The death of Jina (Mahsa) Amini eleven days ago has sparked an uprising in Iran. Since then, many more lives have been lost. There are reports of more than 75 deaths and many are women who bravely took the lead in the protests. They were shot in cold blood by the country’s police and security forces.
The widespread uprising we are seeing now is the result of a brutal regime that has long oppressed its own people. An oppression that has only worsened, especially for women. It is not the first time that women in Iran have protested against laws requiring them to cover their hair with a hijab, or headscarf, and their arms and legs with loose clothing.
Authoritarian leaders, who are almost exclusively male, almost always want to control women’s bodies in various ways. From dress codes to bans on abortions. Having a so-called morality police, as Iran does, is an extreme version of this. But the oppression of Iran’s women doesn’t stop with the law forcing them to wear covering clothing. Discrimination against women is also stated in other laws in the country.
There are restrictions for married women when they want to apply for a passport, travel abroad or decide where they want to live. A husband can forbid his wife to work if he thinks it would endanger the family’s honour. There are no laws that protect women against domestic violence or against being subjected to sexual violence. Women can also be fired from work without warning when they become pregnant. This structural discrimination is nothing less than gender apartheid.
Iran’s women human rights defenders need support, politically as well as financially, from the international community. Kvinna till Kvinna does not work in Iran, but we stand in solidarity with the brave women who are fighting for their freedom. If the Iranian regime intends to put an end to the protests by means of extreme violence and brutality—as it has done in the past—then we must continue the support to the protracted struggle of women for greater freedom and against discriminatory laws and norms.
—Petra Tötterman Andorff, Secretary-General