Taking part in a question and answer program moderated by prominent Iranian academic Abbas Milani, the director of Stanford University’s Program in Iranian Studies via video teleconference Hashemi discussed issues relating to the Iranian women’s movement.
In another remarkable statement, Hashemi said support for Iran’s women’s rights by President Donald Trump and other leaders could strengthen the rights movement and that support should continue.
Faezeh Hashemi is the daughter of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who played a key part as kingmaker in electing Ali Khamenei as the successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeyni in 1989. He also served two terms as president. Faezeh Hashemi is a vocal human rights activist and has spent six months in jail as a prisoner of conscience for supporting the reformist Green Movement in 2009.
Asked what in her mind was the single most important right that has been denied to women in Iran under the Islamic Republic, she said: “There are many rights that have been denied in many areas, but the most important ones are the discriminatory laws enforced after the Islamic revolution and the glass ceiling that prevent women’s progress and their serious participation in social life.”
She said women’s issues have been turned into political and security matters in recent years. Even women’s demand to ride bicycles or go to stadiums are viewed as security problems and part of the intelligence discourse of the country.
Faezeh Hashemi who was the publisher of Zan (Woman) newspaper in the late 1990s, focusing on women’s issues, charged that “even many reformist men in Iran do not believe in equal rights for women. Solving women’s problems are not among male reformists’ priorities.”
She added that “A wrong understanding of Islam, a male-dominated culture, and fearing that women’s freedom would limit men’s freedom are among other factors that lead to discrimination against them in Iran.” However, she said women should continue their struggle for their rights although it might be difficult.
Referring to the recent surge in the incidents of honor killing, she was asked if there is any hope in solving such social problems. Faezeh Hashemi said: “As an Islamic feminist, I do not believe real Islam is against human rights. Even when there are strict rules in matters such as inheritance, deferring to reason and rationality can solve the problem.”
As regards the various interpretations of Islam, Ms. Hashemi was asked why shouldn’t we base the system of government on the rule of law and rationality rather than Islam. She said: “Ideologies can be taken advantage of. The government in Iran is neither religious nor revolutionary.”
Asked what her opinion is about the impact of the Trump Administration’s use of Iran women’s movement to justify sanctions on Tehran, Ms. Hashemi said: “Help from outside is important. Trump or other leaders’ emphasis on women’s rights is important although international organizations leave a better impact on women’s rights campaigns than governments.”
However, she reminded that Trump’s support for women’s rights does not mean Iranian women activists are spies who depend on the United States, as the government sometimes charges. However, support from outside strengthens rights movements in Iran and that is good.”
She added that this is a globalized world and any movement that can become global has a better chance to succeed.
Meanwhile she praised Iranian young women for using social media to further their campaign for equal rights.
Although she wears hijab as a Muslim woman born in a Muslim clerical family, she said that she does not believe in compulsory hijab.