My cell phone vibrated, but I was busy. Later, it vibrated again. It was a WhatsApp message from a young Iranian friend also living in Germany. She had been living and working as a scientist in North Rhine-Westphalia for four years. She was asking me if I had time to meet her in town later that afternoon. My friend had to go to the Iranian consulate in Frankfurt to renew her Iranian passport.
This article has been originally published in German in NZZ.
Astonished, I asked her, “What, now? In the middle of the pandemic? That must be doable by post.”
She replied that I couldn’t imagine the extent of her dilemma. Not only did she have to be personally present at the consulate, but the consulate itself did not comply with COVID-19 safety standards at all.
We spoke again, on the phone, later that day. My friend told me that after her appointment at the consulate she was called by a staff member who said that the biometric photo she had submitted did not meet the requirements of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She needed to submit a new photo in which her hair, neck, and shoulders were completely covered.
My friend was indignant that she had to go to the consulate in person during the pandemic, had lost a full workday, and had to pay for the trip to Frankfurt. Yet the consulate had not even told her during her appointment that her photo did not meet the government requirements. Without a word of apology, she was told that she needed to go to the consulate in-person to verify her “identity.”
After I spoke with my friend, our conversation kept going through my head. How could the Islamic Republic of Iran force people to present themselves as something other than what they are in order to establish their identity? What identity is it then? It is downright absurd considering that every other country in the world demands a biometric photo without any form of head cover, unless it represents one’s religious beliefs.
This dilemma mirrors the sad reality that millions of women must grapple with every day, not only in Iran, but all over the world, including the West. When we German-Iranian women in exile try to warn German society about the misogynist and inhumane Islamic ideology based on our insights and experiences, we are told that the events in Iran have nothing to do with Germany. But apart from the fact that the Islamist rulers from Tehran have well established reach in the region and are trying to influence the migrant communities and German politics under the guise of cultural and religious associations , they also, through their embassies and consulates, continue with the repression in a very concrete way.
For over four decades, Iranian women have been forced against their will to go to the embassies and consulates in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich wearing headscarves and veils. A scandalous example: For years it has been a common practice in German registry offices and family courts to ask women with an Iranian passport for a consent letter from their fathers before they get married .Officially, getting a consent letter is only a “recommendation for recognition in the home country,” but in fact it is a requirement for Iranian women getting married in Germany. This is how collaboration and Islamization work.
At this point it is worth taking a closer look at the Islamic veiling. What is the function of hijab on women and its different variants in Islamist societies?
To maintain its dominance, the Islamic Republic must enforce its institutional resources in order to monitor and control the society. To expand repression, their most important instrument of power is “segregate and rule!”
The Islamic Republic enforces its order primarily by including and giving privileges to half of the population; males help the state by forcing females from childhood to follow orders and submit. Those who are allowed to step down are not rebelling against the authorities. The most suitable instrument of this daily reminder and consolidation of oppression is the hijab, which the Islamic Republic of Iran made a legal requirement. Women in Iran are humiliated, punished, and oppressed for their personal decision against the “Chador;” university admissions can be refused, and members of parliament are threatened.
Wearing the chador is “voluntary” in Iran unless a woman is granted special privileges when carrying out this state order. If she decides against chador, she should expect public humiliation, restrictions in her educational and professional life, and the loss of civil rights.
The allegedly voluntary compliance with government instructions is ensured by a huge state apparatus and a large budget, which exclusively controls women’s clothing. The number of women arrested, punished, and imprisoned for dress codes shows that the veiling does not correspond to the “Iranian fashion culture” or the “voluntariness” of the women there, but solely to the Islamist state ideology maintaining its power.
More than just a piece of cloth
The veiling of women and girls is always accompanied by a restriction and is therefore directly related to the deprivation of a female’s rights. Just three weeks after the Islamist takeover of power in March 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini introduced compulsory hijab and other clothing regulations for public spaces.
On the other hand, Iranian women are massively disadvantaged in terms of family law. Men can marry up to four women and have any number of concubines (so-called temporary marriages). Men have divorce and custody rights, whereas women only have those same rights in exceptional cases that must be proven in Islamic family court. Women are also disadvantaged when it comes to inheritance, as male heirs generally receive double that of female heirs. Likewise, in contracts and in court, their vote counts only half as much as a man’s vote.
Furthermore, women are not allowed to be appointed as judges and are not permitted to hold offices in higher clerical ranks or as state presidents. Women are hardest hit by layoffs from universities, schools, educational institutions, and private companies — even more often than ideologically deviated men. Women are not allowed to perform as solo singers, apply for a passport, or travel abroad without permission from their husbands. They are not allowed to participate in public sporting events with male spectators or watch men playing sports.
The totalitarian madness of the Sharia
These gender-based forms of discrimination did not fall from the sky — they have a system and character based on the totalitarian madness of Sharia law. No progressive minded person can want this archaic system of rules and regulations in the name of diversity and the protection of minorities in a modern society to be tolerated or even supported by the state.