Chronology of Events Regarding Women in Iran since the Revolution of 1979 Elfiam Gheytanchi
February 11, 1979
Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers take power after a revolution.
February 26, 1979
Khomeini announces that the Family Protection Law (1967) is abrogated.
March 3, 1979
Khomeini announces that women cannot be judges.
March 6, 1979
Khomeini announces that women are to wear hejab in the workplace. (Hejab is Islamic modest dress which in Iranian context, at least in the early period of the revolution, refers to a scarf and long dress that covers women’s whole body).
March 8, 1979
A celebration planned by groups for International Women’s Day is turned into a protest against Khomeirfs announcement about the veiling of women and banning of the Family Protection Law. Thousands ofwomen gather in the streets ofTehran asking prime minister Bazargan to hear their plea. This is the time when Islamic forces, calling themselves Hezbollah (Party of God), attack demonstrations.
March 29, 1979
Khomeini announces that beaches and sports events are to be sex-segregated.
In a national referendum, 98% of the people vote yet for “Islamic Republic” The question posed in the referendum Republic: Yes or No”.
Khomeini selects members of the Council of Guardians, a clerical organization with the power to overrule presidential, and Majles (Parliament) candidates. All leftist opposition groups are crushed by the Islamic forces. Ayandegan (The Future) an Independent leftist newspaper, is banned. The National Democratic Front (a nationalist political party) organizes a demonstration against the banning of the newspaper. The Mujarhedin and Fadaiyan (an Islamic leftist group and a major leftist group, respectively) are forced to go underground.
A proposal for the replacement of the Family Protection Courts with the Special Civil Courts is presented by the Minister of Justice to the Council of Guardians. The proposal is approved. The government then announces that many branches of the Special Civil Courts would be set up around the country. By 1981, there are 80 branches. These courts deal with family matters such as divorce and child custody.
The constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran is drafted. It appoints Khomeini to the highest-ranking Sh’i jurist with total control over judiciary, executive and legislative branches (velayt- e faqqih). Family matters become the central focus of laws on women. Women are highly praised for their roles as “mothers”. Article 10 of the Constitution states: “Since the family is the most basic unit of Islamic society, all rules and regulations regarding family should serve the purpose of preservation of family and its relations based on Islamic rights and morals.”
1980-1983 During this time opposition groups are eliminated. According to an Amnesty international report, 6,027 persons were executed in Iran, between 1979 and 1983.
Khomeini announces the Enqelab-e Edari (administrative revolution), which requires women to wear hejab in all governmental offices. Later, Banisadr also asks women to comply in order to fight “the Western consumer culture”. Universities are shut down in preparation for an “Islamic Cultural Revolution”. Four women are elected to the First Majles (1980-1984): Maryam Behruzi, from Tehran. Education: sixth grade. Gohar ol-Shareh Dastgheib, from Tehran. Education: M.A. A’zam Taleqani, from Tehran. Education: B.A. A’tefeh Rajai, from Tehran. Education: sixth grade.
These female Majles representatives are elected for ideological reasons. Even though they lack higher education, they are proficient in the Qur’an and religious matters.
The War against Iraq begins and lasts for eight years. A’zam Taleqani starts a women’s newspaper, Payam-e Hajar (The Message of Hajar), underdirect government order. It justifies the Islamic family laws (polygamy and women’s lack of rights with regard to custody of their children and marriage contracts) by referring to the highly praised status of women as mothers in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
1980-1981 The journal Zan-e Ruz (Today’s Woman), which was taken over by the Islamic Republican Party during the revolution, changes its content to Islamic codes of behavior for women. Zan-e Ruz was founded in 1964, during the reign of Mohammad Reza Shah, and it was largely apolitical. Editors: Shahla Ansari (1978-1982) Firuzeh Gol-Mohammadi (1982-1984) Shahla Sherkat (1984-June 1991) [she founds the journal Zanan (Women) in February Gerami-Zadegan (1991-1996) Mehri Savizi (1996- present)
1981 President Banisadr’s cabinet proposes a bill that amends the Special Civil Courts Act of 1979 passed by the Council of Guardians. ‘In cases where there is no guidance on family matters either from the Majles or the council, the Special Civil Courts will base their judgements in relation to family disputes on Khomeini’s fatwas (religious injunction).’ This amendment gives the clergy total power in interpreting the sharia (Islamic law).
The Islamic Republican Party (followers of Khomeini) dismisses Banisadr in the parliament accusing him of planning a military coup. A Tehran demonstration in his support is crushed and the Islamic Republic of Iran practically becomes a theocracy. The Women’s Society of Islamic Revolution (WSIR) is founded by Fereshteh Hashemi, Shahin Tabatabai and Zahra Rahnavard. All founders hold Ph.D.s from American universities. They create the organization to raise women’s consciousness regarding their new roles as “authentic” and “true” Muslim women in the new Islamic society of Iran. They do not declare themselves feminists.
A bill proposed to the Majles on the right of mothers to have custody of minor children (boys at age 2 and girls at age 7) after divorce is rejected on the grounds that it does not comply with the sharia. (Below this age, a mother is permitted custody of the children. After reaching this age, custody is given to the father.)
Elementary, junior high and high schools become sex-segregated.
1983 The Majles passes the “Islamic Punishment Law” stating that 74 lashes are required for any woman who fails to adhere to strict hejab. For the first time after the revolution, the Oom seminary, a prominent and legendary religious training center, admits over 400 women with secondary school education.
Seminars are held to ensure a unified interpretation of civil laws.
Zan-e Ruz discusses the necessity of having multiple interpretations of sharia. In the same year, legislation is passed to grant special loans to poor men and women who want to get married. This fund, organized by Bonyad-e Shahid (the Martyrs’ Foundation, which deals with matters related to veterans of Iran-Iraq war) in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, aims at easing the costs of marriages.
Siqeh (temporarymarriage) becomes legal, according to Khomeini’s fatwas. (According to current Iranian law, marriage can be either permanent or temporary. In permanent marriage, no duration is specified. According to article 1075 of the civil code, temporary marriage, siqeh, can last for a specified period of time. In siqeh, the wife has to leave the husband’s house as soon as the period of their siqeh is over, or if the husband waives his right to the remaining portion of the specified period. In siqeh, the wife is not entitled to any financial support, or inheritance, from the husband.)
A bill is drafted by the Majles Committee on Health and Welfare concerning the status of “unprotected women” (widows, etc.). The bill puts pressure on the state to help widowed women be self-sufficient. It is not enacted until 1987.
A special patrol is organized to deal with violations of hejab in the streets. These violations include showing of women’s hair, wearing lipstick, etc.
Four women are elected to the Second Majles (1984-1988): Gohar-ol Sharieh Dastgheib, from Tehran. Education: M.A. A’tefeh Rajai, from Tehran. Education: sixth grade. Maryam Behruzi, from Tehran. Education: sixth grade. Marzieh Hadidchi (Dabagh), from Tehran. Education: sixth grade.
1985 The Women’s Religious Studies Center, also called the Society of A]-Zahra, is opened in Qom. This is the first time the holy city of Qom allows a religious center for women. On the whole, in all institutions of higher education, many subjects remain closed to women. These majors include mining-engineering, management, and other professions considered inappropriate for women.
The Majles passes a law giving the Special Courts total power over rights of custody. Now, if they rule that the father is incapable of having custody, the mother can have full custody of the children. The laws regarding family matters are gradually shifting back to the Family Protection Law of 1967.
Khomeini gives a speech about the necessity of women’s participation in the Iran-Iraq War. The Society of AI-Zahra in Oom calls for a mass mobilization of women in support of his call. Even though women never participate in any combat, this gesture has symbolic significance.
1986 The Women’s Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran is founded by Zahra Mostafavi (Khomeini’s daughter). In 1969 its bylaws are passed by the government.
The Revolutionary Guards Corps, an Islamic military organization of volunteers, announces its program of military training for women. It begins by admitting 500 volunteer women.
1987 The bill drafted in August 1983 concerning the status of “unprotected women” is enacted. The government improves the pension allowance of the-widows of state employees who were killed in the Iran-Iraq War, to equal the husband’s last paid salary.
The Women’s Social and Cultural Council is set up in order to make policy recommendations regarding women.
1988 Khomeini announces the end of the eight-year war with Iraq. Three women are elected to the Third Majles (1988-1992): Gohar ol-Sharieh Dastgheib, from Tehran. Education: M.A. Marzieh Hadidchi (Dabagh), from Tehran. Education: sixth grade. A’tefeh Rajai, from Tehran. Education: sixth grade.
June 4, 1989
A bill is introduced in the Majles to transfer the power of divorce from the husband to the Special Civil Court (as stated in the Family Protection Law). Men’s absolute right to divorce is left intact, but divorce registration now requires the permission of the Special Civil Court. Men are required by law to provide a sound argument to the court, which the court can reject if it does not comply with sharia. The result is to give women greater power over marriage contracts.
1990 Four years after its founding, the Women’s Committee of the Islamic Republic of Iran publishes its first magazine, Neda (The Calling), which deals with women’s legal rights in an Islamic framework. Its founding editor (who remains in the post to date) is Khomeini’s granddaughter, Fereshteh A’rabi. Editorial Board: Ashraf Borujerd, Sadiqeh Moqaddasi and A’zam Noun.
Zanan (The Women) begins publication. Editor: Shahla Sherkat.
9 women are elected to the Fourth Majles (1992-1996): Fakhr Taj Amir Shaqaqi, Tabriz. Education: B.A. Fatemeh Homayun, Tabriz. Education: B.A. Maryam Behruzi, Tehran. Education: sixth grade. Parvin Salehi, Tehran. Education: M.A. student. Nafiseh Faiyyaz Bakhsh, Tehran. Education: M.A. Manijeh Nobakht, Tehran. Education: M.A. Marzieh Vahid-Dastierdi, Tehran. Education: M.D. (in April 1998, this representative is active in drafting a proposal to have hospitals and medical institutions comply with sharia through the segregation of sexes. This plan is heavily criticized for financial reasons by doctors and health professionals and is finally rejected on those grounds.) Akhtar Derakhshandeh, Kermanshah. Education: B.A. and Qadiseh A’Iavi, Mashhad. Education: M.D.
The Majles passes a law allowing women to become legal consultants in the Special Family Courts and Administrative Justice Courts. Women still cannot be judges.
Shahla Habib and Ma’sumeh Ebtekar are appointed organizers of the Iranian delegation to the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. They conduct the first meeting of all-women NGOs in Tehran in preparation. Total of 15 Iranian women’s NGOs are recognized by the Beijing Conference coordinators. (Some of these were formed only for the purposes of attending the conference and were soon abolished.)
305 women announce their candidacy for the Mailes. 179 of these women are approved by the Council of Guardians to run in the election. The Judiciary branch announces the employment of 100 female legal consultants.
The Fifth Majles elections take place. 179 women and 2,751 men compete for 290 seats. Fa’ezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani (the daughter of President Rafsanjani) gains the second highest number of votes.
14 women are elected to the Fifth Majles (1996 2000): Fa’ezeh Hashemi, Tehran. Education: M.A. Fatemeh Ramazanzadeh, Tehran. Education: M.D. (gynaecologist). Soheila Jelodarzadeh, Tehran. Education: B.S. (Engineering). Fatemeh Karrubi, Tehran. Education: sixth grade. Marzieh Vahid-Dastjerdi, Tehran. Education: M.D. (gynaecologist). Nafiseh Faiyyaz Bakhsh, Tehran. Education: M.A. Qadsleh A’Iavi, Mashhad. Education: M.D. Marzieh Sadiqi, Mashhad, Education: M.A. in Engineering. Elaheh Rastgu, Malayer. Education: M.A. Shahrbanu Amani-Anganeh, Orumieh. Education: M.A. student. Marzieh Dabagh, Hamadan. Education: sixth grade. Zahra Pishgahi-Fard, Isfahan. Education: Ph. D. Nayereh Akhavan-Bita’rf, Isfahan. Education: B.A. Monireh Nobakht, Tehran. Education: M.A.
The first public sports event with women athletes takes place.
The first women’s sports magazine is published. Editor: Seyyed Mohammed Safizadeh. The international human rights organization Human Rights Watch gives an award to lawyer Shirin Ebadi for her efforts on behalf of women and children’s rights in Iran. She is the founder of the Iranian non-profit Children’s Rights Committee.
Mohammad Khatami is elected president. Women vote for Khatami in great numbers.
A bill is passed concerning women’s part-time work. Due to their domestic duties, women can now work 6 hours and get paid for 8 hours.
Khatami selects Zahra Shoja’i as his consultant on women’s issues. The hardliner Ayatollah Mazaheri objects to Iran joining the United Nations’ Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women because it does not comply with sharia.
For the first time since the revolution, women in great numbers enter Azadi stadium to watch and encourage the Iranian soccer team in a game with the Australian team. They break down the gates and force their entry into the stadium despite the security guards’ presence.
1998 A number of opposition figures in Iran are mysteriously killed. The first among them are Parvaneh Foruhar and her husband Dariush Foruhar, members of the National Party of Iran. A fundamentalist militia group called Fadaiyan-e Navvab claims full responsibility for the killings. Some from the hardline Islamic faction of the regime announce that these dissident writers killed were “enemies of Islam.” Tension escalates between various factions of the regime. Independent newspapers play a major role in pressuring government officials to find and punish the murderers.
A bill concerning women’s work hours is passed, in which, in recognition of their responsibilities to the family, 1) women working full time may, with the permission of their boss, work three-quarter time and have it considered full-time; and 2) women working part-time are protected by law from losing maternity and other benefits.
In Civil Code 1082, Mehrieh, the sum paid by the groom to the bride upon divorce or death of the husband, is amended so that the payment reflects inflation and its real value at the time of marriage. Civil Code 1173 passes in Majles, requiring a female legal consultant to be present in the court during child custody cases.
Two provocative amendments are proposed to the Majles:
1) Any instrumental use of women’s pictures that denies them “their dignity granted by Islam” is strictly forbidden in publications, movies and other media. An aim of this bill is to restrict new press freedoms created after the election of Khatami. It passes.
2) The bill proposing sex-segregation of hospitals and health clinics is reintroduced. Again it does not pass; the Council of Guardians rules it out because it is too expensive to enforce.
Saïd Mohsen Saïdzadeh, a well-regarded cleric and a graduate of Qom seminary, presents an alternate interpretation of sharia, criticizing the proposed amendments on the grounds that they are in fact against Islamic law. He is imprisoned two months later.
Meymanat Chubak, a legal consultant, is appointed by the head of the legislative branch, becoming the first woman to hold such a high position in the courts.
1999 After 21 years, Iran holds its first municipal elections, putting an estimated 190,000 officials into office.
After the newspaper Salam is closed down by the state for its provocative statements regarding the killing of dissidents, a riot breaks out at the University of Tehran. The state-controlled media-reports that, one, student is killed and marry, are wounded. The, student coalitions, however, dispute the given figures.
Zanan reports that 57.2% of those admitted to the universities are women.
February 18, 2000
Elections are held for the Sixth Majles, with 5,723 candidates participating. Iranians come to the polls in unprecedented numbers: 84% of the eligible population vote. Of these candidates, 417 are women. Jamileh Kadivar, a reformist woman candidate, comes second in the list of elected candidates in Tehran. Women elected to the Sixth Majles and their rankings in the election results, as of the count on this date: Tehran: Soheila Jelodarzadeh (#9), Vahideh Alai Taleqani (#14), Elaheh Kulayi (#18), Fatemeh Haqiqatju (#19), Fatemeh Rakei (#24). Shiraz: Tahereh Rezazadeh Isfahan: Akram Mosavvari-Nejad Mashhad: Fatemeh Khatami.
March 1, 2000
More than 600 female medical students of the all female University of Qom protest in front of the Ministry of Health in Tehran. The protesting students claim that they are deprived of proper medical training because there are not enough female doctors to teach them. The hardliners, however, claim that the University of Qom medical school for women has served as an ideal example of an Islamic institution, since it trains female doctors and all of their patients are women.
March 8, 2000
Following the election of several liberal women to the Majles, there is debate about female representatives’ proper hejab. Should women representatives wear chador (a long cloth covering the whole female body except the face), or is proper Islamic dress” (a scarf and a long dress) enough?
The first gathering of women since the revolution to celebrate International Women’s Day takes place in Tehran.
April 23, 2000
In an attempt to crush the reformists, the judicial branch of the government shuts down at least 12 reformist publications. These publications are: Asr-e Azadegan, Aban, Azad, Arya, Aftab-e Emruz, Arzesh, Iran-e Farda, Bamdad-e Nu, Payam-e Azadf, Payarn-e Hajar, Fatheh, and Gozaresh-e Ruz. (Many of these newspapers and journals were used as the sources for this chronology.)
May 27, 2000
Six more news publications are closed, bringing the total to 18. The Sixth Mailes opens with 70% reformists, 25% conservatives and 5% independent candidates having been elected. This result comes after many recounts of the vote by the Council of Guardians. Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was first ranked as 30th on the list of candidates elected from Tehran, and was one of only two conservative candidates elected from that city, is moved up to the 20th place on the list. Shortly after student demonstrations, Rafsanjani resigns, leaving the Majles with only one conservative representative from Tehran.
References Paidar, Parvin. Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-century Iran. UK Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Periodicals published in Iran: Asr-e Azadeghan, Fatheh, Jense-Dovom, Mosharekat, Iran, Keyhan, Neda, Zanan, Zan-e Ruz.
Reproduced with permission from the author and from Social Research. This paper was published earlier in Social Research, Vol. 67, No.2, Summer 2000.