Editor’s Note: Below are large excerpts from an article by a young Iranian woman who challenges the regime’s new policies concerning women and higher education.
Author: Neda Shahbazi
Date: August 10, 2012
Translated by Anonymous
Edited by Frieda Afary
I don’t know how many girls have been terrified and brought to tears after seeing this year’s list of majors for the Concours university entrance examination. Although discrimination against women in this country is not limited to one or two episodes, this explicit, heavy handed oppression under the pretext of regulating sex ratios in universities and the job market, along with hundreds of other absurd excuses, is in its own way a new episode. The restriction of women from 77 fields of study at 33 public Iranian universities, despite the 60% rate of participation by women in the university entrance exam is a clever measure to kill two birds with one stone.
Bird one: Not only will the government not be obliged to pay the cost of educating many girls who evidently aren’t themselves a valuable investment, but with many of these girls now having to go to expensive universities which charge a tuition, the government will also reap those benefits. As for the girls with the financial and cultural capability to leave the country, it is for the better that they leave and no longer pollute the Islamic atmosphere.
Bird two: A large percentage of girls generally from smaller cities and rural communities and with fewer financial means who see university admission as the only rational way to get out of their homes, will now be married off.
Last year, a member of the faculty of sciences at Alameh Tabatabai University who criticized the 67% rate of participation of women in the undergraduate student body also expressed concern that girls with university degrees had a much lower chance of getting married than girls with just a high school diploma! Put this next to the words of a representative of the parliament from Tehran, Laleh Eftekhari, who labels the founding of day care centers as part of Western attempts to bring about a decline in our children’s education. Or the words of Maryam Mojtahedzadeh, one of Ahmadinejad’s deputy vice presidents who informed us of the substitution of the old family planning textbook with a book called “The Glory of Married Life” and decried the population decrease in Iran as a catastrophe designed by global hegemony to bring about the collapse of the Muslim population of Iran. Or Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli’s decree that anyone opposed to this concern acts against religion. Or Ayatollah Sobhani’s considering co-education at universities to be harmful and the cause for students’ falling behind, or his emphasis that a desirable university should be Islamic in terms of administration, teaching staff and curriculum.
The granting of permits for the establishment of day care centers to female theology students, religious councils, and mosques, along with the lack of attention paid to the unknown future of day care and preschool teachers, or hundreds of other examples, are part of a planned project to force women back in to the home. This is a project that is nearing completion with the creation of a new Health Ministry plan to end population control programs following comments by the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Khamenei] in opposition to family planning on the one hand, and the decimation of the female population in universities on the other. A project that sneers at all that has been done to defend women’s rights, and hopes to be able to force women back into the home and make them simply tools for reproduction, the sexual gratification of men, and the provision of household services.
Who knows, perhaps if they could, like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they would simply declare women’s education taboo altogether. The only conclusion that can be derived from the sexual segregation spectacles and other policies that I have briefly discussed is that this ideological regime is horrified by the strong and vibrant presence of women in society and the discussions concerning the equality of men and women.
As a matter of principle, all undemocratic regimes and institutions based on a specific ideology fear any change inconsistent with that ideology. The ruling regime in Iran is no exception. However, as far as our country is concerned, the ruling regime was founded on a traditional, religious, superstitious society isolated from the global community. And since the education, employment, and presence of informed women plays a basic role in wresting Iran from this cocoon, the harder women’s rights activists struggle, the more the government tries to return them to the home. And the more women recognize their rights, the more the government pounds them down with softer but more legal weapons.
Otherwise, if they really were compassionately concerned about the balance of men and women, there would be no need to keep women down. If we had an open, healthy, democratic society, this balance would be achieved inevitably. Addiction, poverty and the need to work [to earn a living] cause many boys to leave their studies. And even among boys who have earned high school diplomas, many see the unemployed university graduates around them and prefer to enter the labor market as soon as possible, rather than, as they say, “waste time.” On the other hand, many are the girls who may not be interested in continuing their education but opt for a university education to escape forced marriages and the closed family environment.
…One need only take a look at the list of eliminated fields of study (see www.migna.ir). Even in the words of Iranian lawmakers, many of these majors are “women’s majors.” Nobody is even talking about mine engineering, or the oil industry; although there is no job in today’s world done solely by men or by women…
The fear of informed, independent women and of enlightened and aware men is what drives the creation of more division between the sexes.
As I mentioned earlier, it is mostly girls from the lower classes who are affected by this project. Now, even more girls who have to put themselves through hell just to complete their high school diploma, will be forced into marriage. Due to the reduction of access to birth control methods in rural and poor areas, we will once again witness death, suicide and the killing of more young girls.