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Right to choose
First protests against mandatory hijab

Compiled by Pedram Missaghi
March 7, 2000

After the fall of the Pahlavi regime in February 1979, Iran's religious leaders imposed strict rules on women's clothing in public. The following is a chronology of women's protests in the early days. From In the Shadow of Islam by Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh. See photos here. Also see video at Rahai-Zan TV.

10-11 Feb 1979
Overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtias and establishment of the first Islamic government administration under the premiership of Mehdi Bazargan.

26 Feb. 1979
Family Protection Law suspended by a letter issued by the Office of Ayatollah Khomeini. A Government spokesman later stated that the old law would remain in effect until new legislation was drafted.

3 March 1979
Issuing of decrees appointing women as judges was stopped. Qualified women were told to apply for administrative posts in the judiciary.

4 March 1979
Khomeini, in a speech addressed to thousands of women who had gone to Qom to pay him respect, said that in Islam the right to divorce is the prerogative of the husband, but women could specify in the marriage contract that in case of maltreatment by the husband they are entitled to divorce themselves.

6 March 1979
Minister of Defense, General Madani, declared that women would not be drafted into the army in future. All women serving their conscription terms were dismissed and released from military service.

7 March 1979
During a speech addressed to thousands of visitors in Qom, Khomeini said that women were not prohibited from taking jobs, but that they must wear the Islamic veil at work

8 Mach 1979
Mass demonstration of women to celebrate International Women's Day, and to protest against Khomeini's statement regarding the veil. From early hours of the morning meetings were held in girl's high schools and in Tehran University. Marches, spontaneously decided upon in such meetings, got on their way during the day , some converging on Tehran University, others going to the Office of the Prime Minister Bazargan, others heading for the Ministry of Justice. Some of the slogans of the demonstrators were: 'Freedom in our culture; to stay at home is our shame' 'Liberty and equality are our undeniable rights' ' We will fight against compulsory veil; down with dictatorship' ' In the dawn of freedom, we already lack freedom' 'Women's Day of Emancipation is neither Western, nor Eastern, it is international' 'Freedom does not take rules and regulations".

In several incidents women demonstrators were physically attacked on the streets. Revolutionary Guards fired in the air to disperse women demonstrators, estimated by the press at 15,000, from the streets around the Prime Minister's office. Many meetings, planned in advance by various women's groups on the occasion of International WOmen's Day, were held throughout the day, each drawing an audience of several thousands.

9 March 1979
Segregation of sports was proposed. Women were subsequently barred from international sports on the grounds that coaches, judges, spectators, etc. in such events include men.

10 March 1979
Further demonstrations and sit-ins against imposition of the veil. A mass meeting of women held at the Ministry of Justice. The meeting was attacked by hard-liners and women were beaten by armed men. 10 March 1979: Demonstration of women in front of the National Television, protesting against the news black-out of their demonstration and activities. Prime Minister Bazargan announced that wearing the veil is not compulsory and that Imam Khomeini's statement had been misunderstood.

11 March 1979
Even though, following Bazargan's statement, some of the women's organizations withdrew their support for the demonstration planned for this day, some 20,000 women attended the rally in Tehran University. After several speeches, women marched towards Azadi Square. Along the route the march drew support from offices, hospitals and schools. It was attacked at several points by Muslim fanatics, men and women. The final rally had to be abandoned because of the increasing number of fanatics encircling the rally point.

21 May 1979
Ministry of Education banned co-education. All educational institutions were ordered to segregate all classes. Many institutions indicated that since the number of female students alone would not justify setting up separate classes they could be unable to register any female students. In late September, when schools opened, female students of technical training schools staged a protest against de facto suspension of their studies as a result of this decision. They were told to change their courses of training to fields where there were enough female students to justify separate training courses.

3 June 1979
The Ministry of Education banned married women from attending ordinary high schools. They were told they should continue studies on their won and take part in special examinations in order to obtain final degrees. Coupled with the lowering minimum age for marriage of women to 13 years, this would mean an increase, over the coming years, in lower educational levels for women.

13 June 1979
All the day-care and nursery centers at work-places were closed and women with children were encouraged to quit their jobs and stay at home. The women employees of the Communication Corporation were threatened with mass lay-off.

8 July 1979
Several Caspian Sea resort towns initiated a sexual 'segregation' of the sea. Many women were flogged in public during the summer of 1979 on charges of swimming in the men's section.

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Rahai-Zan TV: Woman's day demonstration in Tehran, March 8, 1979

Book of the day

New Food of Life
Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
by Najmieh Khalili Batmanglij

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