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October 2, 2022 11:25 am

Women’s Rights in the Middle East: Iranian Oppression and Israeli Progression

avatar by Benjamin Amram


People light a fire during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police”, in Tehran, Iran September 21, 2022. Photo: WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Last month, a young woman was allegedly murdered by the Iranian regime in part for the crime of showing her hair. Yet as thousands of Iranians take to the streets to protest for basic freedoms, Jamal Rayyan, a Palestinian anchorman with Al Jazeera Television Network and a conspiracy theorist, told his 2.2 million Twitter followers that the international outrage over the incident was, in fact, “manufactured by Israeli intelligence.”

Here’s the real story.

On September 13, 2022, Mahsa Amini traveled to Tehran with her parents and 17-year-old brother to visit relatives. As they left a metro station, the capital’s notorious morality police detained Amini, accusing her of not covering her hair in accordance with local Islamic laws.

During the arrest, the young woman was reportedly beaten. Three days later — while still in police custody — she collapsed and passed away. In an apparent attempt to cover up the truth, the Mullah regime subsequently claimed that Amini died of a heart attack caused by pre-existing medical conditions, including epilepsy and diabetes.

But her family insists she was a healthy 22-year-old with no pre-existing health issues, and Iranian opposition groups have said that her death was likely caused by “a fracture on her skull due to heavy blows to her head.”

Indeed, pictures of Amini in the hospital show bleeding from her ear, which experts say contradicts the official version of events. Moreover, while authorities denied Amjad Amini’s requests to see his daughter’s body, he got a glimpse of her and reported she also had swollen legs.

Family members described Mahsa Amini as “very respectful and very kind, [and] good-hearted.”

Amini’s September 16 death sparked nationwide anti-regime protests, with thousands in attendance. Amongst other forms of protest, women have been burning their headscarves, cutting their hair, and demanding the dissolution of the morality police.

More broadly, protesters called for regime change, with chants like “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Death to the dictator” heard at many rallies.

In an article published last week, The Guardian outlined the progression of protests as they spread from Tehran to Amini’s hometown Saqqez — some 300 miles apart — and beyond.

The Iranian government responded in its usual fashion — by using extreme force against protesters (viewer discretion advised), arresting journalists who reported on Mahsa Amini’s death, as well as by shutting off the internet and all major applications used for communication.

The United Nations acted on September 22, issuing a strongly worded statement that condemned the violence of the Iranian regime:

We are shocked and deeply saddened by the death of Ms. Amini. She is another victim of Iran’s sustained repression and systematic discrimination against women and the imposition of discriminatory dress codes that deprive women of bodily autonomy and the freedoms of opinion, expression and belief.

Other international organizations and world leaders likewise denounced Iran’s brutal crackdown on citizens protesting for basic human rights, as guaranteed by international treaties, to which Tehran is a party.

On September 23, 2022, the US Department of the Treasury issued the Iran General License D-2. This allows American companies to offer Iranians internet connectivity “to support the free flow of information and access to fact-based information,” in spite of the sanctions imposed on the country.

Elon Musk responded to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a Twitter message posted on Friday. However, cybersecurity experts have warned that Tesla’s Starlink system might not be operational as quickly as Iranian citizens hope for due to structural and technical challenges.

Meanwhile, in his speech at the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations last week, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi lauded his government’s ostensible commitment to upholding “freedom, justice, and democracy,” while refusing to address the grave human rights abuses taking place under his authority.

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid alluded to the elephant in the room as he appeared before the assembled representatives of the nations of the world:

Iran’s regime hates Jews, hates women, hates gay people, hates the West. They hate and kill Muslims who think differently, like Salman Rushdie and Mahsa Amini. Their hate is a way of life. It is a way to preserve their oppressive rule.

Lapid reminded the world of Raisi’s brutality against his own people, the severe women’s rights violations in Iran, and why the only way to prevent the Mullahs from getting a nuclear weapon is to “put a credible military threat on the table, and then — and only then — to negotiate a longer and stronger deal with them.”

Ironically, just two months ago, the UN Economic and Social Council led by Pakistan and China voted to condemn Israel — and Israel only — for allegedly violating women’s rights. The ECOSOC resolution took advantage of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh’s tragic death to falsely claim that the “Israeli occupation [sic] remains a major obstacle for Palestinian women and girls with regard to the fulfillment of their rights.”

Never mind that since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the vast majority of Palestinians have been governed by either the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or  by Hamas — considered a terrorist group by most Western countries — in Gaza.

Hamas’ Sharia Supreme Judicial Council last year ruled that unmarried women would require the permission of a male guardian to travel.

Notably, the support for the July 2022 anti-Israel resolution came from countries with some of the worst human rights violations on the planet, including China, North Korea, and Syria.

China sends Uyghur Muslims to detention centers and tortures them in the name of “re-education,” in what the United States says amounts to genocide.

The government of North Korea is responsible for sexual abuse against girls, widespread famine, and allows zero freedom of speech.

Bashar al-Assad’s Syria arbitrarily detains citizens it deems a “threat” to the regime, including children and women. Thousands of people have died from torture in Syrian detention centers, where many young boys and girls claim to have been sexually abused.

By contrast, in Israel, women’s rights are actively protected and promoted.

According to a recent Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) report entitled “Women in Israeli Politics: 2022,” the number of female members of Israel’s parliament tripled since the country’s founding. Women currently hold 33% of all cabinet seats, and a record 36 of the current MKs are female.

Equal rights for women in the Israel Defense Forces have seen improvement as well. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of female combat soldiers has almost quadrupled. They serve in virtually all roles, from the IDF’s canine unit to pilots in the air force.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned by the United States Supreme Court this past June, paving the way for the restriction of abortion rights, Israeli media highlighted the Jewish state’s relatively lenient stance on abortion. In light of overturning Roe v. Wade, the outgoing Israeli government is reforming abortion laws further, making abortions even more accessible for those who need them.

Al Jazeera anchor Jamal Rayyan’s claims about Israeli involvement in the Mahsa Amini protest might be wrong and borderline antisemitic — but perhaps Iranian women can look to Israel as a leading example in the region when it comes to women’s rights.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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