The first day of spring marks the beginning of a new year, or Norooz, in Iran...Here is a round-up of just a few fantastic female activists who have contributed significantly to the advancement of women’s rights and stature in the world. These ladies give the nation, the region, and, indeed, the entire world hope for meaningful and lasting change.
Mahnaz Afkhami and Mehrangiz Kar, lawyer and human rights activist, speak with BBC Persian about women’s political participation in Iran on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of being accorded their right to vote.
Americans are bombarded with media coverage of the three-decade-old Islamic Republic and its nuclear aspirations. But there's more to Iran than Ahmdainejad, as can be seen in the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries' new project, Feast Your Eyes: A Taste of Luxury in Ancient Iran. The Atlantic invited a panel of Iranian-American leaders to discuss the exhibit. Taking part in the dialogue are Azar Nafisi, the much-acclaimed Iranian-American author of long-standing New York Times bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran; Massumeh Farhad, chief curator and curator of Islamic Art Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery; and Mahnaz Afkhami.
It is now almost 40 years that Mahnaz Afkhami has been fighting for women's rights and against all sorts of gender apartheid...Did all of the achievements (that she worked for) vanish overnight in 1979 when the mullahs took over? Afkhami believes that the movement never stopped and says, "The green movement in Iran is the continuation of what had been started nearly a century before..."
Despite the perception that strict Islamic law and feminism are incompatible, women's rights advocates argued (at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Submcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women's Issues's hearing) that Muslim values could actually help women of the Arab Spring promote greater equality. Mahnaz Afkhami cautioned that while some Islamic countries have provided a more positive outlook, other examples, like Iran, give women reasons to worry.
"The grim truth is that women who are struggling to advance human rights and create secular, pluralistic, democratic societies, face grave challenges rooted in tradition and history. Traditional social and cultural norms have relegated Middle Eastern women and girls to a private space, and they often lack the social, economic, and political power they need to overcome antagonistic groups and regressive policy," Afkhami stated as a witness testifying at the hearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operation and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues and Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Central Asia Affairs spotlighting Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.
Over the past two months protest movements have transformed the face of governments across the Middle East and North Africa. As the upheaval continues, we examine the role of women in these demonstrations, and how new regimes will affect women's rights throughout the region. Will they bring greater freedoms, or impose further constraints?
NPR KQED Radio / By Michael Krasny / Listen
New America Media / By Sandip Roy / Listen
A year after the controversial elections in Iran, what is the status of the opposition movement? Mahnaz Afkahmi speaks of the women who were at the forefront of protests, and of the regime's attempt to behead the democratic movement. Indeed almost all activists from the June 2009 protests have been imprisoned, harassed, or tortured. Those who were released from prison and allowed to travel were then often tried in absentia and heavily sentenced, effectively condemning them to exile.
VOA News / By Judith Latham / Listen
One way the One Million Signatures Campaign has overcome those barriers is by reaching out to women through “one-on-one” contact. Afkhami said women in the campaign, who go into private homes as well as to places where women gather, try to get other women to sign on to the petition for change. “But if they don’t, they leave the information with them because the aim is to get one million activists, not so much one million signatures,” she said.
PRI's The World / By Marco Werman / Listen
Iran’s authorities recently confiscated Shirin Ebadi’s Nobel Peace prize medal. Activists say the move against the Iranian human rights lawyer exemplifies Tehran’s hostility toward women. Mahnaz Afkhami was the Minister for Women’s Affairs in Iran before the 1979 revolution. She now lives in Bethesda, Maryland. Afkhami wrote the foreword to a new book called Iranian Women’s One Million Signatures Campaign for Equality. Anchor Marco Werman talks with Afkhami about the women’s movement in Iran and the ‘One Million Signatures’ campaign.