Nuclear Accord

Iran Deal Stirs Optimism for Women

iran bus july 1 dpa
A street scene in the Iranian capital, Tehran, the day after six western nations signed a historic nuclear deal with Iran. Women's rights activists were cautiously optimistic that the accord would lead to greater freedom.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The nuclear deal with the West could boost the economy and create more job opportunities for women in Iran, where one in five are unemployed.

  • Facts


    • The nuclear accord signed this month with Iran will gradually ease economic sanctions on the country in exchange for a dismantling of its offensive weapons capability.
    • Women’s rights activists are skeptical a new deal will significantly improve their situation, although many are hopeful.
    • Nine members of the 290-member Iranian parliament are women.
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Mahboube Hoseinzadeh, a 39-year-old journalist, is on the front lines of the women’s rights movement in Iran, a theocratic society dominated by men.

In 2007, she was jailed twice in Tehran’s Evin Prison with other activists for mounting a campaign, the One Million Signatures movement, which tried to raise public awareness about the need for equal treatment of the country’s 40 million women.

Just this April, she lost her job at an Iranian women’s magazine, Zanan-e Emrooz, which means Women of Today in Persian, after the magazine ran an article on the increasing practice of young Iranian couples living together outside of marriage.

The country’s Media Supervisory Board summarily shut down the publication, and since then, Ms. Hoseinzadeh said she and the other staff members have been waiting to see if the publication’s editor in chief can convince the authorities to reopen her employer.

So it was with joy, tinged with skepticism, that Ms. Hoseinzadeh and her colleagues learned earlier this month of their country’s historic nuclear deal with the West, which boosted hope of a further opening of Iranian society, including, perhaps, better rights for women.

“When they reached a deal, I couldn’t stop crying,’’ Ms. Hoseinzadeh said in a Skype interview with Handelsblatt Global Edition. “During these heavy and inhuman sanctions, ordinary Iranian people have suffered a lot because of a shortage of medicine and rising prices.”


Iran women_dpa
An Iranian woman celebrates on the streets of Tehran moments after the country announced a historic nuclear arms deal with the West. Source: DPA


But on whether the deal will improve her plight and women like her, Ms. Hoseinzadeh said: “I think it is a little soon to predict.’’

Compared with Western countries, women in Iran lead sharply restricted lives, although not as restricted as in some Arab Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, where they are forbidden to drive. In Persian Iran, women can drive, but they can’t attend public sporting events, and are largely shut out of the country’s male-dominated power structure.

Unemployment among women in Iran is about 20 percent, according to estimates by the World Bank, and many have jobs on the black market. When Ms. Hoseinzadeh walks the streets of Tehran, she wears the hijab, the head scarf, because it is the law.

If she doesn’t, she said passersby will eventually remind her. If she ignores them and is caught by the country’s roving religious police, she will be arrested, she said.

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