Do Greens Represent Iran’s Women’s Movement?

This was written by Sevda Zenjanli and originally appeared at

While the Iranian authorities have effectively quashed all overt political organization for women’s rights, today women are the most dynamic group in Iranian opposition politics.

Green movement

Iranian women wear green to express their support for Mousavi during the 2009 Iranian elections.

The feminist critique of the Green Movement is mainly focused on Moussavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, whose name is often mentioned by the international and pro-Moussavi media as representative of Iranian women’s rights movement. Rahnavard shares a similar political background with her husband: she was a conservative Islamic activist in the anti-Shah movements which led to the Islamic Revolution. Using the pen-name “Zeinab Boroujerdi,” she wrote fifteen books which are mainly about Islam and women. Unlike the multitudes of Iranian women who protested compulsory Islamic veiling on March 8, 1979 in Tehran, she wrote about the necessity of Islamic veiling in her books, such as “The Beauty of Concealment” and “The Message Behind the Muslim Women’s Hijab.”

In contrast with Rahnavard’s views about Islamic hijab, Iranian feminists demand the abolition of mandatory veiling which forces women to cover their head and body in public. For the past 31 years, Iranian women have been subverting these laws in a kind of “fashion resistance.” They have been wearing their headscarves in a way that does not hide their hair. Tight coats, non-traditional clothes, like western jeans, high-heeled shoes and glamorous make-up are the other ways of openly dissenting with mandatory veiling.

Of course, clothing style is not the only sign of Iranian feminists’ difference with Rahnavard and the Green Movement’s espoused ideology. Political discussions and publications of the Iranian opposition groups clearly show the diversity of Iranian society’s social dynamics. Just before March 2011, a popular left-wing student magazine named “Bazr,” published an article calling for the Iranian people to protest the regime on Women’s Day and criticized the leaders of the Green Movement which had started its new wave of protests in February 2011.

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