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The Freedom of Women in the Islamic Republic of Iran

By: Ayatullah Ibrahim Amini
Reply: There is no doubt that throughout history, women have been oppressed and their rights have been disregarded. While today European countries give women much ostensible and superficial freedom, their history shows that they greatly oppressed them in the past. This problem caused the advent of the feminist movement in the early 20th century, which was honestly an apt movement because it provoked many intellectuals and public-spirited people into giving women consideration. Needless to say, many women and men gave the movement good reception and propagated the campaign.
The issue they advanced at the time was that men and women must be equal in all aspects and that no difference exists between women and men. Women are human and men are also human. Two humans have equal rights and just as men are free in possession of personal property, work, and other issues, so also women must be free. Anyway, an extensive campaign, which was outwardly a good movement began. They greatly promoted the matter; however, the movement had the following drawbacks:
First, in this movement, the issue of family was disregarded and only the call of freedom could be heard. Unfortunately, what this freedom and equality would do to the institution of family was not regarded in the least!
Second, when they wanted to propound the matter of liberty and equality, no heed was given to the fact that women have a differing genetic and spiritual makeup from men. With the pretext that women are human they asserted that women should have the exact same place as men.
Negligence of these two facts resulted in women entering public work because the defenders thought that if women have financial independence, men can no longer oppress them.
Consequently, at the time, there was the matter of industrialization and development of factories and such, and naturally, they needed workers. The owners of these factories completely used this opportunity with the realization that women would enter the workforce and they could be employed with lower wages. Thus, tycoons and industrialists also welcomed this innovation. Naturally, women felt that they had gained some rights and an income and this made them happy.
Little did they realize that some of these jobs were not suited to women and their special genesis. In short, the proprietors of businesses, those same males who before had exploited women within their homes, again became predominant in exploiting women outside their homes. In addition, men used women to attract customers and gain profit. In this manner, some women were brought into offices, advertising, cinemas, and theaters in order to provide men with pleasure. In the long run, the effect of this so called ‘equality of women and men’ is what we see in the Western world.
In the West, families are truly shattered. Even those that are not completely shattered, have many problems. When I went to Australia, they said that a high percentage of marriages result in divorce. There was a high tally of unofficial offspring. Bachelor life was extensive and there were many other problems. For example, having illegitimate children is something that is no longer considered indecent or improper.
They jest and call one another illegitimate and no one becomes offended! Now, as a result of a movement it has started itself, the West is in very bad shape. Due to rapid communications, countries have become closer and the danger is that something that occurs in one place, quickly spreads everywhere.
Here, I will point out our situation before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. At that time, women were oppressed just like the women everywhere else, and their rights were greatly ignored. Some men abused women. Men would make unjust restrictions for women and unfortunately, they put Islam at fault for many of these restrictions, even though they had nothing to do with Islam. This was until the movement that started in Europe slowly propagated to Iran though various books, writings, and other media of communication.
This produced a parallel movement in Iran with the backing of the former regime with the tag of defending the rights of women. Therefore, an identical movement to the one in Europe stared in Iran. The matter put forth at the time was the equality and liberty of women, like in the West. This movement was the mainspring of perversion among women in Iran, and brought about abolishment of Hijab and other problems.
At the time, some men attempted to preserve the previous state in their homes, and they kept up their bad behavior and solidified bigotry. Others, who were supporters of the new situation ‘did as the Romans’ and perversion thrived and greatly threatened the institution of family until God Almighty did a kindness and the Revolution occurred. Even if the Revolution had not transpired, we might not have become like the West, but the situation of our women and society in general would have become very bad.
Naturally, after the Revolution, without much propaganda or restrictions, the women themselves observed Hijab for a period and the situation had become extremely good. With his wise recommendations, Imam Khomeini (may Allah have mercy upon his soul) bought women into the society. Maybe if someone else was the helmsman of the Revolution, women would not have become active in the society so quickly. In his speeches, Imam greatly encouraged them, such as in issues revolving around the war. Finally, this resulted in severance of traditional chauvinist men, who would not let women enter the society.
This was a good opportunity and wonderful atmosphere because those who previously had unreasonable freedom were now relatively happy that they had freedom to be present and work in the society. Those who were under restrictions because of some men’s narrow-mindedness, for which Islam was sometimes faulted, now entered the society. Ultimately, nearly ideal circumstances were produced for women in order for them to attain their true rights and be saved from their previous problems.
However, this opportunity was not used very well. It was befitting that women enter their true paths; the same path that Islam had set for them. They should have entered the society with foresight and received their rights, but this has not happened in many cases. In the past, many people were prejudiced—they would not let their daughters go to school. Now the path has been paved for them to go to school and enter universities. However, education alone cannot resolve the predicament of women.
Of course, it is good and there is no doubt that women must also learn, vote, become candidates for election, enter the senate and ministries, create works of art, etc. These are all good and well, but are the problems of women limited to these issues? Women are encouraged in sports and the ultimate goal of some women might be to take part in international games and win. Taking part in sports is permissible for women; however, these are not the pivotal affairs of women. Women should have traveled on their true paths and pursued their real rights. Which of the basic problems of women do professional sports solve?
In performing the things we did—many of which were done recklessly—we disregarded two issues: First, we did not reckon whether what we did would cause strengthening of the family or its weakness or whether the number of divorces would plummet or skyrocket. In our plans of action, we did not think of the instability or fortification of the family institution while we should have regarded it in all programs as a criterion. Family is a reality that, through its strength, the society becomes strong.
The endurance of the family is to the advantage of both women and men, and its fragmentation harms both men and women. Regrettably, the tally of divorces not only has not become less, it has soared. Even though in our Islamic regime divorce, which is the most hated of the permissible things in Islam, should reach its minimum, it has sadly reached an all-time high! This is a result of our inexperience and greenness.
Sadly, I see too many people who should themselves be the ones to resolve the family problems of others, but who do not even act correctly with their own families.
Another issue that was tragically disregarded in the plan to bring women into the society was their special genesis. Jobs that were well suited to women wherein they could both fulfill their God-given responsibilities and also have an influence in the society were not well thought out. It is vital to discover what types of work are suited to the needs of women. If we do not contemplate the matter well, I fear we shall be afflicted with the same fate as the West. I sense the peril of this truth.

Nonconformance of Publicity and Education
Unfortunately, we do not have coordinated communication and organization in cultural issues, albeit this deficiency is not specific to women alone, and when communication is not coordinated we cannot arrive at a desirable outcome. In fact, we may even get an opposite result. What I mean by coordination is that all people and organizations must work synchronously in cultural decisions: television and radio, writers, magazines, publishers, speakers, etc. If all walk the same path, all will be very successful.
For example, in the eight year imposed war, we publicized the culture of jihad and martyrdom1 among the people and we were successful. At the time, we were all harmonious, from Imam Khomeini to all administrators, the clergy, and the media. Thus, even with an abundance of problems, we were miraculously triumphant and we were able to defeat all the powers that were behind Saddam, even though we were empty-handed and alone. The reason for this victory was that we spread this culture and because jihad and martyrdom were the greatest of values.
When youths went to the frontlines, they welcomed martyrdom. The tradition of martyrdom could be seen on all fronts. In sermons, speeches, eulogies, and poems there was talk of self-sacrifice, jihad, and proximity to Allah. Back at the Friday Prayer, I addressed eulogists and said that throughout the years of battle against the previous regime, eulogies and poems regarding Imam Hussain (‘a) had a wonderful color and other types of poem were moot.
With the rise of the Revolution, poems changed and addressed the path of martyrdom, jihad, and related matters. However, when the war was over, the poems returned to their previous style and higher values were ignored. Now, look in our newspapers and art and literature media and see what values are prevalent and what is rewarded.
In this turbulence, if someone wishes to spread a tradition, they will not be successful. Changing or spreading a custom requires a common and united movement such that at least seventy percent of administrators and organizations are coordinated and the other thirty percent follow their lead. Unfortunately, we have done no such thing and do not presently have it in our culture.
At the beginning of the Revolution, women willingly accepted hijab along with the flow of the Revolution without intimidation or discipline. However, we should have used this opportunity to vitalize the tradition of hijab with coordinated publicity and educating principles. Women must believe that hijab is in their own interests. When this value came without effort, we did not appreciate it. Women’s acceptance of hijab was truly a miracle considering the situation of the society. We could have undertaken much cultural education, but we did not. Then the surge of the Revolution and the term of the imposed war passed and still we did nothing.
Coordinated cultural education is very important. The truth of the matter is that cultural administrators should have made a united decision about women. What is their correct path? What are exemplary values concerning women? If this had been done, they would have more easily accepted their worthy path. Instead of coordinated work, we undertook scattered and preferential projects and focused attention on cultural scenes such as Friday Prayer, while many newspapers, books, and cinemas became battlefields of the whims. These incongruities and differences in inclination retarded cultural education.

• Is the position of family in the moral and jurisprudential system of Islam an immutable affair?
Reply: The matter of family is one of the difficult issues of sociology and its complete analysis requires extensive discussion. However, in short, I can say that the importance of family is hidden to none and sociologists agree on this. The institution of family is held to be the best and most secure place for the tranquility and ease of husband and wife and for correctly rearing children. If families are healthy, so is the society and if families shatter, there will not be a healthy society.
Islam puts much importance upon family. It has legislated its laws such that the institution of family remains intact and strong. Thus, in Islam, preserving and fortifying the family is considered a chief principle. However, the rules and regulations and the rights and privileges governing families can be adapted and changed with respect to varying prevailing conditions.

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