Recently, a significant revolution has transpired, making worldwide news; Iranian women are bravely fighting in solidarity for the sake of their own voices and freedoms.
While this mass stance of valor is incredibly profound, it is simultaneously heartbreaking that these fearless women and those who love and support them are being brutally beaten and murdered in cold blood for their acts of protest.
Ultimately, it is a mere glimpse for most of us into the unimaginable oppression Iranian women have endured for the last 40 years.
Silenced, oppressed and abused
As a female who spent my first 10 years of life in Iran, I have a very concrete and sobering perspective on the reality of life for Iranian women. The primary oppressing theme is the deeply ingrained idea that women have no value. In Iran, women are raised to know this crucial integrality:
“Your voice is worthless, and you shouldn’t be seen.”
Unironically, the mandatory wearing of the hijab is a physical demonstration of what has been happening on a psychological level for nearly half a century — the silencing, muting, and hiding of women. Among the many strict requirements for females, women are expected to be fully covered, not allowed to be seen with non-relative men, and tragically left without rights to their own children.
Iranian women — having no voice, no value, and no power — are typically unallowed to even rent apartments without the cover of a male to represent them. If they do not have a male representation, oftentimes the "solution” is to grant sexual favors to landlords.
According to the Research Center on Women and Family in Tehran, 66% of Iranian women experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Whether married or unmarried, Iranian women do not even have autonomy over their own bodies. For example, a woman in our church, whose husband was imprisoned, was trying to navigate the court system to grant his bail. The case judge propositioned her, offering to free her husband only if she performed sexual favors for the judge himself. What’s most alarming is that if his actions were brought to public light, he would remain free of punishment. Instead, the coerced woman would be the individual in trouble for “prostituting herself out.”
The heartbreaking reality is that this has been completely normalized; it is but a small glimpse into the extensive abuse that has taken place.
Now that these dauntless women are battling for their own voice in protest — publicly burning their hijabs, cutting their hair in the streets, and making bold statements on social media platforms — we, in the Western World, are witnessing just how terrifyingly oppressed these women have been for an entire generation as they are savagely beaten, tortured and murdered in cold blood for their brave acts of protest. From one woman grabbed by the neck and thrown against a wall by a guard, to another shot six times in the face and neck, to the sanctuary-seeking group deceived and trapped in an establishment until arrested — the brutal injustices we have witnessed thus far are unfathomable.
Though these valiant women are being silenced by the Iranian government at any and all costs, they are pushing forward for freedom in what can essentially be deemed suicide missions — all because they have nothing left to lose.
Their worth has been lost
Even through their unfathomable bravery, I’m left wondering if these beautiful women know their worth. For so long, they have been told they amount to nothing more than worthless, disposable objects. Sadly, most of these women don’t know how very valuable they are to the Father; no one has ever told them.
Jesus was the man who changed the narrative for women. Women living in the New Testament era also had no rights, no voice, and no value in society — amounting to mere property.
The value and voice Jesus gave the women in the New Testament were utterly profound. Not only did Jesus spend time listening to these women, serving them, and loving them fully — he also chose to reveal Himself to them first after his resurrection — an extremely thought-provoking fact, given the contextual nuance that a woman’s testimony was worthless in a court of law at that time in history.
In the same way, Jesus sees the women of Iran. He has known each and every one of them since before they were born. He loves them, cares for them, sees their worth, and values them as individuals. I have faith that Jesus will meet these women, permeate their hearts, and transform the Kingdom through their powerful testimonies.
We cannot forget about these women
The easy choice is to read this, say a quick prayer for these victims, and move on, quickly detaching ourselves from the harsh reality of what Iranian women are currently battling. Let us not do this. These are valuable individuals with dreams and worth; they are known, loved, and chosen by Jesus. God calls us into the battle, leaving the 99 to seek after the one — and we must do just that — because the Lord deeply cares for every single one of these Iranian women.
How do we stand with these women from thousands of miles away? There are three things we can do right now:
- Pray unceasingly for these women. Prayer is powerful and transformative. When we partner together in earnest intercessory prayer, we are heard by Lord, who can achieve the impossible. Let us join in prayer against oppression for these precious treasures of God who are sacrificing their lives in a war for their freedom.
- Give financially to organizations that are serving on the front lines in Iran and the surrounding regions, where many women have been displaced or are living in safe housing. The love of Jesus is often first experienced through the provision of urgent, practical needs.
- Spread awareness of this unspeakable abuse and relentless fight happening in Iran. We cannot give up on the women of Iran. As they continue to fight for their voice, freedom and human rights, we must stand alongside them spiritually and practically. Just as Jesus did for the women in the New Testament, recognizing each of their unique talents, passions, and inner beauty, we are called to do the same for these valuable and worthy women who do not yet know their freedom and worth in Him.
Lana Silk is the Chief Executive Officer – USA of 222 Ministries, a nonprofit organization which seeks to transform Iran into a nation that bears the image of Christ. Silk was born and raised in Iran before emigrating to the UK where she completed her education at Imperial College, London. With over 20 years of marketing experience across all media, Lana considers it her life calling to represent and advocate for the people of Iran in the West.