Ebrahim Raisi: How Iran's theocratic head tightened the grip on women rights

Raisi was elected as the President of the theocratic state in August 2021 and it was only a year after his rule that the stringent law enforcement took the life of a young Mahsa Amini.
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 13:07 IST
Last Updated : 20 May 2024, 13:07 IST

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Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his delegation members were killed in a helicopter crash on Monday en route Iran from their Azerbaijan visit.

Mixed reactions have been coming after the official announcement of his death. While most people are expressing their sorrow, some people seem somewhat satisfied with Raisi’s death owing to his record of tyranny and curbing of women rights in the country.

Raisi was elected as the President of the theocratic state in August 2021 and it was only a year after his rule that the stringent law enforcement took the life of a young Mahsa Amini. Amini is a name that every Iranian, rather, every person in the world remembers. Amini lost her life at the age of 22 owing to non-compliance of the state’s “mandatory hijab” rule.

Amini belonged to the Kurdish minority and was travelling to Tehran with her family on September 13, 2022, when they were stopped by Iran’s morality police ‘gasht-e ershad’ for her non-compliance.

She was put in a van and taken to a detention camp where she was allegedly tortured. Authorities said that she was taken to a ‘re-education’ centre where women are taught about ‘proper dressing’.

She was subjected to such grave torture that she collapsed, fell into a coma and died three days later at Tehran’s Kasra hospital.

The state’s Forensic Organization however, said that Amini died not because of ‘blows to the head’ but in relation to a ‘surgery for a brain tumour at the age of eight’.

‘Hijabs burnt, hair cut’, massive movement triggered in Iran

Amini’s death sparked a massive movement in Iran. What began as a demonstration outside the hospital, quickly turned into country-wide protests.

Women burned their hijabs, cut their hair in resistance to the rigid rules made after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Protest continued for months and gradually lost momentum.

Raisi reacted to Amini’s death saying that if negligence is the cause of her death, ‘it certainly will be investigated’. He also said that Iran would ‘not tolerate chaos’ in reference to the protests.

He did not out rightly condemn protests but said, “What is occurring, having demonstrations … of course these are normal and fully accepted … We must differentiate between demonstrators and vandalism. Demonstrations are good for expressing specific issues”

A number of human rights organisations say over 500 people including over 70 minors were killed in the protest and security forces opened fire on thousands of protestors in Amini's hometown Saqqez.

Thousands of protestors were detained for protesting and most of them were released after a pardon was granted by the supreme leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei in February 2023.

What Iranian laws say about women

Iran’s regressive laws have been widely criticised. The legal age for an Iranian woman to get married is 13 and she must seek her father’s consent to get married which is contradictory to the Islamic law wherein a woman’s consent is considered of utmost importance. The court, though, has the power to override his refusal. According to a UN report, 13,000 girls aged 13 were married from March 2018-March 2019.

Men have the right to deny their wives from travelling or being employed. They also have an incontestable right to divorce while women have limited grounds for divorce and sometimes may have to forgo monetary compensation to make an agreement.

On 15 August 2022, news dress restrictions were imposed on women. It was said that government employees who posted pictures on social media which do not conform with Islamic laws will be fired from their jobs and those who post pictures without a hijab will be excluded from some social rights for up to a year.

In an effort to impose new hijab laws, Raisi introduced facial recognition in public transport and a woman died in police custody for not wearing a hijab following the introduction.

‘Hijab a legal matter’

In April 2023, a man threw yoghurt on two unveiled women in a departmental store, the video of the incident went viral. Following the circulation of the video, Raisi said that wearing Hijab is the law in Iran.

He was addressing on state television when he said, “If some people say they don't believe (in the hijab)... it's good to use persuasion ... But the important point is that there is a legal requirement ... and the hijab is today a legal matter."

While some people might be satisfied with his death, it wasn’t necessarily Raisi who denied women of their basic rights but it was the law of the land that locked women within themselves and denied them their right to liberty and freedom of expression.

Recently, Raisi had been very vocal about Israel’s war on Gaza and also launched drones towards Israel. There is a conjecture that Israel is behind his death but Israeli officials have denied any such claims. Raisi will be temporarily succeeded by his First Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber until elections are held 50-60 days later as defined by Iranian constitution.

(With Reuters inputs)

Published 20 May 2024, 13:07 IST

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