Iranian Women and the Civil Rights Movement in Iran: Feminism Interacted

Article excerpt

Abstract

After presenting a compendium of the structural and ideological gender inequalities in the Iranian society, mostly in post-revolutionary era, this article provides basic information and analysis about Iranian feminists in the civil rights movement framework. It also reviews the relationship between Iranian feminism on the one hand and democratization process and demand for vindication of civil rights of all Iranian citizens as the main issues of this movement on the other. This review will be done in three parts: the essence of Iranian feminism in post-revolutionary Iran including a sustained critique of Iranian feminism, the interactions of women activists and other activists in this movement, and the impact of Iranian feminism on the Iranian civil rights movement and vice versa.

Keywords: Iranian feminism, shari'ah, reform movement, civil rights

Introduction

Women have been one of the most important social groups in Iranian civil rights movement between 1996 and 2000. Iranian female university students, intellectuals, journalists and political activists have raised the standards of political activism in Iran. Iranian feminists, religious or non-religious, are the noticeable part of these groups of women who formed a substantial portion of the participants within this movement along with male university students, journalists, intellectuals and political activists.

I consider four areas of change to understand the influence of Iranian feminism on the civil rights movement. These are the roots of indigenised ideologies, the sources of the non-violence strategy of the movement, the origins and goals of the civil rights movement, and the reasons of success and failure stories of Iranian feminism in getting its fair share of power in what reformers achieved in Iranian politics during the reform movement.

I will focus on the participation of women in overlapping social movements, i.e. civil rights and women's movements in Iran to fight against traditional and religious sexism found in the lives of women who are subject to some forms of discrimination, abuse, oppression, or exploitation. I will analyze various aspects of Iranian women's participation in intellectual endeavors, social movements, collective action, and protest acts. This article is to answer five questions: is there really a women's movement? What is common among women's movement activists as perceived by Iranian feminists? How do feminist activists define the civil rights movement? What did women demand in this movement? And what are the achievements of women activists in the framework of the civil rights movement? The main idea is to show that the feminist movement has been growing up alongside the civil rights movement.

Historical and Social Background

The Iranian women have traditionally been deprived of many of their basic rights and have suffered from both male centered ideologies and male dominance that treat women as irrational, child-like and immature, and from widespread discriminatory policies that affect their lives from birth to death. Women's fight for their civil, constitutional and human rights have been in the core of women's movement in Iran for about a century, from the early twentieth century (1) to the beginning of twenty first century (2). During the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian women participated in massive numbers in street demonstrations and expedited the victory of the Revolution but there were not gender differences and gender expectations in the participation and expectations of women during this great massive social event.

The Islamic revolutionary utopia, shaped and presented in the 1970s, was not ideologically, strategically, and tactically gendered; gender issues were hidden under the guise of Islamic ideology that was the framework of next regime and no one was talking about it beforehand. There was a mass society and a few male revolutionary leaders. …