A high-profile performance in Iran by the Tehran Symphony Orchestra was cancelled at the last moment at the end of November, because it was due to feature female musicians. This is the latest example of the ultraconservative establishment causing havoc in Iran’s arts scene, and the latest widely-publicised example of the inequality that women battle against in Iran.
Despite pledges by President Rouhani to tackle the unequal status of men and women, inequality remains endemic two years into his presidency. Women in Iran tend to be highly educated, and yet they are treated as second-class citizens. In the eyes of the state religion, the law, her neighbours and sometimes even her family, a woman is less valuable than a man. In courts of law, a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man. Men are allowed to bring home 'temporary wives' whenever they like. Many women suffer sexual abuse, but feel under pressure to remain silent in order to protect the honour of their family.
This inequality is why ministry specifically for women, and led by women, is so vital for the Iranian church. Women’s ministry teams, such as Elam’s, work to teach women their true worth and dignity in Christ. Through conferences and ongoing mentoring, the abuse and devaluation that many have suffered are addressed biblically and compassionately. There is much still to do, and much for which to pray.