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Iranian women sit on a bus in Tehran on February 25, 2012. ATTA KENARE/AFP

On 21 May 2018, less than two weeks after the U.S. withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched Washington’s “New Iran Strategy” before an audience at the Heritage Foundation. In his remarks, he insisted that Iranian women’s long struggle for inclusion and equality matters dearly to Washington. As if to prove the point, the U.S. State Department’s social media feeds since that day have interspersed announcements of new choking sanctions with twinkling reminders of Iranian women’s potential (“Congratulations to Iranian-American and new #NASA Astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli!”). In January 2020, the State Department released a two-minute video on the history of Iranian women’s rights.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranian women protest for the Islamic hijab on July 12, 2014 in Tehran. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

Religious indoctrination starts early in Iran, when you are forced at school to learn the Koran. I was a dutiful student, praying assiduously while wearing a loose, ugly school uniform, with my hair hidden under a big scarf. At age 8, I even won a prize for fasting.

At 9, I was introduced by my father to the beautiful game of chess, beloved by ancient Persian poets. Chess requires logic and critical thinking — not faith. Slowly, in my teens, I began to question why, if God is fair, is there so much pain and suffering in the world?

Even if my faith was fading, as a woman in Iran I had no choice but to tolerate the hijab — the Islamic emblem of constant, misogynistic oppression.…  Seguir leyendo »

Début septembre, une jeune femme s’est immolée devant le Tribunal de la révolution islamique de Téhéran. Elle venait d’apprendre sa condamnation à une peine de prison pour avoir osé entrer, en 2018, dans un stade et assister à un match de football. Elle s’appelait Sahar, « l’aube » en persan. Dans la poésie et la chanson iraniennes, ce mot évoque la fin des ténèbres, l’espoir de la délivrance. L’acte suicidaire de Sahar Khodayari, qui entraîna sa mort peu après, ne dit-il pas, au contraire, un profond désespoir ?

En réponse aux indignations massives provoquées par sa mort tragique et aux appels à lever l’interdiction faite aux femmes d’entrer dans les stades, les médias liés au pouvoir diffusèrent les propos du père de Sahar disant que sa fille souffrait de perturbations mentales.…  Seguir leyendo »

Emprisonnée depuis cinq ans, l’avocate iranienne Nasrin Sotoudeh vient d’être condamnée à dix années supplémentaires. A cette peine s’ajoutent 148 coups de fouet. La dureté de la sanction prise à l’encontre de cette militante des droits de l’homme laisse croire que le gouvernement iranien est à la recherche d’expédients pour faire oublier l’échec de sa politique. Ses promesses sont toutes restées sans lendemain : le développement économique, la justice sociale, la concorde au nom de l’oumma musulmane, la promotion de l’islam dans le monde – toutefois, rien n’est fait pour les musulmans réprimés en Chine par millions, de peur de rendre Pékin furieux… Face aux colères qui s’accumulent, la classe dirigeante a désigné les femmes comme boucs émissaires et a choisi de réduire au silence Nasrin Sotoudeh, grande figure du féminisme iranien.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters in Tehran cheer for the Iranian national team during a screening of its World Cup match against Spain on June 20. (AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, 18 influential Iranian women living in the West, published an open letter to FIFA calling on the organization that governs international soccer to help put an end to a decades-old ban on women attending male sporting events in Iran.

The issue has become a major story line at this year’s World Cup being held in Russia, as women inside Iran push for the right to attend games freely. “The disconnect between the people of Iran and the government of Iran on this issue is glaring: Iran’s is a celebratory culture; even as the people face serious economic and political strains, they are jubilant as they watch their team,” the letter states.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iran soccer fans gather near Red Square in Moscow on Wednesday. (Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Like so many people around the world, I am excitedly preparing for this year’s World Cup. But as an Iranian woman now living in America, I know this year will be different. It will be first time in my life that I’ll be able to enjoy the games freely, in public, wearing whatever I want with whomever I please. I’m going to celebrate this small victory by throwing a party at a bar. I will celebrate even if Iran loses.

I started watching soccer with my dad as a 5-year-old in Tehran. My first introduction to the World Cup was in 1994, when I was 10.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, right, receiving a soccer jersey from FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, on Thursday. Credit Iranian Presidential Office European Pressphoto Agency

Over the past few months, the world has once again been reminded of the gender apartheid long practiced in Iran — and of the bravery of Iranian women languishing under it. Late last year protesters began removing their compulsory hijabs in public and waving them in defiant protest. At least 29 women have been jailed for seeking the freedom to show their hair. Some have been beaten. All that in a country in which husbands have a legal right to bar their wives from working and in which a woman’s testimony in court is worth half that of a man’s.

So why is Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, the world soccer federation, doing his part to condone the Islamic Republic’s misogyny?…  Seguir leyendo »

A young Iranian woman waves a white headscarf in protest of her country’s compulsory hijab rule.

On Dec. 27, Vida Movahed stood bareheaded on a utility box on one of Tehran’s busiest thoroughfares, waving her white head scarf on a stick. Within days, images of the 31-year-old, who was detained and then released a few weeks later, had become an iconic symbol.

In the weeks since Ms. Movahed’s peaceful protest of the compulsory hijab, long one of the most visible symbols of the Islamic Republic, dozens of women, and even some men, throughout Iran have followed her lead. So far, at least 29 women in cities throughout the country have been arrested.

These bold acts of defiance against the hijab are unprecedented in the nearly 40-year history of the Islamic Republic, but a movement that may have helped inspire them has been going on for years.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why I Left Iran to Play Chess in America

Right now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the World Chess Championships are underway. But some world champions are noticeably absent: The Israeli players were blocked from participating when Saudi Arabia denied them visas.

Chess — a game that I have loved since I first sat down at a board — is pure. It doesn’t care about gender, ethnicity, nationality, status or politics. But too often the countries, organizations and people who enforce the rules in the world of chess are anything but.

This is a subject I know something about.

I was the second-highest-ranked player for girls under 18 in the world in 2016.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry Has a Silver Lining

The escalating rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has alarmed foreign policy experts who believe that it could further destabilize the region. But feminists have reason to rejoice. In the competition between the two regimes to earn the mantle of the more moderate Islamic alternative, women have been the beneficiaries.

When Saudi women earned the right to vote, drive or run for office, Iranian women did not pay much attention. Women in Iran had always enjoyed those rights, and their Saudi counterparts were simply catching up. But when Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women’s presence in sports stadiums, Iranian women got angry at their own government.…  Seguir leyendo »

Beach volleyball is testing women's rights in Iran.

Yes, beach volleyball in Iran. You may think that women's rights there are a secondary issue, compared with recent headlines focusing on a nuclear agreement, the freeing of the Washington Post's correspondent in Tehran and other prisoners, and an almost-international incident when American sailors veered into Iranian waters.

But in fact, this issue goes to the heart of whether Iran upholds its international agreements.

Later this month, Iran will host a prestigious international beach volleyball tournament on Kish Island, south of the mainland in the Persian Gulf. This is a first for Iran, which was selected as the host country by the Lausanne-based International Volleyball Federation, or FIVB.…  Seguir leyendo »

I took a series of photographs of myself in 2007 that show me sitting on the toilet, weighing myself, and shaving my legs in the bath. I shot them as an angry response to an encounter with a gallery owner in London’s artsy Brick Lane. I had offered him photos of colorful chadors — an attempt to question the black chador as the icon of Iran by showing the world that Iranian women were more than this piece of black cloth. The gallery owner wasn’t impressed. “Do you have any photos of Iranian women in their private moments?” he asked.

As an Iranian with a reinforced sense of the private-public divide we navigate daily in our country, I found his curiosity offensive.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Iranian woman holds up a picture of the latest crackdown by Iranian police on reformist protesters in Tehran. Photograph: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images

Iran today is a country where women are more educated than their male compatriots; more than 60% of university students are female, as are many university professors. Iranian women obtained the right to vote and become members of parliament half a century ago – earlier than women in Switzerland, who achieved this right in 1971. Since that time at least a small number have been present in Iran's parliament. Even the present parliament, which is monopolised by hardliners, has 13 women members.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is difficult to know how to react to the decision by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran to propose three women in his new cabinet, two of whom he has already named. Should I be proud, as an Iranian woman, that for the first time in the history of the Islamic Republic women will be proposed for cabinet posts? Well, I wish I could feel proud. The reality is that if Ahmadinejad had chosen two ultra-hardline conservative men for the same posts it would have made no difference in terms of policy and vision.

He has proposed Fatemeh Ajorlou for the welfare and social security ministry and Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi for the health ministry.…  Seguir leyendo »

Me temo que una cortina de silencio caerá como un sudario de plomo sobre la violencia de los opresores y ahogará los gritos de los oprimidos. El tenebroso presidente de Irán, Mahmud Ahmadineyad, y el fanático ayatolá Jamenei, depositario del sacrosanto poder como guía de la Revolución islámica, tienen el monopolio de la violencia y la han descargado con ferocidad contra los manifestantes que denunciaban un verdadero golpe de Estado en las urnas para cortar el paso a los reformadores del moderado Mirhusein Musavi. Hablo de cortinas de silencio, porque apenas nos llegan noticias directas de Irán. Me refiero a noticias elaboradas por profesionales de la información que cubran con solvencia y sin cortapisas los acontecimientos que suceden en las calles, en los tejados de las casas, en los despachos oficiales, en los cuarteles de las fervorosas milicias que apoyan a Ahmadineyad y en los variados pasillos clandestinos por donde se mueven los rebeldes.…  Seguir leyendo »

There's a "new" old name suddenly in circulation that is both filled with ancient history and ripe with a revolutionary spirit for today's game-changing events.


Well known to Muslims, Fatima az-Zahra was one of four daughters of the prophet Muhammad. Today, Zahra is also the name of two important, outspoken women of Iran.

One is Zahra Rahnavard, the courageous and charismatic wife of the allegedly defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. The other is Zahra Khanum, the equally courageous and charismatic woman portrayed in a new movie, "The Stoning of Soraya M.," about the death of an Iranian woman on trumped-up charges of adultery.…  Seguir leyendo »

Iranians are expected to turn out in record numbers tomorrow to elect a president. The world is watching. For many Iranians, this election will be a litmus test of the current government's claim that Iran is "the freest country in the world." While it is not officially on the ballot, the future of human rights in Iran is at stake.

In the past four years -- and particularly since the Obama administration came into office -- the government in Tehran, which has said it seeks to bring "kindness and justice to the world," has stepped up its harassment of human rights defenders.…  Seguir leyendo »

The suffragettes have been an inspiration for countless women around the world. This month it will be exactly 80 years since their momentous struggle led to the Bill for full women's suffrage being presented to Parliament.

Women in modern Britain may not live in a discrimination-free utopia, but the law, at least, is mostly on their side. This is what we need in Iran - laws that protect and empower women. Instead, we have laws for men that institutionalise prejudice. The law looks disfavourably on Iranian women - literally with a male face. Since the 1979 Revolution Iranian women have been forbidden from serving as judges.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Massoumeh Torfeh, a research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and a former producer for the BBC Persian Service (THE GUARDIAN, 09/01/08):

According to Kate Connolly's report on Iranian female photographers, the reason women "now play too significant a part in Iranian society to be 'brought back to the stove'" has much to do with the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 to 1988 (The secret lives of us, January 2).Katajun Amirpur, an Islamic expert at the University of Cologne, is quoted saying: "The war led to women taking over many of the roles previously held by men, including that of the photographer."…  Seguir leyendo »

By Janice Turner (THE TIMES, 30/03/07):

They insisted that she conceal her fatigues with a white abaya, cover her hair with a hijab. It was with her soft voice and in her round, girlish handwriting that the apology for her country’s actions had to be made.

This war has a workaday military guise, but as the treatment of Leading Seaman Faye Turney shows, it is a collision between two irreconcilable civilisations. Its spoils are more than oil reserves, disputed waters or regional influence, but, at its very core, the right of dominion over women.

What a perplexing and alien creature Seaman Turney must appear to this Iranian regime.…  Seguir leyendo »