The rights of Middle Eastern women have always been a controversial issue. Although the women of Iran enjoy more rights than those of other Middle Eastern countries, they are still not equal to those of men. Women have very little involvement in the social, political, and cultural aspects of their daily lives. Everything women do is controlled by some sort of law and is subject to severe punishment. Under Iranian law, men are still favored and it mainly a patriarchal society where women are treated as half of a man. The question at hand is whether the treatment of women in Iran is sexist or a religious tradition. This paper will focus on the role of women in the Iranian society and how it relates to religion, government, and patriarchal traditions.
The main religion in Iran is Islam. Islam is divided into two different groups - the Sunnis and the Shi'ites. About 96% of the Iranian population is part of the Shi'ites. They follow the Koran, which is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God. The Koran can be interpreted as saying that men and women are spiritually equal. It follows the lives of the Prophet Mohammed and the twelve Shi'ite Imams. In addition, there is the figure of Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad. She is the wife of the first Imam and the progenitor of the other Imams. She completes the Fourteen Immaculates in Shi'ite mystical philosophy. Having a female figure among the Fourteen Immaculates added an element of the "sacred feminine"" to Shi'ite cosmetology. Fatema has been compared to Mary in Catholic and Orthodox Christianity (Momen). If religion isn't causing the issue of the status of women, then what is?.
During the reign of Reza Pahlavi "the Shah of Iran "and the rule of his son Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, women's rights reached new heights and many legal barriers obstructing women's rights were dismantled. Since the Revolution of 1979 overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, women are not considered equal under the constitution that has been adopted (Keddie).