The echoes of Iranian women's voices still resonate in the minds of millions. This historically oppressed group in the Middle East managed to break the barrier of fear in the face of one of the strongest religious authoritarian powers in the world when they shouted: "Enough, we want our dignity... we want our freedom... we are not slaves to the patriarchal system... we are not slaves to the retrogressive religion."
The ruling authority of the "Qom" Mullahs in Iran has successfully spread its regressive religious philosophy in troubled countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Their ambition to expand into other countries is evident, which will lead to a decline in civil liberties and the absence of women's rights.
It is worth noting that in these countries, the percentage of women is greater than men due to the ongoing wars that have claimed many lives. However, the leadership positions are predominantly held by men, which results in neglecting the majority of society and a clear failure in community development projects. This negatively impacts the development of these nations, strengthens dictatorial regimes, and eliminates opportunities for democracy under these governments.
Military and religious governments in the Middle East have traditionally centered around men, which has marginalized and undermined the status and rights of women. Islamic law allows men to marry up to four women at once, while women are prohibited from doing the same. Some Islamic governments have also allowed what is known as "Misyar marriage," while the Islamic Republic of Iran has legalized “ Mutʿah Marriage.”
If we look at these types of marriages in general, they can be seen as a softening of the phrase "those whom their right hands possess" mentioned in Surah Al-Mu'minun (verses 1-11) which instructs Muslims who have slaves and captives acquired through battles and wars to treat them kindly and generously.
It is noteworthy that this Surah from the Quran does not differentiate between men and women in terms of their ability to acquire slaves and captives. However, it is the male leaders of wars who have control over the slaves, not the females, making this Surah exclusively serve the interests of males.
With the abolition of slavery in modern countries, this text has been manipulated in Surah Al-Mu'minun by some nations that rely on Islamic law to enable men to engage in either Misyar or Mutʿah Marriage.
Many cases of "Misyar marriage" are conducted in secret to avoid causing harm to the male who already has a family before entering into a second marriage through the method of "Misyar marriage". This leads to the neglect of the rights of the woman who entered into a "Misyar marriage" socially, as she is described as a temporary wife for the male, and some depict her children as illegitimate, which is a humiliating matter for the children in the Middle Eastern culture that is based on religious customs.
As for "Mutʿah marriage," it is essentially a religious legalization of the concept of prostitution, and that is why several Islamic religious schools have refused to acknowledge it. The dilemma is that the countries where Iran has exerted its political influence have not constitutionally accepted this type of marriage, but it has been overlooked in practice!
This is actually a catastrophe because it nullifies the powers of institutions, marginalizes the role of states, and pushes societies to label women who engage in such marriages as prostitutes.
The organization Empower Women Media, concerned with empowering women in the Middle East and North Africa, organized a short film festival in front of the United Nations building on September 14, 2023, under the title "The WOMEN LIFE FREEDOM Film Festival." This festival coincided with the anniversary of the killing of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, by the Iranian morality police, due to her failure to wear the hijab in public. This incident ignited massive protests in the streets of Iran from last year until 2023, in which women called for the overthrow of the Iranian sectarian regime, based on the interpretation of the Islamic Sharia law and the rule of the Supreme Leader.
More than 150 personalities and leaders were present at this festival, including Dr. Javaid Rehman (UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran), Suzanne Nossel (CEO of Pen America), Johnnie Moore(USCIRF Commissioner for Religious Freedom), Lisa Daftari (Foreign Office), Manel Muslimi(Minorities Advisor in the European Union Parliament), and Marian Kipor Greenblatt (Stop Femicide).
Some of the notable films that received a positive response from the audience were:
- Unity. Directed by Azadeh Nikzadeh.
- Women of Iran. Directed by Lisa Daftari.
- Samira’s Camera. Directed by Paula Kweskin.
- Girl Sitting Here. Directed by Azadeh Nikzadeh.
- Iranians Protesting. Directed by Mehran Sanel.
- My Faith, My Choice. Directed by, Loureen Ayyoub.
After the film screening, there were discussion sessions with several speakers, Among them are the following personalities:
- Maral Karaee,Responsible for the Animation Scene Set Up department at Brown Bag Films, a Canadian company.
- Loureen Ayyoub , Spectrum News (Multimedia Journalist)
- Erica Kasraie, is the Creative Director and Persian Media Fellowship Coordinator for Empower Women Media.
- Marjan Greenblatt Keypour, Founder and Director, Alliance for Rights of All Minorities
- Farhmand Kalayeh, is the CEO and East Coast lead of the Iranaissance.
- Azadeh Nikzadeh, Burnt Generation Studios (Creative Producer & Director)
- Lisa daftari, Editor-in-Chief of The Foreign Desk
- Lemor Balter, Assistant Director/Dean of Faculty the Dalton School
- Sage Taber, a graduate student at New York University.
- Alexandra Gordon, President of Matter Unlimited.
- Astrid Hajjar, Human Rights Activist/Directed International relations and Partnerships of EWM/Latin America and the Middle East.
- Shirin Taber: Empower Women Media (Executive Director)
All of these discussions have given a broad direction to the necessity of working diligently to push governments to pressure the Iranian regime to change its arbitrary policies towards media, women, and civil liberties.
The attendees emphasized the leading role of Iranian women in the return of social activism against the repressive authorities relying on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other security forces, with a focus on the need to work towards a system that enforces the separation of religion from the state in Iran. Otherwise, the status of women will remain limited by Sharia laws that reinforce the superiority of males over females, undermining the values of equality stipulated in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women adopted on December 18, 1979.
 Qom is situated 140 km south of Tehran, next to the desert. It is a prominent center for theology and religious ritual training, playing a crucial role in the recent development of religious, political, and social aspects. In addition to its religious significance and historical attractions like the ancient holy shrine of Hazrat Masoumeh, the daughter of the 7th Shia Imam, and Jamkaran mosque, Qom is also home to numerous other shrines and the Shi'a seminary.
 Mullah, Arabic Mawlā, or Mawlāy (“protector”), French Mūlāy, or Moulay, a Muslim title generally denoting “lord”; it is used in various parts of the Islāmic world as an honorific attached to the name of a king, sultan, or other noble (as in Morocco and other parts of North Africa) or of a scholar or religious leader.
 Thus, when this term is used as an adjective attached to the term marriage (nikah, zawaj), the compounded term “Zawaj Misyar” or misyar marriage refers to a practice of an arrangement in which the husband does not stay continuously in one place with his wife but visits her regularly at his discretion.
 Mutʿah, (Arabic: “pleasure”) in Islamic law, a temporary marriage that is contracted for a limited or fixed period and involves the payment of money to the female partner. Mutʿah is referred to in the Qurʾān (Muslim scriptures) in these words:
And you are allowed to seek out wives with your wealth in decorous conduct, but not in fornication, but give them their reward for what you have enjoyed of them in keeping with your promise. (4:24)
Partners who engage in mutʿah must do so freely and must predetermine the compensation and duration of the contract. The woman, therefore, has no claim for maintenance, and the two do not inherit from one another unless there is a previous agreement on these matters. Any children from a mutʿah union go with the father. No extension of the mutʿah is permitted, but cohabitation may be resumed if a new agreement is reached with new compensation for the woman. All Muslim legal schools agree that mutʿah was recognized and practiced in the Prophet Muhammad’s time. Most Sunni Muslims, however, think the practice to have been abrogated by Muhammad. In consequence, Sunni leaders have denounced mutʿah as simple prostitution. In contrast, the Twelver Shīʿites, holding that mutʿah was forbidden not by Muhammad but by ʿUmar I, the second caliph, consider mutʿah to be still valid and defend it as a guard against prostitution or license in circumstances in which regular marriage is impossible.
 (23:1) The believers have indeed attained true success:1 (23:2) those who,2 in their Prayers, humble themselves;3 (23:3) who avoid whatever is vain and frivolous;4 (23:4) who observe Zakah;5 (23:5) who strictly guard their private parts6 (23:6) save from their wives, or those whom their right hands possess; for with regard to them they are free from blame " (23:7) As for those who seek beyond that, they are transgressors"7 (23:8) who are true to their trusts and their covenants,8 (23:9) and who guard their Prayers.9 (23:10) Such are the inheritors (23:11) that shall inherit Paradise;10 and in it they shall abide forever.11
 Sharia law is a religious law that Muslims must adhere to, governing their spiritual, mental, and physical behavior. It classifies actions into five categories: obligatory, recommended, permitted, discouraged, and forbidden.
 Ali Hosseini Khamenei is the current supreme leader of Iran, serving since 1989. He is a Twelver Shia marja' and was previously the third president of Iran from 1981 to 1989.
 Loureen Ayyoub, a Jordanian-American journalist based in Los Angeles, has a multicultural storytelling style that emphasizes empathy and authenticity. Loureen holds a BA in journalism and intercultural communications from Pepperdine University, as well as an MA in International Relations from the University of San Francisco. With her versatility and compassion, she is both a creative professional and a dedicated humanitarian.
 Erica Saghar Kasraie is a supporter and partner of Victor Marx and All Things Possible. She is an advisor for Human Rights Policy for the Middle East with the Victor Marx Group. She was Executive Director of the Iranian Freedom Institute and a research assistant at the School of Culture and Security at the Institute of World Politics.
 Marjan Keypour Greenblatt is the Founder and Director of the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM), an international network of activists that advocates for equal rights for all citizens in Iran. She is also the founder of StopFemicideIran, an advocacy campaign that monitors and documents acts of femicide and honors the victims. Additionally, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt serves as a Non-resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute.
 Azadeh Nikzadeh is a talented writer, director, producer, and women's rights activist from the Middle East. She focuses on highlighting the obstacles encountered by women, particularly in Iran. As the founder of Burnt Generation Studios, Azadeh leads a company dedicated to developing and producing original content that reflects real-life experiences and supports genuine storytelling.
 Lisa Daftari, the Editor-in-Chief of The Foreign Desk, is an accomplished investigative journalist renowned for her expertise in foreign affairs, particularly in the Middle East and counterterrorism. She is a frequent commentator and analyst on television and radio, delivering exclusive reports on significant regional developments. Notably, she is a regular political analyst on Fox News and has made appearances on CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR, ABC, Voice of America, SiriusXM, The Washington Post, AOL News, Yahoo News, Jerusalem Post, and various other media outlets.
 Sage Taber, a graduate student at New York University, is studying Near Eastern Studies and building her portfolio as a researcher and multi-media journalist. Her passion for media storytelling stems from her Iranian-American heritage, travel experiences in the Middle East and North Africa, and academic research on international relations. She intends to pursue journalism and work with social impact-focused organizations in the future.
 Alexandra Gordon, President of Matter Unlimited, is a social impact strategist and storyteller who specializes in aiding the development and expansion of mission-driven organizations and brands. Notable clients she has worked with include Amalgamated Bank, Abbott, Children's Rights, Child Fund International, Care Can't Wait, The Climate Works Foundation, data.org, Global Giving, Girls Inc, The Hunger Project, Merck for Mothers, Nike, Omidyar Network, Rhia Ventures, Save The Music, The White House, The Clinton Global Initiative, The Obama Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, UNICEF, United We Dream, and World Vision.
 Matter Unlimited is a Certified B Corp situated at the intersection of culture, capital, and cause. MU is ESG strategists, purpose-driven creatives, and impact-oriented storytellers helping organizations foster and promote a more just, equitable.
 Shirin Taber, the Executive Director of Empower Women Media, is an Iranian-American with expertise in cross-cultural training. She actively supports various organizations by providing interfaith media strategies. Currently, Shirin spearheads a women's film festival, a media training fellowship, and an e-course named "Live What You Believe."