Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sign of the Times: Women Helping Lead Iranian Revolution

It's images like this seen around the world this past week that reflect the face of the opposition in Iran: Young women unafraid to appear publicly to denounce the stolen election.
To the iconography of revolution -- the man in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, young people ripping shards off the Berlin Wall -- we can now add this: the red nail polish, black eyeliner and side-swept bangs of young Iranian women.

So conservative by American standards, yet revolutionary by Iranian ones: these women, who by law can do and say and expose and adorn almost nothing, are agitating for the most basic human rights in the smallest of ways. And it is these tiny acts of rebellion that the Iranian government, which has further constricted the rights of women since the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, cannot abide.

"I do not know a single woman who is pro these laws," says a 29-year-old Iranian woman, who has lived in the US for the past 11 years. "They are not as bad as the Taliban, but it's all relative."

The women of Iran are on the verge. They are more literate and highly educated than men (63% attend university), and, as in the US, women comprise 50% of the vote. Ahmedinejad's challengers -- even Karroubi, the cleric! -- made a point of soliciting the female vote, appearing in public with their wives, or speaking to the need for more women in parliament or positions of power. Mousavi, the so-called reform candidate, shrewdly deployed his wife, political science professor Zahra Rahnavard, as a vocal campaigner. Her electrifying effect on the electorate led to comparisons to Michelle Obama.

"I really like her," says the Iranian ex-pat. "She could be very influential and help change the suppression of women. She's educated and very open-minded. A lot of people follow her."
Well, that appreciation is likely soon to wear off as Mrs. Obama is even more silent than her feckless husband.

Still, say a prayer and keep these young ladies in mind. They show far more courage than any meal-mouthed politicians who are too busy hiding under their desks while making the really tough choices.

Meanwhile, while state TV says 10 people have been killed in clashes, an Iranian-American woman this morning on Fox said she's been told as many as 200 have been killed in Tehran alone.

More on what to expect in the coming weeks from Amir Taheri.

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