Poisoned, Oppressed, Restricted: The Plight of Iranian Women.
Imagine the fear in your heart as you see your daughter go to school, not knowing whether you'll ever see your daughter alive, all while living in a country so dictatorial that the government regulates her clothing choices. This is the reality faced by many families in Iran today, as a growing number of schoolgirls fall victim to poisoning attacks, sparking a wave of protests and reigniting discussions about the role of women in Iranian society.
The Iranian dress code for all citizens has been a topic of discussion and protest for several years. The topic resurfaced after the controversial death of Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old who was arrested for violating the strict dress laws. Protests and riots were met with brutal force from the Iranian government, specifically through the ‘Guidance Patrol’ (The Islamic Morality Police in Iran).
Cameras have been installed in several public areas in cities such as Tehran and other hubs of development with the sole purpose of asserting power and establishing the perpetuity of dress laws. The footage is being used to arrest women in masses for allegedly not wearing Hijabs or wearing them incorrectly. This policy immediately attracted attention from other governments and organisations such as Amnesty International, who condemned the law as well as the arrests.
This mania of misogyny has swept Iran and is responsible for a sudden rise in health problems for schoolgirls and the unexpected deaths of thousands of girls across Iran due to natural causes or disease. These events started in November 2022 at the Isfahan University of Technology, where there were reports of sudden infections, with many students claiming to be poisoned.
The Iranian government denied any connection to this and claimed to arrest over 100 people in relation to the poisonings. No official data has been published regarding the number of casualties. The Iranian government has tallied it up to a thousand cases but five thousand is a more accurate score reported by journalists
The poisonings are believed to be the work of either the Iranian government, lashing out against the hijab protests, or of radical Islamic groups which are against the education of women. Fuel was added to fire when Iran recently shut down over 150 businesses for not obeying or enforcing the Hijab law. This has led to another round of protests in Iran, as well as in other nations such as Canada, USA, India etc.
Although high pressure has been placed on the Iranian government by several agencies, governments and organisations, it is improbable that they will reverse their policies. Alas, this is not the first time that such issues have arisen. The world has watched Iran implement totalitarian measures and yet has done nothing. Warnings doled out and pressure on the government of Iran have been futile. The government has had its way every single time as it recognizes the impuissance of such threats.
The issue of female rights and atrocities against women in Iran has been going on for several decades now, and I believe it is time for the world to demand and expect actual change. Most statements on Iran have been for publicity and public approval. For real and tangible change, bodies like the UN need to be involved, to ensure that Iran feels that it faces real consequences of disregarding international regulations.
Embargos have often worked in persuading nations to change their unfair laws and prejudices. Perhaps that could be the step forward. In Africa, the UN peacekeeping force played a major role in maintaining order in dictatorships and autocracies, and in securing human rights. A similar plan could be made for Iran as well.
The ongoing protests in Iran by women themselves is most definitely a step in the right direction. However, it is of the utmost importance that the global community works together to build off of these protests to bring about change.