Gender ghettos in Iranian universities

The Iranian people are the only force capable of ending this repressive and arrogant religious rule.

By ALIREZA KHANDEROO
July 6, 2011 23:17
4 minute read.
Iranian student walks past mannequins

Iranian student walks past mannequins. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Before the 1979 Revolution, Iran had mixed-gender schools, nightclubs and dancing, and girlsabout- town who dressed as fashionably as their counterparts in Europe.

Following the revolution, mixed-gender schools and night clubs were banned, and the hijab became compulsory for any woman living in Iran or visiting the country. Women have had to follow a very specific and restrictive set of dress codes – an anklelength chador or complete headscarf plus long overcoat are the only forms of dress accepted by the ruling clergy.

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Summer temperatures regularly reach over 40ºC (104ºF) in Iran, but women are not allowed to wear shorts or loose hijabs. Those accused of wearing “western-style” clothes, as well as women whose headscarves fit too loosely, or whose clothes fit too tightly, face humiliation, fines and arrest by the socalled morality police.

For Iranian women, the feeling of wind blowing in their hair is something they can only dream about since the Islamic clergy came to power.

Actresses must wear veils even when portraying indoor activities, such as sharing a meal or sleeping.

Well, you get this ridiculous picture.

Getting rid of the full veil is a way for Iranian women to show their protest against the chains their government has imposed on them. That is because the hijab has become, in effect, a symbol of the Islamic Revolution. Rejecting it means rejecting the social and political restrictions imposed by the government.



In the streets, Iranian girls stay just within the law, while affirming no commitment to the values of the revolution. Especially during the summer, they cross the regime’s red line on hijabs. As a result, the hijabs get skimpier. To show a broad band of hair, scarves in vivid colors are tilted back at flattering angles. The sleeves and hems of the fashionable dress tunics (known as manteau) are cropped shorter in order to expose wrists, forearms and legs. Blonde highlights, beehives, carefully coiffed fringes, manicured nails, and narrow jeans that reveal body curves complete the sexy protest.

The combination of enforced hijab-wearing and gender segregation is used to limit political freedom and possible civil protest inside the universities.

The government demands female students wear chador and enter through gender-segregated doors.

The Islamic Republic’s authorities enforced gender segregation in all Iranian primary and secondary schools following the revolution of 1979, claiming that gender mixing “causes moral corruption” and distracts students. Nonetheless, in universities, male and female students attend class together, albeit in separate rows of chairs divided by curtains.

NOW THE Ahmadinejad administration aims to enforce gender segregation in universities as well by implementing gender ghettos inside the universities there.

Gender segregation in universities was first suggested in 2009 by Hojatoleslam Nabiollah Fazlali, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly claiming that mixed-gender universities have dangerous consequences, since placing male and female students in the same class is like “putting meat in front of a cat.”

This suggestion was warmly supported by Iran’s higher education minister, Kamran Daneshjoo, this year as he ordered a study to gauge the feasibility of enforcing gender segregation when the academic year starts in September. But on July 5, he retreated and postponed the gender-segregation plan, fearing that it may cause massive protests inside the universities just before parliamentary elections.

The Islamic regime’s policies on social and civil rights in Iran are so oppressive that they have made Islam hateful to many Iranians. Risking their very lives, some choose to convert to Christianity, Baha’ism, and even atheism.

Despite all the threats and intimidation by regime officials, streets in Tehran and Iran’s major cities are in the hands of the Iranian people.

Millions of disgruntled Iranians, fed up with three decades of brutal and arrogant religious rule, have revolted against the Islamic regime. Rival factions in even the ruling strata have locked horns; the US and the European Union have lined up against the regime, with more upcoming serious sanctions on the agenda; and cracks are starting to show in the Iranian economy, with rising poverty, 37 percent inflation, national currency devaluation and widespread unemployment in a country where almost 70% of the population is under 30.

On the one hand, the Islamic Republic is no longer what it was before the 2009 presidential elections. Iranian people from the various classes, led by women, university students and intellectuals, have risen against it. On the other hand, the situation of the Islamic regime’s traditional allies, namely Syria and Hezbollah, have become worse as a result of the Middle East revolts.

Yet despite this hostile domestic and foreign environment, the Islamic regime still hangs on.

Even after the disputed presidential elections, it has maintained its hold on power. The Iranian people are the only force capable of ending this repressive and arrogant religious rule. They need all the international support they can get.

The writer is an Iranian-born freelance journalist based in the Republic of Tajikistan

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