Ghassem Amin's book Freedom of Women is translated from Arabic into Persian.
The renowned Egyptian activist supported emancipation. Conservative religious
authorities responded harshly. Mirza Mohammad Sadegh Fhakhr-al Islam published
his own 'Resaleh' condemning the book, emancipation and alcohol consumption.
Fazlullah Nuri complained that "by encouraging women to dress up like men
Majlis has become a place for Amer-i be monker and Nahyeh az maroof" (promoting
the forbidden and forbidding the good). Fazlullah Haeri Mazandarani in
1921 published Hejab ya Pardeh Doushizegan and condemned reforms. Zia al
Din Majd and Aboul Hassan Tonekaboni urged Muslims to fight since veiling
is a fundamental institution in Islam. By 1927 a collection of all articles
opposing emancipation were published together in a book called Answer to
supporters of emancipation. The Muslim Poet Eghbal Lahourri encouraged
Muslim women every where to stick by their religion.
Reza Shah became
monarch in 1926. In 1926 Sadigeh Dawlatabadi attended The International
Women's Conference in Paris. On her return she went public in European
attire. In 1928 Majlis ratified the new dress code. All males except ulama
were required to dress like Europeans at all government institutions. In
1930 ladies hats were exempted from taxes. Emancipation was discussed constantly
and encouraged by the authorities. Mirza Aboulghasem-i Azad established
the first emancipation society in 1930 and was supported by Yahya Dawlatabadi.
The first conference on Muslim women at the same time began in Damascus
Syria. Sadigeh Dawlatabadi, Mostoreh Afshar and Mrs. Tabatabai represented
In 1931 for the
first time Majlis approved a new civil code that gave women the right to
ask for divorce under certain conditions and the marriage age was elevated
to 15 for girls and 18 for boys. The civil code was secular but family
laws remained within the domain of Shariat. The Congress of Oriental Women
opened in Tehran in 1932 and paid respect to the deceased socialist Muhtaram
Eskandari. In 1933 recommended reforms at Damascus and Tehran conferences
were presented to Majlis and women demanded emancipation electoral rights
and were refused again. Reza Shah intervened, in 1934 Ali Asghar-i Hikmat,
the Minister of Education received orders to establish Kanoun-i Banouvan
and implement reforms. Hajer Tarbyat was the first chairwomen and Shams
Pahlavi the Royal appointee. Though controlled by the state, for the first
time women's activities were legitimized. The Ladies Center was not received
well by the socialists and independents. They opposed royal monopoly and
In 1936 Reza Shah,
his wife and daughters attended the graduation ceremony at the Women's
Teacher Training College in Tehran. All women were advised to come unveiled.
Emancipation of women was officially born. Unveiling was made compulsory
and women were barred from wearing chador and scarf in public. A national
education system was formed to educate boys and girls equally. In 1936
the first females entered Tehran University. Shams al Moluk Mosaheb, Mehrangiz
Manuchehrian, Zahra Eskandar, Batul Samei, Tosey Haeri, Shayesteh Sadegh,
Taj Muluk Nakhaei, Forough and Zahra Kia, Badr al Muluk Bamdad, Shahzadeh
Kavousi and Saraj al Nesa (from India) were admitted. Amineh Pakravan was
the first female lecturer and Dr. Fatimah Sayah the first woman who became
a full professor.
After Reza Shah's
fall, independent organizations were formed. Safiyeh Firouz in 1942 formed
the National Women's Society and the newly formed Council of Iranian Women
in 1944 strongly criticized polygamy. Tudeh Party Women's league was the
best organized in this period. In 1944 Huma Houshmandar published Our Awakening
and in 1949 the women's league was changed to Organization of Democratic
Women and branches were opened in all the major cities. Zahra and Taj Eskandari,
Iran Arani, Maryam Firouz, Dr. Khadijeh Keshavarz, Dr. Ahktar Kambakhsh,
Badri Alavi and Aliyeh Sharmini were amongst the best known Tudeh activists.
The society was later changed to Organization of Progressive Women and
in 1951 unsuccessfully lobbied for electoral rights. Mossadegh's fall puts
an end to independent organizations. In 1949 the Higher Council of Women
is formed headed by Ashraf Pahlavi.
The council opened
branches all over the country focussing on health, education and charity
work. By 1964, it was changed to Organization of Iranian Women and in 1978
had 349 branches, 113 Centers and covered 55 other organizations dealing
with women's welfare and heath. The last registrar indicates that in 1977
alone, over a million women used the services. Most centers were trashed
after the revolution.
In 1951, Mehrangiz
Dawlatshahi (the first female Ambassador) formed Rah Naw and with Safeyeh
Firouz founded the first organization supporting human rights. The two
met with Shah and demanded electoral rights. Opposition by religious authorities
ended the debate. In Bahman of 1962 at last women were given the right
to vote and to be elected. In 1968 the Family Protection Law was ratified.
Divorce was referred to family courts, gains were made with respect to
divorce laws, polygamy was limited and required first wife s' written consent.
Marriage age for girls was set at 18 years. Mrs. Parsa became the first
women minister in Iran. Women were required to serve the education corps
and pass military service. In 1975, women gained the right of guardianship
for their children after their husbands' death. Abortion was never legalized
but the existing penalties were omitted and this made it a lot easier.
In 1975 Mahnaz Afkhami became the first minister responsible for women's
affairs. Shariat remained but ulam's response was drastic, Fatwas by known
figures including Ayatollah Khomeini declared the move heretic, demonstrations
followed but were put down.
At the same time
Ali Shariati published the best seller Fatima is Fatima and declared all
western looking Iranian women as corrupt. Ayatollah Motahari started the
popular series women in Islam in the secular magazine Zan-i Ruz and confirmed
Hejab. There were no independent organizations except the underground groups
opposing monarchy. Marzieh Ahmadi Oskouei, Ashraf Dehghani, Mansoureh Tavafchian,
Fatimah Rezaei and Mrs Shayegan were amongst the activists. By 1978, 33%
of university students were female with 2 million in the workforce. 190,000
were professionals with university degrees. There were 333 women in the
local councils, 22 in Majlis and 2 in the Senate.
At the revolution
of 1978 millions of women participated in every aspect of the movement.
The Islamic Republic was established in January, the Family Protection
Law was abolished by a declaration from Imam Khomeini's office in April
and by March women were barred from becoming judges. Women working at government
offices were ordered to observe the Islamic dress code. Women protested,
on March 8, International Women's Day, thousands gathered at Tehran University.
The speakers could not speak since the microphones were sabotaged. The
crowd moved towards Ayatollah Taleghani's house, Jam e Jam TV station and
Ministry of Justice. In April the marriage age for girls was reduced to
13 and married women were barred from attending regular schools. By this
time many Independent women's' organizations were formed and all political
parties had their own women's league.
Ten's of women's
magazines were published, the daily Awakening of Women was amongst the
first published in Tehran University and was immediately followed by Equality,
Women in Struggle and Women's Path. The later with the National Union of
Women and others formed a loose coalition, the Committee for Solidarity
of Women.The Organization of Iranian Women, The Women Populace of Iran,
Women's branch of National Democratic Front, National Front and the Association
of women lawyers were amongst the most active. The last one is the only
one that still exists and it has formed an extremely powerful lobby in
support of women's rights.