A Comparison of the Women's Status in Iran and the Region

Following the unrest and disturbance of the past few months and the actions that have taken place, Western countries tried to introduce the internal disturbances of Iran as the women's movement and revolution in Iran.
22 February 2023
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Massoumeh Seif Afjei

Following the unrest and disturbance of the past few months and the actions that have taken place, Western countries tried to introduce the internal disturbances of Iran as the women's movement and revolution in Iran. To evaluate the events of the past few months, first of all, it is essential to compare the status of Iranian women with their past. The next step is to compare the Iranian women's society with the status of women in the region.

This issue is important from the sociological point of view that the root of the differences should be sought in culture and tradition. Obviously, Eastern and Middle Eastern traditions and cultures have many differences from European and Western cultures. Therefore, separating the issue of women from Iran's politics and highlighting it can only be considered a tool.

It should be taken into consideration that Iranian women have been able to grow in the economic and political environment. One year after the Islamic revolution, the Iranian society was involved in an 8-year war with Iraq. With the end of the war, before it had the opportunity to build an economy, it was involved in the unilateral and successive sanctions of the United States and Europe, which was actually the beginning of another kind of war: an economic war. It has always resisted alone in this condition. Therefore, the society of women and their growth is not separate from the whole of Iranian society and should be evaluated in a general set.

How did Iranian women grow in such an environment under pressure from Western countries, which was not felt before the Islamic revolution? The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) statistics shows that 91% of Iranian women were literate by 2015. In 2021, due to population growth, this statistic reached 6% of illiteracy among Iranian women.

Iran should first be compared with its neighboring countries in the region. In the neighborhood of Iran, it is Afghanistan. In 2023, the primary education of Afghan girls is still considered a social problem in this country. On the other hand, attention should be paid to the statistics of the status of women in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf region, countries that enjoy prosperity and a high economic per capita and do not face any pressure or sanctions from the West. But, in fact, what has been the social growth of women in these countries?

Obviously, the situation of the people of this region cannot be compared with Australia and New Zealand, which do not have political, economic, and social crises. On the contrary, this is what makes the Islamic Republic and the Iranian women community proud; under political and economic pressures and military wars and economic wars imposed on Iran, they have achieved a significant ability.

As in the definition of democracy and its implementation, the difference between countries was discussed, and it was said that western democracy did not work in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. In the same way, the cultural and religious differences of countries, especially in the field of women, should be addressed before judging and comparing them with European and American women; but if it is for comparison, it is good to pay attention to the high statistics of family violence in Europe; statistics that are not seen among Iranian families and against women.

For example, France is one of the countries always facing increasing family violence statistics. This violence has also reached girls aged 5-15 years. In this regard, Le Monde newspaper published a report in August 2021 and revealed the murder of 102 women in 2020 during home quarantine by their husbands or ex-husbands.

Therefore, unrest has two main reasons, domestic and foreign; its domestic reason is related to the comparison of the threshold of tolerance of the new generation with the generations that have tasted the turbulent era of the Islamic Revolution and eight years of the imposed war, and due to the harsh conditions of the times, their resistance and tolerance have increased; the same is the case in Europe. Generations that have experienced world wars and their destructive effects for years have a higher threshold of tolerance compared to the new generation, for example in France, which started pervasive protests for a few-tenths of a cents increase in the price of diesel in the form of the Yellow Vests Protests (Le Mouvement des Gilets Jaunes).

But what is the foreign reason for the recent unrest in Iran? Its roots go back to the instrumental abuse of the subject of women. It is the voice of western countries to support Iranian women for their freedom and improve their social conditions. The question arises here is why isn't this sympathy for the economic situation caused by sanctions and head-of-household women, and worse, for the health condition caused by the sanctions.

Why doesn't the West feel responsible for women infected with breast cancer who die each year due to a lack of chemotherapy drugs? Why is there any fact-finding committee to obtain statistics from women who die annually due to feminine diseases? According to the Iranian Institute of Statistics, women with breast cancer will increase to 63% by 2026. Iran's sanction on purchasing Positron emission tomography (PET) scans for quick and timely diagnosis of disease for prevention, and the shortage of chemotherapy drugs has intensified the health crisis of Iranian women. In contrast, women with breast cancer in Europe and America are immediately diagnosed and treated with a PET scan and are saved from death.

Massoumeh Seif Afjei, Director of Human Rights and Women's Studies Department

(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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