Woman's violent death symbolic of the protests in Iran
by Malavika Balanchandran
The world has watched the horrific events playing out in Iran, but of all the images of the violence we have seen, the haunting image of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young Iranian women, has become the face of the turbulent events in Iran. Neda was a 27 year old student studying Islamic philosophy at the Azad University in Tehran. While not active politically, she attended the protests due to her frustration with the voting fraud in Iran. While sitting in traffic, she stepped out her car for some air (her air conditioner was not working properly), and was shot in the chest. The video of Neda, bloody and dying, has become iconic and representative of the growing opposition movement in Iran.
The 34 million women in Iran are treated as second class citizens, despite the fact that women make up 65% of university students. In addition to strict dress codes and segregation, it is very difficult for Iranian women to hold jobs in the public sector, the legal age of marriage is 13, and men may have up to four wives. Further, legally, the value of a women's life is deemed half the value of a man's life, and for most actions, women must seek permission from their husbands. However, many brave Iranian are starting to speak up. Women make up a large portion of the opposition movement, and one of the key components of the reform movement is the advancement of women's rights. Many of the images of the protests showcase Iranian women at the forefront, fighting for equal rights. An Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, Shirin Ebadi, stated in an interview with the BBC, "My hopes for Iran's future lies with women first and foremost and then with young people. Iran's feminist movement is very strong. This movement has no leader or head quarters. It's place is the home of every Iranian who believes in equal rights. This is currently the strongest women's movement in the Middle East."
I am moved by the brave women who are risking their lives to speak out against the oppression they have faced and continue to face. The violence stirred by peaceful protests is horrifying. I hope that one day these Iranian women will be treated with the equality and respect they are fighting for and desperately deserve.