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Silencing the Women's Rights Movement in Iran

Reza Shah never outlawed polygamy or temporary marriage, and women were not granted voting rights. He first encouraged and later ordered unveiling.11 Traditionally, when outside the home, urban Iranian women wore chadors-a loose-fitting dark colored cloth that was held by hand at the chin and covered the entire body. Complete coverage was achieved by the addition of the rubandeh (long face-covering similar to a burqa) worn by Muslim and Jewish women. Actual veiling practices were diverse throughout Iran. For example, rural and tribal women often wore colorful and loose apparel that allowed them to carry out their chores, and poor urban women often wore a loose chador without a rubandeh." 12

In 1936, Reza Shah ordered kashf-i hejab,13 a policy that required women to unveil. He had ordered urban men, other than clerics and theology students, to adopt Western dress in 1928. These policies were meant to force Iranians to behave in what were considered modern Western ways.14 Women were beaten for wearing veils, shops were prohibited from selling goods to veiled women, and buses as well as baths were forbidden to provide services to veiled women." 15

Mohammad Reza Shah continued many of his father's policies after he assumed control in 1941. In the 1950s, women's rights organizations began to openly advocate for equal political and personal rights.16 As was common in much of the world at the time, most were affiliated with political parties. The chador made a reappearance, as many middle class women reclaimed it for any number of reasons, including clerical notions of morality, rejection of Western norms, and protection from a hostile home and neighborhood.17 Women attained the right to vote and run for parliament in 1963.18

In November 1966, the Shah created the Women's Organization of Iran (WOI) bringing several women's societies and associations under one umbrella." 19 The WOI established a network of centers throughout Iran

[11] Ettehadieh, supra note 8, at 96-98. Reza Shah had four wives. Temporary marriage in Iran (siqih or nikah-i munqati') is a legal contract between a man (married or not) and an unmarried woman. At the time of marriage, the woman must be an unmarried virgin, divorced or widowed. In the contract, both parties agree on the time period for the relationship and the bride gift (mihriyyih) to be paid to the woman. A man can marry as many women as he wants through temporary marriage. A woman cannot be involved in more than one temporary marriage at once, and cannot enter into a new temporary marriage before completing a waiting period mandated by law. See Ahkam-i Siqih [Laws of Temporary Marriage] under Ahkam-i Nikah [Laws of Marriage], Risalihyih Imam Khomeini, available at http://www.aviny.com/ahkam/resalehimam/resale19.aspx; Iddihyih Talaq [Iddih of Divorce] under Ahkam-i Talaq [Laws of Divorce], Risalihyih Imam Khomeini, available at http://www.aviny.com/ahkam/resalehimam/resale20.aspx.
[12] Afary, supra note 3, at 44-45.
[13] Literally translated, kashf-i hejab means "the opening of the veil." Ettehadieh, supra note 8, at 96.
[14] Afary, supra note 3, at 156-57. The Shah also encouraged women to wear western dress. Id. Stephanie Cronin, Reform from Above, Resistance from Below: The New Order and its Opponents in Iran, 1927-29, in The State and the Subaltern, 81, (Touraj Atabaki ed. 2007).
[15] Ettehadieh, supra note 8, at 97-100.
[16] Mahnaz Afkhami, The Women's Organization of Iran: Evolutionary Politics and Revolutionary Change, in Women in Iran: From 1800 to the Islamic Republic 112 (Lois Beck and Guity Nashat ed., 2004). Mahnaz Afkhami was the secretary-general of the WOI from 1970-1978. Id. at 107.
[17] Afary, supra note 3, at 187-88.
[18] Haleh Esfandiari, Reconstructed lives: Women and Iran's Islamic Revolution 28-29 (1997).
[19] Hammed Shahidian, Women in Iran: Gender Politics in the Islamic Republic 102-104 (2002).

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Sexual Violence, Gender Rights, Death Penalty, Political Killings, Executions, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Travel Restrictions, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Illegal Search and Seizure, Free Speech, Right to Protest, Protests, Free Association, Child Rights, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination