Win for Iran’s women

Taking a step back is a rare response in dictatorships and nations ruled by religious fundamentalists. The two-month-long protests in Iran led by women after the death of young Mahsa Amini, detained by the morality police in Teheran over charges that she violated the Islamic dress code or hijab, have achieved partial success. The morality police set up under the banner of Gasht-e Ershad in 2006 under the then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been suspended or abolished and their green-and-white patrol vehicles are off the streets. Yet, the law imposing mandatory dress code on Iranian women has not been revoked. In other words, the women’s struggle there will still be a long-drawn one.
Iran was a different world till 1979, when the Islamic Revolution took the country by storm and the Ayatollahs or religious heads took control of the oil-rich nation. Gone were the days of the Shah of Iran, who cultivated a progressive society in the forefront of which were fashionable women. People’s freedom was curtailed and religious diktats came one after another. Iran engaged the US in iterations of confrontations, including the hostage/diplomat crisis lasting over a year till the start of 1981. After a long drag, it ended immediately after a tough-talking Ronald Reagan was elected as the American president. The religious fundamentalists always drew their sustenance from anti-US as also anti-Saudi Arabian and anti-Israel postures.
Iran stands mostly apart from the rest of the Islamic word. It is run by the Shia-sect that’s set against the Sunnis, a numerically larger Islamic segment based out of Saudi Arabia and is spread over much of the Gulf states and also the other Islamic nations. For both the Shias and Sunnis, however, disciplining their women and imposing more controls over their life formed a major part of their religious agenda. The eruption of women into the streets of capital Teheran and beyond was the first push by the women to challenge the controls being imposed by the establishment and fundamentalists on them. Obviously, what gave them this strength is their previous mental conditioning under the rule of the Shah, who had allied closely with modernity and the West. India too has its share of moral policing attributed to Hindutva fundamentalists, be it of the VHP shade or the Shiv Sena. For these outlaws too, the targets are principally women in the streets. Islamic outfits here too are indulging in such acts in areas where they have some strength. Curiously, fundamentalist and extremist Islamic outfits are seen in several countries to be using women recruits as their sex-slaves. The contradiction is both ludicrous and nerve-chilling.

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