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Women

Suppression of Women’s Rights in Iran Intensifies

November 20, 2023
Maryam Dehkordi
3 min read
Women walk along Vanak Square in central Tehran on Sept. 4
Women walk along Vanak Square in central Tehran on Sept. 4
One of the most egregious examples of this oppression is the requirement for women and girls to wear a headscarf in public, which is a source of ongoing protest
One of the most egregious examples of this oppression is the requirement for women and girls to wear a headscarf in public, which is a source of ongoing protest
Photos from western Tehran capture the presence of black-clad women and armed men confronting women who did not wear a headscarf
Photos from western Tehran capture the presence of black-clad women and armed men confronting women who did not wear a headscarf
The UN General Assembly’s committee on social, humanitarian and cultural issues approved a Canada-drafted resolution earlier this week that condemns the widespread and serious human rights violations being committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran
The UN General Assembly’s committee on social, humanitarian and cultural issues approved a Canada-drafted resolution earlier this week that condemns the widespread and serious human rights violations being committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran

The UN General Assembly’s committee on social, humanitarian and cultural issues approved a Canada-drafted resolution earlier this week that condemns the widespread and serious human rights violations being committed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The resolution highlighted the plight of Iranian women who face systematic discrimination and oppression. 

One of the most egregious examples of this oppression is the requirement for women and girls to wear a headscarf in public, which is a source of ongoing protest.

This report details the experiences of Iranian women who have been subjected to abuse at the hands of the security forces in the past weeks for simply exercising their basic rights and freedoms.

Urmia, October 2023 

"I was utterly exhausted. I was going home after a long day at work. My energy was completely drained. While waiting at a red light, I instinctively reached for a cigarette. I had just started smoking when I noticed a police officer calling my license plate. They instructed me to pull over."

This incident is recounted by a woman living in the northwestern city of Urmia: "The officer inquired, 'Do you smoke?' His tone was laced with disapproval. 'Aren't you ashamed? A woman smoking in the street?' I was taken aback by his judgmental attitude. He continued: 'If you fail to abide by hijab regulations and don't seek treatment for your smoking habit, you're corrupting society.’ Then he fined me."

She later experienced a similar experience: "I was fined once again for smoking behind the wheel. I asked the police officer: 'Do you fine men for smoking in their cars?' He didn’t respond and threatened to impound my car."

Instances of women being fined for smoking behind the wheel have been reported in other Iranian cities.

Tehran, October 2023

According to Zohreh, a veteran women's rights activist, Iran is “regressing rapidly to the dark ages of the 1980s."

Zohreh recounts an incident that highlights the escalating repression against women: "In broad daylight, I was violently accosted by plainclothes officers for simply applying lipstick.

"It was midday, and I was waiting for my husband in central Tehran. I glanced at myself in the rearview mirror, noticing that my makeup had smudged during the day. 

"I took out my lipstick from my bag and retouched my lips. Suddenly, an unidentified individual approached my car and began hurling insults. I was taken aback by his aggressive behavior; he could have been my son."

Tehran, November 2023

On November 16, Iran marked the third anniversary of the 2019 brutal crackdown on protests that left many people dead and injured. 

Coinciding with these commemorations, images of undercover officers enforcing mandatory hijab rules have emerged from the streets of Tehran. 

Photos from western Tehran capture the presence of black-clad women and armed men confronting women who did not wear a headscarf. 

Initially concentrated in metro stations in the city center, this practice has spread to other parts of the capital.

IranWire received multiple reports of violent confrontations between women and black-clad officers stationed in metro stations in the city center. The plainclothes officers bore no insignia and had cameras attached to their clothing.

"I enter the metro at Theater Station,” says a woman named Pardis. “There are two women and one man or three men standing at the metro entrances and exits…you have to turn around and change your path to avoid them. But even if you succeed, you will eventually encounter them somewhere inside the station."

Pardis says that the officers took pictures of women's faces: "It's unclear why they are taking pictures. They started at Theater Station because students from Tehran University, the University of Arts and other universities pass through there. They have now spread like a virus.”

"They are conquering the city both on foot and by car. At Theater Station, a bearded man is standing with a cell phone and a flashlight, taking pictures and videos. Police are also present but they don’t intervene...I witnessed one of [hijab enforcement officers] punching a woman in the face."

According to Pardis, at least 15 bearded officers are stationed in front of the metro gates, creating an atmosphere of fear. 

"There are six exits, each with at least two or three officers standing guard. What bothers me most is not the insults or the shouting, but other people’s indifference," she says. 

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