Women of Iran publicly mobilize against Iran's fundamentalist Constitution

The following text was received from Iran and signed by many womenís rights advocates, groups and personalities.

Please note Dr. Roya Toloui, an individual signatory below, has been arrested since August 2, 2005 in the city of Sannandaj. See WFAFIís Statement

Our Protest Against Violations of Women's Rights in the Iranian Constitution

After years of protesting against discriminations between women and men in different spheres (such as unequal legal rights), we, women are still deprived of our fundamental rights. Among us, we may locate the roots of the violations of our rights differently: In the laws, in sexist interpretations, in customs and traditions, or in hierarchical and dominant structures in Iran and throughout the world. However, without a doubt, one of the standing obstacles to changing women's current status and a major factor in reaching a dead-end in our efforts are the ruling laws and their foundation, the Constitution.

Principle 20 of the Constitution states: "All citizens of the country, whether men or women, equally enjoy the protection of the law and enjoy all human, political, economic, social, and cultural rights, in conformity with Islamic criteria." It is important to note that in this principle "all citizens, whether men or women," are considered equal not in terms of their "rights" but in terms of the "protection" that the law provides, based on Islamic criteria. Those who are endowed with the power to interpret maintain that they pursue a "balance" of differing rights and not "equal rights" between women and men. And this can be seen throughout the Constitution.

Principle 21 views women strictly as mothers or women without household heads. And the right they reserve under this definition of womanhood (motherhood) is the granting of child custody to deserving women in the absence of the "Sharia-ordained guardian" (men of the family).

The Constitution views women in no role other than mother, and as such, presupposes male leaders at the highest levels of political and social management. To run as a Presidential candidate, the qualification of being a political "rejal" is stipulated, which has been interpreted by higher authorities as being a male person.

Another problem with the existing Constitution as it relates to women (especially from the perspective of those who view violations of women's rights as a problem of sexist interpretations) is that all of its provisions are conditioned by dominant interpretations of Islamic principles. It has been the case that those who hold power are able to offer dominant interpretations and women, who are amongst the weakest social strata, can never offer alternative interpretations of any weight and influence. Needless to say, the depth and breadth of any interpretation is contingent upon the powers, opportunities, and institutions available to various groups in society. It is obvious that groups which hold exclusive military and security power, control culture and information and countless other resources, including the media, can impose their own interpretations on society.

The Constitution has reached a dead-end as it concerns women because the laws are not self-derived but rather, are open to official interpretation and dependent upon power-holders within the political structure and powerful official religious institutions. Women, who are considered the weakest link in society's power chain, cannot affect the necessary changes in the laws because the will of the citizenry (especially third-class citizens like women) is overshadowed by un-elected institutions, which hold interpretative power, as provided in the Constitution.

Even if the interpretation of official laws and individual and group rights were in the hands of elected institutions (as is the case in democratic countries), women, as a group with less access to power, would have great difficulty offering their own interpretations of women's rights to elected officials, let alone to un-elected appointed bodies. The more the relationship between un-elected state institutions and the citizenry is pyramid-structured and vertical, the more women and their rights are sidelined. And the more women will face an uphill battle to change conditions and laws to their favour in comparison to men.

The women's movement in Iran has endeavoured to use all available civil avenues and opportunities to gain their rights as citizens and human beings. However, the current historically sensitive period and the potential for reactionary movements and/or political extremism requires the women's movement to face the reality that under the current state of affairs, seeking civil justice from the Constitution and protesting the breach of women's rights of citizenship can be an effective step towards achieving democracy and peace and self-determination of the citizenry.

Although the women's movement encompasses a wide and diverse spectrum of social, cultural, and political activists, at the current juncture, they suffer a common injury: belittlement of the citizen. The least of which was witnessed with the elimination of women candidates for the presidency. More gravely, the Constitution's belittlement of women as active social participants has blocked their ability to secure their rights. We are forced to seek justice and show our civil opposition at the current sensitive juncture by fulfilling our social and gendered responsibility. Undoubtedly, we need each other's assistance to make our voices clearer and our protests more effective.

Signed By:


Group Signatories




  1. Women's Cultural Center
  2. Center of Hastia Andish
  3. Women in Iran website
  4. Iran Women's Watch
  5. Hamava (Homa) Women's Group
  6. The Noandish Center of Women of Iran
  7. The Noandish Society of Iran
  8. Society for the Protection of Unemployed Women
  9. The Pezhvak Group
  10. Hava Research Institute
  11. Association of Young Journalists
  12. Founding Women Members of Workers' Syndicates
  13. Center of Women Defenders of Peace and Human Rights
  14. Association Without Borders
  15. Islamic Association of Al-Zahra University
  16. Protectors of the Kurdestan's Environment Women's Group (The Green Path)
  17. Pioneering Women of Marivan Association
  18. Cultural/ Artistic Association of Marivan Women
  19. Azarmehr Women's Association of Sanandaj
  20. Public Sphere Center of University of Tehran
  21. Student Democratic Association of the University of Tehran
  22. The Linguistic Feminist Core of Women of the College of Social Sciences of Allameh Tabatabaii University
  23. The Nama Student Newsletter of Allameh Tabatabaii University
  24. The Shokaran Student Newsletter of the College of Social Sciences of Allameh Tabatabaii University
  25. The Sahar Student Newsletter of the College of Social Sciences of Allameh Tabatabaii University
  26. The Payman Newsletter of the College of Social Sciences of Allameh Tabatabaii University
  27. The Cultural Society of the College of Social Sciences of the University of Tehran
  28. The Nasl-e Sevvom Student Newsletter
  29. The Society of Women Journalists of Iran (Roza)
  30. The Golgasht-e Zeytun Group of Isfahan
  31. Group of Women Workers of Isfahan


Simin Behbahani,

Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani,

Parvin Ardalan,

Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh,

Mansoureh Shojaee,

Fatemeh Farhangkhah,

Homa Zarafshan,

Gohar Shemirani,

Marzieh Morteza Langeroudi,

Fatemeh Govaraee,

Nasrin Sotoudeh,

Nayereh Tavakoli,

Fariba Davoudi Mohajer,

Shahla Lahiji,

Mehrangiz Kar,

Shahla Entezari,

Shadi Sadr,

Manijeh Hekmat,

Rafat Zein-ed-Din,

Nasrin Afzali,

Jelveh Javaheri,

Sara Loqmani,

Nahid Kamousi,

Aqdas Charvandeh,

Tahmineh Biazar,

Parvaneh Milani,

Azarang Jabari,

Donya Biazar,

Mehrahang Jabari,

Jila Bashiri,

Mona Mohamadzadeh,

Nahid Entesari,

Khadijeh Moqadam,

Sima Afshar,

Roya Toloui,

Farideh Entesari,

Bita Tahbaz,

Maryam Omy,

Elham Qamsari,

Sharareh Abdi,

Layla Moori,

Negar Bayat,

Nahid Mirhaj,

Fakhri Shadfar,

Massoumeh Loqmani,

Firouzeh Mohajer,

Farnaz Seify,

Shirin Mousavi,

Samira Kalhor,

Fatemeh Baban,

Sanaz Allah Bedashti,

Masoumeh Naseri,

Parastou Dokouhaki,

Nahid Keshavarz,

Jila Baniyaqoub,

Nahid Tavassoli,

Talat Taghinia,

Farzaneh Taheri,

Simin Marashi,

Mahsa Shekarloo,

Tina Golzarian,

Lida Bolouri.