Global Women's Rights: Women in Iran
“My hopes for Iran's future lies with women first and foremost. Iran's feminist movement is very strong. This movement has no leader or head quarters. Its place is the home of every Iranian who believes in equal rights. This is currently the strongest women's movement in the Middle East.”
-Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner
Iran's Nobel Laureate human rights lawyer Dr. Shirin Ebadi, served as the first female judge in Iran's courts until the 1979 revolution, when the new regime forbade women from holding judgeships. Ebadi was awarded the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her work as a lawyer and activist supporting the rights of political dissidents, women, and children. She is a cofounder of the Tehran-based Defenders of Human Rights Center, which was forcibly closed by the Iranian authorities in January of 2009. Authorities raided Dr. Ebadi's personal office and seized her writings, confidential legal files, and two computers amid claims of so-called tax evasion.
In August 2006, the Feminist Majority Foundation and human rights organizations throughout the world asked supporters to write the Iranian government, which at that time was threatening to arrest Ebadi and close the center. The Iranian authorities responded and the center remained open.
In 2006, the Feminist Majority Foundation presented Dr. Ebadi with the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Women's Rights Award. Her bravery, leadership, and determination is unforgettable. Time and time again she has risked her life for women and children. Dr. Ebadi's human rights advocacy is so important it should not and must not be silenced.
Million Signature Campaign
The One Million Signatures Campaign was established in summer 2006 and ever since has been seeking equal rights for women in Iran by demanding change in at least 10 discriminatory laws such as divorce, marriage, custody of children, right to travel, etc. The Campaign emphasizes a face to face approach designed to raise awareness among Iranian women and men. This cultural awareness is not only limited to Iranians living in Iran, but also targets those living outside, to promote gender equality. Through persistent activism, the Iranian women's movement has been successful in persuading Iranian officials to review and change certain laws, such as the inheritance law which until recently only allowed women to inherit a portion of portable property and those non-portables that were standing, such as buildings, trees and such. However, the new legislation has added ground assets, such as land and other standing property that their husbands owned while alive. In addition, through a recently issued directive by the Judiciary, insurance companies are now obliged to pay equal compensation (deyeh) to men and women injured through car accidents. Prior to this directive, women received compensation for automobile accidents at half the rate of men.
Despite their peaceful and civil approach many women’s rights activists, including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, have faced pressures, through arrests, harassment and intimidation. Despite these pressures Campaign activists contend that their activities are civic and legal and that they are committed to continuing with their efforts to raise awareness about gender discrimination and reform laws.
In the past Campaign activists have faced vaguely worded security charges such as: “acting against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the state.” They are under persistent pressure and the form of these pressures varies from telephone calls harassing activists, to violent house searches, travel bans, insults to the activists and their family members, and imprisonment. It should be noted that Esha Momeni, a member of the One Million Signatures Campaign in California, and a CSUN graduate student, was arrested on October 15, 2008, during a visit to Iran with family and to complete her graduate thesis, which focused on conducting interviews with women’s rights activists. While being released on bail of nearly $200,000 on November 11, 2008. She still faces a travel ban and cannot leave Iran.
(Source: Change for Equality)
In March of 2009, the Campaign was awarded the Global Women’s Rights Award by the Feminist Majority Foundation.