The women's rights in Iran has caught the attention of many being the course of Iranian feminist movements and women’s activism, however, it seems almost complicated and impossible. For example, how come women under traditional Islamist religious state with a goal of pursuing sex discrimination and other forms of legal judgements that are done on women, show a remarkable educational fulfilment that even surpass men with high education? And yet if you take a good look, these women’s extraordinary attainments in their educations never match their opportunities to earn employment, take part in a political decision (women’s representation share in the parliament is among the lowest in the world) or even have access to occupational mobility, the main question is, do women have rights in Iran?

1. Factors influencing feminism activism in Iran

There are many factors that have indeed shaped women’s rights status in present Iran. This includes the patrimonial and patriarchal patterns in the history and culture of Iran, be it religious or secular, the state ideology and state policy, don’t forget the logical trends or influential philosophies like nationalism, socialism, imperialism, liberalism as the most recent one, a human right framework and Islamism. Both internal and external factors also play a major role in influencing intellectual dialogues and state policies on gender issues and women’s rights. Also, the increased process of international currency and globalization of the dissertations of women's rights and human rights, in general spreading, through the U.N, worldwide feminist activism and new technologies like the television and internet are other factors that have increased the influence over the past recent years. With the increase in globalization, it has intensified a “glocal” tension, this simply means an interplay of the national-local factors with international-global factors. The worldwide and glocal dynamism of today’s society in Iran has become very intensified over the past four decades because of the millions of voluntary exiles or forces and emigrations finding themselves settling in North America and Western Europe. The massive exodus from Iranians mainly because of political reasons has left severe brain damage for the country. This has also has resulted in the growth of diasporic communities of Iran citizens who are accomplished professionals and highly educated, most of them are still devoted to fight in support of democracy and human rights in Iran. This has increased new offers on the civil and rights of women’s movements with a well-connected and resourceful potentials. You can get more information here.

2. Stages of Women’s Movements and formations in Iran

The features of women movements and feminist formations in present Iran including its strategies, demands, achievements, effectiveness and tactics have all varied in agreement with contrary state policies, socioeconomic growths, cultural contexts and political trends at both international and national levels.
1. At the top of the list was the era of constitutionalism and constitutional revolution in the year 1905-1925. During these years, there was the emerging of the first generation of women’s movement and their involvement in the anti-imperialist and pro-constitutional activities. They demanded that women should have access to vocational training, public education, and hygiene while they aimed at criticizing polygamy, domestic violence and women’s seclusions.

2. Secondly, existed an era of modern nation-state building in the year 1920s and 40s. They associated themselves with increasing knowledge among women and ensuring women get a chance to enrol in universities by slowly expanding the women’s press and associations.

3. This era was the era of nationalization in the oil industry around 1940s-50s. It brought a lot of women into the political and public activism within socialists’ and nationalists’ organizational and ideological frameworks. Many reforms and equal ideas concerning the role of women and their status were brought into the public light. However, not even the socialists or nationalists’ parties were able to succeed in showing out the legislative modifications that concerned the suffering of women or any alterations in the family laws.

4. The fourth era was mainly based on modernization around 1960s and 70s. it portrayed the social visibility of professional and modern working woman in the rapid urbanization process. in line was also some significant legal reforms that concerned family laws and women’s suffrage. Furthermore, it increased dictatorship and centralization which resulted in the erosion of women’s independent parties which led to a top process involving modernization without democracy. These created a polarized and dual society.

5. At fifth, we had the era of Islamisation and Islamist revolution in the year 1979-1997. It was associated with immense social-political mobilization of women and men, but it was later followed by a lot of discriminatory and retrogressive policies and laws against women and religious minorities including sex segregation, forced hijab, violence, war, huge emigrations, political repressions.

6. This was the era under president Khatami, it was all about post –Islamist reforms from 1997-2005 associated with civil society speeches and social-political openness. The development of civil organizations, free press which includes feminist press and economic improvements weren’t able to last long.

7. Under President Ahmadinejad in the year 2005-2013, the neo-conservative and popular backlash was associated with resurrections of fanatic Islamist groups emphasizing the ambitions of nuclear power, provocative and belligerent foreign policies. This intensified the hostility between Israel, the international republican institute and the western powers which accelerated the wars and military attacks. It later increased to international sanctions which isolated Iran, increased civil society organizations and repressions on the media which included the introduction of anti-women bills, women’s groups, increased corruption, inflation, rising unemployment and mismanagement of the economy.

8. The final era was about moderation starting in the year 2013. It has been linked with amazing shifts in foreign policies and success in finding the solutions to the nuclear disaster with world powers coming to the rescue. So far, all the attempts towards improvements and openness of women’s status and human rights, have been blocked by those in power who tend to have power over the president.

Final thoughts

The women’s movement in Iran is growing into a fine model for the younger generation. Their courage, creativeness, sensible strategies and flexibility have theoretical implications and significant practicals for both global and local feminism.