A note on Women and the Upcoming Iranian Elections / Fatemeh Farhangkhah
Thursday 24 September 2015, by
Feministschool: Fatemeh Fhangkhah’s analysis on upcoming elections in Iran (February-March 2016) in her recent article in Feminist School, has important pragmatic viewpoints that could impact the life of women in Iran. I can well imagine, that this article, well elaborated, informative and illuminating as it is, be of interest to a number of English-reading audience, interested in Iranian affairs. I am therefor, attempting to address the very points of Ms. Farhangkhah’s article in this presentation, making it accessible to non-Persian readers. The insights Ms. Farhangkhah is discussing in the analysis are of social-political relevance in the Iranian society. They display a critical position in the pre-election period. I would like to thanks the author for her permission to write about her analysis in this page - Dr.Jaleh Gohari
As we are approaching upcoming parliamentary elections in Iran, the traditional debate of the past, on the question of womenâ€™s participation- as voters and/or as candidates- is back on the agenda of numerous meetings and articles.
Amidst such debates, some disturbing news about a prominent Iranian woman, the captain of Iranâ€™s national soccer team, hit the media and public debate. These two issues seemed at a first glance unrelated to each other. But to me their profound connection was immediately obvious. I am going to discuss my views on these issues and explain the line of arguments.
The above mentioned news said: A renowned Iranian sportswoman, captain of the Women-Soccer-Team, Niloufar Ardalan, was not allowed to leave the country to participate in the Asian Cup Games in Malaysia, merely because her husband refused to sign the necessary consent form for her travel abroad. (ref.**)
This incident is emblematic of the way many competent and outstanding women in are struggling with the most basic personal freedoms; Conditions that hamper their advancement and growth.
In the following paragraphs, I will attempt to outline how these two phenomena, unrelated as they may appear, are fundamentally related and still occupy the very core of the situation of Iranian women today. The prevailing legal regime in Iran has empowered Niloufar Ardalanâ€™s husband to prevent her participation in the Asian Cup by not â€œallowing herâ€ to leave the country. HIS written consent for her travel would have been mandatory for HER trip.
The strong public echo of this news, entangled with Iranâ€™s sport reputation, received broad media coverage and prompted an old and longstanding dilemma to emerge into the collective awareness, activating much attention: â€œWho makes decisions for women in Iran? Their men or themselves?â€
When deprivation and injustice so openly and blatantly affected a public figure, such as Niloufar Ardalan without repercussions, we can well imagine the situation of ordinary women in the Iranian society regarding their legal placement and chances of public protection. They are subjected to arbitrary decisions that their â€œprotecting menâ€ take for them to make a choice. Such was the story of Ms. Ardalan and the fate of her participation in Asian Games.
The written consent of a man (a father, Husband, or borther) is still required, in Iran, for the woman (a daughter, wife, or sister) to travel abroad. This is just one aspect of numerous limitations to which Iranian women are subjected. And this needs to change- but how?
Of-course the process of awareness- raising, particularly among the young generation is essential. But clear shortcomings in the paternalistic legal system has to undergo reform and modernization. Change is urgently needed. And it has to be brought about by the right parliamentarians, elected women and men who are open-mind and have the courage to address and bring about change.
The level of development of a given country can be measured, among other parameters, by the level of participation of women in social and political sphere. Looking at the political sphere in Iran, the number of women who, during the past nine legislation periods-since the 1979 revolution, have been members of parliament, has been fluctuating between from 4 and 14( out of a total of 290 MPs in each term).These figures speak volumes. Presently, there are only 9 women in the Parliament.
On the other hand, in the past decades, Iranian women have displayed considerable progress in science, arts, political awareness, societal competencies, and economic skills. This discrepancy between Iranian womenâ€™s notable achievements and their limited political participation comes as a surprise. Achievements of Iranian women compared to some of the neighbouring countries, such as Pakistan and Turkey, is very encouraging. However, the comparison unveils a reality about the systemic inhibition of women, in Iran, that is very painful to accept.
Elections are opportunities for change: the population can express views and demands to the ruling system, even if they seem unwilling to listen. The blue-tinted fingertips of women who have given their votes***, symbolize clear calls on those parliamentarian whom they have elected, to seriously pursue their duty and fulfil mandates and promises.
The prevailing views and approaches in Iran, be it in the family or in the
outer society, still follow strict traditional lines. Rules of social interactions and relationships are flavoured by male dominance and patriarchy. These attitudes have, as in the past, neglected 110 documented years (ever since the constitutional revolution1905-1911) of womenâ€™s struggle for change of mind-set that is badly needed. Women have fought an uphill battle in a traditional society to give women their rightful position and rights in the society. However, the achievements seem limited and at times reversed.
Another unfortunate reality in Iran is that this outdated and disempowering traditional attitude to womenâ€™s position in the society has been advocated for by some women in positions of power, including the parliament. Women question their capability and tend to underestimate their ability to lead. Despite their achievements, they often easily withdraw from political and societal responsibility, using pretexts such as lack of competence, or being committed to family responsibilities above all other matters. Women quite often give up carrier opportunities and interrupt a promising career just because they are expected to do so. Such passive attitude of many women has continued to create a vacuum, in which male self-confidence and self-righteousness find space to strive. It is essential for women to see these inner and outer forces that hamper their deserved rights. Women can challenge and overcome these forces and move on.
Another important aspect that hinders gender equality is that women in Iran are socialized not to trust other women. As a result, women often do not elect women candidates, even those of equal capabilities with their male counterparts. Our mothers, throughout generations, tried hard to get their rights in the cultural and societal arena, achieving the right to education, participating in associations, and the right to vote. It is now down to the next generations to widen the scope of their activism and further the agenda of equality and equity. Women ought to assume public responsibility, leaving out any anxiety about what could go wrong.
It is the legitimate right of women to come forward and occupy their place in the legislative branch and other public arena. This will boost the general advancement of our country.
While the guardian council (reference??) will certainly try hard to diminish all chances that competent and renowned women can run for the parliament. This battle is not lost by any means. Women have to use every tool in their toolbox to elect those women and men, as their representatives, who are responsible, open-minded, well-informed about the state of affairs, legally educated, and prepared to fight for change.
Such representation is needed to change the discriminatory legislation, which is imperative for advancement of our country. The only way to peacefully abolish the prevailing discrimination against women, is to place those women and men on parliamentarian chairs, who have the right mind-set for gender equality.
It is up to women and girls to come up with innovative way to effect change in the public arena. Every vote counts. Let us not waste time and go to the polls. And to those women who have the competency to serve in public office, please do not let this opportunity slide by us. Let us give ourselves, the Iranian women, the chance to fundamentally change the legal situation and bring about gender equality.
Let me close, full of hope for a better future for Iranian women.
Source in Persian: