What is the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ movement in Iran?
Elahe Gol Pari
February 12, 2023
Our February speaker was Elahe Gol Pari, who lived most of her life in Iran; a playwright, screen writer, film maker, etc. Her talk was titled, “What is the ‘Woman Life Freedom’ movement in Iran?”
Those three words, in Farsi (the Persian language), are “Zan Zendegi Azadi,” and became the rallying cry for the protest movement that erupted after the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old Kurdish Iranian woman. She’d been arrested by Iran’s so-called “Morality Police” because her required hair covering was imperfect, and died three days later from injuries inflicted in their custody. While the protests were initially directed against those female dress strictures and the “Morality Police” enforcing them, they turned into a movement against Iran’s Islamic regime itself. And while women have taken the lead, a high proportion of men support the movement.
These protests have swept the country, and the regime has responded with extreme violence, many hundreds being killed, and great numbers being jailed, where torture, including sexual violence against women (by the “Morality Police!”) is endemic. Elahe said that police shooting at women protesters often aim for the eyes, and many girls have been blinded. Furthermore, injured protesters who go to hospitals have been taken out and jailed and further tortured – as have doctors treating them.
Elahe noted that the first Iranian woman to speak before men without wearing a hijab, the full body covering, was Tahira Qarrat Al-Ain in 1848. This was greeted favorably. No, actually, they killed her.
Elahe also observed that the headscarf, at least, is traditional Iranian clothing, akin to males wearing hats. But in 1936, under the modernizing regime of Reza Shah Pahlavi, women were given the freedom to dress as they pleased. In fact, the hijab was banned in schools and government offices. In 1963 women were given the vote.
Then the Pahlavi dynasty was ousted in 1979 with the “Islamic Revolution” under Ayatollah Khomeini, who opposed such liberalizations.
There was some discussion of the import of these female dress strictures. They putatively embody the idea of covering feminine charms so as to avoid exciting male sexual appetites [seemingly insulting to men, as if they can’t keep their libidos under control; which Western men appear able to manage quite well even on topless beaches – FSR] But it was meanwhile suggested that these dress restrictions are in truth assertions of male power over females.