"This is the last day that women are able to walk the streets of Tehran with their heads uncovered" - Iranian Protester, 1979
On March 8, 1979, on International Women's Day, more than 100,000 Iranian women gathered in the streets of Iran's capital Tehran to protest the new Islamic government's oppressive laws against women. These women were not protesting for special rights or for feminism, they were protesting for the most basic of liberties. They fought long and hard for their freedom through decades of social reform and actual fighting and dying in the revolution, yet they were about to see it all taken away.
In 1963, the leader of Iran and 2nd in line of the Pahlavi Dynasty, Mohammad Reza Shah, began what was known as the "White Revolution". This brought new rights to women including the ability to vote, have an education and be treated equal to men. The White Revolution also did something that greatly effected all Iranians and the world, it gave Iran aspects of capitalism. Shah opened up free markets by selling various state-owned enterprises to the private sector, allowing the free market to do what the free market does best: prosper.
This "westernized" Iran in that the people now had freedoms never before seen. As oil was making the country very rich, Shah invested heavily into education and infrastructure. Entrepreneurs were finally able to build, meaning that workers were finally able to work, while students were finally able to study as they please causing the specialists to be very busy meeting the demands of the employees, students and business people. A fully functional economy, Iran was having double digit GDP growth all throughout the 60s and 70s due to the slight capitalism which was permitted. The people had paychecks, opportunity and education all while enjoying equal rights, the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly and overall basic human liberties.
During this era, Iran was so prosperous and free that pictures from that time could easily be mistaken for America. It was a country filled with happy people doing as they please. People would visit the beautiful beaches of the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea, dress in all sorts of different fashions, participate in sports leagues, visited bars and night clubs, traveled freely, went to amusement parks, drove motor cycles and modern vehicles, received modernized utilities and had all of the freedoms and luxuries of those "evil western influences".
Unfortunately, the Shah government did go on to make grave bureaucratic mistakes in opposition of capitalism such as in 1975 when government investments exceeded private investments by over 50% and consumption was split 50/50 between government and the market. The government also nationalized certain industries such as energy & forestry, applied price controls and limited profit margins to 15% while issuing heavy regulation. It goes without saying that these federal overreaches, a shift from free-markets to corporatism, began to upset the job creators and therefor the job holders. Corporatism is a failed economic system similar to fascism and caused such distraught in this case that the business people and corporate elites actually helped to fund the coming revolution against the government.
This all came to an end with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The Revolution was led by a few main groups of people: Islamists, communists and socialists. To say it simpler, the revolution was led by Islamists and Marxists. They successfully destroyed the freedoms and prosperity that they did have in pursuit of what they deemed to be morally appropriate either religiously or politically. Please note that we do not mean Muslims when we say Islamists. Islamists wish to impose Islamic Law, known as Sharia Law, upon all people while Muslims simply want to pray in peace and allow others to live free and in peace as well.
The main voice behind the 1979 Revolution was exiled Islamic Leader Ayatollah Khomeini who motivated it all while exiled from the country. On January 16, 1979, Mohammad Reza Shah stated that he will not seek to suppress the people, but rather adhere to their desires and step down, leaving the country for good. Ayatollah Khomeini returned 14 days later and immediately began pushing his ambitions of Sharia Law through the Iranian government. The 1967 Family Protection Law, which was passed as part of the White Revolution, was repealed. Women lost many basic rights such as the abilities to vote and drive, women were barred from many different jobs, beaches and sports became sex-segregated, the legal age of marriage for girls was reduced to 9 and married women were barred from attending regular schools. The Marxists who won the revolution with Khomeini were all silenced in one way or another as Khomeini was eventually declared Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Many of the revolutionists did not think that Khomeini would take such oppressive and violent actions once he returned. Live news at the time captured women saying things like "We participated in the revolution like men did. We were killed, we fought for our freedom" and "The revolution is meaningless without women freedom".
One woman who attended the protests said "We want equal rights as men do. I have been wearing veil (hijab) for years. I did not come here to say that I don't want the veil. I have 6 daughters, I don't want my daughters to were veil. I don't want men to force them to were veil. I came here to defend my daughters against the veil."
A young girl was caught saying "I want to be free and say what I want and do what I want, I want to be free and write about anything I want to write about." In perspective, it's a shame how certain Americans often take their US Constitution and 1st Amendment rights for granted.
The protests did not come without struggle. On one occasion several hundred men attacked the giant mob of protesters. Many women were even beaten and stabbed while they relentlessly continued to chant slogans for equal rights. The police fired shots in the air to disburse the protests, but the ladies responded with the chant of "we're not scared". Women who were seen in public without their Hijab at this time were heavily insulted and attacked. Reporting of these incidents from 1979 can be found here after this article.
There were, however, many men who stood with the women in their fight for freedom.
Demonstration continued through the next day (Friday, March 9), and onto Saturday the 10th. The persistent effort of the protesters showed a glimmer of success as Khomeini declared the hijab would not be compulsory for the time being. On Monday the 12th, protesters were right back in the streets chanting that it's "not just about hijab". These women wanted jobs, they wanted to study freely, to not be dictated by a man and to protect their daughters from unwanted marriages. They wanted to keep freedom of speech and religion, the freedom to go to the beach or just drive to a restaurant, they wanted the freedom to live their life. Despite their efforts, in 1979, it became mandatory for all women to wear the hijab regardless of religious beliefs as they lost their freedom to Sharia Law.
2017 & 2018 saw a resurgence of protests against the Hijab. The new movement has been pushed from two social media accounts ran by Brooklyn resident and freedom fighter Masih Alinejad, who has been exiled from Iran. In May of 2017 she started the "White Wednesday" movement, a campaign that invites women and men to wear white in their opposition to the mandatory forced veiling law. This has spread into many Iranian women sharing pictures on social media, through Masih, of themselves in public without a veil.
The campaign gained strong momentum causing the Iranian government to restrict access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social sites. As anti-government protests began, the regime went a step further and has now restricted the internet. In late 2019, over 1,000 anti-government protesters were killed by Iran. Protests continued into 2020, excelled by the accidental shooting down of a commercial plan by Iran. The killing of protesters seems to have stopped for now but the number of civilian arrests has greatly increased.
To MAKE IRAN GREAT AGAIN they must reject the ideas of theocracy through the Islamic faith, otherwise known as Sharia Law, and they must also reject the ideas of Marxism. Iran must adopt a US form of Constitution that protects the rights of all individuals and allows their people to finally be free to live as they please. They must also adopt economic capitalism so that economic growth may be unleashed and the citizens can enjoy an abundance of employment and goods.
It's important that we mention that these restrictions on women's rights are not specific Iran. Other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have varying forms of Sharia Law which all include restrictions on women's rights. Right now there is an Islamic faction known as Boko Haram that is working daily to impose Sharia Law on all of Africa. Boko Haram is likened to the ISIS of Africa and they are growing daily at this time. We want to stress that Muslims are freedom and peace loving individuals, it is those who wish to impose or live by Sharia (Islamic) Law that take place in violent Jihad (the "struggle" for a one Islamic world). President Trump has called on all peace loving Muslims to help in the fight against radical Islamist and it has been a huge help in defeating of the ISIS caliphate. We encourage all Iranians to fight for their freedom and all people being threatened or oppressed by Islamic Law to fight back and absolutely destroy their oppressors.