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Islamic Feminisms – Rights and interpretations across generations in Iran pdf download

Book Title Islamic Feminisms Rights And Interpretations Across Generations In Iran
Book AuthorRoja Fazaeli
Total Pages166
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Islamic Feminisms – Rights and interpretations across generations in Iran by Roja Fazaeli


Introduction Situating the self

This study, apart from being an academic project, has also been a personal journey. I am a child of the Iranian Islamic Revolution. I make this claim to distinguish myself from other Iranian feminist writers such as Mehrangiz Kar, Azadeh Kian, Shirin Ebadi, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, and Nayereh Tohidi. 1

These are writers whose brilliant feminist consciousness seems intrinsically linked to a time before the Iranian Islamic Revolution, while I grew up in the Islamic Republic of Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. At the age of three, I lost my father to that war and became a martyr’s daughter. 2

As a result, I grew up in an all-female family, consisting of my mother, my sister, and me. I grew accustomed to my mother’s fights for rights.

She fought her family for an independent life. She fought my paternal grandfather for our guardianship.

She fought male colleagues for rights at the workplace. She fought her status as a war widow. She was one of the only female lecturers in the field of horticulture (1989–1992) at a time when horticulture was still an exclusively male subject. 3 My mother, like so many women in the Islamic Republic, was a paradox.

Veiled in a dark maghnae 4 and wearing a long dark manteau, 5 she taught all-male classes. In one instance she had to compel a student’s armed bodyguard to leave the class. The head of the faculty later called her to let her know that she had literally disarmed one of the heads of Gilan province’s 6 Sepah-E Pasdaran. 7

 She was so powerful, and yet powerless all at the same time. I was always fascinated with the outfits I saw my mother wearing in photos from before the revolution, particularly in contrast to her attire after the revolution. Before, she wore seventies-style corduroys, and even short skirts; after, she wore the veil.

Throughout the seismic changes in the country, she fought for a scholarship to Ireland, only to have the Iranian government discontinue her funding six months after our arrival.

The law, it turned out, did not allow a single woman (whether widowed, unmarried, or divorced) to study abroad with governmental support. 8

I always saw my mother as a powerful woman, but I also became aware, from an early age, of the power dynamics inherent in every public institution, particularly those that sapped her strength and subjected her to multiple dependencies.


One of my earliest memories is of standing on a mound of mud. I am wearing a navy tracksuit with a red stripe down each leg. Women clad in black chadors huddle around a large opening in the ground. They wail and scream, conveying an incredible pain, hitting their chests with their clenched fists. Now and then one of the women attempts to throw herself in the opening while others hold her back. This is how I remember my father’s funeral at the martyrs’ cemetery in Noor in 1983. I watched from the mound of mud beside the newly dug grave.

We left Noor to live in Tonekabon (formerly known as Shahsavar) with my mother’s family shortly after the funeral. My uncle picked us up in my grandfather’s white van. I sat pressing myself to my mother’s chest while my sister did the same on her other side. The car was filled with the scents of the funeral: rosewater, tears, and sweat. In Tonekabon my mother explained to me and my sister that our father was gone and that he was not coming back.

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