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The Many Faces of Dissent: Women in Iran's Election

5 years ago
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Donna correctly says that dissent in Iran has been given a new face -- and it's a woman's face. But it would be more accurate to say that dissent in Iran has been given many new faces. Well before the video of Neda Agha Soltan's tragic death spread around the world, images of female protesters -- often young, often in hijab and wearing green armbands or face paint -- were common. It's no coincidence. Women turned out in huge numbers both on the campaign trail and at the polls for Mir Hossein Mousavi. Now it's those same groups of women who have largely been disenfranchised.

Parsing the vote in Iran into demographics is difficult because an accurate count simply doesn't exist -- as even Iran's Guardian Council admitted when it said Monday that 50 cities had more votes than registered voters. Still, much of Mousavi's support -- both during the election and now -- comes from women. At election rallies, female supporters often chanted the name of Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard (a powerful political figure in her own right) as she promised that under Mousavi there would be more women in the cabinet and a reform of policies that strip women of their rights in marriage. Meanwhile, under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, women were discouraged from working and from seeking higher education, while he suggested that true freedom for women lay in not having all the "legal responsibility of men."

Focusing on a single face, on Neda Soltan, to represent the protesters can make us forget the momentum of the large group of women voters who participated in this election; it can also result in misinformation about Neda Soltan herself. Via TechDirt, another Iranian woman, also named Neda Soltan, has claimed that one of the popular photos being passed around the Internet (the one picturing Neda in a patterned scarf) is of her, not the Neda Soltan whose shooting death was captured on video. The error occurred when her photo was pulled from a friend's Facebook page, on which she had posted an article about the Neda Soltan who died in the protests.

Though no women were allowed to run in this election, they were key both in terms of what they have at stake and in their participation in the election and protests. The face of dissent in Iran's elections is a female face. But there's not just one face, there are several.
Filed Under: Iran, Woman Up
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