For those of you Fair Trade enthusiasts who make your homes under rocks, away from 24-hour cable news networks and BBC radio, we’re here with the skinny: serious change is underway in Iran. Following the June 12th elections, in which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad supposedly defeated opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousevi, severe rioting broke out in the capital city of Tehran. Mousevi’s allegations of fraudulent results led thousands of his supporters to take to the streets, calling for an annulment of election returns and a nation-wide recount. As journalists and pundits debate ceaselessly about what’s coming next, there’s one thing they can agree on: Iran has changed for good.
Perhaps the most important manifestation of this change has been the role of women in this year’s election cycle. In a country where women are treated as second-class citizens in the eyes of the law and the men who make it, women are making their voices heard. Mousevi’s wife Zhara Rahnavard, an out-spoken and therefore controversial figure in Iranian public life, has called for “equality between men and women,” and the dialogue about women’s rights has appeared on the agenda like never before. Goosebump-inducing photos of brave women are surfacing all over the web from citizen journalists (most official journalists have been expelled), showing women in headscarves standing up to police and protesting passionately in the streets.
Although 65% of Iran’s college students are women, Iran’s leading clerics and politicians still withhold equal rights and opportunity from the country’s female population. Men are favored in cases of divorce, child custody, inheritance and crime. And all women—despite their religion or beliefs—are legally obligated to wear the hijab.
Women face an uphill battle in Iran, but the tide is changing. This is truly a monumental time for grassroots activism, and you–yes you!–can participate.
To stand in solidarity with the grassroots movement for change in Iran, support the One Million Signatures Campaign—a coalition of women’s rights groups calling for gender equality and an end to discrimination.
To “Let Iran Know that the Global Community is Monitoring Their Every Move,” sign this petition from Amnesty International and Change.org.
For more info and the latest updates on the Iranian elections, visit the BBC’s website. They offer up-to-date, digestible news and lots of background to get you up-to-speed.