Iranian Women Remember Green Revolution Ahead of Election

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Iran's also closely watching the war in Syria, but today thoughts in Iran are turned to its presidential elections tomorrow. The last time this happened, four years ago, there was a sense of excitement in the streets. A large group of Iranians was hoping for a win by a reformist candidate, and that everything would change. But it didn't. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner again, then the green revolution protest movement broke out followed by a severe government crackdown.
Now a big part of that movement for change came from middle class Iranian women. Many of them were fed up with the government's restrictive interpretation of Islam. These days those female voices are heard seldom in public in Iran, but on the eve of this election we heard from three women who had been pushing for change in 2009. They spoke with us with help from the BBC Persian Service. It's risky for them to speak to a foreign news outlet. All three considered boycotting the election, but they're worried about a conservative candidate like Saeed Jalili becoming the next president. We're using voice overs and omitting their names to protect their identity. Here's the first woman. She's about 30 and lives near Tehran.

Woman 1: We are in a very, very bad situation. You have no idea. The sanctions, the currency, you know we have no respect in the world. I decided to vote because maybe, maybe I can change this situation, even a little. You know if some candidate like Mr. Jalili becomes president of Iran, our situation is going to be worse and worse. You know he thinks like the Taliban. He thinks women should be at home raising children and be good wives for their husbands.
The thing that I would most like to change is democracy. We want freedom. We want free speech, free newspapers. There's no democracy here. Of course I don't like to wear the hijab, but the first thing I want is freedom of speech, free newspapers, magazines, so that I can say my ideas without being afraid for my future.

Werman: Here's another of the three women we spoke with. She's 40 and lives with her family in northwestern Iran. She'd like to see Iran reach out to the west.

Woman 2: I personally feel we need to establish close and friendly diplomatic relations with the west and the U.S. I really feel embarrassed when a person like Ahmadinejad represents my country and distorts the view of Iran with his bizarre behavior and words. The elections will surely affect the future of women. Before Ahmadinejad came and took the office we already had to struggle for freedom of clothing and against compulsory hijab, but now we also have to fight for our right to work and even be educated too. The future would be bleak for women if the hardcore religious clergy men and people like Saeed Jalili took over and became president.

Werman: Now the last woman we spoke with is the eldest of the three. She's 55 and from Tehran. She's also concerned about what's happening to women in her country, but she thinks Iranians need to compromise.

Woman 3: I'm going to vote because we have no alternative. We need to compromise and accept small step reforms. I think that we need to stop being idealistic, forget the big ideas, and cooperate with each other. In the current situation for our economy and society we need to look for small rays of hope that can shed some light to our society. I really hope that we can reduce the darkness.

Werman: Three women there in Iran who spoke with the BBC about tomorrow's presidential elections and their fears and hopes for their country. Not a cross section of Iranian society, but surely representative of many Iranians who had hoped for change.