The Islamic Revolution's impact on the legal and social status of Iranian women
By: Kourosh Eshghipour
Iran is at a watershed period in its development and progression as a nation state. The clerical revolutionaries unleashed a series of forces which have transformed and reshaped the face of Iranian society in every aspect imaginable. These changes have rocked not only the political and economic spheres of Iran, but even more fundamentally, culture and society. These changes have negatively affected women's social, political and economic status in Iran. Indeed, the clerical revolutionaries at the outset of the revolution suggested that their goals were not aimed at economic transformation, but rather the maintenance and continuation of the law of God, as interpreted by the clerics. With the Islamists in power, the new clerical elite hearken back to an earlier time in the seventh century, where in their view, society in Arabia was at its zenith under the rule of the Koran. Consequently, the Islamic fundamentalists have been the "architects" to inject the same Islamic fundamentalist values and norms into modern twentieth century Iran. None of the policies implemented by the Islamic government have been as backward looking and misguided at both a personal level and a broader societal and cultural level than what has been the regime's stance on issues concerning women.
The social and political emancipation of women was only one reason behind the clerical revolt against the monarchy. The Pahlavi Shahs made a conscious and systematic effort to exclude clerical control of Iranian society. For example, the clergy were excluded from their traditional spheres of control in such areas as the judiciary and education. The Islamic Revolution at its core was nothing more than a reactionary attempt by a threatened class (namely the clergy) fearing a loss of material, legal, and moral influence, successfully reasserting itself in order to prevent the transfer of power to a newly created modern bureaucratic state system. If one examines this paradigm and applies it to the eighteen years since the Islamists came to power, one can see that policy has been adopted and implemented not so much on the basis of ideology, but rather for the purpose of continuation and survival of the existing Islamic fundamentalist state. Therefore, unsurprisingly, although strict adherence to Khomeini's fundamentalist Islamic jurisprudence is at the core of current state policy, one can detect deviations from Khomeini's jurisprudence when the survival of the regime is at stake. Furthermore, this Note will argue that the Islamic regime has never made progress on important fundamental issues unless, there has been enough agitation from different societal and economic elements within society, to allow for reform in the Islamic Republic. Section II provides an historical perspective. Section III provides an overview of the constitutional and judicial character of Iran both in the prior and post revolutionary periods and Section IV examines current realities faced by women in Iran. Finally, the future outlook and possibilities of women and how their position in society can be improved both in legal and real terms is discussed.
1- Historical Perspective
A- Pre-Pahlavi Era
The history of Iran extends over a two-thousand five hundred year period. This era brought about great achievements in the areas of science, the arts and letters, literature, philosophy, and law. Prior to the Islamic conversions of the seventh century AD, the Iranians practiced the Zoroastrian religion. It was during the Sasanian Dynasty in the latter part of the Seventh Century A.D. in which Islam was introduced in Iran. However, Shia Islam did not become the official religion of state until the period of the Safavid Kings in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries A.D. Indeed, by the nineteenth century as a result of colonial pressures, strict adherence to superstition, and inept leadership, Iranian society experienced a downward trend both economically and politically.
B. Pahlavi Era
By the turn of the twentieth century a new class of able and visionary men and women began to appear on the Iranian political scene. Reza Khan, a Cossack military commander along with a number of other military officials and intellectuals began to agitate for reform. Iran having been a monarchy for so many centuries, Reza Khan designed to create a republic, modeled after the newly created Turkish Republic of Ataturk. He wanted to create an advance industrial nation. However, due to the insistence of the clergy, Reza Khan and his followers were persuaded to keep the monarchical form of governance. In April 25,1926, after years of political power struggle and intrigue, Reza Khan named himself Shah or King and thus began the Dynasty of the Pahlavi Shahs.
Not only did Reza Shah embark on a period of economic revitalization, he also attempted to bring Iran into the twentieth century in terms of cultural and social issues. One of his major accomplishments was the improvement of the status of women within the country.(13) The Shah's reforms included making the wearing of the chador or veil against the law, opening up the educational system to women at the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, and allowing women access to employment opportunities. In the mid-1940's Reza Shah Pahlavi resigned in favor of his son Mohamad Reza Shah.
The new Shah was also very much committed to the social renewal of the country. Indeed, Mohamad Reza Shah followed in his father's footsteps and tried to modernize the country further. Most notably, he passed the Family Protection Act of 1975 which increased the rights of women significantly. This new legislation reduced the legal significance of Islamic law on society and in particular on women. Specifically, the Family Protection Act gave women increased civil rights in such areas as marriage, child custody, and divorce. Furthermore, the ability of men to have more than one wife was conditioned on permission being granted by the first wife. All wives were required to be treated equally within the broader context of the marriage. Because of strict interpretation of equal treatment, economically, the practice of polygamy was impossible to sustain. Furthermore, under the Family Protection Act of 1975, not only were men prevented from unilateral divorce, but in cases of child custody, the family court was given the power to decide which parent would assume custody. This was different from the traditional practice of giving the child to the father or the nearest male relative.
Throughout the historical development of Iran, tension has existed between the pre-Islamic and Islamic character of the country. This tension has historically, shaped and determined the course of Iranian political and social development. It was particularly visible during the reign of the Pahlavi Shahs.
The 1906-1907 Constitution was Iran's first attempt at institutionalizing and delegating power within set boundaries of law. However, it must be noted that the 1906-1907 Constitution had many deficiencies and in fact, could not satisfy many of the requirements which a modern constitutional state demands. In theory people had equal rights under the law. The rights of life and property were also protected. Censorship of the press was outlawed. Furthermore, freedom of assembly, free elections, and an independent judiciary were also granted.
However, all legislation passed by the Parliament was required to undergo review by a five member Islamic religious board made up of the Islamic clergy who had veto powers. This conflict between the secular government and the religious clergy contributed to great instability during the Pahlavi era. Further, the 1906-1907 Constitution possessed a weak system of checks and balances with an unclear delegation of responsibilities given to the King, clergy, Parliament, and judiciary. Iran also had a Bill of Rights, but it was subject to an important exception: "except as prescribed by law" which created a loophole for the different sectors of government and society to abuse. For example, the government could pass a law through the parliament which may have violated a constitutional right. Consequently, if a challenge was made against such a law, the government could claim the "except as prescribed by law" exception. Such realities illustrates the lack of effective checks and balances within the monarchical system.
Whether right or wrong, the two Pahlavi Shahs had the economic and social modernization of the country as their top priority. With this agenda in mind, they viewed the clergy and any structures associated with them as being outmoded and contrary to the interests of the country. Consequently, laws and statutes were made by edict of either the Shah or Parliament and were based on the concept of a secular judicial system. Indeed, the legal and judicial aspects of the Pahlavi era were centered on non-Islamic values and principles largely to the exclusion of the Islamic jurisprudence.
2- The Constitutional and Judicial Characteristic of the Islamic State
The Islamic Revolution of 1978-1979 brought a one hundred percent reversal in the trend of secularization which the country was experiencing. In fact, Islam became the official new state ideology of the clerical fundamentalist elites. "The preamble to Iran's Islamic Constitution states 'the basic characteristic of the Islamic Revolution, which distinguishes it from other movements that have taken place in Iran during the past hundred years, is its ideological and Islamic nature.'" Such a clear emphasis on Islam as the center of governance has profound effects on Iran's societal fabric. The 1979 Islamic Constitution resulted in a shift of the legal system from a secular to religious orientation. Concurrently, the Constitution provides political legitimacy to "God" and the divine law given in the Koran. It is not difficult to see the profound implications of such a theologically based political and legal system. Attributing all power to God and the Koran allows for little space to maneuver outside of these strictly defined boundaries. Two questions arise: who is qualified to make the laws and what constitutes the correct form of Islamic law in the view of the clerical rulers of Iran.
The preamble of Iran's Islamic Constitution states "the exercise of meticulous and painstaking supervision by just, pious, and committed scholars of Islamic law is an absolute." Translated into real terms, only the clergy and those they select personally possess the necessary moral and religious qualifications to hold important judicial positions. Although, such individuals may be highly regarded in religious circles, it does not mean that they have the necessary educational and technical expertise to reconcile their religious and legal judgments with the needs of a modern society.
Most significantly, the question arises as to what exactly is the legitimate version of Islamic law as determined by the current clerical elite. In the Islamic Republic of Iran the ultimate source of law is the will of god as written in the Koran. However, because the Koran is an all encompassing document which governs every aspect of daily life, it is prone to a multitude of different interpretations. Interpretations by Islamic jurists may differ based on the region of the country from which they come, whether they are Sunni or Shia Muslims or if they are conservative or moderates, or radicals.
The different views taken by Iranian Muslim jurists have added to the legal ambiguities and contradictions by developing different legal schools and different opinions within each school. In contemporary Iran, there are two schools of political Islam, that is the Militant Clergy Association and the Tehran Militant Clergy. After the victory of the revolution the struggle between the radical and the pragmatic schools was apparent. This is reflected in Khomeini's role: Khomeini acted as the final decisionmaker in resolving major legal and social policy differences. When Khomeini died in 1989, the possibility of the demise of the regime increased because of the constant ideological battles which took place amongst the different elements in the ruling elites.
The clergy in Iran and their constitutional and judicial outlooks can be divided into two broad categories. The Militant Clergy Association (hereinafter MCA). For the most part the MCA is committed towards maintaining the Islamic character of the state. However, they are more flexible on issues of morality and norms of social behavior as compared to the radical faction. President Ali Akbai Rafsanjani is a prime example of an MCA member. Although Rafsanjani is fully supportive of Khomeini's religious views, he nevertheless is more moderate on social concerns. For example, the president has been a relative supporter of lessening the restrictions imposed on women in society by relaxing the moral codes.
The Tehran Militant Clergy (hereinafter TMC) on the other hand, constitutes the conservative elements of the clerical elites. TMC members support strict application of Islamic laws. In particular, they favor a narrow and strict interpretation of social norms and forms of behavior. Not surprisingly, women face the brunt of restrictions favored by TMC members through the strict adherence to the dress code. The radicals fear that any degree of moderation will cause Western influences to enter society and threaten the Islamic state.
The 1979 Constitution created the Supreme Judicial Council (hereinafter SJC). Specifically, this body was made up of the Head of the High Court, the prosecutor general, and three appointed judges. As an institutional organ of the state, this body proved to be very ineffective. Ideological divisions over the correct brand of Islamic thought became very obvious in the day to day running of the SJC. In fact, the SJC became a microcosm of society at large, illustrating the deep ideological shifts which existed within the clergy.
By 1989, because the SJC had become so ineffective and divisive, the Constitution was amended to replace the council with a single elected post called the Head of the Judiciary. Although this change did not radically solve the inherent problems relating to the judiciary, such as corruption and nepotism, it did create a more efficient and centralized method of administration of justice. As a result of the new legal post, social problems facing the country could be effectively channeled into centers of authority where they would be handled appropriately. The elected individual acting as the head of the Judiciary, could use his post as a bully-pulpit to dramatize legal problems having greater social and political implications.
As with the abolished Supreme Judicial Council, disagreements over what constitutes Islamic law could be seen in another body; the Council of Guardians. This body, according to the 1979 Constitution, has the authority to review all legislation coming out of the Parliament to determine whether or not it falls within the guidelines of Islam. Differences of opinion between the Council of Guardians and the Parliament led to a 48 percent rate of rejection of legislation. The lack of clarity and gridlock brought the government into a virtual state of ineffectiveness. Not only was the economic prosperity of the country put at risk, but survival of the Islamic Constitutional system was threatened. Consequently, on February 1988, a new thirteen member organ, named the Council of Expediency, was created to mediate between the Council of Guardians and the Parliament.
The 1979 Islamic Constitution has been characterized as Ehteshami "weak. . . vaguely defining the roles and responsibilities of the various centers of power in the republic." The amendments made in 1989, such as the creation of a single person Head of the Judiciary, the creation of the Council of Expediency, and the creation of an executive president were attempts by the clerics to resolve the weaknesses of the 1979 Constitution. The changes have at best produced a mixed result. On the positive side, some of the confusions associated with the lack of clarity, which directly effected the proper functioning of the state, have been to some extent resolved. For example, the structures of the state, especially those which arose from the 1979 Islamic Revolution have been institutionalized. This has resulted in greater stability generally and in the national judicial system. The 1989 constitutional amendments resulted inthe creationan instutionalization of the state organs, which provides greater stability of the government on the whole.
3- Structural Deficiencies in the Iranian Islamic Legal System
However, even with the 1989 amendments, great deficiencies continue to plague the judiciary. These fall into three broad categories: uncontrolled decentralization; and extra and quasi judicial activity.
A- Uncontrolled Decentralization
The case of Soraya M. best illustrates the structural and moral short-comings of the current legal realities in Iran. Soraya M. was accused of adultery by her husband Gorban-Ali. Gorban-Ali wanted to get out of his marriage, and was aided by the village authorities, as well as the nature of Islamic law, to successfully accuse and condemn his wife of having sexual relations outside the marriage. Consequently, Soraya was convicted and later was stoned to death for a crime which she had not committed.
Under Islamic law, the husband needs to produce two male eyewitnesses in order to win a case of matrimonial infidelity. The accused woman has the impossible task of proving her innocence. As in the case of Soraya M., the whole town turned against her simply on the basis of unproved accusations. From the mayor of the village to Soraya's family members, her guilt was predetermined and had already been decided. The verbal and emotional abuse suffered by Soraya is more than any human being deserves to endure. As an illustration, throughout her trial and even at the time of her execution, Soraya's father compared her to a whore. The father, while participating in the stoning of his daughter, shouted "'Allah be praised!. . . . There whore, take that!'. . . . Give me, another stone. . . . I'm going to split open the woman's head.'"
As a result of the religious fervor, any individual could call himself a cleric and with the most basic knowledge of the Koran could serve as a quasi-judge. Such situations are rare in the cities but are prevalent in rural areas. In less populated and rural regions, a high degree of decentralization of authority, coupled with a lack of judicial uniformity, has resulted in a lack of enforcement of the law. While in the urban areas some degree of accountability exists in the exercise of justice, the rural areas lack a checks and balances system. This is shown in the case of Soraya M., where the clerical judges were not accountable to review by a higher court.
B- Extra and Quasi Judicial Activity
"From 1979 to 1994 more than one thousand women have been stoned to death in Iran." This is just one example of the extra-or quasi-judicial activity taking place in the legal process. Due to such arbitrary activities, quasi-judicial executions present the greatest obstacle to the establsihment of a sound judicial system. The British Parliament published a report in 1996 documenting such activity. The case of Ms. Ghcizaleh Alizadeh is most illustrative. Ms. Alizadeh, a famous novelist, was found dead in Northern Tehran on May 11, 1996. Previously, she had been in court and charged with illegal activities. Specifically, she was amongst 134 Iranian writers who had signed a declaration in opposition to the censorship laws of the state. Although there are no conclusive evidence, there is a strong belief that Ms. Alizadeh's death may be connected with the more extreme elements of the current regime. Indeed, there is evidence that the regime uses rampant and "arbitrary imprisonment, floggings, torture, and use of live ammunition" to control the public. The rampant use of force is used as an extra-judicial mechanism to deal with any form of protest over government policy.
4- The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Status of Women
Khomeini had certain perceptions and views of the position of women in a society governed by Islamic law. While in exile, Khomeini proclaimed that women would have an equal role to men in a future Islamic state. This equality was to encompass every aspect of life, including the most important and significant spheres of economics and politics. Trusting Khomeini and his followers, women in large numbers rose up against the Shah and gave their support to the revolution. In fact, without the active involvement of women, the revolution would not have succeeded.
Unfortunately, these very women who had thought Khomeini would put Iran on a path of freedom and equality were rudely surprised. Had these women investigated Khomeini's earlier teachings, they would have realized the great importance he placed on the traditional Islamic role of women. In fact, when the new government achieved power, women were once again subjugated and restricted to the confines of their homes. Not only did women have to wear their tent-like veils, but they also had to perform their "duties" as wife and mother. In every aspect of their lives, women were discriminated against. Khomeini's view of women came from his school of Islam in which women are seen as sexual objects, obsessed with luring men to fulfill their own sexual desires. The veil became a good way to cover up these "sexual" beings, so that men could be protected from falling prey to temptation.
Ironically, while women are covered up to look like crows or ghosts in their black chadors, men can have as many as four wives. Furthermore, men can legally have affairs through the institution of sigheh or temporary marriage. It is interesting to note that the sigheh is always instigated by men and never women.
Not only do women face humiliating practices such as the sigheh, but at the same time they must submit to the husband's every sexual desire, otherwise they are viewed as being not Islamic. Khomeini, in interpreting the Islamic laws, wrote:
A woman who has been contracted permanently must not leave the house without the husband's permission and must surrender herself for any pleasure that he wants and must not prevent him from having intercourse with her without religious excuse. If she . . . obeys the husband must [provide] her [with] food and clothing and dwelling, and other appliances and if he does not provide them then he is indebted to the woman.
This manner of thought was expanded upon by the Islamic Council of Guardians. At the beginning of the revolution the Council of Guardians decreed that: ". . . a woman does not have the right to leave her home without her husband's permission, not even to attend her father's funeral. . . . A woman is completely at service of her husband, and her social activities are conditional upon her husband's permission."
Another area in which Khomeini's interpretation of Islam has impacted women is in its reproductive policies. The reproductive policies of the new regime declared contraception and any from of family planning as being against Islam. This resulted in a dramatic rise in the population of the country. In 1979, Iran's population was 38 million and by 1993, the number had jumped to 60 million. This sudden increase in population led to great social and economic instability. For example, migration from rural areas to urban centers stretched the limits of already scarce resources of the country. An observer of Iran has noted, "there are [now] a community of rootless individuals who have neither regular work nor a specific address, nor a steady income." The regime realized that without proper population control, which necessarily includes family planning, the state could collapse underneath its own weight. Consequently, the clergy have made a dramatic turn for the better and have ruled that contraceptive pills, intrauterine devices, and even sterilization fall within the tenets of Islam.
Aside from the hypocrisy of such a sudden change in policy, the regime must be credited for having reduced the population. This success was partly the result of the institutionalization of new structures within the state. The 1989, amendments which created organs that more effectively dealt with the resolution and management of crisis, best illustrates the positive trend in the Islamic Republic. In addition, the success in population control is also partly the result of pragmatic steps taken by the government. As a result of extensive radio and television programming, sermons during Friday prayers, and outreach to rural areas, Iran has diminished the rise in its population, which has averted food shortages and famine. The government has made an effort to reach the people and has stressed the importance of controlling the population in order to maintain Iran's national and international well-being. Toward this end, the government has set up health clinician factories that provide condoms and birth control pills. Furthermore, hospitals are now performing tubal legations and vesectomies. As a result of such family planning efforts the population has in fact experienced a drop and has leveled off. The growth rate in 1986 was 3.4 percent whereas in 1992 the rate fell to 2.7 percent.
5- Future Outlook
Social progress made under the Pahlavi Monarchs has been completely reversed. The tenets of the 1975 Family Protection Act have all been rejected by the Islamic regime. In today's Iran, men can obtain a unilateral divorce from their wife or wives. The marriage age for females has been lowered to nine and in some instances to seven. Mothers no longer have equal rights in terms of child custody. The religious edicts of the mullahs are enforced by an armed moral police who arbitrarily stop couples in the streets to make sure that no immoral act is taking place. For instance, documents must be produced to prove to the moral police that the person you are being accompanied with is a close relative and not an unrelated man or woman. Young unmarried women found at parties are given automatic virginity tests and if they fail the test, as punishment, they can receive up to hundred lashes.
The harshness of the regime in its treatment of women has reached epic proportions. Even people condemned to death do not escape the brutal nature of the law. For example, since it is declared by the religious authorities that virgins automatically enter paradise, the regime has decreed that unmarried virgin women charged with anti-Islamic activity must loose their virginity before the death sentence is carried out. Consequently, virgins are raped by the guards prior to their executions. The brunt of the regime's brutality is focused on women. Women pay the highest price in terms of assaults to their dignity, selfworth, and indeed even their lives. Women are being punished solely because of their gender.
Currently, there is a school of thought that stands for the proposition that the regime is gradually moderating its stance towards women. It is argued that under President Rafsanjani women have made substantial gains. In truth, however, the reforms do not seem to be substantive. Most importantly, women are restricted in their activities both outside and within the home. The mentality that wives exist only to take care of their children and serve their husbands still prevails and is encouraged by the government.
At the outset of the revolution when Khomeini reimposed the veil and other strict Islamic mandates, thousands of women took to the streets demanding back their rights. The show of force and the number of protesters forced the regime to ease its demand. It was not until the mullahs had fully entrenched themselves politically and had eliminated any viable opposition, that the more archaic laws were once again introduced and made part of the legal system. These include the mandatory wearing of the veil, prohibition on inter-gender contact and restrictions on political activity.
For the regime to moderate its position, it will have to be faced with a life threatening challenge. To make an analogy, it took the dire possibilities of an uncontrolled population to propel the regime into taking effective action to slow population growth. In terms of womens' rights and equality, the Islamic state is unlikely to change its stance unless it feels threatened. Consequently, women should direct their energies to unite and cooperate with other disaffected interests, with the aim of creating a common front. If all the opposition forces can act under a single banner, they are more likely to be successful in bringing about much needed change.
Women having suffered the most under the policies of the theocracy, have a higher level of legitimacy with the general public and therefore, can lead others through the power of their words and experience. They can use this as a tool to motivate other sympathetic groups in society to demand equality and democracy from their government. Indeed, Iranian women have achieved a high degree of political sophistication which will enable them to get beyond their traditionally defined roles. Uniting with the liberal and democratic elements of society, Iranian women can become a potent force in the movement to change the legal system.
Unfortunately, at the present time, women's groups and other liberal minded organizations have been marginalized and stripped of any kind of power such that they cannot, by themselves, agitate effectively. The regime has silenced these groups through various methods such as coercion, bribes, exile, and brutal force. Therefore, only if these groups build a coalition can forces which are liberal-democratic in nature actually start to demand radical change.
Supporters of the regime argue that Islam, in its fundamental nature, is inspired by feminist concepts. Their belief is that women enjoy wearing the veil and welcome the restrictive nature of Islamic rule because it provides security and structure for them. The chador is seen as liberating because through it, women are no longer viewed by men as sexual beings but rather as equals. The reasoning behind this view is that since men are not tempted by a woman's figure and shape, they can conduct themselves as equals. On its face such an argument is clearly deficient and absent of any logic or common sense. Taking indices such as the position of women within marriage, the treatment of her sexuality, her position in the eyes of the law, employment, and education, one can easily conclude that the majority of women are not equal and in fact, are discriminated against and oppressed. Some women have benefited from the Islamic state, but these are the women who are in some way connected to the ruling clerics. The mothers, sisters, and daughters of the mullahs are given some token positions within the institutions of the state to show the world that women enjoy power inIran. However, in reality, this only illustartaes that women are the objects of manipulation for the benefit of the men.
The Iranian people are neither stupid nor are they fools. They know that the country has suffered. Currently, there is great dissatisfaction amongst the general population, and in particular amongst women. Observers should not be misguided by the thousands of people they see marching in support of the theocracy. Jan Goodwin, a prominent English journalist, recently visited Iran. During her stay, she attended a government sponsored demonstration where she met a young woman. What Goodwin was told by this young Iranian girl reveals much about the state of contemporary Iran and of the status of women. "The government pays for buses to bring people from the schools, colleges, and factories. . . . [F]actory workers get double salary to make sure they come. . . . [N]o one would be here otherwise." The girl went on to say,
Do you think I dress like this at home? No of course I don't [She wore a lavender T-shirt with blue jeans underneath her chador]. 'I hate all this. I am sixteen, this my time, my youth, I should be having fun. Instead, I am here, dresses like a peasant grandmother, to mourn a dead old man who hated beauty, hated happiness. If God meant us to dress in black if he meant us to have no color in our lives, why did he give us flowers? That is what I would like to have asked of that dead Imam.'
Women have contributed significantly to Iranian culture and civilization. They, along with their fellow men, have experienced both the lows and highs of Iran's long history. The next generation of Iranian women are likely to be the ones which will shake the current status-quo to its core. Having only experienced the oppressive practices of the Islamic state and having been denied any exposure to the benefits of Western society, such as the freedom of speech and religion, these women will be the leaders who will unite the country in its struggle to achieve true democracy and equality. These hopes are best symbolized by a woman Goodwin met during her recent visit to Iran. Goodwin writes,
[B]y accident we found ourselves in the village of Abayaneh, an ancient red adobe community that predates Islam to the Zoroastrian fire-worshipers. . . . Today, it [is] a sleepy backwater of pomegranate gardens and cherry orchards. . . . The only difference the Islamic Revolution made here is that the tour buses no longer come. The women who [did not] know who Rafsanjani was, still stitched replicas of their brightly colored clothes that they used to sell to the tourists as souvenirs . . . . Zahra, a woman who invited us for lunch of cornbread, cucumbers, and yogurt, pointed to the stack of full skirts and embroidered tunics she had been making in the long winter evenings 'because one day the foreigners will come back'. With the simple wisdom of countryfolk everywhere she said, 'Nothing lasts, all things change, even revolutions end.'
The Iranian political and legal systems are experiencing a fluid and volatile period. The worsening economic situation coupled with the general dissatisfaction within the general public has made the need for reform even more necessary. As the educational level of the population increases, and the middle class increases in numbers, the government will be forced to recreate a legal and political system which meets the needs and desires of an increasingly sophisticated citizenry. Most importantly, the regime will have to reconstitute the judiciary and in particular, the laws concerning women.
As it is argued in this Note, the clergy assumed power in 1979 to restore their own declining political and material fortunes. With this in mind, it is not too farfetched to argue that although ideology is an important component of theocracy, the clerical elite are nevertheless willing to adapt and reform if the survival of the regime is at stake. This is best illustrated by the amendments made to the Constitution in 1989. As a prerequisite to change however, women who have suffered the most as a result of the new legal and social codes, will be on the frontlines of bringing the needed reforms in the country. Consequently, it is the women who will take control of their destiny as well as the counrty's.
The clerical revolutionaries consist of certain segments of the Ulema. These clerics place themselves above any worldly authority. Further, the mullahs claim authority from God to interpret and implement his laws on earth. Certain factions of the Ulema were instrumental in the effort to overthrow the Pahlavi monarchy in Iran.
Iran: State of Terror, Parliamentary Human Rights Group (1996).
Jahangir Amuzegar, The Dynamics of the Iranian Revolution 27 (SUNY 1991). The values and norms included praying five times a day, adherence to Islamic modesty for women, and adherence to all Islamic laws, principles and norms. Id.
Pahlavi was the name adopted by Reza Khan, a Cossack commander and the founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty. Reza Shah Pahlavi ruled from 1925 to 1941. Reza Shah Pahlavi was sent to exile in South Africa by the British and Russians who had invaded the country in 1941. His son Mohamad Reza Shah Pahlavi assumed power following the deposition of his father. He governed Iran until January, 1979 when he was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Homa Omid, Islam and the Post Revoltuion State in Iran. Fundamentalist Shias interpretation of Islam relates to social, political , and cultural aspects of Iranian society. For example, the roles of women are strictly defined and must be adhered to in keeping in line with the teachings of Islam. Id.
John W. Limbert. Iran at War with History. The Zoroastrian religion was named after an Iranian prophet, Zoroaster. The impact of this non-Muslim movement benefitted the economic and artistic development of Iran. Id. at 33. Currently, the largest Zoroastrian community is now in Parsis, Bombay, India. Id. at 32.
Amuzegar, supra note 4, at 26.
Id. at 134.
William Shawcross, The Shah's Last Ride 53 (Simon & Schuster 1988). Today the Turkish Republic of Ataturk is the Republic of Turkey.
Id. at 53-54.
Shawcross, supra note 9, at 54.
Id. at 54.
Alexander J. Zolan, The Effects of Islamization On The Legal & Social State Of Women In Iran, 7 B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev. 183, 190 (1987).
Shawcross, supra note 9, at 54.
Id. at 59.
Id. at 87.
Zolan, supra note 13, at 191.
Id. For example, the age for girls who wanted to marry was increased to eighteen. HOMA OMID at 178.
Zolan, supra note 13, at 191.
Economic pressures made it unrealistic for a man to take more than one wife. This was particularly the case in the cities and urban centers of the country.
Zolan, supra note 13, at 191.
Shireen T. Hunter, Iran After Khomeini 92 (Prager 1992).
Iran had a well developed and sophisticated cultural heritage prior to its conversion to Islam. Consequently, the attempts to reconcile these two dominant traits into a single and cohesive cultural element has resulted in the creation of strains on the national social and cultural fabric.
Amuzegar, supra note 3, at 118.
Id. at 119.
Id. at 121.
Id. at 124.
Hunter, supra note 24, at 7-12.
Id. at 92-93.
Id. at 17.
Id. at 1.
Family, marriage, gender roles and employment. (cite omitted).
Hunter, supra.note 24, at 14-15.
Id. at 1.
Hunter, supra note 24, at 21.
The majority of the Iranian are Shia. As of 1981, 88% were Shia and 10% were Sunni. Limbert, supra note 6, at 30.
Amuzegar, supra note 3, at 25-28.
Hunter, supra note 24, at 21.
Id. at 27.
Id. at 23.
Id. at 37.
Id. at 23. Ali Akbai Rafsanjani became president of the Islamic Republic of Iran in August of 1989. Anoushiravan Ehteshami, After Khomeini 40 (Routledge 1995).
Id. at 38.
Id. at 31.
Id. at 32.
Ehteshami, supra note 51, at 40.
Id. at 35.
Hunter, supra note 24, at 18.
Ehteshami, supra note 51, at 35.
Id. at 34-35.
The amendments made to the Islamic Constitution in 1989 were geared towards making the process of governance more efficient and less prone to gridlock and divisiveness. The office of the Head of the Judiciary was created in order to consolidate the tasks of the judicial branch in the hands of a single person. It was hoped that this office holder would be more responsive and would hold enough authority to carry out his duties more effectively. The Expediency Council is a body which has the responsibility of resolving the differences between the twelve member Council of Guardians and the parliament over legislation. The executive presidency replaced the post of prime minister. The objective was to institutionalize the responsibilities of the chief executive. (cite omitted).
Ehteshami, supra note 51, at 35.
Id. at 41.
Freidoune Sahebjam, The Stoning of Soraya M. 81(Arcade 1990)
Id. at 80-90.
Id. at 91.
Id. at preface xiv.
Id. at preface xii.
Id. at 72.
Id. at 119.
Id. at 91.
Id. at preface xiv.
Interview with Mrs. Darabi on the situation of women human rights in Iran February 1996. (cite omitted).
Sahebjam, supra note 66, at cover page.
Iran: State of Terror, supra note 2, at 89-91.
See supra note 3.
Id. at 73.
Id. at 76.
The regime's use of arbitrary force can be illustrated by the events of April 1995 where hundreds of people were killed when they gathered to demand fresh water. As a result the security forces fired on the crowds with no fear of accountability. (cite omitted).
Zolan, supra note 13, at 184-185.
Id. See also Homa Omid at 198-200.
Id. at 185.
Id. at 184-185.
Id. at 186.
Id. at 187.
Sigheh is the process in which a man can temporarily marry a woman. Temporary marriages usually last a few hours or at the most a couple of days. The basis for Sigheh is to prevent adultery and to provide a mechanism to deal with sexuality within the guidelines of Islamic Law. Sigheh is pragmatically very effective in that it sets the exact rules for those wanting to enter into such a relationship. Zolan, supra note 13, at 188.
Jan Goodwin, Price of Honor:Muslim Women Lift the Veil of Silence on the Islamic World 113 (Plume 1994).
Avner Gidnore, Preventing Babies, World Press Review, Oct. 1994 at 27 (citing The Economist, October 1995).
Avner Gidnore, Population Bomb, World Press Review, Oct. 1994 at 27 (citing Amin Taheri, Al Sharqal Awsat, October 1994).
Gidnore, supra note 103, at 26.
Antony Shadid, Iran's Population Program Cited as a Model, Associated Press, Jan. 30, 1995.
Zolan, supra note 13, at 191-192.
Goodwin, supra note 101, at 113.
Zolan, supra note 13, at 189-192.
Goodwin, supra note 101, at 114.
Id. at 115.
Voting Nuances, The Economist, Mar. 9, 1996.
Zolan, supra note 13, at 185.
Id. at 184-186.
Id. at 189.
Id. at 189-190.
Robin Wright, Date Line Tehran: A Revolution Implodes, Foreign Policy, Summer 1996, at 163-172.