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18. Oktober 2005

Shahla Ezazi

Shahla Ezazi in Vienna, July 2005.

Shahla Ezazi in Vienna

f.l.t.r.: Shahla Ezazi, Jaleh Lackner-Gohari, Elisabeth Kasbauer, Giti Shahrokh und Soraya Mani.

Iran - Violence against Women is an issue now

The renowned Iranian sociologist, Dr. Shahla Ezazi, was in Vienna in July of this year. Dr. Ezazi is a pioneer in the conduct of researches on ‘Violence against women and violence in the family’ in Iran.

Shahla Ezazi moved to Teheran shortly before the revolution and has been active in both the academic and socio-civic field. Since 1978, she has been teaching Family-Sociology, Sociology of education and Sociology of Mass media at the Allameh Tabatabaii University (ATU) in Teheran and is holding courses on ‘Women Studies’, ‘Gender Sociology’ and ‘Introduction to Women’s Studies and Theory of Family’.
One of her many involvements is holding the post of Director of the Sociology Association in Teheran. She studied Sociology at the University in Vienna/Austria and has authored numerous books and articles. Her most famous books are: Family and Television (1994), Sociology of Family (1997) and Violent Family: Battered Women (2002).

Women without Borders met with Dr. Ezazi and took the opportunity to ask about her research and the situation of women in Iran.

Women without Borders (WwB): What are the main issues of your research work?

Shala Ezazi (SE): My first research work, which I did in Teheran, was about women in television. The first study was about women in soap operas. The second was about how families are shown in children´s programs on TV - how the family generally, and the women and girls particularly, in the children’s channel are presented. Then I started to work on violence in the family. So now I am known as the “expert” on this issue. I think – although I am not quite sure – that one of the first-ever researches on violence in the family was mine. I interviewed women in Teheran and made a book out of it (Violent Family: Battered Women, 2002). That was my most recent publication and since then I have been engaged with institutions, government and so forth. I participate in workshops especially those about gender and sex, gender-sensitiveness and things like that.

WwB: Violence against women is an issue that deeply moves society worldwide. What is the situation like in Iran?

SE: I started my researches six years ago. It’s normal to speak currently with colleagues and friends about the topic. At that time, everybody laughed at me and said, “What? In Teheran? Violence does not exist here at all. Maybe with the women that are really poor and live in villages, but not in Teheran“. But after speaking to these friends for a while, they suddenly said, “yes, I know a cousin of mine, she once had a cast. Yes and our neighbour …”

"We have stayed at the first step in Iran..."

Today violence is a very popular topic in Teheran and I think there are different factors involved: First the Beijing Conference in 1995 [1], that was, that the government had to eliminate violence and; Second, the scientific assignments, that I made about violence within the family.

Whenever you do a research, the first step is that the public gets ‘sensitised’ about it, that the people get some information, and then you have to do the changes in the law and in other institutions and then you have to somehow protect the victims of violence and provide assistance. We have stayed at the first step in Iran. The other steps are really difficult.

WwB: What are the hindrances in this topic? And where are the obstacles located?

SE: We can barely change the laws. We try to get the statesmen – I say statesmen on purpose because they are all men – and for them it is no topic at all. They are not interested in changing the laws. In every government department there is a division for women’s affairs. The women in these departments are struggling and they try to change something. They are not at the top, but still they try to change the situation although it is very difficult. Laws haven’t been changed until now and there is no support and no shelter and so forth.
They reckon that there is a hotline where every woman can call, but not even I know the number you have to call. Nobody knows this number!

The men kick their women out of their home in the middle of the night, sometimes without chador and headscarf and without money. What should the woman do? She waits, she hides behind some trees and so on, until one female neighbour opens the door for her and lets her in. But then she cannot give someone a call as she has no money, she cannot go to someone. She has no chance at all.

Now, everybody is aware that is violence in the family is existing. But the next steps have to be undertaken.

WwB. Let us talk about politics. Women have become politically very active around the world. How is the situation in Iran?

SE: Two years ago, there have been lots of women active in the parliament, but numbers alone do not count. Some of those women have been very active, they wanted to have new laws for women and tried to make changes in the law. But as far as I know, only a few laws have been enacted.

After the new parliamentary elections, there are now also a few women in the parliament, but that doesn’t count at all. Once, one of these women said that polygamy is an economic solution for women. She said that women should be happy about that - to have no job, no money - and she cannot understand why women are against it. In this way they can get a roof over their head. That’s the way in which they are thinking. Or another one said, “if you hang 10 prostitutes there will be none left”. They are all very conservative. I have no hope.

WwB: And those women who are thinking different?

SE: There are many women active on the academic level or in NGOS. We have 15 NGOs, which are really active in women’s topics, they try to make a difference. But you have to consider the whole social context. We, women, try to do something to be political active, but the chances, the possibilities, are really very marginal.

“..but men have a resistance towards us in some way…”

WwB: How do you think women contribute to the civil society in Iran? Are they working on changing the mindsets or is it more a women’s network?

SE: It shouldn’t be only a network amongst women. At the women’s group of the sociological association, we have always invited “normal” women too. We also invited men. But men have a resistance towards us in some way; they do not come after all.
Surprisingly, it is really interesting – I speak about Teheran only – you can see more women on the street, in seminars, actually everywhere, than men. Men are somehow retrenched.
There are, for example, a lot of female authors in Iran, more than men. They all found different ways to express themselves. These ways are sometimes positive, sometimes negative but still are ways to try to free oneself from a situation that is suppressive.
There are many women studying at the University– more than men. In the last year, there have been 70% women and 30% men. This is somehow positive, but the question is, if these women can get employed.

WwB: What other problems does the Iranian society face? What are the main problems for women?

SE: We have the problem of run-away-girls. There is so much suppression in Iran and because of this some think “if I would have a University-Education I could be autonomous, I could work”, and the other girls think, “if I run away from home I get a better chance”.

WwB: Would you say that there is a mind change among Iranian women? Would you say that they are more self confident and that they fight for their rights…

SE: There are really many indications that women have become more self-confident and I definitely believe that men somehow have a different social consciousness by women. So, maybe they haven’t changed, but it is enough that the discourse has started, about some words in the newspapers, in public. The words that the reformist-group used like ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of opinion,’ are now common. so that the conservatives use these words too. Maybe they comprehend a different meaning of these terms - another sense, but they still use it.

WwB: Thank you very much for this interesting talk.
[1] In 1995 the 4th Womenworldconference of the United Nations took place in Peking. 6000 Delegates from 189 countries passed a declaration in which the participating countries affirmed their commitment to euality and human dignity of women and promised the warranty of equality of women and men by law and in practice.


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