As Iran’s theocracy appears on the verge of silencing the biggest challenge to its authority since it was established in 1979, female activists in the region say they are inspired by the prominent role women are playing in the country’s opposition movement. Many hope it will have a crossover effect on the struggle for women’s rights in their own countries and help shatter Western perceptions of Middle Eastern women as subjugated in a male-dominated culture.

In a region that reveres men who die in battle, some of the major icons to emerge from the Iranian demonstrations have been women. Neda Agha Soltan, the music student whose bloody death on June 20 was videotaped and broadcast around the world, became an instant symbol of the opposition movement and sparked widespread outrage. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi ‘s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, has also taken on a prominent role as she accompanied her husband on the campaign trail and more recently spoke out against an election result that the opposition says was fraudulent.

“This is our time, women’s time,” said Khoulod Al Fahed, a Saudi businesswoman and blogger. “It is the time for women to speak up and demand the rights that have been stolen from us in the name of religion and culture.”