The Islamic Republic’s War on Women


(Gender-based discrimination / Tradition, Culture, Religion)

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The election of Hassan Rouhani gave new momentum to Iran’s devout Muslim feminists — but the mullahs aren’t having it

By Ziba Mir-Hosseini

The phone calls started about six weeks ago. Men who didn’t introduce themselves, working for Iran’s security agencies, rang the country’s most prominent women’s rights activists and demanded they show up for interrogations.

All the activists were told the same thing: “Don’t tell anyone we’ve called you here. Don’t speak to the media, don’t breathe a word to anyone.” But word seeped out, first in Tehran’s feminist circles and then among political activists, who traded accounts of interrogations and lines of questioning.

The Iranian government’s crackdown on feminists, one of the Islamic Republic’s periodic intimidation campaigns against women’s rights activists, is still underway. But the present iteration isn’t just a push-and-pull struggle between the government and civil society, or between the censors and the country’s most prominent women’s magazine — it’s a proxy battle between the president and the country’s hard-liners.

Iran’s women’s rights activists, both religious and secular, seized the space offered by President Hassan Rouhani’s 2013 election to emerge from the underground and engage again in public life. The Revolutionary Guards and the clerical establishment have responded by charging a vast international “feminist conspiracy” to undermine the Islamic Republic, funded by wealthy Western donors, intellectually articulated by feminist academics based abroad, and conducted by foot soldiers inside Iran — and even inside the president’s cabinet.

Read the rest of the article from Foreign Policy.