Tuesday

16th Apr 2024

Opinion

The fight of Iranian women is a fight against patriarchal violence

Listen to article

A month ago, the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Iran — following her arrest by the country's Guidance Patrol (the "Gašt-e eršād" also known as Iran's morality police) — triggered a national uprising. The initial outrage against the forced wearing of the veil, mostly expressed and made visible by women, quickly slid into a more general contestation of a regime that denies women their most basic rights.

The movement, which has since been joined by calls for more democracy and a political change, has been violently repressed by the authorities with Amnesty International reporting at least 240 lives lost to police violence — including 23 youth aged 11 to 17 — at the time of writing this article. And yet, women are still leading the fight with the slogan "Women! Life! Freedom!" echoing in the streets of many Iranian cities. The fight Iranian women started is a fight against patriarchal violence.

Patriarchal violence, a consequence of power structures

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Patriarchal violence is defined by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women as a collective term for the violence that is experienced throughout the world and that is rooted in the patriarchal power structures it defends. Patriarchal violence exists — in one form or another — in all countries of the Euro-Mediterranean region covered by EuroMed Rights' mandate. This patriarchal power structure dictates what women must wear, must do, must say and how they must behave.

In Iran, but more generally across the Euro-Mediterranean region, conservative and religious movements use cultural and religious arguments to dispute demands of reform from feminist and women's rights activists.

These movements, which find renewed strength in populist candidates, aim to deny women their bodily autonomy and bodily rights. They operate by restricting possibilities for women's organisations to receive funding while increasing the emphasis on women's traditional role as caretakers rather than political actors.

These conservative and religious movements reduce the relative but decisive progress achieved in some countries and in recent years by civil society following the Arab revolutions of 2011. Government crackdowns have multiplied in recent years as evidenced by the multiplicity of backlashes recorded by EuroMed Rights in Middle East and North Africa in its recently developed gender backlash map.

Patriarchal violence, a reality across the Euro-Mediterranean region

The most obvious example comes from Turkey where the withdrawal of the country from the Istanbul Convention has removed an essential legislative piece to protect women.

But backlashes against women's rights can start with smaller, less mediatised actions. In Tunisia for instance, the new electoral law adopted by a decree from conservative President, Kais Saied, drops the strict parity requirement for all electoral lists that existed in previous elections. A small decision which contributes to making women less visible on the political stage.

This comes in addition to Article 5 of Tunisia's new Constitution which compels the Tunisian state to "achieve the purposes of Islam in preserving the soul, honour, property, religion, and freedom". Many human rights organisations, including some members of EuroMed Rights, have expressed concerns that such an article could be used to restrict human rights in general and women's rights in particular.

This conservatism is at play on both shores of the Mediterranean. In Italy, abortion rights could be at risk following the election of the extreme-right coalition led by Fratelli d'Italia to the government. Georgia Meloni's party has already impeded abortion access in the region it controls, forcing many women to travel across the country to access abortion services. The election of Lorenzo Fontana, very well known for his anti-gender position, as president of the national Parliament shows the very dangerous directions Italy is taking.

From Iran to the Euro-Mediterranean region, feminist and women's rights organisations mobilise tirelessly to defend their rights and oppose any encroachment over hardly won rights. Their fight must be commended and supported by all who believe in an equality of rights for all.

The fight of Iranian women today is also the fight of all women worldwide against patriarchal violence.

Author bio

Raquel Reyes i Raventós is the coordinator of the Women’s rights and gender justice programme at EuroMed Rights. She holds a Master on Human Sciences and a Specialised master in gender studies. She has been working with several NGOs on the humanitarian and development cooperation, with experience in Latin America, South-East Asia and the Middle East and Northern Africa region.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Column

The Iranian regime's expiration date

This 'headscarf revolution' is about women's rights and human rights in general, plus police brutality. Moreover, it is a leaderless revolution that is not driven by a leader or a group, but erupted spontaneously.

EU preparing new sanctions on Russia and Iran

The EU is preparing a ninth round of sanctions on Russia as well as weighing related measures against Moscow's ally, Iran, following drone strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine.

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. EU puts Sudan war and famine-risk back in spotlight
  2. EU to blacklist Israeli settlers, after new sanctions on Hamas
  3. Private fears of fairtrade activist for EU election campaign
  4. Brussels venue ditches far-right conference after public pressure
  5. How German police pulled the plug on a Gaza conference
  6. EU special summit, MEPs prep work, social agenda This WEEK
  7. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  8. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us