Iranian Women’s Rights in the International Spotlight

It’s been almost a year since the women and men of Iran made headlines by protesting in the streets of Tehran following the much-disputed presidential election. Unfortunately, the death of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan was just the beginning.

Last week, Lori wrote about the controversy stemming from Iran joining the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). A friend of mine lives in Tehran and faces government intimidation as a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, which fights for women’s rights in Iran. When asked how young women on the ground in Tehran feel about the new development, she echoed the most common sentiment among feminists: “How could a government like Iran support the mission of the CSW to remove or at least reduce gender inequalities and promote the status of women?” She signed onto the petition asking the U.N. to disallow Iran’s membership, but said the effort was fruitless. “We did just what we could to protest against this membership, but like many other issues, we had no success to prevent it.”

This month has brought even more grief to the women and men working toward a brighter future in Iran, with four young men and a woman being executed for speaking out against human rights violations. Now another brave young woman may be in the gravest of dangers. Iranian actress Kiana Firouz is in London this week premiering a film about her life as a lesbian actress who seeks asylum in the UK, as homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran. In this case, life is mirroring art—the UK has denied Firouz’s appeal for asylum and she faces deportation to Iran, and possibly, death.

The terrifying thing is that these abuses continue to happen. The amazing thing is that young women and men, like the members of the One Million Signatures Campaign and Kiana Firouz, continue to stand strong on the front lines, demanding justice, equality, and freedom for all. Their boldness is a model for us all to stay strong and never give up the struggle. We can only hope that one day the Iranian government will start to listen to and follow the vibrant and progressive voices in its country, and that those voices may one day be heard at the Commission on the Status of Women.



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