In Iran, women vote, are members of the parliament, and make up more than 60 percent of university students. Some observers say that Iranian women are in pretty good shape in terms of women's rights – particularly in contrast to other women in the Middle East.
But Iranian human rights activist Roya Boroumand points out that thirty years ago, Iranian women were already active members of their society. Now, she says, Iranian women suffer under repressive laws:
"They are discriminated against in marriage, divorce, education, custody of the children, inheritance, in all aspects of their daily life, and this prevents their progress."
Iranian women have been fighting back – peacefully. One way is through the Campaign for Equality, a grass roots petition drive that educates Iranian women about their legal status. It is working to collect one million signatures advocating changing discriminatory laws. The government has responded harshly: campaign members have been beaten, imprisoned, fined, lashed. Websites supporting the campaign have been blocked.
Roya Boroumand says the regime has been so harsh because campaign activists have been effective. For one thing, they reach out to women across the country, and do not confine their activity to the intellectual elites in Tehran:
"The government reacts to any activity that is effective and organized and echoes a message that it doesn't agree with, and women's activities are being attacked for the same reason."
The U.S. supports the peaceful, courageous efforts of Iranian women to secure their rights. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says, "When women are afforded their basic rights, they flourish. And so do their children, families, communities, and nations."