A new podcast has launched in Iran to encourage women to share their domestic abuse experiences and challenge societal taboos to make their voices heard.
In each episode, a different woman joins the founder Maryam (whose name has been changed), to talk about their own experiences with abuse from men.
"People's reaction was like it was normal to see a man beating his wife," Maryam told the BBC about her husband's public attacks. "There's no law, there are no safe houses, and even the police can't do much. Some families also act like they're so modern and they say, 'Oh it's a private matter.'"
Maryam hopes that the podcast will allow survivors to speak freely and disrupt the culture of secrecy surrounding abuse.
She tells the women to "become Scheherazade," the BBC reported, which references a female character in the folklore One Thousand and One Nights, who outwits a dangerous man and escapes death with powerful storytelling.
Maryam explained how just days into her marriage, she realized something was not right. However, since Iranian society expects women to remain loyal to their husbands, she did not turn to her family for help.
She said that societal norms are what kept her in her marriage and kept her quiet. Eventually, Maryam was hospitalized after being beat by her husband. Once she was discharged, she filed for divorce.
That was five years ago. Now, Maryam says she’s never been happier.
On top of sharing personal stories, guests on the podcast also discuss the prevalence of abuse in Iranian society and examine the lack of institutional protection for women.
Research from Iranian and international officials found that two-thirds of Iranian women have experienced domestic abuse at least once as of 2014.
Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in domestic violence against women. The United Nations has called domestic violence "the shadow pandemic," a term that was coined by UN Women to highlight the scope of violence and the limited attention the topic receives.
The General Director of Counseling and Psychological Affairs of the Welfare Organization of Iran confirmed that domestic violence cases had tripled since the start of the pandemic. About 60% of calls to the organization were regarding family-related incidents.
Human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been calling on Iran to better protect women.
Although the Iranian parliament had developed a bill to better prevent violence against women, it has been awaiting approval by the judiciary for nearly 10 years.