Do you think that the fight for girls education is over? You'll see here, that we still need to advocate for equal opportunities for girls world-wide.
The history of education for girls in Iran has gone through several significant changes over the centuries, influenced by various cultural, religious, and political factors. In ancient Persia, education was considered a privilege reserved for the elite classes, and women were typically excluded from formal education. However, some women from wealthy and powerful families were able to access education through private tutors or schools. During the Islamic Golden Age in the Middle Ages, education for both boys and girls was encouraged by Islamic scholars, and several prominent female scholars emerged in Iran. However, as conservative attitudes towards women's roles in society became more prevalent, access to education became more limited for girls.
In the early 20th century, during the Qajar dynasty, the Iranian government began to establish modern schools and universities, and some schools were opened for girls. However, access to education was still limited, and many families were hesitant to send their daughters to school due to social and religious restrictions. In the 1960s and 1970s, during the reign of the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, a series of educational reforms were implemented, and access to education for girls increased significantly. The government established more schools, including all-girls schools, and girls were encouraged to pursue higher education. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the new government implemented strict Islamic laws, including restrictions on women's education. However, over time, the government began to relax some of these restrictions, and currently, girls in Iran have access to education at all levels, from primary school to university. However unfortunately, there are many religious groups as well as the government that do necessarily encourage education for women, even trying to prevent women from learning.
Since November in 2022, there have been more and more poisoning cases aimed at Iranian school girls in particular, which is thought to be in order to prevent the education of girls. The first case was on November 30th, 2022 where 18 schoolgirls were taken to the hospital after not feeling well experiencing nausea, dizziness, fatigue and respiratory problems. The victims claim that they suddenly smelt a very strange and unpleasant smell. After the first case, at least 26 schools have been reported to experience similar situations. In total, there have been at least 1000 schoolgirls who have fallen ill due to the poisoning incidents. Many Iranians claim that the incidents were carried out by religious groups opposed to women's education. However, there are also hints that this education issue is in the Iranian authorities itself. To elaborate, in regards to one girl who died as a result of the poisoning attack, the authorities have made contradicting claims, trying to cover the attack up by claiming that the girl had many prior illnesses, though it was confirmed that this was not true. This may mean that the authorities will not take immediate action to prevent this gas attack issue, so that girls will be able to go to school again. Although there is still a lot of investigation required in terms of the causes and suspects, as evidence is very hard to collect, this is yet another reason that the people in the Iranian community including parents have to take action themselves.
In light of this abuse, many teachers, parents, and ordinary citizens have come together to protest against what the Iranian government has done to their children. They gathered in numerous cities across Iran on March 5th to chant out “Death to the child-killing regime,” and “You are our ISIS.” They have also held up signs that said “Protect the safety of schools.” In videos recording this protest, it is found that many protesters have revealed their fear of school now for their children; one father shouted “You are obliged to ensure my children's safety! I have two daughters…and all I can do is not let them go to school.” Another mother stated, "This is a war! They are doing this in a girls' high school in Qom to force us to sit at home. They want girls to stay at home." One person showed a voice of sadness and desperation saying, "Dear mothers, I'm a mother and my child is in a hospital bed and her limbs are weak. I pinch her but she doesn't feel anything. Please don't send your children to school." Despite these heartbreaking protests, security forces unleashed tear gas upon the peaceful protesters, and arrested 5 people on grounds of how they were protesting to “create insecurity and chaos.” Many parents have expressed their disappointment and fury towards the Iranian government from this decision, by saying “To hell with this country and its rulers. We would be better off without a leader. This is our country. They don’t know what they are doing. They don’t even have medicine.” Since the Mahsa Amini protests that have died down over the past few months, these Iranian schoolgirl incidents have once again sparked anger in the citizens towards the incompetence of the Iranian republic. As the protests have indicated: these schoolgirls deserve an education without fear of getting poisoned during the school day.
Afshang, Maryam. “Iran Investigates Poisoning of Hundreds of Schoolgirls with Toxic Gas.” BBC News, BBC News, 28 Feb. 2023, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-64797957. Accessed 12 Mar. 2023.
CNN. “Parents Protest over Suspected Poisoning of Iranian Schoolgirls.” YouTube, 6 Mar. 2023, www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW5PDU_niXY&ab_channel=CNN. Accessed 12 Mar. 2023.
“Outraged over Illnesses among Schoolgirls, Iranians Return to Streets.” The New York Times, 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/03/07/world/middleeast/iran-poison-schoolgirls-protests.html. Accessed 12 Mar. 2023.
“History of Education for Women in Iran.” K12 Academics, https://www.k12academics.com/Education%20Worldwide/Education%20in%20Iran/Women%27s%20Education%20in%20Iran/history-education-women-iran#:~:text=As%20the%20nation’s%20secularization%20created,secondary%20school%20enrollment%20was%20female. Accessed 12 Mar. 2023.
“Are Iranian Schoolgirls Being Poisoned by Toxic Gas?” BBC News, BBC, 3 Mar. 2023, www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-64829798.
Rajvanshi, Astha. “Schoolgirls Are Being Poisoned in Iran. The Government Isn't Doing Enough, Parents Say.” Time, Time, 3 Mar. 2023, time.com/6260115/iran-schoolgirl-poisonings/.