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Sunday 26 March 2017

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Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blasted gender equality as a "Zionist plot" aimed at corrupting women's role in society.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blasted gender equality as a "Zionist plot" aimed at corrupting women's role in society.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is no fan of gender equality, which he routinely decries as a Western concept that damages women and distracts them from their vital roles as wives and mothers. (The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.)

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is no fan of gender equality, which he routinely decries as a Western concept that damages women and distracts them from their vital roles as wives and mothers.

And again this week, at a speech on March 19 marking the birth of the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, Fatima Zahra, Khamenei doubled down, suggesting that Westerners themselves are having second thoughts.

"Today, Western thinkers and those who pursue issues such as gender equality regret the corruption that it has brought about," said the man who has the final say in religious and political matters in a country of 83 million people.

He even blasted gender equality as a "Zionist plot" aimed at corrupting women's role in society.

"Making women a commodity and an object of gratification in the Western world is most likely among the Zionist plots aiming to destroy society," Khamenei was also quoted as saying.

Women in Iran are denied equal rights before the law in divorce, child custody, inheritance, and other areas. A woman's testimony in court is considered to be half the value of a man's. Women need the permission of their father or husband to travel. And women are forced to cover their hair and body.

There are rare reports of women being sentenced to death by stoning, although it is unclear how many such sentences are carried out under Iran's opaque justice system.

Khamenei suggested that Western views of women used to be "more decent," "more prudent," and "more suitable" with "the nature of men and women."

"When you look at the literature in European countries in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was absolutely different from the 20th century," Khamenei said. He added that "it is obvious that there has been political work from the Zionist and the colonial system."

Khamenei went on to say that Iran's overwhelmingly male, clerically dominated establishment does not aim to keep women at home. Yet he added that, in his eyes, the roles of mother and wife are the most important a woman can play.

"The role a woman can play as a family member is in my view more important than all other roles that a woman can play," the Iranian leader said. "The question is whether a woman has the right to ruin her role as a mother and a wife because of all the good, interesting, and sweet [opportunities] that could be there for her outside the family environment."

Khamenei has said in the past that the effort to establish equality between men and women was "one of the biggest intellectual mistakes" of the Western world. "Why should a job that is masculine be given to a woman? What kind of honor is it for a woman to do a man's job?" he asked in a 2014 speech.

Iranian hard-liners routinely accuse women's rights champions of promoting "obsolete" feminist views and claim that such views and demands are anti-Islamic.

In December, the head of Iran's female Basij militia called the promotion of gender equality illegal and demanded that the country's powerful judiciary take action against people who speak out against gender discrimination.

Women's rights activists have been persecuted by the Iranian state through interrogation, arrest, and jail sentences. Many have been forced to leave the country.

Homa Hoodfar, a retired professor at Concordia University in Montreal known for her work on gender relations, was imprisoned in Iran last year for more than 100 days for what a state prosecutor called "dabbling in feminism and security matters."

Iran's lone Nobel laureate, lawyer and 2003 Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, now lives abroad following years of persecution for her work on human rights cases.

In a 2009 contribution to The Guardian, Ebadi noted that "despite the cultural, social and historical heritage of Iranian women, the Islamic republic has imposed discriminatory regulations against them."

She added, "The laws imposed on Iranian women are incompatible with their status and, consequently, the equality movement is very strong."

The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
Iranian media regularly report on the funerals of Afghans killed in Syria.

Iranian media regularly report on the funerals of Afghans killed in Syria.

Iran has opened a new complex to house the families of Afghan fighters killed in the ongoing Syrian war, where Tehran has teamed up with Moscow to help regional ally President Bashar al-Assad counter an armed rebellion.

Iran has opened a new complex to house the families of Afghan fighters killed in the ongoing Syrian war, where Tehran has teamed up with Moscow to help regional ally President Bashar al-Assad counter an armed rebellion.

The rent-free residences on the outskirts of the capital are funded by one of Iran's wealthiest charities, Astan Quds Razavi, which also oversees a major holy shrine in the eastern city of Mashhad, about 200 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan.

Iranian authorities quietly began deploying armed volunteers, including many Afghans, to complement other Iranian forces advising and fighting alongside Assad's troops after civil war broke out in Syria in 2011.

The February 27 opening ceremony of the apartment complex in the town of Bagher Shahr, outside Tehran, was attended by the custodian of Astan Qods Razavi, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi has been tipped by some as a possible future supreme leader, a post that holds ultimate political and religious power in Iran.

"The families of the martyrs who have sacrificed their loved one to defend Islam and the shrines of holy figures should be given priority," Raisi was quoted as saying by Iranian media at the ceremony.

The move is among the latest acts of support for the families of "martyred shrine defenders" -- Iranians, Afghans, and Pakistanis -- who have died in the conflict in Syria and neighboring Iraq. It echoes the type of state assistance provided to families of Iranians killed in the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi has been tipped by some as a possible future supreme leader.

Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi has been tipped by some as a possible future supreme leader.

Iran also uses state media to publicly glorify fallen fighters and highlight their sacrifices while likening them to past "martyrs."

Iranian authorities say the fighters travel to Syria and Iraq voluntarily to defend holy Shi'ite sites. Some reports suggest Afghans are offered financial rewards and residency permits to join the fight in Syria.

The United Nations estimates the number of Afghan citizens in Iran at just under 1 million, but Tehran puts the figure closer to 3 million. Tehran has expelled many Afghans and periodically threatens Kabul with mass expulsions.

Raisi personally handed keys to some of the complex's 36 units to the families of 10 Afghan fighters killed or missing in fighting in Syria. Each key, in a small box, was marked with the name of the family member lost to fighting and the number of the unit where his family would live.

Raisi said the complex had been available and authorities identified families in need to assign them a unit.

Photographs of the event showed the empty apartments decorated with the yellow flag of the Fatemiyoun brigade -- the unit of Afghan militia members said to have been recruited by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Raisi said offering support to the "families of martyrs" would boost the morale of the "shrine defenders."

"The fact that some leave their country to defend Islam stems from their strong faith and beliefs," he added.

The remainder of the units were distributed among the families of the dead fighters by the leader of Friday Prayers in Bagher Shahr, media reported.

There are no precise figures on the number of Afghans killed in Syria.

Iranian media regularly report on their funerals while offering few details about the circumstances of their deaths.

The head of Iran's Foundation of Martyrs said in November that more than 1,000 fighters deployed by Iran to Syria had been killed.

Ali Alfoneh, a Copenhagen-based independent IRGC specialist, told RFE/RL that at least 580 Afghans had been killed in combat in Syria since January 2012. He recorded 17 Afghan deaths in Syria in February alone.

Alfoneh said that by mobilizing Afghans, Pakistanis, and other Shi'ite fighters, Tehran had managed to not only significantly reduce Iranian losses in Syria but also train "a multinational Shi'ite fighting force capable of fighting future wars by proxy."

Iran and Russia, which has conducted an intense bombardment campaign and has a widening military footprint in Syria, have been major backers of Assad. In addition to troops, Tehran has helped keep Assad in power through financial assistance.

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About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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