Title: Challenging Western Perceptions: A Glimpse into Women’s Lives in Iran
Iran, a historically rich country in West Asia, has often been portrayed by Western media as a nation where women face severe oppression and limited rights. However, my recent visit to Iran, particularly to Tehran and Mashhad, revealed a stark contrast between the Western narrative and the reality on the ground.
As part of the Khorsheed Media Festival, which aimed to connect women journalists and shed light on the role of women in Iranian society, I joined over 100 women from various media backgrounds to explore the true experiences of Iranian women. What I discovered was a far cry from the widely circulated tales of oppression.
The first noticeable difference was at the airport in Tehran. Contrary to Western media portrayals, I witnessed a woman without a headscarf in front of a police officer, with no harassment or reprimand. Throughout my visit, I encountered numerous women in cafes and on the streets who chose not to wear the headscarf, seemingly without facing any repercussions. While alcohol is prohibited in Iran, I also witnessed dancing, singing, and families enjoying their weekends in cafes, with several women present without headscarves.
Contrary to the perception that Iranian women lack education and agency, statistics paint a different picture. Over 57% of women in Iran were enrolled in higher education as of 2020, and the literacy rate among adult women has seen remarkable progress, increasing from 24% in 1976 to 81% in 2016. Women in Iran occupy various professional roles, including lawyers, doctors, professors, scientists, and influential members of society. They have emerged as leaders, spearheading the fight against Western propaganda that perpetuates negative stereotypes about their country.
Women in Iran have a different perspective on gender roles compared to their Western counterparts. While Western feminism often emphasizes gender equality and challenging traditional gender roles, Iranian society values the differences between men and women. Iran recognizes and celebrates the unique contributions women make to society and treats them as essential members of their families. This alternative viewpoint challenges Western notions of feminism while fostering unity and cohesion within Iranian society.
During our visit, I had the opportunity to meet President Ebrahim Raisi, who criticized the West for using women as tools to exert pressure on independent nations. He emphasized that women in Iran are not merely instruments or homemakers but are regarded as society builders who play an integral role alongside men. President Raisi also questioned the West’s approach to human rights, highlighting their disregard for the Palestinian people and their destructive occupation of Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, despite our experiences and the President’s statements, the Western narrative surrounding women’s rights in Iran remains largely unchanged. Recent incidents, such as the case of Armita Geravand, have been misrepresented by Western media to accuse the Iranian government further. However, videos released by the police show Geravand entering a metro station and being carried out by her friends after she fainted and hit her head, contradicting claims of a severe physical assault.
While there are protests and varying perspectives within Iranian society, the women I encountered expressed their choice to wear the headscarf and dismissed the notion of oppression. They actively challenge the Western propaganda surrounding their lives and strive to showcase the realities of women in Iran.
Iran is a theocratic state with its own cultural nuances that influence the perception of freedom and gender roles. It is essential to understand and respect these differences before blindly adopting Western standards as the only measure of progress and empowerment. The Islamic Revolution in Iran has resulted in significant advancements for women in various fields, including academia, culture, the military, sports, and politics. These achievements often go unnoticed or deliberately ignored by Western media.
My experience in Iran shattered preconceived notions and highlighted the importance of engaging with different cultures to gain a comprehensive understanding. It is vital that we move beyond one-sided narratives to appreciate the complexity and diversity within societies, and to challenge our own perceptions of the world.