Iran Grapples with Discrimination, Division

Despite an ongoing crackdown on dissent, women’s rights and ethnic separatism remain a thorn in the side of Iran’s fundamentalist government.

Reuters reports that the “Million Signatures Campaign,” aimed at improving the legal standing of Iranian women in divorce, child custody, inheritance and other cases, continues unabated despite the periodic jailing of its leaders.

One Iranian cleric told Reuters that religious law ensures women there are not turned into “products” and sex symbols in the Western fashion.

But according to campaigners — who collect signatures on buses, in shopping centers and at social events — the strict Islamic dress code is less important to them than social equity.

Advocates say the social standing of women in Iran has improved, and that the majority of university students today are women, although the law of the land continues to reinforce discrimination.

While rights campaigning by Iranian women remains a civil struggle, ethnic divisions in the southwestern Baloch provinces have taken a more violent turn.

Baloch partisans have long sought unification with their nearby brethren in Pakistan and Afghanistan, spurring a sporadic, border-crossing rebellion.

Now, fighting is on the increase between Iranian security forces and separatist Jundallah (“Soldiers of God”) militants.

Jundallah is also blamed for several high-profile bombings and attacks on Iran’s military and intelligence elite.

The government claims that the United States as well as Pakistan are aiding and abetting the rebels, though the Jamestown Foundation, which describes itself as a “leading source of information on closed, totalitarian societies,” says that these claims are unsubstantiated.

However, the organization does assert that Jundallah times its attacks to coincide with increasing U.S.-Iranian tensions, and that U.S. support for the rebels could be a way to “pressure Iran during any potential conflict.”

–Josh Wilson/


“In Iran, some women pursue rights despite pressure”
Reuters, January 15, 2007

“Iran spars with its enemy within”
Jamestown Foundation, January 16, 2007

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