Gender-related turmoil in Iran – where will it lead?

Not sure how much you’re following what’s happening in Iran right now, but what’s happening is pretty major – and it’s directly connected to whether people (specifically women) have autonomy over their own bodies. The recent protests were sparked in late September by the death of a woman while in custody of the morality police after she was arrested for not wearing her hijab properly.

But the protests have continued, and so have the crack downs. Most recently there was an Iranian woman who competed in an international rock climbing competition and “forgot” to wear her hijab during competition. She was cheered as hero by the crowds when she returned to Iran, but was in serious trouble with the authorities. Now there are reports that her family home was just demolished by the police – apparently as retribution for what she did.

Meanwhile, the Iranian team at the World Cup initially refused to sing their national anthem, then they were threatened, and so they started half-heartedly singing the anthem.

If you don’t even have the support of your country’s major athletes and they’re looked up to by the masses – then you’re in trouble!

It seems like the Iranian authorities want things to be more like Afghanistan where women can’t even go to public parks while men are able to live an almost Western life centered around gyms and bodybuilding (fascinating article – highly recommended!)

But the Iranian population is pushing back and it’s unclear whether the authorities can control what’s happening. It feels like the more ruthless the authorities become the more people are throwing themselves into the fight. 

There’s even an article recently about gay life in Tehran – curiously it’s centered around one of the most religiously conservative neighborhoods – so conservative that no one thinks to look for gay men there.

The point here is that it’s easy to take the typical American view that Iran is backwards and hopeless, but that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. It will be fascinating to watch over the next few months and years. I suspect there will be a revolution on the scale of the 1979 revolution. But then what?

When the hardline conservatives are removed from power – who will take up leadership of the country? Something tells me it won’t be as conservative as the other gulf states. This revolution will be based on personal freedom – especially bodily autonomy and huge strides in gender equality – which could lead to surprising results. Will there be a widespread rejection of religion since the current oppression is religiously based? Will the new authorities go as far as being OK with things like porn and LGBT folks (or at least not caring about stuff like that)?

Under the Shah the upper classes tried to westernize the country (instead of modernize it). It was their fatal flaw. But now it seems the masses want some form of modernization/westernization…

Anyway, if anyone tells you that the bodily autonomy, which women, gay folks and others depend on, isn’t a basic tenant of “freedom” – just point to Iran. It seems a lot of Iranians have figured out its importance. I wish them well in their struggle. 

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