5 Important Women In Iran’s Women’s Movement
Women’s rights in Iran have been on ongoing struggle since the beginning of the 1900’s. It first began towards the end of the Persian / Iranian Constitutional Revolution in 1910. It was in this year that the first Women Journal was published by women. It lasted up until about 1933 when the last women’s association was dismantled by the government in power.
In 1962 through the the Iranian Revolution in 1979, women’s rights emerged once again. Women were granted suffrage in 1963 and were also allowed to stand for public office. Divorce, custody rights, and reduced polygamy were established in 1975 in the Family Protection Law.
It continues today as the most recent campaign, One Million Signatures, aims to change discriminatory laws against women in their country.
Along the way there have been countless women who have been strong activists for women’s rights in Iran. Female speakers, teachers, writers, poets, scientists, athletes, politicians, and many more have played a pivotal role in advancing women’s rights. Here are five of those women.
Born in Tehran, Iran in 1919, Ashraf is the twin sister of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran. Ashraf has been strong advocate for women’s rights in Iran almost since the beginning. In 1934, Ashraf and her sister were the first two Iranian women to shed the veil worn by women in their country.
She served as the Iranian delegate to the United Nations in 1967 for the Commission on Human Rights and the Economic and Social Council. Later, in 1975, she addressed the United Nations helping to establish that year as the International Women’s Year. From 1967 to 1979, Ashraf was President of the Women’s Organization of Iran.
Ashraf did not consider herself a radical reformist when it came to women’s rights as she supported basic human rights for women which included food, education, and health. She also was a strong activist for human rights and equality, not just women’s rights.
Iran Teymourtash was another pioneer of women’s rights in Iran. Her father was a powerful political figure which allowed her to play such an important role early on in Iran’s women’s rights movement.
It is believed that she was the first women to appear unveiled publicly when she gave her high school commencement address in 1930. She would then found an association of women whose goal was to an establish a boarding school for impoverished women. The association would go on to create education classes for women along with playing an active role in charitable work.
Later in her life she would become the first female editor of an Iranian newspaper, “Rastakhiz”, which she established and published.
Manda Zand Ervin
Manda Zand Ervin held office in a handful of Iranian government ministries before fleeing to the United States as a political refugee in 1980 after the Iranian Revolution. As founder and President of the Alliance of Iranian Women, Ervin works to bring Western attention towards the plight of Iranian women.
In 2003 she gathered large numbers in support of a U.S. Senate Resolution on the human rights on women in Iran. In 2008, President George W. Bush appointed Ervin as the U.S. delegate to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. In 2009, Ervin was invited to the G8 International Conference on Violence Against Women as the featured speaker from Iran.
Ervin has made it her life’s work to bring to the attention of the world, the status of women’s rights in Iran.
Tahmineh Milani is an Iranian filmmaker whose movies cover sensitive issues such as women’s rights and the 1979 Iranian revolution.
Her films consistently highlight brave women who suffer hardships under oppression. Her movies also consistently entice harsh criticisms from people with opposing views. The government even charged her as an anti-revolutionary due her film “The Hidden Half” in 2001. She was imprisoned but released two weeks later due to strong backlash and support from a large group of world-famous directors, including Martin Scorsese.
Rakhshan Bani-E’temad is an Iranian director and screenwriter that is internationally and critically acclaimed. She has been dubbed “First Lady of Iranian Cinema” and is considered Iran’s premier female director.
Her films span a variety of the issues faced by the Iranian people including poverty, divorce, cultural taboos, and women’s oppression. Many of them feature lower class, female leads who struggle with making a living. They show the strength of Iranian women and identify cultural issues that women face.
Her popularity has enlightened an international audience about the cultural pressures that mold Iranian women’s lives.
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