Leader's Speech to Outstanding Women

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 11, 2013 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with a group of outstanding women who are active in seminary and academic areas.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

I sincerely thank the honorable ladies who organized this good and fruitful meeting. Today, I really benefited from the ladies' statements and I thank God for the depth of issues, thoughts and efforts which can be seen in the speeches of outstanding women throughout our country. The issues which you discussed were mostly good. There were certain suggestions which, by Allah's favor, will be examined. By Allah's favor, I will follow up the part which is related to me.

There are many things to say about the issue of women and what is related to women. We suffer from a kind of backwardness in this regard which you ladies - the ones who delivered a speech - referred to. Backwardness in this area is not similar to backwardness in scientific areas, which we suffer from. When we say that we suffer from backwardness in this area, this means we have many outstanding points to make on the issue of women, the issue of gender and issues which are related to women - such as the issue of family, children, marriage, settling down, tranquility in the family environment and other such issues - but we have not managed to convey these points to the world and discuss them with the public opinion throughout the world. We mean backwardness from this point of view. This is while the world needs valuable, comprehensive and clear ideas and concepts in this regard. As a number of ladies pointed out, when we discuss these points in international arenas, they receive a good reception. Or as a number of ladies said, research findings in psychological and other areas confirm that Islamic rules are true on the issue of women.

Well, this is only part of the capabilities of Islamic philosophy on this sensitive issue. But we failed to define and show these capabilities in the right way. The same is true of many other areas which are related to reasoning and thinking. In many of these areas, we failed to truly convey the opinion of Islam to the world. When I say, "We failed", it should not be thought that the Islamic Republic is responsible for this due to the fact that what has been already done in this regard is because of the Islamic Republic, the name of the Revolution and Imam (r.a.), the influence of their ideas and other such things. Thankfully, these ideas were developed to some extent, but we should work more than this. In order to do this, we need certain things which I will speak about later on. In order to form a front which is ready to attack and which is immune from others' attack and in order to take up an offensive position, we need to promote and convey these ideas and thoughts. We really need this.

In fact, our attack is launched for the sake of immunity and defense. Therefore, in my opinion, the more you work in order to make up for this backwardness, the more valuable it will be. It is necessary to do this. We should not hesitate and stop in treading the path of this movement which is an awakening movement related to the issues of women. We should not stop in the middle of the way. Despite the fact that we benefit from a perfect, valuable and convincing Islamic discourse, we have adopted a passive outlook in the face of the western discourse on the issue of women.

The western discourse on the issue of women has adopted a very calculated and political outlook. That is to say, the day when this idea and this discourse on women started to develop in the west, there was a careful calculation behind it. Of course, this is not based on fact and what I am saying is not based on precise information, but there are clear signs which support this interpretation. Since the beginning of Renaissance in the west and the emergence of industrialism and the development of new industries in the west, this discourse gradually achieved growth. And it reached its peak during our own times. Of course, this peak will be accompanied by decline and, by Allah's favor, disgrace and destruction.

The western discourse on the issue of women has different dimensions, but it has two distinct dimensions. One is that it wants to give women a masculine identity. That is to say, it wants to make women behave like men. This is an important dimension of this discourse. Another is that it wants to make women prepare the ground for men to indulge in pleasure, whether the pleasure of watching women or other kinds of pleasure which are beyond this. This is another dimension of the western discourse on the issue of women. The issue of feminism and other such things - which have become popular in the world today - are, in fact, the products of western discourse. These are the consequences of what western discourse has done.

They wanted to give women a masculine identity. That is to say, they were trying to make women do jobs which are more compatible with the physical and intellectual characteristics of men. They consider it as a source of honor and they would like to describe it as an advantage and a source of honor for women. We have adopted a passive outlook in the face of this. We have been deceived and we have unwillingly and unknowingly accepted this. As you see, today we are proud of having such and such a number of women in certain executive positions. What I am saying should not be misunderstood. I do not have any problems with the idea of giving women executive positions. That is to say, I do not forbid women from doing this and I do not deny this right. I do not think it is wrong. Our minister of health and vice presidents were female and women have positions in different sectors. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with this. What is wrong is to be proud of this, to boast about this in the world and say, "See, we have such and such a number of women in executive positions". This is the same as being deceived and passive. This is not a source of honor.

Take the case of a lady who has certain qualifications, who has developed her capabilities and who is suitable for a specific position. She can be allowed to hold this position because it is not illegal, but if we are proud of having such and such a number of female officials in charge of executive affairs, this is wrong. If we feel proud of having a large number of intellectual and educated women, this is good and it is alright. If we say that we have a large number of women who are active in cultural and political areas, this is alright. If we say that we have a large number of mujahid women in different areas, who are ready to be martyred, this is good. If we say that we have a large number of women who are active in political and revolutionary arenas and who write and deliver speeches, this is good.

Being proud of these things is good, but being proud of having such and such a number of female ministers, MPs, deputies and managers in financial organizations, is wrong. This means adopting a passive outlook in the face of the enemies. Are we supposed to entrust women with masculine occupations? No, the position, identity and characteristics of women are very noble and respectable. This identity is, in certain ways, superior to men's identity. If we adopt a comprehensive outlook, we see that men and women have no differences. Certain privileges have been granted to women and certain other privileges have been granted to men and this is based on their natural characteristics which Allah the Exalted has bestowed on them. Allah the Exalted has given each gender certain characteristics. Each gender benefits from certain outstanding qualities. Therefore, they have no differences in terms of human qualities. They have no differences in terms of the privileges which Allah the Exalted has bestowed on humanity such as human rights, social rights, spiritual values and spiritual perfection. That is to say, a man can become Ali ibn Abi Talib (a.s.) and a woman can become Fatima Zahra (s.a.). A man can become Jesus (a.s.) and a woman can become Mary (s.a.). They are not different from each other. Therefore, it is the right outlook to know women - the way they are, as true women and true females - by taking their gender into consideration and we should see what values can help a female individual or the female community achieve growth and transcendence. This outlook is the right outlook. We should not have adopted a passive outlook in the face of western outlook but, unfortunately, we did.

As for the second dimension of western discourse - in which women are made to prepare the ground for men to indulge in pleasure - it struck defenseless Islamic countries like a flood with the purpose of helping men to easily indulge in sexual pleasure. And this was done by the west. It also struck our country. By pleasure, I do not mean spiritual, psychological and scientific pleasure. Two people may sit and enjoy speaking to one another or increasing each other's knowledge. But this is not the case in western pleasure. Fortunately, the Revolution came and it prevented this to a great extent. This should be prevented because this is a big danger and a big disaster. The issue of hijab is one of the preconditions for this. The way we should dress and the way men and women should interact are among the preconditions for this issue. These things should be done so that this great disaster - for both men and women - can be prevented.

Of course, this moral corruption humiliates women, while they are not aware of it. Today, this issue is thoroughly discussed in the world. I know and I have read in a number of texts, newspapers and books that western intellectuals have started to feel fear and distress because of this condition. They are right, but they have understood this late. The issue of encouraging people to indulge in lust - which is centered around women - is not something of little importance. Today, you can see that the situation is getting worse in the world with issues such as homosexuality and marriages between two people with the same gender. These are great, deep and dangerous abysses for western civilization and for those who are managing this civilization. This is an unusual precipice and it will completely annihilate them. And they are just in the middle of the path of destruction.

In my opinion, they will not be able to prevent this because their problems are far beyond these things. A few years ago - around seven, eight, ten years ago - I read in foreign newspapers that the Americans are trying to make a movie based on the books of such and such a novelist who writes about the family. They want to do this so that they can draw filmmaking, cinema and other such things to these issues. Well, they have done and are doing certain things, but these efforts are like thin streams against a great flood which has struck them because of what they themselves did. And it will continue to strike them. Of course, we enjoy a kind of immunity from this event which is because of hijab and other such things. But we should not underestimate this issue and we should regard it as very important. As a number of ladies pointed out in their speeches - and they are working on these issues - the issue of sexual attraction and the danger it has for women, men, society and the family should be taken very seriously.

Well, I said that Islam speaks about women in the real sense of the word. As I pointed out, we should promote this discourse by taking up an offensive position. We should not at all take up a defensive position. A number of ladies said that those who are members of a so-called women's convention or organizations affiliated with the United Nations threaten to issue a resolution against us if we do such and such a thing. Well, who cares? They can issue resolutions. The Islamic discourse on the issue of women should be promoted by taking an offensive position and behaving in a determined way. If they say, "Why do you not give women the freedom to appear without hijab?" we should answer, "Why do you give them this harmful and threatening freedom in such a way?" What is being pursued in the west regarding the issue of immodesty and lack of hijab makes one distressed. One wonders what they want to do and where they want to go.

You may have more information in this regard but I also have a lot of information about what is being done on this issue. These things are done at different levels which range from higher levels to occupational levels, living conditions and other such things. In the Islamic discourse, respect towards women and the characteristics, dignity and delicacy of women should be highlighted. By delicacy, I do not only mean physical delicacy. As well as physical delicacy, I mean the delicacy of women's psychological and intellectual structure and also the delicacy of their responsibilities. It is only the delicate and gentle fingers of the mother which can separate the extremely thin nerve fibers of a child's nervous system from one another so that he will not have any emotional complexes or problems. Nobody else can do this. That is to say, nobody else except for a woman can do this. This is a feminine task. A number of tasks require such delicacy that one wonders how the divine will has bestowed such a great capability and such delicacy on women. I always say to my friends and relatives and to women that, contrary to the idea that has been established, women are the stronger gender. Women are stronger than men. Women can completely control and influence men with their wisdom and delicacy. We can see this in practice and we can prove it by reasoning. This is a reality.

Of course, there are a number of women who do not adopt wise measures and who, as a result, cannot do this. But if a woman is wise enough, she can tame a man. This is like the situation in which a person can bridle and ride on a wild lion. This does not mean that he is physically stronger than the lion. Rather, this means that he has managed to use his mental power. Women have this capability, but they should do this with delicacy and subtlety. When I say delicacy, I do not only mean physical delicacy. As well as physical delicacy, I mean delicacy in implementing thoughts and ideas, showing acumen and making decisions. These are capabilities which Allah the Exalted has bestowed on women. In my opinion, this should be the basis. This discourse should be improved and pursued.

The second point that I want to discuss is that, in my opinion, there are two issues regarding the current situation of women in our country which are more important than other issues. Or, let us say they are more crucial than other issues and they require more attention. One issue is the significance and the value of the home and the family. We should regard the home in which we live as important. One cannot imagine human beings without a home and without a place to live. Any human being needs a home and the family environment. The family is like the soul of the home. This should be regarded as important. This should be thought about in a careful way.

The second issue is that we should prevent women from being weakened and oppressed at different levels. We have women who are weak and deprived of many things. We also have women who are oppressed. This oppression should be prevented. It is necessary to pass important laws in this regard. There are essential behavioral rules which should be enforced. It is necessary to establish certain social conventions and customs so that women will not be oppressed in different areas such as - I have written them down - social, sexual, familial, cultural and intellectual areas. These kinds of oppression, which women may be faced with, range from individual and private issues - that is to say, sexual issues - to social issues, such as social interactions, and familial issues. I have written down certain points about familial issues.

Husbands, children, fathers and brothers should behave in a respectful way towards women. If women are regarded as respectable in the family environment, an important part of problems in our society will be solved. We should do something to encourage children to kiss their mother's hands. This is what Islam is after. We can see this behavior in deeply religious and moral families which have a close relationship with religious concepts. The children in a family should behave towards their mother in a respectful way. There is no contradiction between such a respectful behavior and the emotional and warm relationship between a mother and a child. There should be such respect and women should be respected in the family environment. This is the way to prevent oppression against women. Imagine that in a family and in a home, the man hurls all kinds of insults at his own wife, including behavioral and verbal insults and physical abuse. Unfortunately, there are certain places in our country in which there are still instances of physical abuse. This issue should not occur. Of course, this occurs many times in western countries. And this is not unexpected. Westerners, particularly European races, are wild. They have a neat appearance, they wear ties and they use perfume and other such things, but they still have the same wild nature and they still behave in the same wild way that they have always behaved throughout history. They easily kill people and they coldheartedly commit crimes. Therefore, it is not surprising if women are beaten in the home by the Europeans and by the Americans. But such a thing should not be even imagined in an Islamic environment although it unfortunately exists. Therefore, these are two fundamental issues. In my opinion, there is room for detailed planning in this regard.

Besides these two issues, there are other important issues such as the issue of marriage and liberating oneself from being single. Obstacles in the way of marriage should be removed. As the ladies in this meeting pointed out, certain things are being done in this regard and I really became happy to know that, thankfully, these issues are receiving attention. On the issue of hijab and social relationships, things should be carried out in a fundamental and serious way. You should pay attention to the issue of financial and legal support for oppressed women who are deprived of their rights. The lady from Razavi Khorasan province pointed out that the issue of courts of law - which was one of my worries - has been addressed by the legal system. I hope that this will be done in practice.

One of my anxieties and worries is that women may not be able to defend themselves in courts of law and such legal environments. They may not have the money to hire a competent lawyer, nor may they be able to defend themselves and their rights may be violated. This is one of the important issues. It should be followed up. The issue of women's employment, limitations for their employment, the kind of job that they should do and the way they should do it - that is to say, the delicacy and flexibility that I spoke about on the issue of women's employment - are things which should be addressed. However, the most crucial issues are the two issues that I discussed.

One of the issues which occupies my mind is that all the different activities which are done on the issue of women in our country - ranging from legal issues and issues related to Islamic jurisprudence to social, executive, emotional and all the other issues which are discussed about women - should be done in a systematic way. It should have a coherent structure.

Of course, a number of the reports which were presented to me or the points which were discussed in this meeting show that certain ideas have been developed in this regard. But, I believe that a comprehensive plan should be formulated in this regard. We should delineate the issues of women in a completely systemic way and we should give it a proper form. Moreover, there should be an outstanding and permanent center [for this matter] with competent personnel and with a long-term plan. I do not at all believe in short-term plans in this regard. After this, certain organizations and institutes should be formed to work for different parts of this prominent and permanent center. They should inform one another of what they are doing and there should be a suitable databank. Many things are being done by women in our country about which even ladies participating in this meeting may not be aware of. Well, thankfully, we have so many outstanding and knowledgeable women in different sections and with different outlooks. We should benefit from this large number of women.

Another point - I will make this the last point because it is noon and there is no time - is that active women in the camp of the Islamic Republic played an outstanding role immediately after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, during the early years after the Revolution and during the Sacred Defense Era. They showed their presence in an outstanding way. You should not let this outstanding presence of active women in the camp of the Revolution be undermined. Those who confront and oppose the Revolution try to benefit from competent women. The camp of the Revolution has far more competent, active and knowledgeable women who are authors, orators and scholars. It enjoys women who are ready to take action and who are interested in thinking, writing, delivering speeches and conveying their ideas and thoughts. They should not leave the arena of the Revolution and defending the Revolution. This is one point.

I will finish the last point by saying that the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) should play a completely fundamental role in promoting the things which I discussed and the issues which you raised. I believe and I recommend that the IRIB should definitely play a fundamental role in this regard. It can do this. In society, the IRIB can build the culture of respecting religious, active and mujahid women who wear hijab and who enjoy Islamic characteristics. Other people want the opposite to happen. Unfortunately, a number of the programs of the IRIB are in line with the goals of these people. The opposite should be done. That is to say, the IRIB should be completely at the service of this idea.

In any case, the conclusion that we can draw from all these things is that, thankfully, we have made certain achievements on the issue of women in the Islamic Republic, but these achievements do not meet the needs and the expectations of Islam and they are not compatible with the possibilities and resources that exist in Islam. We are backward in this regard. By Allah's favor, you ladies should make up for this backwardness in the best way possible.

I hope that Allah the Exalted will protect you and increase your achievements on a daily basis. And I hope that we can move towards what Islam wants in this regard on a daily basis.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings