Fatwas and Feminism: How Iran's Religious Leadership Obstructs Feminist Reforms
Asokan, Anu S.
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In 2009, a pro-government Basiji militia member shot Neda Agha Soltan in the chest. Neda was a philosophy student who participated in protests against a possibly corrupt election, and her death was the spark that started the Green Movement and increasing protests. As the video of her murder became viral, the foreign media was expelled from Iran. Over 150 well-known reformists and journalists, as well as thousands of demonstrators, were arrested. Throughout the protests, the repercussions, and the government's eventual crushing of the Green Movement, women were at the forefront of activism.Iranian women have a long history of protest: they were critical to the 1979 Revolution and subsequent regime change. Iranian feminists joined together with other factions, like leftists, working class, and clerics, to overthrow the Pahlavi monarchy. These very different groups followed the leadership of the charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini, who called for wealth redistribution, among other things. For a population that had endured a “repressive dictatorship, exploitative influence of the West, extremely uneven distribution of the wealth...and bureaucratic corruption in their workplaces,” the opportunity for a new government was appealing. Iranian feminists had a stake in the elimination of these unfair aspects of the Pahlavi government, but they also wanted to take action against the “shallowness of women's emancipation” and human rights abuses that the monarchy had promoted.