Reframing Iran’s Lady, Life, Freedom Motion: from gender violence to state violence

  1. Roghieh Dehghan, Wellcome Scientific Analysis Fellow

  1. College Faculty London

On 16 September 2022, the Lady, Life, Freedom motion was sparked by the tragic dying of Jina Mahsa Amini, a younger Iranian-Kurdish girl. She was taken into custody in Iran by the morality police for non-compliance with the obligatory costume code for ladies. 4 days later, she died, succumbing to her accidents inflicted by the police.

As an Iranian girl and researcher specializing in state violence from a gender perspective, I imagine there are two distinct methods to border this latest motion in Iran. Given the widespread framing of Mahsa’s dying as an indication of gender inequality and the importance of gender in world well being discourse, an outline of ladies’s well being points in Iran helps to contextualise the primary viewpoint.

Regardless of 4 many years of turmoil, healthcare in Iran has improved with elevated life expectancy, and decreased maternal mortality charges.12 However gender disparities endure. Regardless of excessive schooling ranges (99% literacy fee for ladies aged 15-24 and greater than 60% of college college students are girls), participation of ladies within the workforce is just 18.3%.34 Girls have restricted political illustration and face authorized inequalities in divorce, custody, and inheritance, in addition to felony legal guidelines. Additionally they want spousal consent for sure well being providers, together with abortion. Restricted entry to reproductive well being providers specifically impacts economically deprived girls. As well as, youngster marriage and intimate companion violence persist, linked to social class, poverty, age, schooling, and unemployment. Lastly, there’s increased prevalence of psychological well being issues amongst girls, with the best suicide danger in poorer provinces and amongst ethnic minorities, notably Kurdish girls.15678

Poor well being in girls stems from unequal useful resource distribution tied to socio-economic elements. For example, girls in disadvantaged areas have a life expectancy 9 years shorter than these within the capital Tehran.6

In mild of this pervasive gender inequality, it’s comprehensible that following Mahsa’s dying a lot of the narrative in social and mainstream media has centred on girls, their distinguished function within the protests, and their name to finish the oppression of ladies. These girls subvert and resist the gendered and sexualised politics of the Islamic regime.

This girls centric discourse has advanced right into a shared platform for unification, evoking a profound sense of solidarity and hope amongst Iranians throughout various backgrounds. The concentrate on girls, owing to its visibility and its much less overtly political façade, has garnered substantial assist from world allies. Nonetheless, it concurrently perpetuates stereotypes and preconceived notions about Islam and Muslim girls. In reality, the general public and media response adopted a predictable and standard sample, characterised by orientalist and right-wing nationalist discourses, for instance by the portrayal of Islam as a villainous pressure in Iran and the glorification of the traditional “Persian empire.”910 These views are additional bolstered by neo-liberal media retailers, which, in a distinctly orientalist method, current an essentialised view of Iranian girls.

The standing of ladies has traditionally been intertwined with political dynamics. In Iran, like in different Center East and North African international locations, girls are sometimes perceived as symbols of nationwide identification, used to align with or resist Western influences. In consequence, girls’s our bodies have been instrumentalised as seen markers of political identification; they’ve been regulated, from obligatory unveiling below Reza Shah Pahlavi, to veiling below the Islamic Republic. Thus, whereas this motion is considered by many as a “feminist resistance,”11 I’m involved that framing the motion as a wrestle of ladies diverts consideration from the oppressive management exerted by the Iranian state over the our bodies of its residents—no matter their gender.

Violence serves because the means via which the Iranian regime asserts its dominance. Whereas girls and different vulnerabilised persons are predominantly focused by the morality police, the aim of this disciplinary pressure is just not gender violence, however management and terror of society. It’s essential to keep in mind that the Iranian authorities is infamous for its human rights abuses normally. These embody arbitrary arrests, compelled confessions, and torture. The nation maintains a excessive variety of dying penalties and executions. Management is exercised not simply over girls’s our bodies, however each facet of residents’ personal lives. The regime instils concern within the public by silencing dissenting voices. Throughout final 12 months’s crackdown on the protestors, over 19 000 individuals had been arrested, greater than 500 had been killed, with the bulk being males, and all seven executed had been males. Ethnic minorities had been overrepresented in these arrested or killed.121314

Violence is inflicted upon our bodies marked by class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and economic system. An unique concentrate on girls’s points dangers concealing the broader state violence and human rights violations of the Iranian regime. When Iranian girls minimize their hair or take away their scarves, that is performed as an act of resistance inside a selected socio-political context. The historical past during which we place occasions might be therapeutic. Framing the latest motion throughout the broader context of Iranian individuals’s wrestle for human rights and democracy acknowledges girls’s essential function on this motion and people who preceded it. It additionally encourages us to see this motion as a continuation of the constitutional revolution (1905-1911), the place individuals aimed to safe civil liberties and restrict absolutely the energy of the state. No matter gender, Iranians establish with Mahsa’s plight. The slogan “Girls, Life, Freedom” displays a forward-looking, optimistic imaginative and prescient of a distinct future.


  • Competing pursuits: the creator declares no competing pursuits

  • Provenance and peer overview: commissioned, not peer reviewed.