Women and Democracy in Iran: A Conversation with Professor Haideh Moghissi, Dr. Golbarg Bashi, and Ms. Nassim Noroozi, Moderated by Dr. Sadeq Bigdeli

Women and Democracy in Iran


A conversation between three panelists:

Professor Haideh Moghissi
Dr. Golbarg Bashi, and
Ms. Nassim Noroozi
Moderated by Dr. Sadeq Bigdeli.

Even though women’s voice has echoed throughout Iran’s democracy movements ever since the Constitutional Era of 1905, it has taken about a century to really shake the foundations of a male-dominant  system.  From the First Pahlavi’s forced “liberation” of women from the “scourge” of Hijab in late 1930 and the Second Pahlavi era of top-down progressive reforms of family laws in 1967 and 1975 - all of which rolled back in the 1979 Islamic Revolution – women have been subject to male-directed policies.

Yet, there seems to be a continuum with respect to women’s role in the society, which has been both positive and negative.

On the positive side, women’s participation in social life has constantly increased since the 1960s up until today. As the gender literacy gap has continually narrowed to about 6.5 in 2019, women make up about 60 percent of university classes. Despite these hopeful trends, female participation in the political and economic life of the Iranian society has remained at staggeringly low levels. The number of female MPs have not exceeded twenty at best both before and after the revolution. Women’s participation at the workforce has also remained below 20 per cent.

Whether this is due to some sort of a glass ceiling as a persisting global phenomenon, or a concrete one rooted in outright discriminatory laws specific to Islamic societies, women from all walks of life have increasingly rebelled against them all at once in the last two decades or so.

Various forms of grassroots movements for social, economic, cultural and political change have been led by leading female figures ranging from top charitable foundations and entrepreneurial organizations to the most influential political figures – from apolitical #me_too movements to everyday physical resistance to compulsory hijab.

-        What exactly happened in recent years, which brought women into the forefront of the debate about their place in the society?

-        Is it due to globalization and social media or a sign of a deeper internally determined trajectory?

-        What will be the likely role of international politicization of women’s movements? Has it empowered women or hindered their organic quest for freedom and democracy?

-        What is the role of the US economic sanctions on women’s participation in social and political life?

-        How does Iran’s women’s rights movements compare and relate to similar movements in the region? (Saudi, Egypt, Turkey, etc.)

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