Islam- A Closer look at Women in Iran
TEHRAN — The usual stereotyped portrayal of Iranian women in western media is that of oppressed women in a man-dominated society under a theological regime. A closer look from inside Iran indicates that is not entirely true.
"No doubt, the situation for us is much better as compared to last two decades," Monir Kerimi, a businesswoman, told IslamOnline.
"We have been getting more and more opportunities for the last 10 years," she added.
"Earlier, it was taboo if a woman works outside, but nowadays the situation is totally different."
Ms Kerimi is a partner in a Tehran-based import and export firm, located at Wal-ul-Asr Square, downtown Tehran.
Her firm mainly deals with oil products.
"No doubt, the credit goes to Syed Mohammed Khatemi, and then to Mehmood Ahmedinejad," she said referring to the former president and his successor.
"The liberal policies introduced by Khatemi are being followed by Ahmedinejad too. He (Ahmedinejad) has not done anything against women."
Over the past years, women have been getting more economic opportunities, even in the fields which were earlier men-only.
Farogh Khanum, a retired working woman, is satisfied with the changes brought by successive governments to make the women's life more comfortable in Iran.
"I worked for 30 years in a government department, and now living a retired life," she said walking in Tehran's sprawling Laleh park, built by Queen Farah Deeba, the wife of the last shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pehlvi.
"In line with my age, I feel I am living a comfortable life due to good policies of the government for retired people, especially women," the mother of two told IOL.
Mrs Khanum, who is the witness of pre-revolution era, said it was initially difficult for her to accept the cultural changes brought by the revolutionary government.
"Now I am used to it, and feel comfortable. But young girls may not feel like me."
· Work Equality
Ms Kerimi, the businesswoman, insists that much more work is still needed.
"We should have more cultural and economic liberties, including equal salaries," she said.
She criticized the government for paying women lesser salaries than their men colleagues.
"It is unjust that women workers are paid lesser than their male colleagues," Ms Kerimi.
"Both are working together and equally hard, then why are the women paid lesser? In fact, women are working more hard. After work, they have to take care of their homes and children."
She said that women, like men, need money to support their families.
In private companies, Ms Kerimi notes, the situation is relatively batter.
"In most of the private firms, women and men are paid equal."
She maintains that women should work even if they do not have to support their families.
"I work not only because I have to support my family, but also because I like that. I want to be independent, and unless, I have my own income resources, I won't be treated as independent."
Ms Kerimi said Iranian women are aspiring for more social liberties, including a choice whether to wear hijab or not.
"I think there should be a choice," she said.
"However, I believe that a majority of Iranian women, including me, will opt for hijab because it is our religious and cultural obligation."
Ms Kerimi argued that even before the 1979 Islamic revolution, the majority of women used to wear hijab.
"I believe that even if the government gives the choice to the women, most of them will opt for hijab."
Fatima Maqsood, who works as a secretary at a private firm, said Iranian women should not style themselves after Westerners to be free.
"We do not have to look like them (western women) to show that we are free. We feel ourselves free and honored in our society," she told IOL.
"We do not have to borrow their culture to prove our freedom."
Ms Famita, who has been working for the last 10 years, says she sees her hijab as an Islamic obligation other than a government regulation.
"I feel more secure and comfortable in hijab. When, the western critics blame the Iranian government for forcing women to wear hijab, then what would they say about France, Holland, and other European countries where women can't wear hijab in educational institutions and work places?" she asked.
"It is our own will when we wear hijab."
Ms Fatima admits that there are some instances of sexual harassment at work places.
"These incidents are not frequent as they are in other countries. But of course, such incidents do happen in some rough fields, like transport. But generally, we don't feel this threat at large."
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