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

Coronavirus has been wreaking havoc in Iran. The country has long exceeded the threshold of more than 1 million cases. The situation is so grave that authorities had to resort to imposing a night-time curfew in scores of cities. Meanwhile, the government has been blaming sanctions and foreigners for the rapid spread of the virus while ample evidence exists of the Islamic Republic’s criminal negligence in leading to the spike in cases.

Under these circumstances, wouldn’t it be wiser for a cash-strapped government like the Islamic Republic to channel its resources to public health? Well, it seems that even during corona times, authorities in Iran are more concerned with women’s hair and how many strands of it are coming out of women’s compulsory hijab than enforcing the indispensable health measures.

Many Iranian women have been sending us their recent videos of verbal altercations with the morality police chasing them in the streets for their hijab. It has to be borne in mind that while various government services have come to a standstill due to COVID19 and other adverse economic conditions, the notorious and widely-detested morality police have yet to see their budget slashed. 

One of the videos sent to the #MyCameraIsMyWeapon campaign shows a woman being harassed by a female morality police officer in the street for her hijab. Despite the fact that the morality police officer threatened to bring in further reinforcement, the woman was unfazed by the threats; she filmed the entire incident, spurring the morality police officer to hide her face due to the popularity of the #MyCameraIsMyWeapon campaign.

In another video sent to us , airport officials are seen harassing a woman, preventing her from taking her plane to due her hijab. The woman bravely resists them while filming the entire scene. The morality police officers are seen accosting her violently. All of this because of her hijab.

In a third video , a female driver is being accosted by a group of morality police officers who seem to have no intention of letting go of her as her hijab doesn’t cover the entirety of her hair. At a time when the coronavirus infection rate has reached a pinnacle in the capital Tehran, she was accosted while driving to the North of Iran to get away from the pandemic. But as she’s seen saying in the video, even there, what really seems to matter to the officials is her hijab. 

Iranian officials have a track record of allocating large sums of money to reinforce morality rules. However, as Iranian women are increasingly rebellious to such measures, thanks in large part to campaigns like #MyCameraIsMyWeapon and #WhiteWednesdays, the Islamic Republic’s morality drive is doomed to failure.

Did you know that in addition to being the only country in the world imposing a dress code on women, Iran is also the only country in the world that makes it forbidden to them to ride bicycles? Often times, municipalities come up with draconian rules to find out about the best ways of making cycling impossible to women. Just like what the city of Esfahan recently did when it relaunched its bike sharing system.

Why are Iran’s clerics so rattled by the image of women cycling in the streets? Basically, the tenets of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ideology are written on women’s bodies. Controlling their actions in society is part and parcel of how this clerical system projects its power. Women in Iran have been the greatest victims of more than 40 years of the clerical rule. Various clerics aver that women riding bicycles provokes men. In other words, instead of teaching men to control their urges, the system in Iran blames women for exciting men. Just like the way they impose compulsory hijab.

But as in this video, many Iranian women have been cycling unveiled to shatter the foundations of patriarchy in Iran. They have been challenging these clerics in every possible way. This woman is engaging in a double crime in the standards of the Islamic Republic: being unveiled and cycling, freedoms taken for granted elsewhere in the world.

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