Hello! Day 5 of @DrSafaneh guest tweeting here at @HistoriansOfIran. Writing about the Islamic Republic narratives of women is certainly the hardest, so much good scholarship has been done and I can only touch on a few points here.
1/A driver of the 1979 Islamic revolution was the clash of social ideas. A key notion was "Gharbzadegi" which can be translated as "Westoxification." The concept was popularized by Jalal Al-e Ahmad, to criticize the infatuation of the elite with Westernization.
2/When it came to women, there was a consensus on the rejection of "Westoxified" women across both secular, and religious opposition groups. Between the forces of clashing political discourses (modernization vs. de-westoxification), women were pressured.
3/The "ideal" woman would not be Westoxified, without of course being too "ommol" (translation: backward, too traditional). In her effort to be modern, she had to be careful not to be "jelf" (translation: too loose, perverse) either.
4/Most opposition groups driving the 1979 revolution did not consider women's issues to be a central matter in their agenda. None saw women's roles as anything beyond support for their ideologies.
5/When ayatollah Khomeini came to power following the 1979 revolution, one of the very first laws that he abrogated was the progressive 1967 Family Protection Act-which was the result of years of hard work by Pahlavi era feminists.
6/This was the very first indicator of what the new political regime's approach to women's rights was going to be.
7/The abrogation of the former secular laws and the implementation of sharia followed a narrative that considered the Islamic laws as in accordance with the "natural inclinations" of women which "helped them fulfill their true potential as God intended."
8/Then came the central hallmark of the IRI:compulsory hijab.Hijab was made mandatory by a law passed in parliament officially in 1983 & has been enforced by police and paramilitary groups.Needless to say that forced hijab is as repressive, if not more,than Reza Shah’s hijab ban.
9/Women protested these legal changes and the brutal manner in which they were enforced from the very beginning, and they continue to do so to this day, although the forms of resistance and protest have changed.
10/The Islamic Republic discourse on women veiling was a reaction to the colonial discourse on Muslim women, the Pahlavi’s unveiling and modernization policies, as well as a product of the patriarchal and religious belief systems of its leaders which had strong societal roots.
11/The IRI narrative on Iranian women rejected almost all legal advancements that women made during the Pahlavi era through either presenting the advancements as un-Islamic and corrupt practices, or through attacking the individuals involved.
12/For instance in "The Political and Social Rights of Women, Before and After the Islamic Revolution of Iran" (pub. 2010) female senators from the Pahlavi era are said to have achieved their position through familial connections, promiscuity & anything but personal merit:
13/It is expected that the new regime would build its identity against the last one, but one would think they would be more critical of Imperialist and Pahlavi narratives regarding the Qajar era.
14/Instead, the official IRI narrative preferred to continue depicting Qajar women as backward and lacking agency.
15/e.g., in official narratives, little is said about Qajar women's organizations, and women's specific requests. When women are mentioned, it is in relation to their support of the clergy or intelligentsia (such as the Tobacco Protests of 1891-92).
16/By the time that the Islamic Revolution happened, women's primary education was prevalent, and women had taken such an active part in the revolution that denying them the right to vote was a risk the new regime could not take.
17/So, there is little to no mention of the clergy's opposition to women's suffrage in the Pahlavi era, or their opposition to the establishment of girls' schools in the Qajar era.
18/The Islamic Republic official narrative on women continued the erasure of the history of Iranian women's movements. What the erasure of women's history and the history of their sociopolitical activism does is to deny women the tools, strategies and inspiration to move forward.
19/That's all for now. Tomorrow I will be back to introduce you to the five travel journals from pre-constitutional era, and give you some fun snippets from my favorite one!/~smn
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