Before and After: Iran 1979

Since 1979, the mullahs’ regime in Iran has given the world and the Iranian people 40-years of corruption, repression, terror, and failure.

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A Hopeful Picture: Women Parliamentarians of Iran in front of the gate of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis Shoraye Melli), mid 1970s

A Tale of Two Irans

Before the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran in 1979, and Khomeini’s revolution transformed every aspect of Iranian society, Iran was a very different world.

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Women in Iran before the Islamic Revolution in 1979. (photo: Nevit Dilmen, own work. Family album.)
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Iran prior to 1979’s Islamic Revolution. (photo: Nevit Dilmen)

Life in Iran Before 1979

Before the Islamic Revolution changed the country so drastically, Iranian women were participating members of society and the culture at large.

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Iranians prior to 1979. (photo: Nevit Dilmen)
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Female students in Iran prior to 1979. (photo: Nevit Dilmen)

Too Much, Too Fast

In his efforts to modernize, the Shah overreached; he outlawed the headscarf, or hijab, from being worn in public. Not only did the Shaw and his wife adopt Western dress, he insisted all government employees do the same.

Life in Iran After 1979

“The government derives its legitimacy from God, and proper government requires a radical Islamic reconstruction of society.” — Khomeini, in a recorded sermon.

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Iranian Revolution, 1979.
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A woman believed to be a supporter of the Shah is assailed by male revolutionaries in Tehran on 25 January 1979 ( Magnum )

No More Family Protection Laws

Almost immediately after the revolutionary government took over, family protection laws designed to give women legal recourse in family matters were summarily abolished.

New laws took their place:

  • The legal marrying age of a woman was lowered to the age of nine, in accordance with Islamic Law.
  • In 1981, the Islamic Law of Retribution was reinstated, allowing the crime of adultery to be punished by stoning to death.
  • Ayatollah Khomeini stated that women’s honor needed to be preserved. For their own good, women appearing in public were to be accompanied by a male relative at all times, and be able to provide proof of the relationship. Any contact with non-related men could result in legal punishment.
  • Segregation of the sexes was imposed across all aspects of Iranian life. In public transportation, women were required by law to sit in the back of the bus as the front seats were reserved for male passengers only.
  • A woman’s testimony was legally reduced to half that of a man’s.
  • Family planning was cast by the new regime as a Western conspiracy to weaken Iran, and women lost all access to these vital health services.
  • All nurseries were closed, decried as a Western conspiracy to “deprive children of motherly love and Islamic upbringing.”

Strictly Enforced Dress Code

New laws were passed banning Western clothing and requiring that women remain completely covered by a traditional Islamic hijab in public at all times. No hair could be visible; no open-toed shoes.

The Empowered Iranian Woman

Iranian women didn’t go quietly.

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The day 100,000 Iranian women protested the headscarf. On 8 March 1979, more than 100,000 women gathered on the streets of the Iranian capital to protest against the new Islamic government’s compulsory hijab ruling.

Keeping Up With the Khomeinis

How is life different for women in modern-day Iran?

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