Iran’s Supreme Leader and autocrat, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued an Islamic fatwa regarding officially banning women from riding bicycles. This is only the latest in a growing multitude of activities that the Islamic Republic of Iran had declared haram (religiously forbidden).
A mullah from the Islamic Republic once described the reasoning behind this fatwa to me. He explained that if a male sees a woman in the act of riding a bicycle he would be exposed to her body physique, which will cause him to become aroused. In other words, Iran’s clerics believe that a man cannot control his sexual desires when he sees a woman on a bicycle even when she is fully covered.
Merely for engaging in an activity that millions of women around the world participate in, many women across Iran have recently been arrested. Signs declaring the new law have been installed on the streets reading, “Bicycle riding for women is prohibited.”
This is not the only absurd restriction that the women of Iran must endure. They are also prohibited from watching men’s volleyball games. A British-Iranian woman, Ghonche Ghavami, was detained and jailed in solitary confinement in Evin, notorious political prison, for attempting to watch a men’s volleyball game.
Iran’s President, the so-called moderate, has not raised any objection to this law or similar ones. In fact, under his presidency, the repressive and restrictive laws against women and their inalienable rights have increased.
What are the reasons behind the most recent fatwa and Islamic law? According to the Muslim clerics of Iran, if a man observes a woman riding a bicycle, it will lead to corruption in the society. They list all kinds of terrible consequences, including corruption that will lead to crime, sexual offenses, financial crimes, spiritual infidelity, religious disobedience, and numerous others.
Ayatollah Khamenei pointed out that “riding bicycles often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity, and it must be abandoned,” according to Iran’s state-run media.
So what can a woman do for fun or exercise if she can’t sing, listen to music, ride a bicycle, wear what she likes, etc.? According to the Islamic and sharia laws of Iran, she should focus all of her attention on being a good mother.
This is reflected in the societal belief that women should only stay at home, bear children, raise children, cook, wash clothes, and satisfy the husband’s sexual desires when he comes home after work. There are no pleasures or luxuries allowed for women, aside from the pleasure they are expected to take in serving others.
Ayatollah Khamenei defined women’s only “role and mission” as “motherhood and housekeeping.“
Aside from these ridiculous reasons for issuing the anti-bicycling fatwa, the underlying drive behind the restrictions and lies is the fact that the ruling Islamist clerics desire to exert control through their male-dominated system and religion.
In fact, there are other constitutional laws preventing women from working outside the house. Article 1117 of Civil Code states: “The husband can prevent his wife from an occupation or technical profession which is incompatible with the family’s interests or the dignity of him or his wife.”
In its latest report, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office stated that women’s situation in Iran has worsened. According to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
“Women do not enjoy the same rights and privileges as men in Iran. We expect that the next round of the UN Human Rights Council will be dominated by women’s rights issues, which will raise awareness of this issue; we hope to see progress as a result…Two proposed bills which were making their way through the Iranian parliament in 2015 caused outrage both inside and outside Iran. Human rights groups said the bills would set Iranian women back decades and reduce them to ‘baby-making machines’. The bills were drafted after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described family planning as an imitation of Western lifestyles, and requested that Iran’s population be doubled.”
Rather than praising Rouhani’s so-called moderate government, it is incumbent on the United Nations and human rights organizations to pay more attention to the increasing anti-woman Islamist laws of Iran that subjugate, dehumanize and oppress women.