Iran's Ayatollah Tells 'Western Women' How to Solve #MeToo Problem: Wear Hijab

By Patrick Goodenough | October 4, 2018 | 4:17am EDT
Iranian women pray on Eid al-Fitr in August 2012, in western Tehran. (Photo by Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

( – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took to social media on Wednesday to contend that Islam holds the answer to the problems of sexual mistreatment of women in Western societies.

If women were to wear the hijab, he argued, they would be spared such depraved behavior.

Two days earlier, the Iranian regime executed a 24-year-old woman – reportedly a child bride who suffered domestic abuse while still a minor until her husband was killed. She claimed to have confessed to the murder under coercion, telling a judge the killer was in fact her husband’s brother, who she also accused of having raped her several times.

On an official Twitter account, Khamenei wrote, “The disaster of countless sexual assaults on Western women – including incidents leading to #MeToo campaign – and Islam’s proposal to resolve it.”

He then linked a video clip which begins with news footage of some of the many women who have come forward with stories of sexual assault and harassment in workplace environments over the past year.

The slickly-produced video moves to brief excerpts from a speech Khamenei delivered on International Women’s Day last March in which he extolled the virtues of the hijab.

“You might have heard, a few months ago, that a large number of Western female politicians announced one right after another they had been subjected to abuse, harassment or violence at times while they were working in government offices,” he said, according to the subtitles.

“By introducing hijab, Islam has shut the door on a path that would pull women towards such deviation.”

The video ends with images of Iranian women wearing the Islamic head covering, and another Khamenei quote: “Hijab gives women freedom and identity.”

Along with the video, Khamenei linked to an article on an official website, a compilation of his statements over the years on women and Islam.

“During the hundreds of years of oppression that the patriarchal Western civilization imposed on the female gender and particularly on Western women, some movements were launched by women to revive their rights,” the article begins.

“One of these movements is the #MeToo movement which was initially launched by famous Western women who had experienced humiliation and sexual harassment. But, will this movement find the cause of this human disaster and the real solution to it?”

Excerpts from his statements follow. Among them:

--“In spite of the dim-witted and superficial propaganda campaigns of materialistic people, hijab does not shackle women.”

--“[The West] wants women to entertain men’s eyes.”

--“They want men to be free to even fulfil their visual lusts; so they persuade women to uncover, wear makeup and exhibit themselves before men!”

--“If this [hijab wearing] is not observed, the society will be afflicted with the same depravity that the West is plagued with today.”

--“[The West says] women have to give up their modesty and morality and use their physical appeal in order to gain the approval of men. Is this humiliation or respect? Influenced by Zionist elements, the ignorant and intoxicated western world presented this idea under the guise of respect for women.”

Treatment of women in Iran

Raising questions about Khamenei’s arguments on compulsory hijab wear, Radio Farda, a U.S.-funded Farsi-language broadcaster, reported last March that “billboards disdaining sexual harassment in Tehran and other major Iranian cities indicate that despite four decades of forceful enforcement of compulsory hijab the issue of sexual harassment is still a major social problem in Iran.”

Early this year dozens of Iranian women were arrested for removing their hijabs in public as a protest against the enforced dress code. Some were later convicted and imprisoned.

Young Iranian women in Tehran in August 2012. (Photo by Franco Czerny/Getty Images)

Despite Khamenei’s portrayal of the lives of women in Iran, a 2017 U.N. report on Iran cited official discrimination against women including underage marriage, the underrepresentation of women in decision-making positions and the labor force, and harassment of women’s rights campaigners. It said women and girls also faced discrimination with regard to divorce, child custody and freedom of movement and dress.

Earlier U.N. reports noted that under Iran’s Islamic penal code, “a woman’s testimony in a court of law is regarded as half that of a man’s” and that abuses of female prisoners include forced marriages, sexual violence and torture, and the rape of virgins awaiting execution.

The execution on Monday of 24-year-old Zeinab Sekaanvand has focused attention not only on the Iranian judiciary’s treatment of people convicted of crimes committed while minors, but on the issue of child marriage and abuse.

In Iran, girls may be legally married at 13, although those as young as nine may be married with the permission of their fathers and a court. (Nine is the age at which Islam’s prophet Mohammed consummated his marriage to Aisha, the youngest of his dozen wives and concubines, according to an authoritative Hadith.)

Seventeen percent of Iranian girls are married younger than 18, according to 2018 UNICEF data. (The highest rates are in sub-Saharan Africa. The figure for the U.S. is 0.46 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.)

Iran lies near the bottom – in 140th place out of 144 – of the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap” rankings for 2017. The survey examines political empowerment, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and health and survival, among men and women.

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