May 29, 2023

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Iranian women at forefront of Islamic Revolution

TEHRAN – Throughout history, the enthusiastic presence of Iranian women in many political and social scenes has been proven. Undoubtedly, women played a great role in the process of the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Women have always been present throughout history and paid a role in its construction, even though their contributions are often masked or overshadowed. Throughout history, women have been present shoulder to shoulder with men in the ups and downs of life and in the construction of society. Sometimes directly and occasionally by persuading men and creating the necessary motivations in them, they have shown their role in human history.

Iranian women’s movements and their effective role before the victory of the Islamic Revolution were stronger than ever before. By encouraging their husbands and children to fight against the Shah’s [Mohammad Reza Pahlavi] regime, they tried to overthrow the tyrant government, which was one of the effective factors in the evolving process of the Revolution.

Speaking about the role of women in the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini [Founder of the Islamic Republic] said, “If the role of the women was not greater than that of the men, it was certainly no less. Their presence on the various fields of battle made the faint-hearted strong and doubled the strength of the strong. And you yourselves can vouch for the fact that the role of you ladies throughout this Islamic movement, this Islamic Revolution, has been greater. For you were both active yourselves and inspired the men to be active too. You have been a source of pride and it is much appreciated.” (April 8, 1984)

Defiant Iranian women played a crucial role in the success of the Islamic Revolution. Some women backed the Islamic Revolution because they were living under a government [Pahlavi dynasty (1925-1979)] that had no respect for the traditional and Islamic values that many of them had been taught to respect. These women didn’t want to be molded into Western women; they wanted to create their own images. They felt the Pahlavi regime was trying to make them into mindless Western dolls to keep their minds off more important issues, like politics. 

These women who participated in revolutionary and religious activities believed that an Islamic government would give them the respect they deserve. Women took an active role in discussing the issues surrounding them, including what constituted proper attire. Forms of dress were increasingly becoming a matter of choice.

In this regard, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei in one of his speeches said, “Fortunately pious women have been pioneers in different arenas and in different events in our society, not just after the Revolution, but since a long time before the Revolution… Iranian women rose up at a time when only a few religious scholars and outstanding personalities were involved in the issue.

They arranged a gathering and blocked the path of the ruler of the time…  In the case of the resistance that led to the Islamic Revolution, I know for a fact that in certain parts of the country, our women entered the arena earlier than our men. They arranged street protests earlier than men.” (May 12, 2012)

Women living in that era also were tired of the corruption and incompetency of the government and were also horrified by the violent way that the regime dealt with peaceful demonstrations. Iranian women, through their support of the Islamic Revolution, were looking for an alternative to the Shah regime.

There isn’t one specific group of women that can be pinpointed as the main participants in revolutionary activities; Women from all walks of life, rich and poor, liberal and secular, amplified their revolutionary roles and activities. Support for the Islamic Revolution among women increased, as the shah’s brutality increased. Women’s participation in revolutionary activities was non-violent for the most part, although some women did become famous for their participation in guerilla warfare. Women became ever more instrumental in the days leading up to the success of the Islamic Revolution. However dreadful the storm was, it was the women who bore the brunt – as Ayatollah Khamenei often indicated, it was the women who carried the heaviest burdens in those times.

“In fact, during the Revolution, women were the frontline soldiers of the Revolution; this is not an exaggeration… If women did not accept the Revolution and did not believe in it, the Revolution would certainly not have happened, because first of all, half of the group of revolutionaries would not be directly present at the scene; Secondly, they indirectly would influence their children, husbands, and brothers [for not attending revolutionary activities],” said Ayatollah Khamenei. (January 16, 1990)

Some of the responsibilities women took upon themselves, during the revolution, were as follows: educating others on the religious ideologies, which facilitated the revolutionary process; women also took to writing and expressing themselves, by way of their own female-centric pamphlets and magazine publications; asides from taking part in the demonstrations, they also spread the word on events that were to take place against the shah. Some of them cared for the wounded, opened their homes when needed, and female doctors provided medical assistance.

As a further matter, religious enlightenment paralleled with the struggle for women’s rights led many women to adopt Islamic values; additionally, to show their disdain for the shah and support of the revolutionaries. They took to chador, as a symbol of their support – for and with the revolutionaries. 

The Leader of the Islamic Revolution also in one of his speeches talked about some clerics who opposed political roles of women during the Revolution, saying, “I admit that our magnanimous Imam [Khomeini] was the first person who understood the roles of all people in society—including women… Imam Khomeini (r.a.) had the same attitude towards women: he understood the importance within each role that women could play. On the other hand, there were certain luminaries, among our religious scholars, who had to be convinced whether it was necessary to let women take part in demonstrations. They used to say that women should not take part in the demonstrations. Imam Khomeini’s thoughts and determination were shaped into a firm pillar, which people relied upon in order to stand up against such views: views that were historically presented by important centers.” (January 4, 2012)

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