On the Campaign for Abolition



On the  Campaign for Abolition of All Gender Based Misogynist Legislation

and Islamic punitive Laws in Iran

Raha Jazayeri


The following is a partial text of the speech which was delivered in number of places in Europe by a supporter of the March 8th Organization (Iran-Afghanistan) in order to promote the Frankfort – Deng Hague march (March 4 to March 8, 2006) of the  Campaign for Abolition of All Gender Based Misogynist Legislation and Islamic punitive Laws in Iran.


Greetings to all   

Thank you for giving your time tonight to hear my talk on the Campaign for Abolition of All Gender Based Misogynist Legislation and Islamic punitive Laws in Iran.  This Campaign had been launched by diverse forces and individuals of the women’s movement of Iran including the March 8th Women’s Organisation (Iran- Afghanistan).   


One of the high points of this Campaign is a very exciting march which will last 5 days from March 4 till March 8; it will start from the city of Frankfort and end in the city of Den Hague in the Netherlands. This 5 days march aims at opening the eyes of the progressive people in Germany and Holland as well as in the world to two very important points: first, to the horrendous oppression of women in Iran. And second, to the fact that women in Iran are fighting back and are the most dynamic factor of change in Iran, that we do not need and want the Western powers to come to “liberate” us. In the past 3 years we have seen how they have “liberated” women of Afghanistan and Iraq! We are fighting with our native enemy but we do not intend to push out one enemy from the door in order to allow another one to come in from the window. We have a clear eye about our local and international enemies. We understand couple of things about power relations in this world we live in. We understand couple of things about how different right wing forces can clash with each other, and while clashing they always try to use the suffering of the masses of people in order to make them foot soldiers of their reactionary agenda. We women of Iran will neither side with Islamic Republic regime in Iran nor with the Western powers in their clash of interests. We do not intend to become foot soldiers for power centres. We are fighters for our own interests and cause. We are building our own independent voice and force. I want to ask you to stand with us and strengthen this independent pole – the third pole, as we may call it. We are fighting an uphill battle. We need the people of the world to stand with us. We do not consider international power centres our friends but we need friends. It is the people of the world especially the progressive forces who are our friends. That is why we want to march in the streets.   


This was a short introduction to the content of my speech tonight. I want to cover several themes: One, the “Iran case” as presented in the Western media. Two, I will inform you of the fundamental, civil and punitive laws in Iran in order to show what kind of power relations the women of Iran are captives of. And finally, I will try to convince you that why it is a task for the progressive forces in the West to build up and strengthen the revolutionary women’s voice and make it the recognised voice of women and people of Iran in the world.


I will aim to explain the importance of the upcoming march in relation to this whole thing. I will aim to convince you that why it is important to give us a hand in order to make this march a resounding victory for women of Iran and the whole Middle East. Together we should make it such a big victory that would fill the hearts of our friends with joy and make the local and international enemies of women of Iran to take note.


Iran Case as Presented in the West


All of you are familiar with the current news about Iran. Every night the televisions show the pictures of modern nuclear facilities of Iran. On the other hand they show George Bush and Merkel and Chirac, etc who frighten us of a monster who is about to be equipped with a bomb. But the only country in the history of humanity who has dropped bombs and killed tens of thousands of people has been the US itself. The only country in the Middle East who has a bomb is Israel. And recently US signed a contract with India to provide India with modern technology for its nuclear bomb facilities. So we know this is a big hypocrisy exactly like their claims before military invasion of Iraq that Sadam Hussein possessed the weapons of mass destruction. We know that this kind of publicity is a preparation to possible military attack on Iran which will bring tremendous suffering to the peoples of Iran and will be a tremendous crime against the people of Iran and not something against the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.   


But this is not the only hypocrisy about Iran. In this picture the people of Iran do not exist! Where are the people? For them people don’t exist and don’t have a say. They are only the victims to be foot soldiers for this or that reactionary agenda. From the point of view of people of Iran, especially women, the Islamic Republic regime is horrible but not for the reasons that the Western powers and media want us to believe. The Islamic regime itself has been like a bomb which exploded right in the midst of the people, especially on the heads of the women of Iran. The Western media has never launched a public opinion awareness campaign around the ongoing brutality of the regime against the peoples of Iran, especially women, in the last 27 years. In the Iran case the people of Iran are absent. Every day women are arrested for minor matters such as the way they dress in the public. Women are on the death row because they had lovers not approved by the Shariia inspired state law. But all this does not exist for the Western media. The Western powers tell the people of the West that the IRI is bad because it does not serve their interests enough. It is bad because it is clashing with them. It is bad because it is a threat for them. So what about 70 million people who live in Iran? What about its relation with the 35 million women in Iran? What about thousands of political prisoners who were executed in the last 27 years in Iran. And why there was no hue and cry in the West for all these crimes? The IRI has written into law that women’s worth is half of men and they must be subordinate to men. But have ever the Western media or the Western powers or the UN protested the conditions of slavery of women in Iran? No. hell no. because they think the regimes in the ME should rule over their subjects just like this in order to ensure stability for big powers to come and exploit riches of these lands.   


For the Western media the women of Iran do not exist. Therefore, their suffering at the hands of Islamic Republic regime does not exist. We don’t exist. The Western powers clash with the Islamic Republic regime over controlling the wealth and politics of Iran. So the Western media do not have interests in airing the concerns of the peoples of Iran. They care about things not people. They care about oil and business not people.  


So we say: Yes the IRI is a criminal regime but not because of phoney reasons of the Western powers. Not because it is clashing with the Western powers for its own reactionary interest to stay in power. This regime is criminal because it has made the women slaves of men and it has made peoples of Iran slaves of the World Bank and IMF and greed of the globalised capitalism.   


Yes this regime must be overthrown. But not by the Western powers but by its victims. Who are its victims? They are the women of Iran, the workers and peasants and intellectuals, the oppressed nationalities.   


The reactionary regimes must be overthrown by the people of those countries. If those people don’t change these regimes for the better, no one else can. That is not difficult to understand. The imperialist powers can never change things for the better. That also has been proven in Iraq case. We all have eyes to see. We expect that the people of the US push the regime of Bush out of power. We say that we need a regime change by the people both in Iran and in the US.


State of Women in Iran: A shocking View


So let us talk about women of Iran, their sufferings and their struggles. I know that some of the things which I will explain here will be very depressing for you. Emotionally it is difficult to go through these horrendous things. But the women in Iran actually experience it. So I request that you bear with me. This is important to understand the extremely reactionary nature of the Islamic Republic regime.   


27 years ago the IRI took over power form the Shah’s regime in Iran. In this way the revolution of the people against the monarchy and the US imperialism transformed into a counter revolution.   Ayatollah Khomeini the leader of IRI issued his first important decree against women! On March 7 1979 (3 weeks after coming to power) he announced women have to wear Hijab which is complete cover of the hair. This decree shook women deeply. This decree on the dress code of women was a clear proclamation that he intends to take back the society as a whole. It was pronouncement of the future social relations in Iran in which women would be slaves to men.  


This was breath-taking and shocking. And it did shake women in Iran. Women took to the streets shouting we did not make revolution to go backwards!  


In the face of this outpouring of protest and anger, Khomeini took back his decree and waited a little longer and then step by step advanced. Women were organising and fighting back but that was not enough to prevent the Islamic regime from advancing and consolidating. At the same time the Islamic regime started to open other fronts of attack against the people. Against the Kurds, the workers and against the student movement. It was like Hitler regime who started with the communists and social democrats and eventually came for every body else. A theocratic fascist regime was consolidated in Iran. At the heart of this fascist theocracy lies the slavery of women.   In order to make a clear that how that is the case let us look at the laws in Iran.           


The body of Laws in any society is an expression of power relations or social and economic relations in that society. Laws talk about rights and lack of rights and punishments.


Fundamental Law; Civil Law; Penal Law in Islamic Republic of Iran


We all know that women are oppressed and considered second class citizens even in Europe. But what would you say if in the Fundamental Laws (or Constitution) of a country it is written that woman must obey man? And in it’s Civil Laws this subordination is spelled in details of everyday life such as marriage, attending university, traveling and working, etc? And what would you say if in its Penal Laws punishment for violation from this subjugation is spelled out in unmistakable details and clarity? You would say women are not just second class citizens. They are slaves! And you would be right. Welcome to Islamic Republic of Iran.  


This situation existed in traditional relations in the society and in the backward thinking of the people. But since 27 years ago the IRI codified this situation in its laws. These laws are inspired by Sharia of Islam: which means literal reading of Koran, Hadith or sayings of Mohammed and other prophets of Islam and traditions of early days of Islamic rule. These Islamic laws, in fact, have their roots in the laws of Roman Slave Empire within which head of family owned its children and wives and slaves.


Fundamental laws


Body of law in Iran has 3 parts: The Constitution or the fundamental law, civil law and penal law which in Iran is called Islamic punitive laws. This body of law is a feudal adaptation of modern law in the capitalist countries. By this I mean it has taken the form and many aspects of the Western law and filled it with Islamic sharia which codified the Arabian society of 14 centuries ago and itself was an Islamic version of the Old and New Testament of Bible.  


The most important section in the Constitution which is the mother and source of other anti women laws is that it says no law in land can contradict Islam and that Islam is the source of laws in Iran. There are many pronouncements on women in Koran but the most important one which sets the frame for others is the famous NESSA verse of Koran:“


Men have domination over women and the right to police them—this is because God has assigned supremacy of some over others and because men should use their property to maintain (i.e., feed and cloth….-translator’s note) women. Therefore, proper and obedient women are those women who in the absence of their husbands guard the rights of their husbands and keep those things that God has ordered to- and those women whom you fear their disobedience and opposition, first preach to them, if they continued their disobedience avoid sleeping with them, and if they still continued their disobedience, beat them. If they obeyed you, then you don’t have any right to oppress them because god is great and merciful.” (My translation from Farsi version of Mehdi Elahi Ghomsheii)  


If you look at the Bible you can see similar order. According to bible children disobeying their parents, women who commit adultery, and victims of rape who don’t resist sufficiently against the rape, all deserve to be executed. All three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are similar in this respect. They have copied each other.  


In the introductory section of the IRI Constitution woman is defined as mother who should bring up Islamic children. (what happens to non Moslem mothers!? And women who are not mothers?!) In Islamic constitution woman only exists in relation to their fathers, husbands and children. She is not a citizen among citizen. She is an especial category. A house slave and a property!


Civil Law  


This is supposed to explain the rights. But in fact for women it is a body of codes of conduct and lack of rights. If the civil law is not observed then the Islamic Punitive Laws take care of those who violate it. Let us take a look!  


Slavery of woman begins from childhood. According to law number 1041, the female gender child can be married off as young as 9 years old by her father or the father of her father. Because according to number 1180 the children belong to father and paternal grand father. According to number 1043, “if a virgin wants to marry even if at the age of adulthood has to obtain the permission of father or paternal grand father.”  


These laws perpetuate child slavery and sexual abuse of female gender children. Because the owner father and grand father can sell their baby girls as they wish. Because men with money can buy these baby girls as their wives since according to Civil Law men can obtain as many as 4 wives. During the latter years of  the Shah’s regime the age of marriage was raised to 16 and then to 18 but still the practice went on because of influence of age old traditions. The Islamic Republic re-introduced 9 years old which is outright child slavery but no international agency (more so the United Nations) never objected this legal crime. Have you ever heard Germany threatening Iran for such child brutality with trade sanctions? Never!   


According to number 1105, man is the head of the family. Number 1005 and 1114 says the man has the right to choose the living place of the family and wife should follow his decisions. Number 1117 says wife can work with the permission of husband. According to law number 498, abortion is illegal and a crime.


But look at this one: law number 1108 states that the wife must obey sexual needs of the husband or else the man can cut off her food and clothing allowances—i.e., he is allowed to starve her. So you can see that according to law the husband has bought a sexual slave and has the right to deal with the wife as such. Man can beat, rape the wife and claim the right to do so because according to law the wife has the duty to fulfill his sexual desires. According to law this is one the main roles and tasks of any wife. A friend who was working in a hospital explained that one day a 20 years old woman was brought to their hospital. Both legs crippled. Why? The 60 years old husband was raping her all the time from the back and she could not complain because he was using his lawful rights. As a result of fissures in her back she had contracted infection. The infection had damaged her bone marrow and made her crippled.   


As you see in Iranian law women almost don’t have any rights. They only have tasks. Does that sound familiar to those who know history of slave society?  


Look at one of the rights they have. Women have the right to inherit from husband something (as much as one eight share of his non estate wealth) BUT the law number 945 says if “he dies before entering into her she can not inherit anything.” 


Woman’s rights and tasks are defined according to sexual services to man and motherhood. A mother, if divorced, does not have any right over her children including the right to bring them up. She has to leave without children because according to 1180 father and paternal grand father are the custodians of the children. Therefore even if there is no divorce but the husband dies, the children are taken away by the grand father. This is one of the most heart wrenching stories happening daily in Iran.  


For the wife to travel she has to obtain written permission of the husband. She has to beg and bribe him to make him to do it. This is another yoke that the law has given to man to enable him to police woman as a household slave.   


This is a private property relation as it exists in aslave-feudal societies.

What happens if women do not observe this civil code? There is the horrifying Islamic Punitive Laws. It has sprung out right out of the dark ages.


Islamic Punitive laws  


According to number 630 of the IPLs, “if a man finds his wife in sexual act with another man he can kill both there.” No bureaucracy required! During the Shah’s regime this law was under General punishment laws of civil law number 179.   


Since according to Civil Law and Shariia, wife is the property of husband, if she sleeps with other men, in fact unlawfully she has transferred the property of her husband to another man. Therefore she must be punished severely and the husband can act as judge and executioner at the same time.  


Another thing that the IPLs do is to put value on lives of men and women and body parts. According to its price list, the life of a woman costs half of that of a man. This pricing has become necessary because the Islamic Republic regime recognises and practices a special kind of Islamic punishment based on Vengeance (Ghesas). According to number 300 of the penal law if a man kills another man, the family of the victim can call for vengeance. In this case the state executes the murderer. But instead of vengeance they can settle for a payment equivalent of 1000 sheep. But if the victim of murder is a woman, what would happen if her family wants to call for vengeance? They should pay the murderer equivalent of 500 sheep to be able to have him executed because the life of a woman costs half of that of the man.   


In the same manner the law have put a price tag on every body part. When we compare the price tags we find out that the whole life of woman is less worthy than the “left testicle” of a man! (Islamic Punitive Law number 435)  

What do you call a society with this kind of relations among the human beings? With these kinds of laws in the land what kind of relations do you think exist in the families?  


According to number 638 of IPL the women who come to public view without having Islamic dress code, specifically head cover, they would be arrested and jailed. In order to get out of prison the male relatives should go and get them out. This law makes male relatives the policemen of women, as the Nessa verse of the Koran has said so. But since we are in 21st century, the men do not tend to act like what the Koran or the Islamic Republic law says. In order to make them act like that, there has to be force of coercion. That is how the Islamic Republic makes people act among themselves according to its oppressive and brutal laws.   


There is a vast police apparatus just for women. Police patrols all the time to catch women violating Islamic code of behaviour. All this has been engineered to make women like sheep. Make them coward and obedient. It is more than a hell. All state plus men against you.  

Punishment of women who are unfaithful to their husbands is especially brutal: it is through stoning. Recently they stoned a young woman right in front of her 4 years child. The child went nuts.   


Islamic Punitive Laws especially takes to heart the sexual interests of men. There are about 700 penal laws and 1000 civil laws which in one way or another have to do with codifying and excreting certain sexual relations among men and women. That is why a lot of women call the Islamic Republic of Iran a “penis regime.” 


Men have the right to take 4 wives and as many temporary wives at the same time. But women should not violate the private property of husband and if they do so they will be stoned to death. If a girl is raped by a man her male family members can kill her in order to clean their “honour”. Usually the rapist receives minor or no punishment.  


These laws represent and codify a certain type of exploitative and oppressive social relations who has existed before the Islamic Regime too but the Islamic regime integrated religion and state more than before and enforced this hell bound relations ten folds. Therefore, our struggle against these laws is in fact a struggle to upturn these social relations and prevent any future social relations resembling these. We understand that this is a difficult and bloody battle because the guardians and beneficiaries of these relations will not let go easily. But our lives as women are already a hell and our deep interest lies in overthrowing this regime and the system that it is perpetuating and enforcing.  


We warn our sisters in the USA of a similar thing happening there. The US government, which is now under dominance of the Christian fundamentalist forces, have systematically stamped out the rights of women. The theocratic attempts of the Bush regime to totally abolish the abortion right and other misogynist measures smell the Ayatollahs in Iran. Just imaging if the Mosaic laws such as Leviticus 20:13 become the law in the US, which says:  «If a man lie with a man, as he would with a woman, they both commit abomination: they shall be put to death.»  


You might think this is not possible. But have you heard the US army general William Boykin saying that: God has sent Bush! Have you heard right wing pastors talking about «reclaiming America for Jesus Christ» or bringing «the rule and reign of the cross to America,» (pastor D. James Kennedy, and Bishop Harry Jackson) whose religious sermons are filled by the US senators and congressmen and Bush administration members?   


Some in the US may be thinking, ‘there’s no way these lunatics in the US could gain enough influence or power to actually carry out a theocratic regime’. I should remind that a lot of people within the revolutionary movement in Iran thought the same in the wake of seizure of power by the Ayatollahs in 1979.    


In any case the women of Iran have every reason to say: we neither want Ayatollah Khamenii (the spiritual leader of the IRI) nor Ayatollah Bush!  


Women of Iran have resisted and fought against these oppressive conditions since day one of Islamic Republic regime. They have not been obedient house slaves. Today majority of the student enrolment in the university system are female. Young women have involved in love affairs. They have resorted to illegal abortion as well as restoring their “virginity” by surgical practices. They have stepped out of the red line of Islamic dress codes. They have escaped home and the yoke of patriarchy. They have ventured mountains and joined the rebel groups beyond the borders. No obedient and proper girls. Women have rebelled in many forms. They have defied laws, prisons, and executions. The tales of this resistance should inspire all women of the world to stand up to powerful forces, not matter how brutal they are.   




I come to conclusion of my talk. I strongly suggest to you to support our Campaign against the anti women laws and concretely help make this great march from Frankfort to The Hague a big victory.  


The development of the general situation in Iran has made it possible and necessary for the struggle of women take a higher form and become more united, more on the offensive and more organized. The Campaign’s call for the abolition of these laws and its overall stand has the potential to unite the majority of the women while at the same time targeting the heart of the religious regime. The success of this campaign can be a strong blow to the IRI since it targets the very foundations of this theocratic state. Furthermore, since these laws have their roots in centuries-old traditions, the struggle against them is a struggle against these traditions and the prevailing social relations they are based on. And this would encourage women and the whole society to fight for higher goals. The other important aspect of this campaign is that it calls for the unity of the masses of women, relying on themselves and on the people and not on the imperialists. It is important to emphasize this because the Bush regime in the USA has declared that it seeks to liberate the women of the Middle East from the yoke of Islamic fundamentalism. This is a ridiculous claim that makes a mockery of real liberation and is an insult to the women of the Middle East.  


On the other hand, an important section of  progressive people in the West who are against the US-led occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq are hesitant to actively promote the struggle of the peoples of Iran and specifically women’s struggle against the Islamic regime for fear of helping the US build a case for invading Iran. This is exactly the trap that the US government has laid for these progressive forces. It is very important to grasp that there is a third pole which represents the genuine interests of the women of Iran against both Islamic Republic regime and imperialist powers. It is an anti-imperialist task to strengthen this pole.    


By supporting this march you are supporting the struggle of women in Iran for their liberation. BUT you also step into a bit battle. Because today as a result of criminal agenda of the Western powers especially the US, Iran is becoming the eye of storm of politics of the world. The question is when the hell breaks loose around Iran, will there be a clear genuine voice representing the interests of the basic people in Iran especially women against the centers of power in Iran as well as in the world? Or the world will watch the clash of a fascist religious regime and criminal war mongering imperialist powers while the independent voice of the people of Iran is lost in the heat of this clash? This is a big challenge to the revolutionaries in Iran as well as around the world.   


I am asking: the women of Iran are standing up. Are you standing with them?