Imam Khamenei

Some of the actions Imam Khamenei took for women before the Revolution

During Imam Khamenei’s revolutionary activities against the dictatorial regime of Pahlavi, he addressed concerns regarding women and the family on numerous occasions. KHAMENEI.IR is reviewing some of his Eminence’s activities in this regard in this article. The main source used for this article is the book “A Description of Names.”

Establishing a girls’ high school

In the month of Ramadan in the year 1348 AHS (1969 AD), Mr. Khamenei tested his luck at attaining one of his aspirations for society. This aspiration was the establishment of a girls’ high school with a religious focus in Mashhad.

He believed that women’s development in religion would not be successful without literacy and without equipping them with knowledge. The fact that the environment in educational centers for girls was not suitable for their educational growth was not a good enough reason for girls not to be able to pursue their education. The logical solution was to establish similar centers without the existing shortcomings and weaknesses.

He first shared his view with Mr. Sayyedi Alavi, the principle of the all-boys Alavi High School in Mashhad. That was how he became acquainted with a number of teachers and professors who were interested in this project. A number of people who worked in the bazaars joined the group as well.

For almost a full year, they met once a week or once every ten days in the Alavi High School to discuss various aspects of the project. Discussions ranged from a charter of rules for the school to the costs of the project.

However, his aspiration of establishing such a high school was not realized, and it remained to be something he bemoaned until…


“Our women’s falling behind is due to their illiteracy.”

Even during many interrogations, Imam Khamenei defended the rights of Iranian women. For instance, when Mohmmad Reza Pahlavi brought up the idea of “The White Revolution” in six articles due to the Americans’ suggestion, most religious personages at that time, including Sayyid Ali Khamenei, expressed their opposition to the idea.

Because of this opposition, he was interrogated at 11:00 AM on September 28, 1970. In part of the interrogation, he described an overall image of women’s situation during the time of the Pahlavi regime.

Interrogator: Do you find the articles describing the [White] Revolution to be beneficent, or not? If you approve of any of the issues or aspects of this Revolution, name them. Also, explicitly state what you disapprove of about it.

Mr. Khamenei: Regarding the two articles on the equality of men and women’s rights and on land reforms, presenting a general, comprehensive plan is a big task. This is something that I am not capable of doing at this time, and I have never made such a claim either. However, I have certain opinions on this topic. Some of these include:  

Because of the mothers’ role in raising children and also because of the oppression against women in our society, it would be good to impose certain regulations to severely punish the men who are aggressive against their wives and to bring dignity and respect to women, which they deserve.

Secondly, since the reason for our women falling behind in our society is their 80% illiteracy, officials should have acted in such a way that everyone would have willingly sent their daughters to girls’ schools. Then, women would be able to be at a level equal to men in terms of knowledge and education while observing religious concerns at the same time.

Thirdly, women should be greatly encouraged to be homemakers and raise children so that young girls do not feel that being a mother is incompatible with their personality. And they shouldn’t feel that taking care of the home is beneath the dignity of a well-educated woman.

Of course, women should be allowed to participate in social activities. But in doing this, there will be few women who are willing to act against their nature and stop caring for their husband and children in return for a very low monthly salary in a certain organization. There are also other such suggestions, and it is not too late yet to discuss them with officials if they are willing to listen. [Sept. 28, 1970]


Judging between a husband and wife

In December of 1977, Imam Khamenei was exiled to Iranshahr after having been arrested six times. In that city too, he built a popular foothold for himself. On July 2, 1978, a devastating flood struck Iranshahr.

Floods were not that common in Iranshahr, but whenever there was one, floodwater would flow out of the city through a watercourse. However, some people had built illegal houses in the path of the watercourse. This endangered their own lives and also caused 80% of the city to be destroyed.

Imam Khamenei related, “The next morning, Mr. Rahimi, Mr. Rashed and I went out of the city to see the devastated houses that had been built in the path of the flood. All of the houses that had been built there had been destroyed, without any trace remaining of them. When we were visiting the area, we saw a family from the Baluch region with a number of women, children and one man. A child was sleeping in the man’s arms and the women were crying loudly.”

When they approached the group, they saw that the child had died. “Seeing that scene tore me apart, and I began to cry loudly. I am particularly sensitive about women and children because I cannot tolerate seeing women and children in pain.”

“I have told my friends many times that I am not competent enough to judge between a man and a woman because I will definitely rule in favor of the woman. I cannot bear to see children upset, not even in movies.”

When that Baluch family saw Mr. Khamenei weeping loudly, they forgot their own pain and stared at him in surprise and wonder.


Helping a couple in prison to contact each other

In January of 1975, Imam Khamenei was arrested and imprisoned for the sixth time. One day, a communist was put in the same cell where Mr. Khamenei was imprisoned.

The newcomer’s wife was in another cell. Mr. Khamenei used all the skills he had acquired in sending and receiving messages to help the man and woman to be in contact with one another. He did whatever he could to help. This man was in his cell for two months.

One day, he told Mr. Khamenei, “When I saw you for the first time, I had a bad feeling and I told myself that I am stuck with an “Akhund” (clergyman). But now I am telling you that I have never seen such a patient, unbiased man in my life.”

One time, Mr. Khamenei asked the guard to allow the men in the cell to clean the hallway. Because the guard respected Mr. Khamenei, he let them clean the hallway that day.

Thus, Mr. Khamenei gave this precious opportunity to his communist cellmate. One of the men kept the guard busy at the end of the hallway by talking to him so that their cellmate could make his way to his wife’s cell. He reached her cell and was able to speak with his wife as much as he wanted.


  • Ayatollah Khamenei
  • International Women's Day
  • Iran
  • Women