teheran - When women in Iran do not comply with Islamic dress codes, they are no longer arrested and punished. Instead, they are 're-educated'. With this easing, Iran- following Saudi Arabia- seems to want to establish itself as a more tolerant and more woman-friendly country.
The two arch-enemies thus have found a new battle scene: besides economics, geopolitics and diplomacy, they are now fighting each other in the field of women's rights. That writes Thomas Erdbrink, known from Our man in Tehran, in The New York Times.
This week Saudi women were allowed to participate in a chess tournament without complete body coverage. That is a breakthrough. Recently, Saudi Arabia has been increasingly implementing liberal rules and laws. That is part of the 'revolution' of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wants to limit the strong grip of religious conservatives on the land.
Iran now follows that example. The struggle for women's rights seems to revolve around a better image, but at the same time it does bring about improvements for women, according to the American poet Roya Hakakian. 'Women benefit from the competition between the two regimes over who represents the more moderate Islamic alternative. '
According to her, some Iranian women are jealous of Saudi Arabia, and are successfully exerting pressure on their own regime with certain playful protests. For example, an activist launched a campaign in which women would take off their headscarves and make a video of them. 'While the world is worried about hostilities between Iran and the Saudis, the woman benefits,' concludes Hakakian.