Leader’s Speech to Prominent Iranian Women

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 22, 2011 by Ayatollah Khamenei the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in a meeting with a group of prominent Iranian women in Tehran.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

First of all, I would like to extend my congratulations on the birthday anniversary of the Lady of the Two Worlds, Hazrat Fatima Zahra (s.a.). Thankfully this meeting turned out to be a very important and valuable meeting. The dear ladies who have attended this meeting are among prominent ladies in different social and scientific arenas. They are truly prominent figures of our society - the honorable teachers, those who are distinguished in different scientific, technological and other areas, the esteemed families of our martyrs, the honorable lady whose husband and four children were martyred. These are examples of ladies who have moved towards perfection and transcendence. Thankfully the people who have attended this meeting are distinguished in all aspects. The symbolic aspect of the meeting is another reason why this meeting is important. Undoubtedly there are other honorable ladies across the country who have distinguished themselves in certain aspects and who are assets for the progress and the future of the country. This meeting represents the impressive movement by the ladies in our country.

Almost all aspects of women's issues were discussed by the ladies in this meeting - almost all the aspects that the Islamic Republic should consider and follow up. I listened to the comments carefully. Almost all the things that can be discussed and studied regarding women's issues were mentioned by the ladies.

If we wanted to make a judgment in this regard, the judgment would be that the Islamic Republic has managed to reach a peak: it has managed to educate scholarly and intellectual ladies who can offer expert opinions on the subtlest and the most sensitive issues of a society. I will speak about this issue later on. Women's issues - which should be called "women's crisis" in the modern world - are one of the most essential issues of all civilizations, societies and countries. You have thought about women's issues and you have managed to extract important details and topics in this regard. Therefore, the general conclusion is that the Islamic Republic has reached a peak, a peak that many countries might not have achieved.

Now I would like to add one more point in this regard. In spite of all the work that has been done by you and others, the issues related to women and the family deserve to be discussed and elaborated further. This is one of the topics that will be discussed in one of the "Strategic Thoughts" forums which will be held in the future. "Strategic Thoughts" forums - which have been held twice so far and the related issues will be pursued on an intellectual and practical level - are supposed to handle the most essential and the most strategic intellectual issues of our society. One of these issues is the issue related to women and the family. This has been listed among the issues to be discussed in the future. I would like to take this opportunity to ask our esteemed ladies and woman intellectuals - some of whom are fortunately present in this meeting - to contribute to this endeavor in a serious way. I ask them to discuss, study and reflect on the issues related to women and the family. Analyze and discuss women's issues in a technical and scientific way, relying on Islamic sources and a pure revolutionary attitude - which you fortunately enjoy. By Allah's favor, these issues and discussions will be followed up to prepare plans and to take action.

Regarding women's issues in society, there two essential problems. If we can address these two problems, we can hope to find a solution to "women's crisis" over time - in the long or medium term. One of the problems is the misconception about women's position in society. This misconception and wrong attitude started in the west and it is not a very deep-rooted and old issue. We can say that the claims about the inclusion of this issue in the protocols of Zionist intellectuals do not go against the truth. That is to say, if we look carefully, we will see that in the west this misconception dates back to only 100-150 years ago and that the misconception spread to other societies, including Islamic societies. This is one problem.

The second problem is the misconception about the family and misbehavior in the family environment. I believe that these two problems have given rise to "women's crisis" which is a critical problem in the modern world. "Women's crisis" might appear to be a strange term. Today the environmental crisis, the water crisis, the energy crisis and global warming are considered as the main issues that humanity has to face. But none of these things are among the main issues of humanity. Most of the main problems of humanity are related to spirituality, ethics and social behavior of human beings towards each other - including the relationship between men and women, women's position in society and women's issues. This is a genuine problem, but they do not discuss it. Those who formulate dominant global policies do not consider this issue in their best interest and maybe they believe that discussing this issue goes against their main strategies.

Regarding women's position in society - no matter what you call it - the problem is that they have gradually created an inequation: one side of the inequation is the taker and the other side is the giver. They have divided humanity into these two categories. Men are the taker and women are the giver. This has been gradually established in western societies over several decades using different methods and propaganda techniques. Maybe the process took 100-150 years. I cannot give you an accurate number. This is an issue that deserves to be researched. Later on the problem spread to other societies as well. They defined women as the creatures who should benefit men and they promoted this definition. Therefore, if a woman is determined to distinguish herself in western societies, she has no choice but to make use of her sexual appeal. Even in formal meetings women should dress in a way to appear pleasing to their beneficiaries - namely, men.

I believe this is the greatest blow, the biggest insult and the greatest injustice as far as women are concerned. Unfortunately there is a cultural norm in western culture according to which women are considered the giver and men are considered the taker. Other societies followed the west and made efforts on its path. And this norm has been established in the world. If somebody says something that goes against this norm, they create uproar against him. For example, if in a society women are prohibited from wearing make-up in public places, they will create uproar. But there will be no uproar in the world if the opposite is done - that is to say, if immodesty is promoted among women in a society. When a society promotes modesty and discourages make-up among women, dominant propaganda machines of the world create uproar about it. This shows that there is a culture, a policy, a strategy that has been followed for many years in order to consolidate this wrong and insulting position for women. And unfortunately this has already happened.

As a result, you see that in the west they are gradually voicing their opposition to hijab in an open way. They say that hijab is the symbol of a religious movement and that they do not want religious symbols to be promoted in their secular societies. These are the reasons that they present for this opposition. I believe what their claims are a lie. It is not a matter of religion. The problem is that the fundamental policy of the west is to promote moral corruption among women and to exploit them, and hijab works against this policy. Even if hijab is not motivated by religious faith, they oppose it. This is the main problem.

This issue has resulted in serious consequences for different communities: the break-up of the family and shocking statistics about women trafficking. According to a report that has been published globally - I think the report has been published by the UN - women trafficking is among the trades that are growing fastest in the world. There are a few countries which are worst in this regard and the Zionist regime is among them. Under the guise of labor, marriage and other such things, they collect women and girls from poor countries in Latin America, certain Asian countries and certain poor European countries and they deliver them to certain centers, centers whose names and activities would shock people. All of these things are the result of the misconception about women, the result of the oppressive inequation about women's position in society. The issue of illegitimate children - which is most common in America - and the issue of cohabitation are in fact destroying the warm family environment and its blessings. They are depriving humanity of these blessings. These issues are the consequences of the first problem that I spoke about. It is necessary to do something in this regard. It is necessary to define the position of women and to stand up against the propaganda of the west in a serious way.

I was once asked how we would defend ourselves against what westerners say about the issue of women in our country. I said, "We will not defend ourselves: we will attack them." regarding the issue of women, it is the west that owes us an explanation. It is the west that is oppressing and humiliating women. Westerners pressure women psychologically and emotionally and they insult women's personality and position in the name of freedom, employment and responsibility. They are the ones who should answer for their actions. The Islamic Republic has a responsibility in this regard. The Islamic Republic should clarify its position on the issue of women without standing on ceremony. The position of the Islamic Republic is mainly a protest against the western view and the oppressive western inequation. The issue of hijab and the issue of man-woman relationship become meaningful from this perspective. This is the first problem.

The second problem regarding the issue of women is related to the family. Islam has a very clear view of the family and women's position in the family environment. There is a narration by the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) which says, "Women are the lord at home." The position of women in the family environment has been specified in the narrations of our infallible Imams (a.s.). "A woman is a flower and not a servant at home." Islam tells men, "The best of you are those who treat their wives best." These are the views of Islam, and there are many such views in Islam. However, practicing the Islamic view in the family environment is not possible through these narrations alone: it requires a legal guarantee and it is necessary to provide this guarantee. This has not been done over the past years. Faithful families and well-behaved and pious men have taken Islamic views into consideration. But in other cases, Islamic views have not been taken into consideration and women have been oppressed in the family.

Of course we do not believe that westerners are ahead of us in this regard, not at all. I have a lot of statistics in this regard. The esteemed lady who spoke in this meeting also presented certain statistics. The situation of western families - in terms of oppression against women and in terms of violating women's rights - is definitely worse than Islamic, Iranian and eastern families. Their situation is not better than us and in certain cases their situation is definitely worse. But we do not follow them. They are not our role model. We have a lot of shortcomings in our family environments. Addressing these shortcomings requires a legal guarantee for implementation and this is something that has to be done. This is one of the areas in which very little work has been done in the country and it is necessary to do something about it.

There is no shortage of Islamic texts and sources in this area. Sometimes we see certain people criticizing Islamic thought and finding fault with Islamic rules such as those related to inheritance, blood money and other such things. This is while these criticisms are misplaced. There are logical and firm answers for these criticisms. However, we unfortunately fail to pay enough attention to behaviors in the family environment. This is while Islam has absolutely clear views in this regard. The family environment must be a safe, dignified and peaceful environment for women so that they can fulfill their essential duty of protecting the family in the best possible way.

There have been many discussions about the Islamic view of women and I have spoken in this regard on many occasions. I have repeatedly said that in the Holy Quran women have been mentioned as examples of piety and lack of faith in God. This is an interesting point. When the Holy Quran mentions examples of good and bad people, the examples are women. "Allah sets forth an example to those who disbelieve the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut." [The Holy Quran, 66: 10] The Holy Quran mentions the names of two women as examples of bad people: the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut. On the other hand, the Holy Quran says, "And Allah sets forth an example to those who believe the wife of the Pharaoh." [The Holy Quran, 66: 11] The Holy Quran mentions the names of two women as examples of faithful and good people: one is the wife of the Pharaoh and other is the Virgin Mary. "And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity." [The Holy Quran, 66: 12] The interesting point is that all of these four women are good or bad because of their family environment. Regarding the two bad women "the wife of Noah and the wife of Lut", the Holy Quran says, "They were both under two of Our righteous servants, but they acted treacherously towards them." [The Holy Quran, 66: 10] These two women betrayed their husbands, who were divine prophets. It is all about the family. The same thing is true of the examples of good women as well. The wife of the Pharaoh is valuable and important because she raised Prophet Moses, became one of his followers and helped him later on. Therefore, the Pharaoh punished her. It is all about the family environment. She managed to raise somebody like Prophet Moses. The same is true of the Virgin Mary "who guarded her chastity." This shows that there were factors in the Virgin Mary's society that could have threatened her chastity and morality and she managed to fight those factors. Therefore, all of these things are related to the important aspects that I spoke about: the family environment and the issue of women's position in society. This is an important issue.

Of course we have made progress in the Islamic Republic. I am optimistic. I saw the situation of our society before the Revolution. At that time our country, our society and our women were heading towards a horrible and dangerous situation. Because women in our country were imitating European women, in some cases their situation was even worse than the situation of European women. This was the kind of situation that they were promoting. Of course Iranian women managed to overcome this destructive wave because of the religious faith that has been instilled into their hearts. Encouraged by Iranian men, they managed to contribute a lot to the Revolution through their presence and they managed to play an essential role in helping the Revolution achieve victory. And after the victory of the Revolution, the movement of Iranian women has been extraordinary.

I would say that the wives and mothers of those who struggle in the way of God are true manifestations of patience and resistance. If you read their biography, you will see how much they have suffered. Of course there were a few such women among the wives of revolutionary activists who went through those hardships, but perfect examples of such women emerged during the Sacred Defense Era. They sent their children to the battlefields. Many of their children were martyred or disabled, but these models of patience and resistance stood firm like a mountain. This is the progress that we have made in spiritual areas. Thankfully our country has made extraordinary progress on political and scientific fronts as well. The large number of intellectual women who teach at our Islamic seminaries and universities - some of whom are fortunately present among you dear audience - shows that the Islamic Republic has been successful. This is my view. This optimistic view makes hearts hopeful about the future. If we continue making progress at this speed, we will definitely manage to overcome the wrong western culture that is prevalent in the world. We should work hard. We should make determined efforts. However, this optimistic view should not prevent us from seeing the weaknesses. We made some progress, but we could have made a lot more progress. Our weaknesses and problems prevented us from making further progress. You mentioned some of these problems in this meeting and there have been other problems as well which should be eliminated.

I would say that the major part of the job should be done by ladies themselves. It is you ladies who should think, study and solve the problems on an intellectual and practical level. This will make things a lot easier. Of course the esteemed ladies who spoke in this meeting presented a number of suggestions some of which are completely practical. It is possible to practice some of the suggestions they made. We can also prepare the ground for practicing certain other suggestions that were made in this meeting.

In any case, I hope our women will be among the most successful people in our country. I hope our young girls will be able to take bigger steps in the areas that you have prepared for them. I hope we will get closer to our high Islamic goals on a daily basis and by Allah's favor, this meeting will produce its own blessings in this regard.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings