A vicious Circle : The tragic condition of women in Iran

by Sefana Boucherit on November 4, 2014 - 7:22am


A vicious Circle : The tragic condition of women in Iran



One year ago, on April 4th, Activists of the women's movement Femen demonstrated in front of the Ahmadiyya-Moschee, which is the oldest Mosque of Berlin. "We're free, we're naked, it's our right, it's our body, it's our rules, and nobody can use religion, or any other holy thing, to abuse women, to oppress them »  said a Femen member.

And, very recently, on October 27th, three topless FEMEN “sextremist” protested in front of the Iranian embassy. They had written on their body « Fuck sharia ». They called for the absolute separation of state and religion. This is far from being the case, since state policies are based on religious principles which are particularly harsh towards women.

In Iran, there is an Islamic obligation of « propagating virtue and preventing vice », and the Persian Parliament recently passed a law which protects citizens who feel compelled to correct women and men who do not adhere to Iran's strict social laws. This kind of law leaded to extremism, since a series of acid attacks were registered across the country: acid was thrown on women who were wearing “inappropriate” hejab, and who were showing too much of the hair and face beneath.

State policies produce inequality between men and women and a relation of subordination which gives men the right and the duty to express their superiority. Thus, the public space, in Iran, is not a space of freedom, especially for women.

The persian movie, « The circle » highlights many aspects of this gender inequality. In my opinion, the most striking aspect of it is that Iranian women do not have power over their own bodies, whether for using public transport, smoking or abortion. They are totally dependent on men and it is as if they were being worked against in their actions. 

The movie represents this when, for example, every woman tried to move on with her life, but each of them met obstacles at every step. Moreover, it appeared to be a vicious circle, since at the end they ended up once again in jail. It seemed to be impossible to get out of the status of prisoner. Thus, women's condition in Iran could be qualified as tragic, because, like in the greek mythology, the protagonists can not escape their destiny.

State’s policies in Iran represent an administrative headache for women and hinder their freedom since they need the approval of their husband or father to take decisions and circulate.

Persian women are hidden and discrete. Their female bodies might be compared to a straightjacket that makes every fact and gesture uneasy.

On the other hand, Femen is known for occupying the public space in noisy and showy way. They are calling for the reapproppriation of their bodies, the right to make their own decisions and to finally get out of this vicious circle.

Morals in Iran are firmly anchored, as it was shown in the presentation held by Sabine Levet.

Also, the beginning of « The Circle » represents this with the hopelessness of the grand-mother, when her daughter gives birth to a girl. In Iran, just the fact of being a woman is almost considered as a crime.

However, the board is not entirely black in the Islamic Republic. Women have increased their visibility and public participation in Iran; in contrast to other theocracies such as Afghanistan, where women have become anything but visible. For instance, in April 2010, Iran was given a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, whose goal is "gender equality and the advancement of women."

To conclude, I think it is important that women are empowered and that gender equality is promoted. But differences among countries should not be neglected. Actions such as the ones FEMEN carry out would be inconceivable in a country such as Iranian, where other ways to raise awareness need to be found.  


It is very unfortunate that women would have to go to such extent of protesting and practicing their freedom of rights (not so much freedom) with being nude or using their body as an symbol for rights and freedom. Countries that uses theocracy as a system of governing, are only awakening the world. The only way that we can read, watch or hear about these horrific events that occur to women in countries such as Iran is through the actions of the Iranian government. For example when you have mentioned about the attacks on women by using acid. The only way for awareness to spread is through actions, desperate times call for desperate measures, if there has to be women protesting without any clothes, than let it be, the world will hear them.

About the author

My name is Sefana, I'm a student in a French selective school called "Sciences Po" where I study sciences politics, marketing/management and history. I come from Paris and I'm doing Erasmus during one year at the University of Potsdam.