Women’s entry into rubber-stamp parliaments and other assemblies
From the time this ignorant, despicable government came into power, its target has been Islam. In the newspapers they wrote in big, bold print that they had given women the right to participate in elections, but this was just a devilish ruse to deflect public criticism from the true intention, which was to eliminate Islam and the Qur’an from the process. Consequently, when we first met here to discuss the issue, our minds were initially distracted by the matter of women’s participation. Later, after studying the issue more closely, we realised that it was not about women, this was only a minor point; it was about opposing Islam. 30 March 1963 (10 Farvardin 1342 AHS)
Imam’s telegram to the Shah
His Imperial Majesty,
Greetings and good wishes. According to that which has been published in the newspapers, the government has not made Islamic qualifications a prerequisite for candidates and voters in the elections for the Provincial and County Councils, and has given women the right to vote. This is of great concern to the religious authorities and other Muslims. As Your Majesty knows, the well being of this country lies in the preservation of Islamic decrees and in the people’s peace of mind. Therefore, it is requested that you order for those issues, which contravene the official religion of this country to be excluded from the programmes of the government and political parties so that you will be the recipient of the Muslim nation’s prayers.
9 October 1962 (17 Mehr 1341 AHS)
Telegram to Assadollah `Alam
Tehran - The Honourable Mr. Assadollah `Alam, Prime Minister of Iran.
This long recess of the Parliament proves that the government is considering procedures, which are against divine laws and clearly contradict the constitutional law. Know for certain that any violation of Islamic and constitutional laws, as well as those enacted by the Consultative Assembly (Parliament), will make His Excellency and the government seriously accountable before Almighty God, the Muslim nation and the law.
The entry of women into Parliament, Provincial and County Councils and Town Councils contravenes the indisputable laws of Islam, the interpretation of which, according to the text of the Constitution, is given over to the learned `ulama and the maraji’, no one else having the right to interfere. The jurists of Islam and the Muslims’ maraji’ have issued an edict forbidding it. Such being the case, women’s franchise and right to be elected at any level contravenes Article 2 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law. Similarly, the National Consultative Assembly’s Electoral Law ratified in Rabi’ II 1325 deprives women of the right to vote or be voted for in Provincial and County Council and Town Council elections. Refer to Articles 7 and 9 of the Provincial and County Council Bill and Articles 15 and 17 of the Municipal Law. Thus, granting the women such a right would be an infringement of the law.
Likewise the abrogation of the qualification that electors and candidates must be Muslim, which is stipulated in the said law, and replacing the policy of swearing the oath on the Holy Qur’an to one which stipulates swearing on a ‘holy book’, are an infringement of the said law, are dangerous for Islam and the independence of the country, and have been carried out either unintentionally or, God forbid, with malice aforethought.
Now that His Majesty has referred the learned `ulama’s request to the government, and has passed on the responsibility for dealing with this matter to your government, it is expected that, in compliance with the unassailable laws of Islam and the country, this matter be rectified as soon as possible, and that you are careful to avoid a repetition of anything similar. If the honourable prime minister is uncertain about anything, he can do us the honour of visiting us here in Qum so that any ambiguity can be removed in his presence, and he can be notified of matters which are in the interests of the country but which cannot be put down on paper.
Finally, I would like to remind you that the learned `ulama of Iran and the major centres of Shi`ite learning, along with other Muslims, will not remain silent on issues that contravene the inviolable shari’a laws. Through the power and strength of Almighty God, issues that contravene Islam will not become official. 20 October 1962 (28 Mehr 1341 AHS)
The opinion of the maraji’-i taqlid and the Grand Ayatullahs of the Qum religious seminary on the decree concerning the Provincial and County Council elections which opposed both shari’a and statute law.
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
There is no power and no strength save in God the Almighty
Because the government of Mr. `Alam has, by means of legislation, with surprising haste and without first giving due thought to the articles of the constitutional law, granted women the right to vote and be voted for in elections, it has become necessary to notify the Muslim nation of Iran of a few points so that they know under what conditions and what kind of governments they are living. Thus, we would like to draw the public’s attention to the following:
1 - The Interior Minister in a proposal presented to the Prime Minister wrote: “As you are well aware, in the preamble to the constitutional law it clearly stipulates that each citizen of the country is entitled to participate in the approval and supervision of public affairs, and according to Article 2 of the constitutional law, the National Consultative Assembly represents all the inhabitants of the country of Iran who participate in the political and economic affairs of their homeland. Consequently, excluding the class of women from the voting process is not only impermissible according to the constitutional law and its supplement, but in view of the phrase ‘each citizen of the country’ in the preamble to the law and the phrase ‘all the inhabitants of the country’ mentioned in Article 2, it contravenes these as well. The Cabinet has approved the deletion of paragraph one of Article 10 and paragraph two of Article 13 of the National Consultative Assembly Electoral Law, and also the qualification ‘male’ from Articles 6 and 9 of the Senate Electoral Law.”
Additionally, the Interior Ministry has been charged with the duty to obtain authorisation for this legislation when Parliament convenes. Thus it is necessary to explain the problems with the above argument.
a) - If the participation of women in elections can be reconciled with the constitutional law, as the Interior Minister and the Cabinet too apparently seem to think it can, then the approval of the Cabinet is meaningless, for it is as if they were approving the participation of men in the elections. If, on the other hand, it is correct to seek their approval, then it is obvious that in the opinion of the Cabinet the participation of women is at variance with the constitutional law.
b) - If the non-participation of women is in their eyes contrary to the constitutional law, then the Cabinet’s act of commissioning the Interior Minister to obtain authorisation for this legislation when the deputies convene has no basis, and if it needs authorisation, then it is obvious that the government views the participation of women as being contrary to the constitutional law. Wouldn’t it have been better had the Cabinet not employed a little thought and deliberation before introducing legislation which gives rise to such clear contradictions?
2 - The preamble to the constitutional law does not constitute a part of the law; it is simply the words of the shah of the time and does not carry any legal weight. However, the Interior Minister, either for want of sufficient deliberation or in order to deceive, has used it to draw his conclusions. However, had he studied it to the end before doing so, then it would have been made clear to him that according to that same preamble, women do not have the right to participate in elections because it is written therein: ‘Now that the National Consultative Assembly, in conformity with our holy intentions, has convened.’ This being the case, if the participation of women was envisaged, then how could the Parliament open ‘in conformity with our holy intentions’ without their presence?
So it is obvious that women did not have the right, and this phrase makes it clear that the first session of Parliament was held in conformity with the Shah’s intentions, for women did not participate.
3 - From the previous explanation it is evident that the meaning of ‘all the inhabitants of the country’ in Article 2, is not that which the Cabinet understands it to be. Rather its meaning is that the representative for Tehran represents the entire nation, as does the representative for Qum. They do not represent their own constituency as stipulated in Article 30 of the supplement to the constitutional law. The reason behind this claim lies in the fact that more than ten classes of the population do not have the right to vote even though they also form ‘all the inhabitants of the country.’ Thus, they must accept that either depriving these other groups of participation is unconstitutional or the participation of women is.
4 - Supposing there is a mistake in the interpretation of this article, according to Article 27 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law, the explanation and interpretation of the law is one of the prerogatives of the National Consultative Assembly, which the ministers do not enjoy.
5 - It is the opinion of the government that women and other excluded groups have the constitutional right to participate in elections. Thus, from the beginning of the constitutional period up to the present all the parliaments have been formed in contravention of the constitutional law and were illegal because women and more than ten other groups have, according to the Electoral Law, not been allowed to participate, and this contravenes the constitutional law.
In this case it becomes necessary to point out many irregularities, which stem from that:
a) - All the laws effective in the country from the beginning of the constitutional period to the present were null and void and must be declared to be so.
b) - In the view of Mr. `Alam’s government, the Constituent Assemblies that have been convened were unconstitutional and were consequently null and void. According to the law, to make such a claim is a crime and the person making it must be indicted.
c) - The government of Mr. `Alam is illegal, as were all the governments formed since the beginning of the constitutional period up to the present. Consequently, an illegal government has no right to issue decrees or anything else, on the contrary its interference in the country’s affairs and its handling of the treasury is a crime and is subject to prosecution.
d) - According to the government of Mr. `Alam, all the agreements signed with foreign governments, among them oil agreements, are null and void, and this must be declared to be so to the nation.
6 - The deletion of the first paragraph of Article 10 and paragraph 2 of Article 13 of the National Consultative Assembly Electoral Law approved in Shawwal 1329 AS, and the deletion of the qualification ‘male’ from paragraphs 6 and 9 of the Senate Electoral Law approved on 14 Urdibihisht 1339 (4 May 1960), based on the preamble to the constitutional law and Article 2 of this law, is illegal, and the government has no right to do this because it itself has no basis in the law. Additionally, the government does not have the right to annul legislation approved by the Parliament, and according to the text of Article 28 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law, the executive power will always be separate and distinct from the legislative power.
This lists the illegal aspects of an illegal law. This law also contravenes Article 2 and Article 27 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law.
Despite the pressures and difficulties that the government has imposed and will further impose on them, and the insults that it will continue to hurl against them, the clergy consider it their religious and moral duty to point out to the Muslim governments and people both the advantages and the harm that may ensue from these actions. They consider it incumbent on them not to withhold their friendly advice from the authorities and, in the face of this worrying suppression of the press and police repression, whereby people are carried off to prison and subjected to abuse and torture simply for printing or circulating a leaflet containing advice and guidance, to let mankind know what these actions portend for this poor, weak and hungry nation, the signs of which are already becoming apparent one after the other.
The clergy observe that the government has made the official religion of the country a plaything, and in meetings it allows it to be said that steps have been taken to establish equal rights for men and women. Islam has stipulated what action must be taken against anyone who, because of his belief in equal rights for women, annuls the unequivocal and mandatory laws of Islam concerning inheritance, divorce and the suchlike. The clergy observe that the pillars of this country’s economy are crumbling; the market is on the verge of collapse as demonstrated by the ever-increasing number of files on bad debts. Likewise, the country’s agriculture is tottering on the brink of ruin because while each province of this country should be able to meet the agricultural needs of the whole land, bills for the import of wheat, or, as was said to be the case recently, for flour, are approved every so often on the plea of the possibility of a drought or some other excuse, thus making the land, along with Iranian mills, idle.
Faced with this deplorable situation, the government, instead of trying to find a solution, keeps itself and the people preoccupied with issues such as women’s franchise, with granting rights to women and bringing half the Iranian population into society and other such deceptions which will bring nothing but misery, corruption and fornication. The gentlemen don’t realise that Islam shows a special regard for women in all aspects not found anywhere else. It has brought respect for their social and moral standing which prevents the kind of social mixing of the sexes that is incompatible with women’s modesty and virtue, and this is not because Islam thinks, God forbid, that they are legally incompetent or they are prisoners. Is entering these parliaments the only sign of them not being incompetent? If such is the case then it must be said that all those in the land and naval forces, the officers and members of the security and police forces, the immediate members of the royal family and those under 20 years of age are also among the legally incompetent and prisoners.
In their declarations of 2-3 months ago, the clergy foresaw this turn of events you are witnessing today and predicted that similar incidents would happen in the future, and this they stated unequivocally therein. Now too today, they announce an even greater danger and express their grave concern about what the consequences of these attacks on the shari’a law and the Constitution may mean for the independence and economy of this country, indeed for all aspects of this country’s life.
Consequently, the clergy hereby discharge the important duty they have in this matter, of which the entire nation is aware, and state most categorically that the government’s recently introduced legislation concerning the participation of women in elections has no legal force according to both the shari’a and the constitutional law. Furthermore, despite suppression of the press, pressures brought to bear by the police and the prevention of the printing and publication of notices, such as this one, containing exhortations and facts, they will take steps to publish such notices to the best of their ability so that the governments cannot say we introduced legislation and the `ulama did not object. God willing, the clergy will take measures at the appropriate time to stop this law being practised.
The nation of Iran also opposes this kind of legislation, as demonstrated two-three months ago, when the pressure and intimidation were a little less, in the telegrams and communications sent from all around Iran in which they declared their acceptance of the Islamic `ulama’s authority and called for the annulment of the government’s illegal legislation concerning the Provincial and County Council Elections. The government in turn acceded to the nation’s request and turned the matter over to the Parliament. However, now that it has gained sway over the nation through imprisonment, persecution and abuse of the clergymen and pious elements in society, the government is, with blatant disregard for the laws of Islam, the Constitution and electoral laws, adopting measures the consequences of which are dangerous and alarming for Islam and the Muslims.
May God awaken our governments from this sleep of ignorance and have mercy on the Muslim nation and country.
O Lord we complain to Thee for the loss of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him and his descendants, for the absence of our Imam, the multitude of our enemies, the fewness of our number and the domination of life and circumstances. Then greet Muhammad and his family, assist us in all affairs by quick victory from Thy side, to eradicate pain and ennui and to provide us with aid and power that Thou cherish, for you are the Lord and Master of rights to unveil. We are from God and to Him is our return.
Murtaza al-Husayni al-Langarudi, Ahmad al-Husayni al-Zanjani, Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Muhammad al-Musawi al-Yazdi, Muhammad Riza al-Musawi al-Gulpaygani, Sayyid Kazim Shari’atmadari, Ruhullah al-Musawi al-Khomeini, Hashim al-Amuli, Murtaza al-Ha’iri. (445)
March 1963 (Isfand 1341 AHS)
What is there for this developed nation to learn? What do you think? What's your opinion? Do you really think that words are sufficient? Can development result from sending a few women to the Majlis (Parliament)? Have the male members of the Majlis actually accomplished anything for you so far which leads you to believe that your women may now do so? We believe that sending women to the Majlis will result in nothing but immorality, and we believe that in ten, twenty or thirty years’ time you will see that we were right. We in no way oppose women's progress, but we do oppose fornication and other such sinful deeds. 15 April 1964 (26 Farvardin 1343 AHS)
Those lords seated in their palaces speak of ‘the developed nation’; does a ‘developed nation’ die of starvation?! `Ali, upon whom be peace, the emir of Islam, used to eat barley bread, but now they spend five hundred thousand or one million tumans, if not more, for the receptions arranged in honour of their masters; and all they ever talk about is the ‘development’ programme! They maintain that our country is on a par with advanced countries, but how can the admission of a few women to Parliament cause a country to be developed? You won't put the country right by implementing Israels policies. 10 April 1964 (21 Farvardin 1343 AHS)
- The government and cabinet of Amir Assadollah `Alam.
- Laws governing Provincial and County Council elections were announced by the national press on 8 October 1962 (16 Mehr 1341 AHS) and the headlines read: ‘Women Given the Right to Vote’. On the face of it the laws were not in contradiction with Islam, but the regime planned to cover up its true intentions which were to eliminate the qualification which stipulated that candidates and voters were to be Muslim, and to replace the policy of taking oaths on the Holy Qur’an with another which stipulated swearing in on a ‘Holy Book’. In addition to this assault on Islam, the regime also planned to officially approve pseudo-religious activities instigated by the imperialists. Any objections to their scheme were labelled as opposition to the legal rights and freedom of women. The new laws, promulgated by the Shah’s regime on 6 October 1962, were seen as a prelude to increased participation in public life by the Baha’is and eventual abolition of the Constitution of 1906. After a prolonged campaign against the laws in which Imam Khomeini took a prominent part, they were annulled by the government on 28 November 1962.
- When the newspapers carrying this report reached Qum, the maraji’ and high-ranking religious leaders such as Imam Khomeini held a meeting that same evening in the home of the late Ayatullah Murtaza Ha’iri (eldest son of the late Shaykh `Abdulkarim Ha’iri) to hold discussions and exchange views. As a result of this meeting, the religious leaders sent telegrams to the Shah who passed on the responsibility of replying to the Prime Minister.
- It is clear that Imam’s view expressed here concerns the entry of women into Parliament during the period of the Shah with all its concomitant corruption, and takes this into account along with the political and economic circumstances of the time. Otherwise, as this book demonstrates only too well, not only did he not consider women’s participation in social and political affairs to be a violation of religious law, he actually encouraged it.
- The Cabinet had assumed charge of the legislative process following the dissolution of Parliament by royal decree the preceding year.
- Article 2 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law stipulates that no law is valid unless the mujtahids (Islamic jurisprudents) exercise a supervisory role in the Parliament, which they did not.
- From the Mafatih al-Jinan (Keys to the Gardens of Paradise) a standard collection of Shi`ite prayers compiled from Bihar al-Anwar (Oceans of Light) and other sources by `Abbas Qummi (d. 1940-1).
- According to the precept Reforming the Electoral Law - one of the underlying principles of the Shahs White Revolution - both the right to vote and the right to be elected to the Majlis had been given to women. In the first election to follow the White Revolution a number of women from the Royal Court and upper classes entered the Majlis as parliamentary representatives. These included: Showkat Jahanbani, Farukhrow Parsa (the wife of General Shirinsokhan), Hajar Tarbiyat, Mehrangiz Dowlatshahi and several others.