floggings, economic disempowerment, social stigmatization: These are daily
reminders to the women of my country, Iran, that in the eyes of their
government they are lesser.
this reality is reinforced by untold abuses, restrictions, and insults –
perhaps none of which is more appalling than the travesty of girls, as young as
nine, who are forced to marry men decades their senior.
When I hear
of these sickening acts, I can’t help but think of my little sister, Farah.
fifteen. She’s smart, athletic, beautiful, and free, although she would argue
against that last part. Like all young women, she is engaged in a constant
battle with our mother to challenge every limit she can.
Farah is a
force to be reckoned with, like her namesake, our grandmother. I know she has
the potential to channel that into great things. So it’s painful to imagine all
of her potential, her life, stolen from her by a regime that despises her.
difficult to imagine her in an early marriage when she still has so much
maturing, emotionally and physically, left to do.
accepted by friends, encouraged by teachers, and offered every opportunity to
succeed. But who would she have been if society hadn’t propelled her forward,
but had instead forcibly veiled her and violated her most fundamental rights?
growing up at a time when the women of the west are removing the remaining
roadblocks in their path to full equality. While that progress continues, it is
imperative that the stories be told of the heroic women of Iran who are
fighting back against the threats to their rights and their very existence.
strong and proud women are beaten down by legal discrimination, economic
injustice, and social prohibitions. The World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global
Gender Gap report, which ranks countries on “their progress towards gender
parity,” ranks Iran 142nd out of 149 nations.
women are prohibited from the rights of divorce and equal inheritance, barred
from travel without their husbands’ permission, and systematically
discriminated against in the job market. There are also limitations on the
subjects that Iranian women, who make up more than 60 percent of university
students, can study.
bonded to my mother in a different way than my sister, Iman, and I are. We had
each other growing up, but my mother calls Farah her little soul-mate. Had
Farah grown up in Iran, she might have lost our mother this year, because of
the lack of attention to women’s medical care there. The issue of women’s
health in Iran became even clearer after my mother’s recent cancer diagnosis
and her subsequent campaign to raise awareness about the disease.
has a story – and those of the women of Iran are truly harrowing. Through
social media, they tell me of the limits they face and the abuses they endure,
which are heartbreaking. Women are harassed by “morality” police and denied
jobs, which might insult their husbands’ dignity.
was not always like this. These restrictions are not holdovers from a bygone
era or unenforced, vestigial statutes yet to be ameliorated by reformers.
the Islamic Revolution, my grandfather and great-grandfather instituted
widespread reforms granting extensive rights and protections to women. Their vision
supported the progress of a generation of women. Many of those same women were
instrumental in passing the Family Protection Laws of 1967 and 1975, which took
massive steps to establish equality.
banned polygamy, granted women the right to divorce, and raised the age of
marriage for women to 18.
each of these was annulled. In December 2018, a motion to partially limit the
practice of forced child marriage and raise the age of marriage for girls to 13
violations of the basic rights of women in Iran are calculated limitations on
their independence and attempt to suffocate their natural strength and courage,
and they must not prevail.
women, like Farah, are independent and strong-willed, so they will continue to
fight their oppressors every day, but they need support. The present wave of
demand for greater women’s equality can’t just be for western women. It has to
be for all women.
encouragement, validation, and freedom Farah has had are exactly what the women
of Iran deserve. If you pay attention, you will hear millions of Iranian women
shouting, not to be saved, but to be heard. Will you listen?
Noor Pahlavi is the first child of Iran’s former Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi. She’s
an MBA student at Columbia University and works as an advisor to the non-profit
impact investment fund Acumen.
Source: English Al-Arabiya