Ali Khamenei, Iran’s “Supreme” leader has done it again. It is debatable whether he writes his own Tweets, but once more, his timeline has graced us with a glimpse into his fevered mind.

On the topic of International Women’s Day, he held a speech for a male-only audience and claimed that it is women in the west who are oppressed while women under Islamic law are the ones with true freedom.

His Twitter featured comments such as these.

Even if we cannot be entirely sure he writes these things himself, we can be fairly confident that these are his views. He shifts all blame and responsibility for sexual assault to women in his insistence that it is somehow her duty to be chaste, and modest thus ‘protecting’ herself from sexual assault. A victim can even be accused of ‘adultery’ in these cases, a term which has a much broader meaning under sharia law.

In Iran it is hard to truly know the statistics for sexual assault because women are understandably terrified of reporting it when they know they are likely to be blamed or even charged with a crime if they do.

Several years ago in Iran, a woman was sentenced and hanged for stabbing a man to death she claimed had tried to rape her. She insisted the killing was in self-defense, but the court refused to allow her any real defense or argument in the case. Her name was Reyhaneh Jabbari. She was 19 at the time of the incident, 26 when she was executed.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is guilty of many cruel injustices toward women, which is something most of us are aware of, so to see Khamenei’s outrageous, constant (some would argue pathological) lies on this and all other topics can be quite a maddening thing for many of us who have been following the recent wave of protests.

Many of the women who removed their hijabs and waved them in public protest against mandatory veiling were arrested, and word has come that one of them was just sentenced to 24 months in prison for her peaceful actions in this movement. Articles vary and it is uncertain whether this was Vida Movahed, who had become the very face of the latest hijab protest movement, or Narges Hosseini who was originally facing up to a decade in Iran’s brutal Evin Prison for the same “crime.”

It is inconceivable to most of us how these barbaric, medieval practices manage to continue in the modern world, and it is beyond imagining what suffering people are subjected to under such systems. Very few in the west would be able to comprehend living under such rigid control and threatened with such danger and violence on a daily basis, and yet this is the reality for a massive number of people across the globe.

Our western feminists protest things like the alleged wage gap, or seek to secure rights they already possess such as reproductive freedom while some even object to the taxes on tampons, viewing it as a ‘sexist’ tax.

While they accuse our own government of ‘oppression’, they do not seem to understand what the word even means.

When you live in the freest country the world has ever known, it is easy to take all of your rights and liberties for granted. You may not catch the irony as you use your right to free speech to accuse an elected official of being a tyrant via social media, or scream into a police officer’s face with impunity. You cannot realize how quickly you would have been arrested, beaten, imprisoned and tortured had you done any of the things you do on a regular basis in another country.

It is easy to forget when you face absolutely no danger in speaking your mind, or expressing yourself in virtually any way you wish. It is a very human thing to take freedom for granted, or to be a bit oblivious sometimes to the plight of others who live off your radar, but an International Women’s Day should be the time to look outside our bubble, and not a day to continue to disregard women who are denied basic human rights.

As to Khamenei’s claims that women in Iran, or under Islamic law in general are more free than women in the west, let us have another round of things that women are not allowed to do, and areas where a woman lacks rights in Iran/sharia law, and see how we stack up, shall we.

Women in Iran are not allowed to sing or dance in public. (Men are.)

Women can be arrested, flogged or imprisoned for violating modesty laws including such things as having too much hair showing or wearing nail polish. (Enforcement varies)

A woman in Iran, even in cases of physical abuse,  has a very difficult time being granted a divorce, while men need only snap their fingers to divorce a woman.

There are no concrete laws to protect women in matters of divorce or child support and custody of children.

A married woman cannot charge her husband with rape, for she is essentially property.

All women in Iran are legally required to wear the hijab and adhere to dress codes in public places, to include loose coats or other garments worn over their clothing.

Women in Iran are not paid the same wages as men and fewer women outside of larger cities are employed or even educated beyond the home.

Girls and women can be forced into marriages by their male family members.

While men are also denied the right to speak against the government, women have even less freedom to do so and are treated with more prejudice when they do.

“Honor” killings of women occur in Iran, and are rarely punished.

Women and even little girls are banned from sporting events and stadiums in most cases.

A woman’s testimony in court is always worth less than a man’s.

Khamenei argues that hijab is “immunity” from assault. He claims religious adherence and chastity keep women safe from humiliations and violence toward them.

Even in Mecca, many cases of women being assaulted during visits to their holy land (while, of course being covered virtually head-toe as one must when visiting holy Islamic sites) have been reported, so it would appear that Khamenei’s arguments are flawed and that failing to hold men accountable, all while pretending a piece of cloth will prevent them from sexually assaulting women isn’t working out too well after all.

He is either deliberately misrepresenting the rate of sexual assault in the forced-hijab world, or has created such an environment of terror that women simply don’t dare to come forward when someone has victimized them. It is likely a combination of both.

When you treat women as if they were objects or livestock, there should be no surprise when some men behave toward them accordingly, and you also cannot blame them when they have had enough and collectively rise up against the barbaric laws subjecting them to such abject cruelty.

What you can do, is throw them into brutal prisons for daring to do so, which is precisely what Khamenei does. They languish in prison while he goes to social media to espouse the freedom of women under Islamic law.

 

-Rachel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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