An Iranian cleric was hospitalized for three days after being beat-up by a woman in the streets of Semnan Province a few months back. According to the Persian Letters blog written for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the cleric, Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti, reportedly asked the woman “to cover herself up,” as he did not think her outfit was within the standards of the required Islamic dress code for women in Iran. She first responded by telling him to close his eyes, but upon his further prodding she answered with insults, and then fists.
The story was originally reported in Iran’s semi-official Mehr news agency. According to the source, similar attacks against clerics are not uncommon; such a fate was even delivered to a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The agency states: “they all have been beaten up for performing their religious duty of [commanding right and forbidding wrong] and in some cases sustained irreparable damages.” Beheshti called the incident “the worst days of his life.”
A female Iranian protester shows writing on her hands that reads “woman = man”. (Photo: Roshan Norouzi/ZUMA Press)
The 1979 Iranian revolution brought with it not only new rulers but new rules for women. Women are not equal to men under its constitution. The testimony of two women in court equals that of one man and an Iranian son inherits twice as much as his sisters from the father. While men can marry non-Muslim women, Iranian women cannot do the same, and a man can divorce his wife without cause while a woman is only granted a divorce under extreme conditions. And of course, women are required to cover their hair and body in public so as to “preserve society’s morals and security.” Routine police patrols enforce the dress code.
With rules and hindrances such as these, it’s easy to understand the frustration felt by women who decide to attack clerics enforcing the dress code. But change in Iran will not come from women beating-up men, only from women and men coming together, on an equal level, to defeat the system.