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Silencing the Women's Rights Movement in Iran

millions of women from all walks of life participated in demonstrations against the Shah.27

Upon taking control in 1979, the newly-established Islamic Republic wasted no time in reversing progress. On February 26, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini suspended the FPL as un-Islamic and disbanded the Family Courts.28 The legal marriageable age of women reverted back to nine. On March 3, he prohibited women from serving as judges, and on March 4 announced that women could no longer initiate divorce proceedings. Two days later, women were prohibited from serving in the army.29 On March 7, on the eve of International Women's Day, Khomenei decreed that women could work outside the home but that government-employed women should wear hejab30 to work. On March 9, women were banned from participating in sports.31

Iranians responded immediately to these curbs on women's rights with massive demonstrations and sit-ins. The International Women's Day celebrations that had been planned for March 8 at Tehran University attracted women and men demanding reversal of Khomeini's hejab ruling. The demonstrations calling for preservation of women's rights continued for five days in cities throughout Iran. On March 10, 15,000 women held a sit-in at the Ministry of Justice in Tehran.32

Demonstrators were attacked and beaten by conservative men and women who supported the new regime's policies. Some women activists were identified by the new regime and later lost their jobs because of their "anti-revolutionary" actions.33 Others made the difficult choice of foregoing public protest in an effort to keep their jobs." 34

The regime initially softened the Ayatollah's hejab directive into "advice of the sort a father gives to his children."35 However, by June 28, 1980, it had sufficient control to decree an "administrative revolution" requiring women to be veiled in all government offices." 36 Legally, hejab became compulsory for all women in 1983 after the Majlis passed a law that made nonobsevance a crime punishable by seventy-four lashes.37

[27] Azar Tabari, Islam and the Struggle for Emancipation of Iranian Women, in In The Shadow of Islam The Women's Movement in Iran 5, (Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh eds., 1982); Esfandiari, supra note 18, at 38. [28] Louise Halper, Law and Women's Agency in Post-Revolutionary Iran, 28 Harv. J. L. & Gender 85, 87-88 (Winter 2005).
[29] Afary,supra note 3, at 271-273.
[30] "Hejab" is the traditional covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women. Hejab (2010), Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, retrieved August 3, 2010, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hijab.
[31] Afary, supra note 3, at 272-73. Nahid Yeganeh, Women's Struggle in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in In The Shadow of Islam The Women's Movement in Iran 35 (Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh ed., 1982).
[32] Tabari, supra note 27, at 14. In The Shadow of Islam The Women's Movement in Iran 234 (Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh ed., 1982). Women's rights activist and defender Mehrangiz Kar has written that she "would identify the events of March 8, International Women's Day, as the starting point of my activities in support of women's rights and human rights within the Islamic regime." Mehrangiz Kar, Crossing the Red Line, 46 (2007).
[33] IHRDC Interview with N.H. (May 15, 2010)(on file with IHRDC).
[34] See, e.g., Kar, supra note 33, at 46 ("The arrests and dismissals became a lesson for many women, who decided against public protest in an effort to hold on to their jobs and to stay out of prison. I, too, chose this path."). [35] Shahidian,supra note 19, at 112.
[36] In The Shadow of Islam The Women's Movement in Iran 237 (Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh eds., 1982).
[37] Paidar, supra note 5, at 342-43. In 1988, regulations listed the ways hejab can be deficient: uncovered head, showing of hair, make-up, uncovered arms and legs, thin and see-through clothes and tights, tight clothes such as trousers without an overall over them, and clothes bearing foreign words, signs or pictures. Id.

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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