In observance of International Women’s Day, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted an image condemning the freedom women enjoy in the West as commodification.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) March 8, 2016
Iran is one of the world’s most repressive nations for women’s rights. Women may attend college, but some prevent “female students from studying specific subjects, usually those concerning engineering and technology.” Husbands, fathers, and male guardians exercise extreme control over women’s lives; for example, a national female soccer star could not travel to an international tournament because her husband did not give her permission.
A woman must wear a headscarf and long overcoat if they dare step outside. If they refuse to do, so authorities can punish them. A man can prevent “his wife from working if he believes this would be ‘incompatible with the interests of the family or with his or his wife’s dignity.'”
Iran was far from alone in using International Women’s Day to claim to support freedom for women. The Cuban government, for example, observed the day through its state newspaper, Granma. The propaganda outlet boasted of the importance to women of the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
“The Cuban woman has a historical role since the Revolution in programs of family care, educational activities, to meet the justice promised by our patriots,” said Brigadier General Delsa Esther Puebla.
Cuba’s repressive communist regime has forced thousands of girls and women to participate in one of the largest and most inexpensive sex tourism industries in the world. Investigations have shown tourists travel to Havana to have sex with underage girls and boys. United States diplomats found that “some Cuban children are reportedly pushed into prostitution by their families, exchanging for money, food, or gifts.” Others see an opportunity to escape the communist island.
“They see that this girl married some Italian and now she’s dressing nice, fixing up her mother’s house — it’s the illusion that you can get ahead if you prostitute yourself, the illusion of leaving the country, the illusion of a visa,” said dissident journalist Ivan Garcia.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan attempted to observe the day, as well, stating in his speech that “a woman is above all else a mother.”
“I know there will be some who will be annoyed, but for me a woman is above all a mother,” he told an audience. “You cannot free women by destroying the notion of family.”
In 2014, Erdoğan stunned the world when he asserted that women are not equal to men.
“You cannot make women work in the same jobs as men do, as in communist regime,” he said. “You cannot give them a shovel and tell them to do their work. This is against their delicate nature.”
He also received criticism after he told a newlywed couple that they would be committing treason against Turkey if they use birth control.
“One or two (children) is not enough,” he said and added:
To make our nation stronger, we need a more dynamic and younger population. We need this to take Turkey above the level of modern civilisations. In this country, they (opponents) have been engaged in the treason of birth control for years and sought to dry up our generation. Lineage is very important both economically and spiritually. I have faith in you.
Turkey’s birth rate began to fall in the 1990s, when women chose to pursue higher education, instead of starting a large family. A growing number of women use birth control and choose to start a family in their early thirties. In 2012, then-Prime Minister Erdoğan pressed Turkey to outlaw abortion, since Turkey’s birth rate had fallen to 0.12 percent, or an average of about two children per woman. In 1978, the average was 4.33 children.