Images of Masha Amini, the 22-year-old who died in the custody of Iranian morality police, were common along the protest route.
(Brian Feinzimer for LAist)
What Can The Human Rights Foreign Policy Do To Benefit International Development In Iran?
By: Alexa Dominique Pascual and Divine Mbaya
For over 200 years, the protection of the human rights system of the United States has been one of the main priorities of the government. The American human rights policy's primary goal is to promote human rights across the globe, especially in countries suffering from political crises and poverty. The government created the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” to influence nations that do not have this kind of system and to increase awareness of the importance of equality. (U.S State Department, Human Rights and Democracy) Not only does the agenda help countries internationally, but it also benefits our national interests. Because of the human rights policy, the government was able to help establish human rights organizations across the country, such as the Children’s Defense Fund, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Human Rights Action Centre, Human Rights Defense Centre, Centre for Victims of Torture and The Centre for Justice and Accountability. In this case, the establishment of these organizations helps create a more secure, stable and prosperous arena in the United States.
However, the US does not have a specific focus on Women's Empowerment through the fundamentals of feminism. The Feminist Foreign Policy aims to promote women's representation in trade, defence and executive leadership positions fields in general which are male-dominated. Relating this to the discussion with Iran, women's rights have been violated. Women have been experiencing domestic violence, child marriage and a lack of education. The Feminist Foreign Policy would promote the representation of women in women-led feminist organizations, international development and humanitarian assistance. Implementing this policy will bring more of influence to women in Iran for them to be educated and to know what it is like to live in a democratic society.
How will a feminist policy benefit a nation?
Promoting democracy and feminism benefits a nation by securing peace, deterring aggression, expanding open markets, fostering economic development and protecting American citizens and citizens worldwide from counter-terrorism. A world without human rights can cause conflict and disunity. Not only will it bring down a nation’s economic-wellbeing, but it will also harm citizens from achieving their individual goals, which brings our society backwards. The United States has made a commitment between the G7, G20 and NATO to take part in delivering humanitarian aid. However, since the government lacks funding for human rights organizations and humanitarian policy in general, the US has been the weakest in this agenda. This brings us to our argument that if the US decides to step up on their approach to the humanitarian policy, then the agenda will be more significant as it should be. The US is the most influential and powerful country in the alliance if the US does put this policy into consideration as one of the main priorities in our foreign policy. Then the goals of the feminist foreign policy agreed upon by the G7 would not be able to reach its full potential.
Why did I decide to bring up the importance of funding human rights through women's rights organizations in Iran?
Increasing awareness and educating people about the importance of equality based on gender, will help further the unification of nations. Women are self-leaders as they can choose to create communities at its early stage (family). after our interview with Anastasia Dieieva, a Ukraine war survivor and strategic consultant for the Global Affairs Canada; which has a thriving feminist foreign policy (soft skills); she mentioned that US and Canada are complementary (Canada carries out the policy at a basic level and the US can propel it with its military influence, trailblazing the way for other nations to follow), she stated that both countries shouldn't overlap each other on the international scene as it is financially inefficient, but the US can rather redirect certain funds locally. Although Iranian women have been able to push the barrier of educational restrictions based on gender, their participation in the workforce is lower than that one of men. Women spend 6.5 hours per day on housework compared to the 1.3 hrs men spend, which significantly reduces their active participation in the country's workforce. Gender-based discrimination is still very prominent in the country. If the US does strengthen its approach in the women’s rights system, this will create a change on the international scene for the US. Especially because the US has a foreign office heavily dominated by men and women underrepresented, which makes the feminist policy slightly difficult to achieve. The agenda will significantly make a positive impact in countries such as Afghanistan and Iran, where women are being banned from attending university and citizens are being led by a terrorist group, the “Taliban”. This brought suffering and violence within the Afghan nation, which caused a massive amount of destruction and harm. Ukraine, on the other hand, citizens are not only suffering from war but are sexually assaulted by the Russian military. The feminist agenda will benefit from the influence of the US. With the right amount of female representation then, the agenda will be able to push through.
Having the right funding for women's rights organizations in the US will modernize the US foreign feminist policy. American women will be mentored and coached locally through these organizations and will be empowered to continue their fight for equality and the freedom of rights. This will bring more female representation for the US on the world stage, which can possibly change the world's perspective on US foreign relations. In this way, other nations will see the US contributing to humanitarian aid and not limiting their policy to military and economy.
A possible solution to the problem
If the US government provides more mentors and coaches dedicated to training women for leadership positions. Then the United States will have more representation for the feminist foreign policy to push through. Iranian women do have enough information and resources available. But they do not have enough guidance and direct endorsement to take them from point A-B while sharpening their problem-solving skills while maintaining their families if they choose to have one. This brings us to the conclusion that it is time for the US to talk about humanitarian aid through women's rights as part of the priority list on the agenda. It is time for the US not to just care about the military, economy and trade but also for the individual citizen. It is time to step up and increase mentorship paired with coaching. If we cared more about women's rights, maybe we won't need to spend much on military aid.
An example of an excelling NGO is "Voice In Sport," which is a youth American organization Alexa is a part of. She is one of their leading advocates for promoting women's empowerment. The mission of Voice in Sport is to gather female athletes to fight for women's rights in the athletic industry and all industries. The organization was able to gather thousands of female athletes across the United States and across the globe to fight for their rights as women. Most advocates in Voice In Sport are student-athletes, the organization trains students to get involved in their university to advocate in the fight for feminism and gender equality. The organization promotes the prevention of gender discrimination in sports, which is happening a lot in the athletic industry. There are cases when women get sexually assaulted by their coaches and officials in sports, which Voice in Sport is trying to prevent. Alexa is an athlete herself. As a dancer and contortionist. Her primary mission for the organization is to prevent sexism and sexual violence, which is happening a lot in the circus as well. This is an example of an organization that is benefiting the feminist agenda by empowering women in sports and increasing the practice of gender equality.
What could be done?
In order for the American women's rights system to prosper then, the government has to fund feminist organizations all across the country. In this way, the government can easily educate individuals on the importance of the feminist policy. If we have more people who are educated and well-informed, then people will become more passionate about being involved. In this case, there will be an increase in the amount of representation for human rights organizations. This will bring citizens to realize that politics is not just about power and money, but also it is about caring for the individual citizen. Giving influence to Iran will empower Iranian women to know that anything is possible. Iran has been suffering from religious propaganda and extremist laws, children have been dying of starvation, and women are constantly being abused. Just recently, Mahsa Amini, at age 22, died from wearing her improper hijab. 16 other women were killed after the crisis for speaking up for their rights, even men and children were killed in the demonstration. This is an inhumane act that the Iranian government conducted, the freedom of speech is the most critical factor a nation can have. (NPR, Why Iranian women are burning their hijabs after the death of Mahsa Amini,2021) Iranian women have been suffering from domestic violence and discrimination by their male counterparts. For us to save nations facing crisis and unforgivable crimes, we must prioritize the feminist foreign policy. To educate and to save lives, especially refugees who are fleeing their country because of war and disaster.
In April,28 ,2020, Iran security forces assaulted and arrested Manouchehr Bakhtiari. The reason behind this incident is because of his activism on behalf of his son, Pouya, who was killed by security forces in 2019 during the demonstrations.
Bakhtiari was sent to an undisclosed location, assaulted and arrested because of freedom of speech. The government also detained other members of his family, including his 11-year-old nephew. (Iran wire, Father of Murdered Protester Beaten and Arrested at Family Gathering, 2021) At this point, it is not just women being assaulted but men as well. If we want our society to modernize and to not go backwards, the government has to continue to support human rights organizations as much as possible. We can not have more people die because of speaking out for their rights. Every citizen deserves the freedom of rights and every citizen has the right to live a stable life.
With the cooperation of the UN, and the US government, the policy can reach its full potential, just as simple as collaborating and donating to NGOs can make a big difference.
It is about time for the government to realize the importance of funding humanitarian support and the feminist foreign policy. The US being a global power, should not just be known for a strong military system and a strong economy. But also, to have a strong humanitarian system. It's our job, as a nation, to help other countries that do not have the benefits of living in a democratic society. The US has the most influence amongst all the NATO, G7 and G20 alliance. We have the most significant impact when it comes to implementing a policy. The US government should put the feminist foreign policy into consideration. In that way, the US can contribute to bringing our world together to make it a better place for the next generation and to bring a positive change in our society.
(Iran Wire, Father of Murdered Protester Beaten and Arrested at Family Gathering, (April,30,2021),https://iranwire.com/en/features/69451/)
(NCRI, Women Committee, Iran holds world record in domestic violence against women - new report, (December,4,2020),https://women.ncr-iran.org/2020/12/04/iran-holds-world-record-in-domestic-violence-against-women/)
(NCRI Women Committee, Literacy in Iran - women, and girls make up two-thirds of illiterates, (September,8,2021),https://women.ncr-iran.org/2021/09/08/literacy-in-iran-women-and-girls-make-up-two-thirds-of-illiterates/)
(Iran Wire, Official Statistics: One Fifth of All Marriages in Iran are Child Marriages, (April, 1, 2022), https://iranwire.com/en/society/102678-official-statistics-one-fifth-of-all-marriages-in-iran-are-child-marriages/)
(National Library of Medicine, The Prevalence of Sexual Violence During Pregnancy in Iran and The World: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, (July 10,2018), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6101234/)
(PNAS, Progress toward gender equality in the United States has slowed or stalled, Paula England, (February, 12, 2020),https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.1918891117)
U.S. Department of State, Human Rights and Democracy, https://www.state.gov/policy-issues/human-rights-and-democracy/#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20uses%20a,public%20outreach%2C%20and%20economic%20sanctions.)
(Brookings, Integrating Human Rights in US Foreign Policy: The History , The Challenges , and The Criteria For An Effective Policy, Roberta Cohen, (2008),https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/04_human_rights_cohen.pdf)
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(Human Rights Watch, It’s a Men’s Club Discrimination Against Women in Iran’s Job Market,(May,25,2017),https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/05/25/its-mens-club/discrimination-against-women-irans-job-market)
(ICRW, Defining Feminist Foreign Policy: A 2021 Update, (2021),https://www.icrw.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/FFP-2021Update_v4.pdf)
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(NPR, Why Iranian women are burning their hijabs after the death of Mahsa Amini,(2021),https://www.npr.org/2022/09/21/1124237272/mahsa-amini-iran-women-protest-hijab-morality-police)
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