Originally published by Forbes
Mr. Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and supporter of democratic regime change in Iran.
In Iran, a recent spate of acid attacks against women and the execution of a young woman charged with murdering her alleged rapist have turned the spotlight on the issue of women’s rights in the country. Although the events show a spike in human rights abuses against women in Iran, the discrimination against and suppression of Iranian women is nothing new and has been institutionalized in the very foundations and constitution of the clerical regime ruling the country.
But these events also betray the Iranian regime’s vain attempts at exuding power and frantic efforts to contain the numerous crises it is facing. It is also a reminder that women are the driving force behind the struggle against extremism and Islamic fundamentalism, and have the potential to bring about change in Iran and the region.
This is a reality that is fully understood by the Iranian regime, and explains why Tehran’s rulers resort to mounting up repression and pressure against the country’s female population whenever they feel the threat of social uprisings.
Recent rise of repression against women in Iran
Since Hassan Rouhani assumed office as the Iranian regime president in 2013, the regime has adopted a slew of rules, regulations and other methods in order to restrict women’s freedoms further than they already are. From preventing women from attending sport events to banning female musicians from performing in public; from edicts by the regime’s supreme leader for women to stay at home and raise children, to gender segregation rules imposed in Tehran’s municipal offices; the Iranian regime has put all its might into forcing women to stay at home and refrain from taking to the streets and potentially cause trouble with the state.
The acid attacks against women in Isfahan was the culmination of this misogynistic campaign, in which motorcyclists have splashed acid on faces of women for allegedly having violated the mandatory veiling code defined by the regime.
The regime tried to distance itself from the heinous crimes while at the same time benefitting from its results, which is sowing fear in the hearts of the country’s female population. Although regime officials and affiliated groups disavowed having been behind the attacks, facts suggest otherwise, especially a bill being debated in parliament that would protect individuals who arbitrarily decide to enforce Iran’s mandatory veiling regulations in their own violent manners.
Protests broke out over the horrendous attacks, which were quickly directed toward the regime and its misogynistic laws. Subsequently, security forcescracked down on protestors, and regime officials chided media outlets for having reported the story.
In another hateful act, the Iranian regime’s judiciary carried the execution of Rayhaneh Jabbari, a 26-year-old woman whose crime was defending herself against an intelligence agent who had attempted to rape her. A widespread international campaign did not convince Iran from revoking the verdict, and regime officials later justified and defended the judiciary’s decision to hang the innocent woman.
Amnesty international described Jabbari’s trial as “deeply flawed” and condemned her execution, calling it “another bloody stain on Iran’s human rights record.” Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, expressed shock over Jabbari’s execution and questioned the fairness of her trial. In his latest findings, Shaheed raised concern over human rights situation in Iran and emphasized the worsening conditions for Iranian women.
Jabbari’s story is just one of many similar tragedies that happen every day in Iran, in which people are sent to the gallows without due process. Iran the record holder in the number of executions per-capita, and is the biggest executioner of juvenile offenders.
The roots of misogyny in Iran
Misogyny and hatred against women is deeply rooted in the structure of the current regime ruling Iran, and has since its inception been one of the main pillars of its ideological foundation. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, when the clerics seized power in Iran, discrimination against women became the hallmark of the ruling regime and women became the prime victims of fundamentalist laws. Following the mullahs’ rise in power, women became subject to mandatory veiling rules, were cast out of most governmental institutions and prominent roles in the country, and were forced into their homes where they became legally dominated by their husbands.
Women have since been deprived of their most basic rights and suppressed under dubious fundamentalist laws pertaining to religion and god. The rulers and legislators of Iran have taken the necessary steps to marginalize women and make sure they do not enjoy equal rights as men and are officially treated as second class citizens.
Concern has been raised over women’s rights in Iran time and again, but the Iranian regime has refrained from complying with international appeals, seeing its survival in subduing women through repression and forcing them to abide by its medieval standards.
Women at the helm of fight against Islamic fundamentalism
Contrary to the regime’s wishes, the suppression of Iranian women under the banner of Islam has transformed them to the leading force against religious fascism and placed them in the vanguard of the struggle for freedom and democracy in Iran.
Iranian women have over the years become symbols of resistance against the ruling regime’s tyranny, both in popular social movements and in the regime’s prisons, where the most brutal tortures are practiced against women.
Ironically, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the largest and most organized opposition group to the Iranian regime, is led by women, with Mrs. Maryam Rajavi at its helm. Rajavi is a longtime political and human rights activist who has in the past decades led the fight for the toppling of Iran’s tyrannical regime. She is also the president of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of democratic organizations that vie for freedom and democracy in Iran. Rajavi’s ten-point plan lays out the platform for the establishment of a democratic, secular and non-nuclear Iran which respects equal rights for men and women.
The PMOI has been a perennial thorn in the side of the Iranian regime by playing a major role in denouncing Iran’s human rights violations, its meddling in neighboring countries, and its illicit nuclear program, all of which have become major global concerns in past years.
Accordingly, the Iranian regime has gone to great lengths to eliminate the PMOI. Since the 1980s, Iran has tortured, executed and assassinated more than 100,000 PMOI members and supporters, many of them women, in hopes of rooting out the organization and dousing the flame of resistance. The regime has especially been harsh toward the female members of PMOI in its prisons. Survivors of Iran’s dungeons have recited horrible accounts of PMOI women as a method to break their will. The regime’s torturers and executioners have not hesitated in executing pregnant women or torturing mothers in front of their children when they were found to be affiliated with the PMOI.
But the regime’s brutal methods did not yield the desired results. Through their resistance and perseverance, the women of PMOI have turned into a beacon of hope for the women of Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, where women’s rights are being violated under the name of religion.
Currently, the Iranian regime is especially focused on thousands of PMOI members residing in Iraq’s Camp Liberty, an obsolete U.S. outpost in the vicinity of the Baghdad International Airport. Among them are 1,000 women, many of whom are survivors of the regime’s prisons and are symbols of resistance.
Under former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki – a staunch ally of the Iranian regime – Tehran managed to carry out several brutal attacks against these Iranian dissidents and placed them under an all-out medical and logistical blockade in order to annihilate them or force them to repent their ideals and surrender to the Iranian regime.
Although Maliki is now gone from power, residual elements of his government and Iran-regime-loyalists who control the camp continue to harass and persecute the residents, who are determined to pursue their goal for freedom and democracy in Iran despite the prison-like conditions that have been imposed against.
The need for regime change in Iran
Aside from being one of the most ruthless regimes in respect to women’s rights, the Iranian regime has proven to be a mounting regional and global threat. In addition to its record-level human rights violations, the Iranian regime is infamously renowned for its role in sponsoring and exportingterrorism to countries in the region. The Iranian regime’s meddling and provocation of sectarian tensions in Iraq and Syria has allowed the Islamic State, an extremist group that has occupied a large stretch of land straddling both countries, to rise in power and influence in past months. And last but not least, Iran continues to defy the international community’s efforts to curb its illicit nuclear ambitions and strives to remain a nuclear threshold state.
These reasons, among others, make regime change in Iran a major contributing factor to the establishment of peace and stability in the region. Dislodging Iran’s mullahs from power will be the key to dealing with the major threat of Islamic fundamentalism, which is encroaching over the Middle East.
This is a feat that will be performed by a movement that respects and recognizes women’s rights as a key to any democratic society.
Today, more than ever, we need to defend women’s rights and empower women in the fight against extremism and fundamentalism. As Rajavi has promised time and again, the mullahs’ regime in Iran will be overthrown by the very women that they have suppressed for decades.