Feminist ideas part of ‘Zionist plot’, says Iran’s Khamenei

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani was confronted with this picture of woman without a headscarf from the My Stealthy Freedom campaign in November 2015

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has told Iranians to resist feminist ideas because they are part of a “Zionist plot” aiming to corrupt the role of women.

Addressing a group of religious speakers last week, Khamenei said the life of the prophet’s daughter Fatimah should be held up as the ideal for the country’s women.

“Making women a commodity and an object of gratification in the Western world is most likely among Zionist plots aiming to destroy the society,” the leader’s website reported him as saying.

“Today, Western thinkers and those who pursue issues such as gender equality regret the corruption which it has brought about.”

Khamenei did say that men and women were equal in the “ascendance of spiritual positions, the power of leadership, and the capability to lead humankind”, but that some tasks for women “collapse and humiliate” their primary roles as housewives and mothers.

Khamenei has issued a fatwa-ban on women cycling – claiming it “attracts the attention of men and…contravenes women’s chastity. Women are also restricted in all spheres of personal and public life with state-enforced codes, curbs on higher education, jobs and freedom of movement requiring a husband’s signature.

In 2014, women launched the My Stealthy Freedom campaign, which calls on women to challenge the hijab ban by going in public without the veil, taking photos and posting them online. The movement has more than a million followers.

Men in Iran also joined the campaign and began wearing hijabs in solidarity with women, while some women also shaved their hair to go in public without the cover.

Women’s rights took a blow following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, after which dress code was enforced.

Iranian religious officials regularly employ the ‘Zionist plot’ argument against calls for gender equality and other criticisms.