It is a strange image: a woman wears dark glasses and holds a scarf to her mouth to shield her identity. She walks, head up, left arm stretched high in the air, her hand in a peace sign. Behind her is a row of men holding a green banner followed by thousands of Iranians marching in Tehran. She is leading them in a march for freedom, liberty, and democracy.
As this image illustrates, women have played a significant role in the Iranian revolution. In a country where women are subjected to horrendous cruelty, routine gender segregation, arbitrary checks from the “morality police,” surveillance and intimidation, and imprisonment and death for so called “crimes” they have not committed, it takes staggering courage for a woman to protest the thuggish regime still in power.
Stories of courage have emerged despite a media blackout in Iran. Women joining in physical confrontations with Ahmadinejad’s militia; women removing their head scarves in defiance; some even throwing rocks at government police. And then of course there is the story of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young music student shot through the heart after stepping out of her car during a traffic jam in Tehran. Neda has become a hero around the world, and a rallying cry for Iranian protestors, men and women alike. Women in Iran are emerging as a strong force for change. They are asking for expanded rights-not just women’s rights, but basic human rights for all Iranian citizens.
These women inspire of all. They remind us that many women struggle against true repression and discrimination around the world, and are fighting to rise up against it. Our hearts and thoughts are with all fighters for freedom, but special prayers go to the courageous women of Iran.