Iranian Women Celebrate the Death of Raisi, but Will Anything Change for Them?

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

The leadership in Iran and possible successors to that leadership were rocked on Sunday as a helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and several others went down in poor weather and limited visibility. It was thought that Raisi would be the successor to the Supreme Leader, 85-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A press release from the Iranian government stated there would be no changes to the Iranian government and praised Raisi — who was often referred to as "the butcher of Tehran" — as "hardworking and tireless" and claimed that "he sacrificed his life for the nation." However, the Iranian people didn't appear terribly upset, even taking to the streets to set off fireworks as news of the crash broke. While the government says there will be no changes in everyday life for the average Iranian citizen, Iranian women are the most hopeful. 

World leaders, including Joe Biden, have sent official condolences to this brutal regime on the death of their leader. Joe Biden, whose party, the Democrats, loves to claim they are the party of women yet can't tell you what a woman is, has sent condolences on the death of a man who has done everything to crush the lives of everyday women and relegate them to virtual slavery. Since the death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini in September 2022, life has been less than easy for Iranian women. Amini died unexpectedly in the custody of the Gasht-e Ershad, otherwise known as the "morality police," for being improperly dressed. Her death sparked protests across the country, as well as the slogan "Woman, Life, Freedom."

So, how has life been for Iranian women under Ebrahim Raisi, the man for whom Joe Biden sent condolences? After the 1979 revolution, it became mandatory for women to wear a hijab, the traditional Muslim head covering. Women have publicly opposed it, and over time, women have tested the regime over the wearing of the hijab. In September of 2022, Raisi signed a decree stating that the government was planning to use surveillance technology against women who defied the dress code. Included was the use of facial recognition. Violators could be fined, and female government officials could be terminated from their jobs if it is determined that they are not properly dressed. It gets better. Just recently, in March of this year, the Iranian Parliament passed a law that states that women who do not follow the strict hijab law could have money withdrawn from their bank account as fines — as much as 240 million rials, roughly $400 for those who removed their hijab a second time.

Raisi's untimely demise may have had Iranian women dancing in the streets, but his death sets up an interesting scenario in Iranian politics. The presidential election has been moved up to June 28. Raisi had been just one name mentioned as Khamenei's successor; the other was Khamenei's son Mojtaba, who is said to have influence behind the scenes. Raisi wanted the job of Supreme Leader, who is the commander in chief of the armed forces and directs foreign policy. He also had the backing of a group that supported his ascension to Supreme Leader. Raisi's death created a vacuum and opened the door for other possible candidates. 

The reality for Iranian women is that until the Ayatollah dies, life may not become better in the way they would like. One reason: Raisi's presidency consolidated the power of the regime's hardliners, something that does not bode well for the improved treatment of women in Iran. Another is that Iran's Islamic constitution says that the First Vice President, Mohammad Mokhber, takes over until the election, and he will be nothing more than Ebrahim Raisi 2.0.


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