Gender, Religion and the State in Iran International Perspectives on Gender Week 14
Structure of lecture • Introduction and Context • Gender and State in Iran up to 1979 • The Iranian Revolution • Gender and State in Islamic Iran • Iranian Feminisms post-Revolution • Video: A Conversation with Professor Leila Ahmed • Variability and the need for Specificity
Context: Where is Iran? 18th largest country in world Ancient Persia Urban settlement from 4,000 BC
Gender and State: 1920s to 1970s • Rule of Shahs, hereditary monarchs • Emphasis on modernity and progress, along European lines • Women’s participation in public sphere increased • ‘Unveiling’ of women from 1934 • 1963 – Iranian women got the vote • Marriage age increased, fertility rate declined • Women symbolised the modernity of the nation
Iranian Women: Symbols of Modernity Defaced billboard, Jerusalem 1968: Female Nuclear Physics PhD students, Iranian Students pre-1979
Iranian Women’s Movement • Iranian Women’s Social Movement for Women’s Rights (1910-1933), campaigned for women’s education • 1959 High Council of Women’s in Iran formed, focussed on women’s suffrage • 1966 The Women’s Organization of Iran formed, in 1975 won Family Protection Law • MC women opened up professional jobs, 1st female cabinet minister in 1968 • Differences between women important • Women’s movements tolerated where fitted state agenda, little space for autonomous women’s movements • From 1960s women symbolised the modernity of the Shah
Westernization • Coup orchestrated by US and UK, 19 August 1953, to secure interests of Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) • Overthrew PM Mohammed Mosaddegh • Reinstated absolute rule of Shah • US supplied arms to Shah in 1970s Shah and Shahbanou meeting US President Jimmy Carter and 1st Lady, Washington, 1977
1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran • Shah overthrown and Islamic fundamentalists came to power under Ayatollah Khomeini • Women as markers of the new Islamic order • Western values rejected in favour of ‘pure’ and ‘authentic’ Islamic values • Gender differences assumed Ayatollah Khomeini 1902-1989
Westoxification • Saving women from ‘westoxification’ • The symbolic MC urban woman – ‘excessive, loose’, unveiled • Responsible for destroying the ‘real’ Iranian nation – a tool of Western imperialism • Left-wing and nationalist as well as religious groups lamented ‘Tehrani ladies’
Compulsory Hijab for Women • The ‘answer’ is for women to take up their shield, hijab, once more • Ayatollah announced compulsory hijab – had already been adopted by many women supporters but was also opposed by many others • Women removed from public sphere, segregated Iranian women opposing compulsory hijab Iranian women waiting to vote
Iranian Feminism Post-1979 • Over time Iranian women began regaining key rights in the public sphere - shortage of men - Iranian feminists making claims on basis of Qur’an • ‘Bad hijab’ • ‘Secular oriented feminists’ argue that religion and state must be separated in Iran if women are to achieve equality • Not likely at present Women equal Men
Gender Scripts for Iranian Men • Haremi: what has Revolution meant for men and masculinities? • State is hypermasculine – exaggerating strength, discipline, self-reliance • Mullahs (religious clerics): pious, strict, unemotional, eradicating Shah’s corrupt, soft rule, coded feminine, policing borders of Islamic practice • Martyrs: young, unmarried men, fearless in battle against Islam’s enemies, protecting its women, expecting to die bringing honour to family and perpetual blessings to themselves • Ordinary men: patriarchal power within household reinforced but also constructed by the state as sexually out of control, requiring surveillance and coercion. Required to die in war and having poorer health outcomes.
Power Struggles in Iran • 1997: moderate Mohammad Khatami elected President and era of modest reforms follows • ‘Religious-oriented feminists’ in government sought progressive legislation • Guardian Council used veto • 2005: ultra-conservative Mahmūd Ahmadinejâdm elected President and clamps-down: hospitals refusing women entry unless fully covered; public hanging or stoning to death of women • 2009: Ahmadinejâdm re-elected President amidst widespread support for Mir Hussein Mousavi • Claims of election rigging and widespread demonstrations • 2013: Hassan Rouhani elected President
Mahmūd Ahmadinejâdm President 2005- 2013 Mohammad Khatami President 1997-2005 Hassan Rouhani President 2013- Ayatollah Alli Khamenei, Supreme Leader, 1989-
Interview with Prof Leila Ahmed 1. List all examples of interpretations of Islamic doctrine that are oppressive to women 2. How does Ahmed explain interpretations of the Koranic text which are oppressive to women? 3. Can Muslim women be feminists, according to Ahmed? 4. How does Ahmed explain the popularity of the veil for women? 5. What rights did Islam give women historically? 6. How does Ahmed explain the popularity of Islam today? 7. How do you think Ahmed herself relates to Islam?
Key Gender (In)Equality Indicators % Pop. with at least Maternal Mortality % married women % economically Women’s share Secondary education Rate (per 100,000 using contraceptive active agedParliamentary (2006-2010) live births) (2000-2008) 15+ (2009) seats (2011) Female Male (2008) Female Male Egypt 43.4 59.3 82 58 22 75 13 Indonesia 36 46.8 24 57 52 86 18 Iran 62.1 69.1 30 59 32 73 3 Morocco 20.1 36.3 110 52 26 80 7 Sudan 12.8 18.2 750 6 31 74 24 Turkey 26.7 42.4 23 43 24 70 9 • Sources: Progress of the World’s Women 2011-12, http://progress.unwomen.org/; Human Development Report 2013, http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/corporate/HDR/2013GlobalHDR/English/HDR2013%20Report%20English.pdf