Iranian TV was forced to crudely cut away more than a 100 times from the live game between Premier League giants Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspurs on Sunday much to bemusement of the viewers.

The reason: one of the assistant referees was a woman!! Shocking though it seems, Islamic Republic leaders do not allow a woman with her hair uncovered and her bare knees to be shown on the state-owned TV.

Typically, movie scenes showing women in what is deemed revealing clothing are censored. But this would have been impossible when broadcasting Sunday’s match. The television censors were rattled by the presence of a female referee in shorts. Their solution was to cut away from the live action to views of London’s backstreets. Which made a mockery of the game. At the end of the game, one of the commentators joked that he hoped the viewers enjoyed the geographic show.

What rest of the world saw
What Iranians saw

In 2019, the state TV canceled showing the game between Bayern Munich and Augsburg because a female referee was officiating.  But in the Premier League game, there was little advance warning for the censors.

It is no secret that women are treated as second class citizens in the Islamic Republic, where compulsory hijab rules are rigidly enforced. Now, even non-Iranians on television must be made to adhere to the country’s draconian laws.

In February, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa that women in cartoons and animated features must be depicted wearing a hijab, according to the country’s Tasnim news agency.

In 2017, Iranian TV crudely drew clothes onto stars including Charlize Theron at the Oscars so their low-cut gowns do not offend viewers. The South African actress had her shoulders and chest shoddily covered up with black ink. So crude is the job, however, that producers later took to simply blurring everything but Theron’s head.

Portions of the 2018 World Cup draw broadcast were censored in Iran because authorities decided co-host Maria Komandnaya’s clothing was too revealing.

Iranian state broadcaster IRIB blocked the first part of the show from the Kremlin Palace in Moscow that featured Komandnaya, a Russian sports journalist, and former England soccer star Gary Lineker.

BY: Vahid Yücesoy 

Recently, Ali Motahari, a former deputy speaker of Islamic Republic Majlis and a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections, turned up on Clubhouse to shockingly dismiss women’s rights as animal rights and made a series of disparaging sexist and racist comments, drawing the ire of many ordinary Iranians.

Motahari gravitates towards the reformist camp of politics in Iran, and yet not a single reformist lawmaker or politician has condemned his remarks.

On the evening of April 6, Motahari joined a Clubhouse discussion, with some 6,000 people in the audience and started a rant against women’s rights. He mocked Iranian women’s fight against compulsory hijab, and added “not wearing hijab for women isn’t freedom. It’s like an animal instinct. Men in Iran are aroused by unveiled women. Western men aren’t aroused because they’re sick. That’s why Western women choose African men”

He further pronounced: “If somebody is not aroused on the beach, then he is sick. God wants us to get aroused. Men must be aroused. It is good that a young man is aroused by seeing the hand of a woman.”
Motahari has often made similar comments in the past, at the parliament or in interviews but he has never been so forthright in a public setting where his comments go beyond the state-controlled media.

Earlier this year, in an interview, Motahari insisted that the compulsory hijab laws must stay in effect while also refusing to admit that hijab had ever been compulsory in Iran. This is in stark contradiction to hefty prison sentences meted out to various White Wednesday activists like Mojgan Keshavarz, Monireh Arabshahi, Yasaman Aryani, Saba Kord-Afshari, and Raheleh Ahmadi.

Back in 2014, and on many other occasions since, he has made controversial remarks about women wearing leggings. He said: Women who wear leggings should not be allowed into official buildings and summoned the then-interior minister to parliament to explain why women in Iran were being allowed to wear leggings.

As far back as 2002, Motahari had been a hardliner against women’s rights, making mremarks about the “spread of bad hijab” in Iran, accusing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the time of making pants and short manteaux the new standard for women.

Motahari the reformist

Ali Motahari is the son of Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, one of the ideologues of the Islamic Republic of Iran who opposed the rule of the monarchy until his assassination by an extremist Islamist group in 1979.

Although he is a social conservative, Motahari has fallen out various times with the Islamic Republic’s conservative establishment. So much so that in 2020’s parliamentary elections, he was disqualified by the Guardian Council, a watchdog that eliminates most of the aspirants for elections.

Yet, Motahari has advised reformists and promoted rapprochement with the United States. In fact, he’s been very critical of the fact that enmity with the US has been shaping Iran’s foreign policy by stating that “Struggle against America was supposed to be a means for us, not an end, but now it has turned into a goal by itself,” he writes.

He was one of the few politicians who called for the release of Green Movement leaders MirHossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who are reportedly under house arrest. Just like his reformist friends, Motahari is deeply invested in the survival of the Islamic Republic and only promotes limited openings such as détente with the US.

Finally, despite Motahari’s partial disagreements with the conservatives, his family and business ties show that he is actually in collusion with the same individuals he frequently criticizes in public. In fact, he has invested enormously in the publishing industry and has interconnected business interests with the family of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Larijani familiy.

The reality is that Mothari’s views on women are part of the mainstream thinking among Islamic Republic’s political establishment. The silence of the reformist political figures only shows one thing: women are second class citizens in the Islamic Republic. Meanwhile, schism between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the population is even going to grow wider as the populace has largely grown disillusioned with all factions of the ruling regime.

White Wednesdays activist Saba Kordafshari, has been temporarily released from prison on a furlough together with her mother, Raheleh Ahmadi.  Based on reports, Kordafshari had to post a 2.2 billion Tomans (around $500,000) bail to be granted a furlough.

Tehran Revolutionary Court had sentenced Kordafshari in 2019 to a total of 24 years in prison for demanding an end to compulsory hijab laws, including 15 years a on charges of “spreading corruption and prostitution and walking without a veil.” She had received 7.5 years on “national security” charges for removing her headscarf in public and the remaining 1.5 years for creating propaganda against the regime.

Ahmadi, was released on furlough on March 14. Shei had been arrested in February 2020 for having opposed the unjust sentence meted out to her daughter.

Kordafshari and her mother were part of a group of women, including Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz, that created a video opposing compulsory hijab in 2019. The women had handed out flowers to women in Tehran metro. The security forces arrested everyone affiliated with the campaign on the same day.

The White Wednesdays movement opposes compulsory hijab and promotes freedom of choice for Iranian women.

Women of #WhiteWednesdays in Iran are still in prison. By removing their compulsory hijab, they had produced this awe-inspiring video on women’s day on Tehran’s metro. They were calling their sisters to band together, regardless of whether they wear hijab or not.

In spite of being sentenced to long prison sentences, they don’t regret their heroic act. Don’t forget their names and help us raise awareness for their release Yasaman Aryani Monireh Arab-shahi Mojgan Keshavarz Saba Kord-Afshari Raheleh Ahmadi They’re Iran’s Rosa Parks And here is a message from these two brave mother and daughter from prison for #InternationalWomensDay

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