Before and after 1979: Women’s rights in Iran

Before the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iranian women were acquiring rights along with women in other parts of the world. Hundreds served on elected local councils and millions were in the workforce, including as judges, civil servants, ambassadors and police officers.

The Iranian Islamic Revolution wiped out those gains.

Graphic about restrictions on Iranian women's activities (State Dept.)

For the past four decades, Iranian women have fought back to regain a few of their basic human freedoms, including what they could study and what jobs they could hold. But the harsh reality for the 40 million women in Iran is that the law recognizes the husband as the head of the family, and the wife must obey him in all matters, including employment.

Graphic with examples of segregation of Iranian women and girls (State Dept.)

The Iranian economy could drastically improve if the regime allowed women to fully participate in the workforce; Iran’s gross domestic product could increase by 40 percent, according to an International Monetary Fund estimate.

“We want the Iranian people to have the democracy and the freedom and the liberty and the human rights protections that we want for everyone in the world,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on March 23.