Iranian women undress to protest their role as second-class citizens
A group of Iranian women living abroad have recorded a video message in which they defend women’s rights – while posing topless.
The women speak straight to the camera, explaining their reasons for posing nude: “My nudity is a ‘no’ to stoning to death,” “For those who want to but can’t…”, and even: “Why not?”
These women are continuing the trend that started with Aliaa Al-Mahdy, a young Egyptian activist who posted a naked photo of herself on her blog in the name of freedom of expression,sparking a huge controversy last November. They say they were also inspired by Goldshifteh Farahani, an Iranian actress in exile in Paris who bared her breasts in a video honouring young actors selected for the Césars, France’s equivalent of the Oscars.
However, this new video is a promotion for an even more risqué calendar, showing female activists from around the world posing fully nude, from head to toe. The organisers say the proceeds of the calendar will go toward women’s rights organisations.
“The Islamic laws Iranian women are subjected to are what’s pornographic, since they define women as sexual objects”
Elia Tabesh, 30, posed in the video. She is an Iranian political refugee living in Stockholm, where she is studying Swedish.
“I left Iran three years ago for several reasons. I was involved with leftist activists at my university who were fighting for human rights, and due to the government’s crackdowns on activists I no longer felt safe. I also could no longer tolerate living in an Islamic country as a woman. Wherever women go there, whether it’s in schools or in restaurants, they’re treated like second-class citizens. You’re told what to wear and what not to wear, and society regards you as a sexual object. The government even controls your sex life. If you have sex outside of marriage, you can be punished in a manner of ways, including stoning. Or if you refuse to have sex with your husband, you can also be punished.
So when I was contacted to take part in this video, I didn’t hesitate. It’s the least I can do, even if it’s just a small thing, to advance women’s rights. We did this for all the women who want to have freedom over their body and what they wear but cannot, due to Islamic laws and sexist politics.
Reactions to the video have been mixed, of course. Overall, women seem to understand its message better than men. Some people call it pornographic – nonsense. I say the Islamic laws Iranian women are subjected to are pornographic, since they define women as sexual objects!”