Women in the West are increasingly being targeted by jihadists for persecution and murder, noted the British historian Gavin Mortimer in a recent piece in the Spectator. The radical Islamists are doing this, Mortimer said, “because in their minds [females] represent empowerment and enlightenment, and also immodesty.”
Women in Muslim-majority countries are all too familiar with this attitude. Subjected to the dictates of the strictest interpretation of Islam at the hands of their patriarchal societies, they live as second-class citizens across the Middle East. Those who dare to go against the grain in any fashion — even by belonging to another religion — meet cruel fates.
Azita Rafizadeh, for instance, a wife and mother (and not related to the author), is serving a four-year sentence in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison for “acting against national security” and “membership in an illegal Baha’i institute.” The way she is being treated gives a glimpse into the severe oppression under which a non-Muslim woman is forced to live in a state governed by Islamic law, Sharia.
Born in 1980 to a Baha’i family in Shiraz, Rafizadeh was not allowed by the Iranian regime to attend university. She got around this restriction by attending programs offered at the Bahai Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), an underground university established in 1987 by Iran’s minority Baha’i community for its young members, who are discriminated against by the government because of their faith.
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