Iranian Women a Major Force in Election Protests

As protests continue over Iran’s presidential election results, women are playing a major role in the public uprising. Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum argues that the large scale of demonstrations is due in part to years of organizing by women’s rights groups. Though many pundits are crediting the election of Barack Obama and the use of Twitter and Facebook for the protestor turnout, Applebaum writes that brewing discontent among women is a major factor in the current political climate.

“At the heart of the ideology of the Islamic Republic is its claim to divine inspiration: Its leadership is legitimate, as is its harsh repression of women, because God has decreed it is so. The outright rejection of this creed by tens of thousands of women, not just over the past weekend but over the past decade, has to weaken the Islamic Republic’s claim to invincibility,” Applebaum writes. She cites the One Million Signatures Campaign, an online petition launched in 2006 that calls for women’s equality in Iran, as one indication of the growing movement for gender equality.

Journalist Diane Tucker also wrote in the Huffington Post that the strong support among women for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi illustrates an urgent desire for change. Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, played an especially visible role in her husband’s campaign and continues to speak out, calling for protesters to chant from the rooftops in a show of solidarity.

In a press conference yesterday, President Obama acknowledged the role of women in the Iranian protests. “We have seen courageous women stand up to brutality and threats, and we have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets,” Obama said. He referred to the now-famous videotaped death of young woman Neda Agha Soltan, who was gunned down at a rally and is now being marked by some as the face of the protest movement.


Washington Post 6/23/09; Huffington Post 6/23/09; Feminist Daily Newswire 6/11/09

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