This is the December 2020 Machonews, a monthly report covering the most significant gender and women’s rights related events and policies in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This monthly article is produced by Macholand, a project by Spectrum, a queer-feminist NGO (Association 1901) based in France.
An Increase in Child Marriages
Children in Iran have been pressured to marry young for many decades. As time passes, there have been limited attempts to change laws to protect children. Statistics published in the “Report on the Social and Cultural Status of Iran” by the Statistics Center of Iran showed over 7,000 marriages of girls aged 10 to 14 and one marriage of a girl under the age of 10 registered in the spring of 2020 in Iran. Another report published by the same center showed 346 babies were born from mothers younger than 15 during the same period. The center also published that the number of registered infants born of mothers aged between 15 and 19 has reached a staggering 16,000. With child marriage statistics on the rise, it is unclear when young girls will be relieved from the pressure of marrying young. The heinous act of child marriages is keeping the young Iranian generation back and normalizing the violation of children’s rights in various levels.
The “Marriage Prohibition Bill for Children Under 13” was submitted to the Government Bills Commission by the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs several years ago. While the initiative is still awaiting approval, the government still supports child marriage as it moves to increase the population by pronatal politics. Unfortunately, the efforts of women’s rights activists in Iran to change the laws related to the marriage of girls in Iran have not been successful and face countless barriers set forth by opposing scholars and imitators.
Women’s Rights Activist Arrests
More women’s rights activists have been arrested in Iran on illogical and baseless charges in December. Hoda Amid and Najmeh Vahedi were sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison and banned from social activities for “collaborating with the US government”, with which the Iranian government has had hostilities with for the last few decades. The court sentenced Hoda Amid, a lawyer and women’s rights activist, to eight years in prison, a two year deprivation of certain social rights, and a two year ban from practicing law.
Najmeh Vahedi, a sociologist and women’s rights activist, was sentenced to seven years in prison and two years without certain social activities. The two were charged with “collaborating with the hostile US government against the Islamic Republic on women and the family.” Amid and Vahedi sought to modify the terms of marriage in order to help women familiarize themselves with family rules and regulations and improve the conditions of their marriages with introducing the legal additional conditions to marriage contract, known in western countries as pre or postnup.
Last month, it was announced that Shahindokht Molaverdi, the former Vice President of Women and Family Affairs was sentenced to 30 months in prison. She was charged with “providing classified information and documents”, with regime officials covering for her, aiming to disrupt national security and propaganda activities against the regime. She has denied all charges and hopes to get them overturned. Molaverdi is known for being vocal about women’s and human rights in the Islamic Republic, most notably, her support towards women’s presence at sports events. Yet, she has always been very humble towards the far right and religious conservative forces in Iran. During her vice-presidency, no actual improvement in women’s rights was achieved.
Unhealthy Food Conditions in Women’s Prisons
Hengaw, a human rights organization reported that female prisoners in Urumieh Central Prison protested against the poor food conditions. According to the report, animal protein source has been completely removed from the diet of the women’s ward of Urumieh Prison, and prison officials have not yet announced the reason for its removal from the prisoners’ diet. Due to the low quality of prison food, prisoners are now forced to prepare food at their own expense and with limited facilities. Due to the lack of resources and unsanitary environment in the prison, a number of prisoners have become ill.
Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin Zaghari’s husband, also wrote about the effect of food in prison on the physical and mental health of Nazanin Zaghari and other female prisoners in an article published earlier. Nazinin Zaghari, an Iranian-British national, was imprisoned in 2016 in Iran for allegations of “plotting to topple the Iranian government”. Ratcliffe reported that Nazanin Zaghari was compiling a collection of recipes called “The Taste of Freedom” that her cellmates were cooking “in order to keep hope alive and remind them of the feeling of home” in Evin Prison.
Ratcliffe also writes that food in prisons is also a tool for controlling inmates, as he writes that “the first order of the new head of the ward was to reduce rations.” He also wrote that Zaghari never ate prison bread “because of the additives added to suppress prisoners’ appetites.” For this reason, the families of female prisoners have provided stoves for the women’s ward, but not all women have supportive families and many come from underprivileged conditions .
Iranian Women Getting International Attention
IMDB has released a list of the top Breakout Stars of 2020 based on the number of visits to their accounts. This ten-person list has received about 200 million views on the IMDB site. Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and Body of Lies) was placed eighth on this list, who attracted everyone’s attention this year with her film Extraction.
FIFA, the World Football Federation has one again removed the name of the Iranian women’s soccer team from the latest ranking list of national women’s soccer teams. In December 2016, FIFA removed the Iranian women’s national football team from its ranking after it dropped 75 rankings.
According to FIFA rules, all men’s and women’s national teams must have played in at least one official or informal match in the last 18 months to qualify for the International Federation. The second condition is that these national teams must have recorded at least five games with official teams during these 18 months. Reviewing the file of the Iranian women’s national football team in recent months, it even seems that the World Football Federation has removed the team slightly later than it should have.