Women and the Iranian Revolution: A Village Case Study

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All in all, the activism of the Aliabad seyyid women in the Iranian Revolution followed the lines of traditional concerns, traditional methods, and traditional constraints on the activities of women. Women hoped for improved justice, safety for their families, and restoration of a semblance of peace in the village and the nation as a whole. Women's political methods were those of social interaction and use of their verbal abilities, emotional displays, and physical presence to show support. They followed the usual constraints on their behavior by marching in the company of their usual network of companions, separate from men and covered with their chadors, and did not neglect their families and households. The two changes were in the level of political involvement: national rather than local level, and the locus of political activity—Shiraz rather than the village of Aliabad. The local level of political activity was no longer the level at which policy and forces determined the safety and welfare of their family and relatives. With the Shah's centralization program, power over the lives of villagers lay at higher levels. With the merging of local level politics and national level politics during the incidents of violence on December 7 and 8, 1978, women began to realize that the target of their political activism must also be at higher levels. In hopes of having some effect on national level politics and thereby on the safety and welfare of their family members, the Aliabad seyyid women traveled into Shiraz to demonstrate in the revolutionary movement In her studies of women's activities in some strikes between 1917–1922, Temma Kaplan also found women to go to the locus of action and decision making regarding their concerns. She found that women organizing from neighborhood and kin networks did not form lasting organizations after their strikes, as was also the case among the Aliabad women, as they had aimed primarily at providing for the welfare of their families through their strike activities, and not at becoming involved in politics on a regular basis. Striking similarities exist between the situations described by Kaplan and the participation of women in the Iranian Revolution. Kaplan uses the concept of \ldfemale consciousness\rd to explain why women took part in strikes: they accepted the female responsibility of preserving life and wished to force the authorities into providing them with the food and necessities to do so. The Aliabad women seemed also to be concerned about the preserving of life, although in this case their concerns developed more as a result of outrage and fear about physical harm to their family members and relatives than insufficient food. One wonders how women's concern to protect their families has taken form during the last several years in Iran.