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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A tragic death punishes a regime that oppressed irrepressible Persian women

By Sheda Vasseghi

Neda's murder, a symbol of Iranian people's struggle against a corrupt and defunct government, is indeed an irony.   

A screen grab from a June 21, 2009 video showing Iranian men trying to help a wounded woman named Neda after getting shot in the chest during a protest in Tehran on June 20, 2009.      AFP/YouTube
Contrary to ancient Persian history and 20th century social advancements of the Pahlavi regime, women were one of the first groups attacked and suppressed by the Islamic Republic. For example:

  • the 1926 Freedom of Dress was overturned;
  • women are not eligible to run for presidency;
  • the 1967 Family Protection Law was overturned;
  • marital age was reduced from 18 to 9;
  • they virtually have no rights if divorced and domestic abuse is not grounds for divorce;
  • a woman's testimony is worth half of a man's and fines paid for a women's murder is half of what is awarded for a male victim;
  • women cannot work, attend school, or travel without a male relative's permission;
  • women inherit half as much as men;
  • Article 115 of Penal Laws allows stoning;
  • Article 116 discusses how big the stones should be;
  • women in prisons are considered to have committed crimes against God and thus at the guards' disposal who often rape and torture them;
  • and they are not allowed to attend public sports events.

  • Also In This Edition
  • Arab states may align with NATO against Iran - June 23
  • The Iranian people are 'wired' differently than their rulers - June 20
  • Hamas, Hizbullah join Iran's paramilitary forces in post-vote crackdown - June 19

  • Now to the regime's shock and annoyance, Neda's tragedy will serve as a super fuel for the Iranian people as they struggle to overthrow it. The regime's leaders have to live with the realization that their downfall will be accelerated because of a woman's unjust and untimely death.

    From ancient sources we know women in ancient Persia were active and persuasive in personal and political matters. They were property owners, advisors, dancers, musicians, managers, commanders, and rulers.

    Persian women played a role in the legitimacy of kingship. They were in charge of protecting and avenging their families. They could travel alone and attend banquets and hunting parties. Persian society offered more freedom to women than any other ancient society.

    As we have witnessed in the past several days, brave Iranian women have been protesting, fighting, and challenging the authorities along side their male counterparts. They show no fear and resent having lost their rights 30 years ago.

    Iranian men unlike other Middle Eastern societies do not block women's political and civil rights, and protect and encourage them during these desperate and trying times.

    The Iranian essence is well and alive. So 2500 years later and despite several decades of social deprogramming, Iranian society still honors a woman's rightful place.

    Our heart goes out to Neda's family. The loss of her precious life will not be in vain. And to our Iranian brothers and sisters, we have never been more proud to call ourselves Iranians.

    Sheda Vasseghi obtained a Master's degree in Ancient History with an emphasis on Persia from American Military University.


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