian women-a closer look

07 June, 2007

By Amir Latif


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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.

Reader Comments:

Iranian women-a closer look

Its a shear propaganda by US against Iran and that also includes that women in Iran are oppressed but that is not true. Its widely knows that Iran has got 98% educated people and 68% graduates the highest number of educated people are in Iran and women are also part and parcel of Iran. Without them nothing would be there and some countries are happy the way Iran is progressing.

mohammad, United Arab Emirates - 07 June, 2007

Confusing Statement

Mr. Latif ...

I find your statement confusing. Reports in the United States that Ahmadinejad has cracked down on women whom he says are improperly clad, yet you say women have "more freedoms". I offer the following link as an example of the reports we are getting here. Can you comment on this?

SPIEGEL ONLINE - May 17, 2007, 12:03 PM
URL: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,483295,00.html
THE STRUGGLE FOR GENDER EQUALITY IN IRAN
Tehran Cracks Down on Feminist Movement

The burgeoning feminist movement in Iran is coming under increased pressure from Ahmadinejad's hardline regime. Activists who are campaigning to improve women's rights are being harassed, arrested and imprisoned for violating "national security."

Iranian women attending a 2004 rally to mark Women's Day. Feminists in Iran are feeling the heat from increased government oppression.

Iranian women attending a 2004 rally to mark Women's Day. Feminists in Iran are feeling the heat from increased government oppression.
The growing movement has largely taken place in the shadow of a global diplomatic crisis. For months, as the world focuses its attention on Iran's nuclear intentions, Iranian feminists have been bravely fighting the country's entrenched patriarchy.

But even as the world has taken little notice of the activists, Iranian authorities have. Accusing the women of being a threat to national security and of using foreign funds to stir up dissent in Iran, Tehran, in recent months has been doing what it can to crush the home-grown feminist movement.

The most recent move in the ongoing crackdown was the arrest of prominent activist Zeinab Peyghambarzadeh earlier this month. The 21-year-old was arrested after she had gone to court to answer questions about her participation in a rally in March. The crackdown, however, has been gaining steam for months.

Over the past 10 months the Iranian security forces have "become more and more aggressive even as women's actions have become more peaceful and more tame," one activist, Jila Baniyaghoub, told Associated Press. "By tightening the noose on us, they are warning us that they will not tolerate even the mildest criticism," she said.

In recent months Peyghambarzadeh and her fellow activists have been organizing a series of demonstrations across the country to rally against patriarchal laws and structures in Iran, including polygamy, unfair inheritance laws, and a lack of custody rights in divorce settlements. They have likewise been going out to talk with Iranian women in the streets, universities, schools and factories. They have also been active on the Internet, setting up a number of Web sites dedicated to women's issues.

The most prominent supporter of the movement is Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. According to Ebadi the popular support for the women's movement has unsettled the regime in Tehran. They see the feminists as calling into question the Iranian constitution, which is based on Shariah law and effectively treats women as second-class citizens.

"With a correct interpretation of Islam we can have equal rights for women," Ebadi said in a recent interview with Radio Free Europe, adding that women in Iran "haven't had the opportunity ... to demonstrate their capabilities." In an earlier interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, Ebadi said that "harassment is a fact of life for someone pursuing human rights in Iran."

On March 4, over 30 women, including Peyghambarzadeh, were arrested after they attended a protest rally in support of a number of arrested activists. Police loaded the 31 women into a bus and drove them to Tehran's Evin prison where they were blindfolded, forced to wear chadors and interrogated, before being released over the following weeks.

According to Reporters Without Borders, four other women's rights activists were given prison sentences in March for using the Internet to demand better conditions for women in the country. The "cyber-feminists" had been trying to collect a million signatures to call for a change to discriminatory laws. The women were found guilty of "violating national security," and given sentences ranging from six months to a year.


Ainen Gracen, United Kingdom - 08 June, 2007

wonder which iranian movie qualified for Oscars and for that matter Iranian actors???

Shina, Pakistan - 09 June, 2007

Iranian women

Iranian nation has culture, class and civility and the women there are treated more or less like in the Islamic world. I have seen many Iranian engineer women in Canada and I have had seen the Iranian women in Iran. I did'nt see them supressed and found them very progressive with striking looks.

I have respect for women of Persia, Turkey and Arabia as these three nations have had glorious past and have very promising future.

One thing sure is that the Iranian women are not exploited as club dancers and naked objects like in the west. They have won immunity from that kind of exploitation since the revolution and you don't see them topless on the Caspian or elsewhere like in Shah days.These pretty things have been very fertile and good housewives and have enabled Iran to more than double the population since 1979.If they can bless Iran with that only once more, Iran will have enough populaion base to supplant their largest combined hydrocarbon energy resources in the world and become a great nation.

It is good to know Iranian men and women as they are the ancestoral mother nation of all Aryans and south Asian people of India and Pakistan, who are of Aryan origin as well.One IPI gas pipe line now and two three or four more coupleted couple decades down the road will cement that Asian Aryan unity to create more intimatig interaction from two plus billion south Asians for reasons of global peace and avoiding of war.

PEACE WILL KISS THE WORLD WHEN INDIA, PAKISTAN AND IRAN ARE LUMPED TOGETHER AND WORK TOGETHER AS ARYAN NATIONS.

AND WOMAN ALLWAYS WINS MORE THAN HER RESPECT, LOVE, ESTEEM AND VALUE WHEN SHE IS MOTHER AND HAS KIDS TO EXTOLL HER WORTH.

AND IRANIAN WOMEN HAVE INCOMPARABLE BEAUTY TO ENJOY THEIR WORTH AT ANY TIME.

Anwar Mahmood, Canada - 10 June, 2007

LOL

The title of this article and the content of the article are infact in direct opposition.
The article gives sheer examples of inequalities and oppression inflicted on women. To take such blatent examples and call it "Liberalism" is pure nonsense.

Ganenthiran, Canada - 10 June, 2007

Biased Western/Jewish Media

The link you provided is the exact situation this article is talking about, that it has been projected in the west by the biased Jewish/Western Media with regard to Iranian women. In General, The women of Iran have all the freedom they need.

These western/jewish media finds the black holes in the IRanian/Muslim society and exploit it for their own white interests. Even if the women of Iran had the freedom as women do in the west, these Western/Jewish media's would look for other topics to exploit.

In the case of Pakistan, when General Musharraf overthrew the President of Pakistan in a bloodless coup, the western medias namely the washington times/New york times hailed him a a hero for Pakistan, and now this same media is calling him a 'dictator'. This is what your white media has been doing from the very beginning, abusing the powers of the media to exploit/cause damage to others. YOU GUYS aRE BIaSED BIaSED BIaSED..............................................................................................................

agha Pakistani, Pakistan - 12 June, 2007

Campaigns

1. They must be really free since some Iranian social activist is getting thousands of signatures against the law that a 9 year old girl is an adult, can be married(not marry herself) and be tried in a court as an adult e.g. for stealing a chocolate.
2. Overseas Iranian women have been campaigning about the situation of women in Iran for quite some time.
3. Nothing is all bad anyway. They have good education and some leeway in social life indeed.

Dayal, Hungary - 13 June, 2007

When you reach the stage where you do not have to defend, or even mention the hijab. When you do not have
to justify to anybody your intention to leave or join a religion or to dispense with
religious belief, When divorce has equality between sexes and the choice of multiple partners is equal between man and woman. When education and career opportunities are offered on equal terms to all.
Then you will be on the road to "Freedom." The so called freedoms we are supposed to enjoy in the west comes at a price. The choice is yours, but that is the ultimate freedom. That you should be able to freely have a choice to do, think, and act as you wish, accountable to no authority, as long as it hurts no other.

Tom Edgar Australia,
tomedgar@halenet.com.au

Tom Edgar, Aruba - 06 November, 2007

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