Since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic has had a contentious relationship with freedom of speech, to say the least. The regime implemented censorship and surveillance to control the internet and passed laws to limit access and punish those who spread ideas against their agenda—most evident to the international community when mass human rights violations are underway. Under this regime, freedom of speech has continuously been degraded and has seen a steady decline, including a crackdown on journalists and activists expressing opinions online, as noted by the activist group Reporters without Borders.
Throughout its history, Iran has seen numerous protests against the government and its policies. From the very first protest rally against the Islamic Republic in March 1979, to the student protests in 1999 and the nationwide protests in 2009, 2018, and 2022, demonstrations have been a powerful way to express dissent. In the most recent protests that began in September 2022 after Jina Mahsa Amini’s death, over 20,000 protesters were arrested, over 500 killed and scores sentenced to death for their participation in the demonstrations. The protests have signified the shifting dynamics of Iranian society, as citizens increasingly voiced their demands and grievances.
Lena M is a young Iranian woman who has been an outspoken activist for years, fighting against gender-based discrimination both online and offline. She has used social media platforms to raise awareness about the government's oppressive policies in Iran, despite being well aware of the potential consequences.
Since the 1979 revolution, traditional values and religious dogma have resulted in gender segregation and discrimination. This has been enforced institutionally, leading to segregated public spaces, such as schools, beaches, parks and Tehran metro. Iran’s sharia laws have required all under 18 to receive paternal permission for travel documents, while women over 18 need written consent from their father, guardian or husband to obtain a passport. Married women have needed to get their husband's approval before being allowed to travel.
Before the 1979 revolution, Iran was renowned for its fashionable attire inspired by the Empress of Iran. After the revolution, women had to wear the veil, cover their hair and wear modest clothing to avoid attracting men's attention. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has voiced his opposition to any "unrestrained mixing of men and women", demonstrating that issues of female dress were linked with moral and social issues in Iran.