CODIR: End violence against women in Iran!


In October 2021, António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, addressed the Security Council’s annual debate on women, peace, and security.  Mr. Guterres spoke of the rising rates of violence and misogyny experienced by women and girls in every society around the world.  He warned that the clock-measure on women’s rights has not merely stopped but is in fact now moving backwards. 

A survey of 2,500 women in Iran showed that an already high rate of respondent-disclosed domestic violence (54%) before the COVID-19 pandemic hit rose to 65% within the first six months of the pandemic, and showed an increased likelihood of abuse where either the woman or her partner had lost their job.  A substantial number of the women reported being subjected to intimate partner violence for the first time during this period, while women who were already being abused reported an increase in the frequency and severity of the attacks.

The interconnections between violence, poverty, and societal marginalisation and exclusion are stark.  The World Bank classifies ten of the bottom twelve countries as “fragile states” i.e., those that teeter on the brink of becoming failed states. The Baluchistan province of Pakistan tragically exemplifies these links.  Less than one in ten women undertakes paid work, with only one in twenty-five having completed secondary school education.  The province is the scene of continuing military conflict, violence, and disruption, and there is little by way of public service infrastructure.  The pressure on women there is enormous and the level of domestic abuse correspondingly high.  

A similar socio-economic and human rights situation persists across the border in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province (the country’s poorest area) and the levels of domestic violence, sexual violence, and harassment against women, are believed to be the highest in a country already blighted in this regard.  Indeed, Iran has long held an unenviable reputation for entrenched misogyny and violence against women – not only for the acts themselves, some of which have grabbed the headlines around the world, but for the sanctioning of such acts through the Islamic Republic’s archaic application of religious law and thus the impunity afforded to many of the perpetrators (a high number of whom have enjoyed connections with clergymen and state officials). 

Correspondingly, CODIR has long reported on and campaigned against this trend and its manifestations – whether the horrific acts of state violence against women on account of their political activities or matters pertaining to the domestic-private domain; the seemingly orchestrated campaigns of acid attacks on women in the streets; the commonplace harassment, intimidation, and violence against women in public spaces; or the several grisly so-called “honour” killings that have taken place in Iran in the recent past. 

None of the violence against women, which is increasingly well-documented and reported widely, need continue for another day – however, if it is to be eradicated, as called for by the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, then its true interrelationship with the deprivation and strains put on societies everywhere by a dehumanising and numbing system – one which objectifies women and girls and commodifies their worth – underpinned by an insatiable greed for profit at any cost, must be recognised and called out.  A genuine and non-tokenistic solidarity must be built with women’s and progressive organisations everywhere, and they must be supported as they draw upon a new strength and develop new strategies in the imperative struggle for true equality and justice.

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