NPR: Despite Odds, Women's Movement Persists In Iran

NPR: Despite Odds, Women's Movement Persists In Iran
by Darius Kadivar

Weekend Edition Sunday, February 1, 2009 ·Jacki Lyden and Davar Iran Ardalan look into One of the most remarkable and under-reported stories in Iran is the strength and character of its women's movement. Through politics, literature, religion and poetry, women's voices have at times been like roars, and at others, like whispers of dissent. Women continue to be both targets of persecution and agents of change, and for more than a decade, NPR's Davar Ardalan and Jacki Lyden have been tracking those changes. It began in 1995 when Jacki went to Iran at a time when not many female reporters had been there.

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Darius Kadivar


by Darius Kadivar on

Dear Azadeh,

There are several questions in your comments to which I will try and answer even if I think that in my previous post it was rather clear.

Reference to Men

I perfectly understood that your comment on men was meant to be ironic and provocative aimed at creating a buzz or encourage a debate. I welcome that. But so was my Reference to Simone de Beauvoir NUE, ( A True Fact ) which may have shocked some of you out there as a response the Six Million Singatures Campaigne winning the Simone de Beauvoir Award. ;0) Although my blog did not get any comments from anyone either ;0))  

Farah Diba in Photo Composition

But then at worst you should consider the photo of Farah in the photocomposition also as a provocation, although in this very precise case it was not for the simple fact that she is clearly mentioned in the NPR documentary.

That said I don't quite understand your protest against seeing the Former Queen of Iran in such a photocomposition ? I don't think I need to excuse myself for being creative for it is not a crime in any free society to interpret or express something in regard to a given issue even if it may not be shared by other people. It is always a personal perpective and we all have to right to be biaised as long as we don't stop others from doing the same from their view point.

On the otherhand I truly don't quite understand your opposition to the Former Empress as a part of the struggle for Women Rights in Iran. It is not just about The One Million Signatures Campaign ( to which she did bring her full moral support as a matter of fact) but in the history of Iranian Women's emancipation in general. This is a FACT not just a Capricious comment on my part.

I can understand your comment better if indeed you resent her as a person for what she represented or represent today from a political or historical perspective. That is YOUR CHOICE and RIGHT but that may not be Another Persons view.

I would even consider that three major female figures would deserve a place in this photocomposition regardless of their shortcomings (if any) or what they represent in the eyes of opponents of the monarchy or supporter of the Royal Institution. These Three People being The Former Queen Mother of Iran Taj Ol' Molouk and  daughters Princess Shams and Princess Ashraf Pahlavi for being the First Women to appear without the Veil after centuries of imposed Islamic laws in our country. The Cold day in 1934 was a major historical date in the entire history of Iranian women's rights and struggle for equality. Does that mean that these three people were good or bad or superior or inferior to other Iranian women ? Certainly Not, so why is acknowledging such a fact so troublesome for your conscience ?

I fail to understand many arguments set forward by opponents of the monarchy when they target the Royal Family and often resort to the same baseless rumors or character assassinations as if they had a clue into the Truth of their personalities or even shortcomings. I know that Ashraf had a bad reputation which owed her the nickname of the "Black Panther" or that members of the Shah's family were drop outs or corrupt. But there were good members in this Powerful Family and Farah was certainly one of them and I know first hand for having met her in person but also from what I know of her and even from people who initially did not like her or were prejudiced by personal jealousies or resentments ( very often amongst Iranian Women who maybe prefered to be in her shoes instead rather than consider her as their legitimate Queen at the time of he coronation ( a first in the history of Iranian Women at least not since a long time) to say the least)  but once they met her and got to know her ended up realizing how wrong and prejudiced they were in their Frozen views.

On the other hand many Iranians particularly here on this website refer to the former Shahbanou by her first name Farah or Farah Diba in an attempt of be littling her. My observation is that first of all her name is Farah Pahlavi ever since she married her husband the shah and secondly whether we like it or not she will be remembered in history books as Shahbanou Farah or Shahbanou Farah Pahlavi in the same way that Ayatollah Khomeiny will be rememberd by this name and not Mr Khomeiny or by his first name Ruhhollah.

Why is it so hard to admit that but easy to consider that any former American or French President's will continue to keep his or her title even after losing an election and having to leave office. All former Presidents from Carter, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton, Bush or Obama will be remembered as Presidents and not Mr. Bill Clinton, Mr. Obama etc ... They may lose their job but not that qualification. The same applies to former Kings and Queens.

Individually of course anyone is free to call them in any way they want even be little them or ridicule them. But it does not change the inherent reality of their position in history for good or bad. That is why I have always been a little irritated when semantics of this genre are not applied by Iranian journalists in particular who refer to her as Khanoum Pahlavi or Farah Diba or Farah, etc. I see this regularly on websites like payvand or in articles written by Iranian journalists on the BBC who do this intentionally because they are afraid of being brandished as Monarchists. I find this attitude by the media and journalists in particular ( but not from writers who wish and often are expected to express their legitimate views or tastes ) unethical and hypocritical for the most part.


The issue of Unity amongst Iranians is a real debate and I thank you for your interest. I share with you the fact that I neither have the answers to the questions you bring up. I think that the role of the intellectual is precisely what you have very clearly expressed and that is to ASK QUESTIONS. Or POINT TO PROBLEMS that are of concern to us and society at large. He or she can try and offer solutions but I think that our role is more about underlining the problems in an attempt for clarification and debate so as to reach pragmatic solutions or find answers. No one can pretend to have all the answers.

I think one of the major reasons of no unity in the past 30 years is due to the fact that most diaspora Iranians had to get on with their lives and when one thinks of it 30 years only represents One Generation. That may seem very long to us as individuals but in a community or country's struggle it seems quite a short and normal period.

It does reflect however the lack of genuine strength and representation. Is it due to lack of imagination, will or commitment by those who lead the opposition parties ? I think that they can only answer to this legitimate question.

What I do know is that Unity is as the title of this blog about conciling Odds and reaching a common ground for a common goal. Only based on such a mutual trust can we build a stronger front and suggest efficient solutions to achieve these goals.

I am no ring leader or opposition figure but all I can try to do is look at examples in History in regard to Civil Society's Struggle for Democracy and peaceful transition towards such an ideal. What comes to my mind is Poland's Solidarnosc since I was old enough to see it happen unlike other historical events and upheavals further back in time.

Poland's Solidarnosc was not initially a political party but an intellectual and social mouvment that aimed at bringing social justice in a country where the regime had lost total touch with the realities of the people and country. It is the movement that served as a catalyst and later one led to the appearance of individuals in society who could then become leaders in turn or role models for others to support and who could best voice the concerns of the majority of the people. It happened that Lech Walesa was that Man and that other intellectuals and unionists joined him in support. The Pope was the external Moral support that helped draw the international media's attention on what was going on in Poland and draw interest of more and more public figures but also ordinary citiwens concerned by it. The Pins and publicity for Solidarnosc came later on when it became truly a popular movment that could serve as a model to other striving countries like Tchekoslovakia and other Eastern Bloc European countries.

I think in Iran but also in the Diaspora we have a similar potential. I tried to develope this in a comment I did in the following blog. So rather than repeating myself I invite you to read it here:


Please read my comment under the title :

An Iranian Solidarnosc Is the Only Way Out !

Hope this answers some of your questions. I do not intend to impose it on anyone nor give lessons to you but simply am sharing the core of my belief and opinions since you asked me to do so.

Hope it can lead to a better mutual understanding of eachothers views but also why not between other people on this website or in our community in general. I don't claim I am right but simply giving my opinion as honestly and sincerely as I can since you asked for it.

Warm Regards,




Azadeh Azad


by Azadeh Azad on

Dear Darius,

I certainly do not believe that Iranian men "don't give a damn about the women's rights", etc. This statement, as well as the other negative ones in my first comment, was made *inside quotation marks*, which means it was being rhetorical and provocative to incite discussion, not an affirmation of my personal opinion. Obviously I was not successful in my attempt, as readers did not engage in a discussion and you misunderstood my intent :-(.

My idea of unity around the women's movement is to bring people together based on what the present women activists are demanding, without bringing up the names or images of other women, or other men, who have not fought for the women's rights. In this context, a picture of Farrokhrou Parsa, a women's rights activist, would be appropriate, but not that of Farah Diba, for instance.  (The film "The Queen and I" has nothing to do with the unity of the opposition and was not meant to create one!).

I also agree with your idea that "unity is the ability to unite odds in order to make mutual progress towards a common goal." It is *ideal* and presently being applied by Obama in the American context.  But is it going to work among Iranians at this stage of our political development? Have you succeeded, or will you succeed, in bringing Iranian Monarchists and Republicans (for the lack of a better word) together in their opposition against the IRI in such a way that their divergent views on the Iranian history and politics(past and present) do not matter? Why do you think that *after 30 years* there is no united opposition in exile?

My above questions are not rhetorical, but real. I am genuinely curious and concerned. I certainly do not have all the answers and am willing to reflect on any differing view. So your response will help me understand the question of the unity among the opposition a bit further. Finally, although my busy schedule might not allow me to engage in a further discussion, I will certainly come back soon to read your response. Thank you so much.



Darius Kadivar

FYI/Could Be Applied to Iran and this blog also

by Darius Kadivar on

Is Crisis Good for America? - Azar Nafisi

She also mentions NPR and the risks of seeing it dissappear if we neglect Culture.

Darius Kadivar

Dear Azadeh A Few Points !

by Darius Kadivar on

Dearest Azadeh,

UNITY is the ability to Unite ODDS and the word ODD's is the Title of the NPR Program.

I do not think that by being exclusive you will Unite ANYBODY. Look at What David ET tried to do and the type of responsed he got in the process.

As for Your comments let me make two observations and please do not take it personally for that is not my intention. I believe that like most Feminists or idealists in general you are being exlcusive in your comments. I can understand that but Idealism is Not what makes the Framework for Unity. It can sustain it but what makes Unity is Compromise.

You say with understandable reason based on your own sensitivity the following exclusions : 

Iranian Men in General:

"because half of us are men who "don’t give a damn" about women’s rights and the other half, women who are busy "serving their men" or "defending the poor Iranian man's tarnished image?"

Or now the Monarchists in the person of "Farah Diba" Are THEY NOT IRANIAN ALSO ? Farah Diba is Mentioned in this NPR Program while The Forouhars are Not should I then Take Out the Forouhars too ? Actually I think that I should have added  Mrs Farrokhro Parsa the First Women Minister Executed by a System of government supported by the Forouhars deserves her place on this photocompostion even more that the slayned couple if I had to be exclusive like you regarding Farah or the Royal Princess' ... 

Men are subject to sexual oppression in Iran too. I witnessed it from the very begining of the Revolution in my school where boys and girls were being seperated in our classes to repsect the so called Islamic Codes.

The Pahlavi regime did More for the cause of Iranian Women in the entire 20th century than the current regime in Iran has in all its history. THAT IS A FACT ! DENYING IT IS DISHONEST AND RIDICULE !

Were the Women shown in my Photocomposition ( which is nothing more than an interpretation of the issues covered in the NPR program but also an illustration of the realities of Iranian women with their share of contradictions but also complementary aspects) not a reflection of who Iranian women are as well as their struggles and accomplishment ?.

Was Farah Pahlavi Not our Queen ? Or were Iranian Women not Princess' also a social Status in a male dominated society like Iran throughout its history?  

We Need to Move Forward in our exclusive vision of eachother after more than 30 years of division and mutual hatred or stubborn rejection of eachother.This is True equally for Monarchists but more even of the so called secular Republicans in the Iranian Diaspora in general.

If we don't make a step towards one another then we can not make any progress anyware. Look at the Documentary The Queen and I made by two women with Opposite Views of one another. One even being a Former Communist the other the Former Queen of Iran. If They can make the effort Why Can't You or others speaking in the interests of your gender ? 

Look at Obama who many of us looked at as a Role model for his campaing YES WE CAN ?

What did You Learn from it ?

As I said in the begining UNITY is the ability to Unite ODDS in order to make mutual progress towards a common goal.

Otherwise it is like preaching in the Wind and all you get is SMOKE !

My Humble Opinion,


Azadeh Azad

For Darius

by Azadeh Azad on

Dear Darius,

When I wrote my comment for this blog, I had not paid attention to the small details of the above poster that you have ccreated. But now I can see not only its components, but also why (at least one of the reasons why) Iranians abroad do not and can not unite around the One Million Signatures Campaign. We are too ideological and do not know how to compromise. For instance, what does the picture of the ex-royal family or Farah Diba have anything to do with the women's movement in Iran?

We need to emphasise on what unites us and not on what separates us.




Darius Kadivar

anonymous fish I did the Poster ;0)

by Darius Kadivar on

Thanks for the compliment, I did The Photocomposition to illustrate the Blog. Glad you liked it. If the Website is interested I can send them a big Resolution one for their Campaign Site.



anonymous fish

is that a poster?

by anonymous fish on

whatever it is or whoever put it together, it's simply awesome.  if it IS a poster, do you have any information on where to get one.  the one million signatures is a great thing and of course i signed it.  but i wonder if there are any other visual efforts that could be made.

bumper stickers?  i know it sounds silly but it's all about AWARENESS.  there is no such thing as over doing it.  we've got a new president.  let's put him to good use! 

make him notice the women of Iran and women everywhere!


Masculine energy is sad

by PMK (not verified) on

My brother.

I am saddened to see, you are promoting your political agenda at the expense of masculine energy. I am not judging your political agenda. I am not saying it is bad or good. All I am saying you are better than that. You can contribute much better to your political idea, if you do not do it at the expense of masculine energy.

Masculine energy is universal powerful force that covers broad spectrum of ideas and race. It could be white, or it could be black. It could be an Orthodox Jew, or it could be a Moslem. It could be an Indo, or it could be a Bushiest. It could be a Hezbulahi, or it could be a Monarchist. It could be a communist, it could be a Republican. We are all one, in one soul and as always

We are glorified gender, we don’t have to apologies.

Azadeh Azad

Women's Movement in Iran

by Azadeh Azad on

 Women are the first social group in Iran who protested against Khomeini's Islamic decrees. And today, the Iranian women's movement is the only grass-root movement and the most persistent one against  Sharia Law (the very essence of the IRI) that has been imposed upon the population.

So, why is it that we don’t put as much energy into writing and debating about the Iranian women’s grievances? Is that because half of us are men who "don’t give a damn" about women’s rights and the other half, women who are busy "serving their men" or "defending the poor Iranian man's tarnished image"? I am only wondering!

I think the One Million Signatures Campaign in Iran can be the point of unity for the Iranian Diaspora across the globe, as the only people who won’t be united are Muslim fundamentalists!

Would you join The One Million Signatures Campaign with the compatriots with whom you do not agree on the International politics that are not gender-related? Why?