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Board of directors of "Jam'iat e nesvan e vatan-khah", a women's right association in Tehran (1923-1933)

The Iranian women's movement, involves Iranian women's social movement for women's rights. The movement first emerged some time after Iranian Constitutional Revolution, in 1910, the year in which the first Women Journal was published by women. The movement lasted until 1933 in which the last women’s association was dissolved by the Reza Shah’s government. It heightened again after the Iranian Revolution (1979).[1][2]


After Constitutional revolution

The constitutional revolution in Iran took place in 1906. The early cores of consciousness of womens rights (or rather lack of rights) which lead to establishment of societies and magazines started shortly after. The low status of women and secret operation of many of their organizations and societies, have somewhat limited the amount of data on the subject. Women's writing in that era, mainly through newspapers and periodicals are one of the most valuable sources of information on the movement. Most important of these periodicals are listed below; the year of the publication of the first issue is mentioned in brackets. Occasionally the city of publication too is mentioned in the brackets:[3]

  • Danesh [=Knowledge] (1910) was the first weekly magazine, founded by a women's society and had a female editor.
  • Shekoofeh [=Blossom] (1913) was edited by a woman, Mariam Mozayen-ol Sadat. Its primary goal was education of women against superstition and acquainting them with the world literature.
  • Zaban Zanan [=Women's voice] (1919 in Isfahan), was one of the more hardcore publications, edited by Sediqeh Dowlatabadi. It was one of the harsh critics of the veil (Hijab).
  • Nam eh-ye Banovan [=Women's letter], edited by Shahnaz Azad, was another critic of the veil. The purpose of the magazine as stated below its title was "awakening of the suffering Iranian Women".
  • Peyk-e Saadat-e Nesvan (in Rasht), was published by Peyk-e Saadat-e Nesvan Society. It was one of the first leftist journals in Iran. Roshank No'doost (1899-?) was one of the founders.
  • Alam Nesvan [=Women's Universe] (1920 in Tehran), was published by Association of Graduates of the American Girl's School. The magazine had a more informative than political tone, at least initially. With passage of time it became more critical and outspoken. Alam Nesvan was one of the longer lasting publications on women's issues. Its relative long survival (14 years) might be due to its association with the above mentioned school.
  • Jahan Zanan [=Women's World] (1921, initially in Mashhad), was published by Afaq Parsa. Despite its relative moderate tone the editor faced sever vindictiveness and animosity by local conservatives.
  • Nosvan Vatankhah [=Patriotic women] (1922), published by Jamiat Nesvan Vatankhah Iran [=Patriotic Women's League of Iran Or Society of Patriotic Women] was a big advocate of Womens right. The publisher was Mohtaram Eskandari.
  • Dokhtran Iran [=Daughters of Iran] (1931 initially in Shiraz) was a newspaper published by Zandokht Shirazi, a prominent feminist, poet and school teacher, who was an activist from an early age.

After '79 revolution

After the Iranian revolution in 1979, the status of women quickly deteriorated. With passage of time, many of the rights that women had gained under Shah, were systematically abolished, through legislation, elimination of women from work, and forced Hejab.[4] Soon after the revolution there were rumors of plans for forced Hijab, and abolition of some women's rights protected by "Family protection act" conceived to be "against Islam". The rumors were denied by some state officials and many women refused to accept it. Not long after, however, the rumors were realized. It resulted in some massive protests comprising heterogeneous groups of women. The demonstrations were not for demanding more rights but were rather geared towards keeping what was already earned. There were three major collective attempts in voicing concerns:[5]

  1. A five-day demonstration starting on March 8, 1979
  2. Conference of Unity of Women in December 1979
  3. Demonstrations after Khomeini's decree on eliminating any symbol, reminiscent of Shah's rule. A consequence of the decree was forcing Hijab.

These collective attempts,as well as the smaller ones, not only faced opposition from the Islamic conservatives, but were sometimes harmed by the leftist and rightist political groups, exemplified by organization of a demonstration scheduled by the Fedai for the same day as that of the Conference of Unity of Women in December 1979—despite the pleas—mentioned above. [6] In fact most leftist groups did not have a well established vision or plan for pursuing women's rights. The status of women was presumed to be improved automatically by establishment of an ideal socialist/communist society. [7]

The Islamic law --Sharia-- upon which the foundation of the new regime had been based, was not helping women's cause either. Aspects of the Islamic law, pertaining women can be seen in Articles 20 and 21 of the 1979 constitution. Manifestations of Islamic law are now infamous among women rights activists: stoning and polygamy to name two.[8]

Iranian feminists who reside outside Iran generally fall into two camps when it comes to women's rights movement Iran, post '79. Some believe that Islamization has resulted in "marginalizing" of women. Others believe that through the dynamic nature (based on different interpretations by the religious figures) of the Islamic law, known as Shariah, a unique consciousness of feminism has been formed in Iran. Both these views have been challenged. It has been argued that it is "the contradiction of the Islamic state and institutions", that is responsible for feminist consciousness.[9]

Among the women rights activists in Iran feminism means different things. Furthermore the word feminist itself has non-positive connotation among conservatives. It is perceived as advocacy for gynocracy, lesbianism and other perceived radical agendas. A major contrast is seen between secular feminists and those who are dubbed Islamic feminists, on the nature of feminism.[10]

Islamic feminists, or more accurately Muslim feminists, are those women rights advocates who seek to improve the status of women through more favorable interpretations of the Islamic law, supporting what is called "Dynamic Interpretation" ("Feqh-e pouya" in Persian). Some Muslim feminists would rather be called "indigenous feminists" (feminist-e boomi). Many secular feminist, however, while considering the desire amongst Muslim feminists to improve the status of women a positive one, hold that due to the inequality of women and men in the religion, Islamic feminists cannot be considered "feminists" in the strict sense of the word.[11]

Despite the disagreements among different factions, when it comes to the improvement of women's conditions, feminist groups have shown that they can cooperate with an emphasis on common ground. The chief editor of Zanan magazin, Shahla Sherkat, for example, a woman with not so weak religious beliefs, invited two prominent secular women rights activists, Shirin Ebadi, and Mehrangiz Kar to write on women's issues in her magazine.[12]


Women's studies

Through the efforts of women's rights advocates in Iran, in 2001, Allameh Tabatabaii University, Tarbiat Modares University, and Alzahra University initiated women's studies programs at the Master of Arts level, and shortly thereafter Tehran University organized a similar program. There are three sub-specialties: women and family, history of women, and women's rights in Islam. As for the purpose of such programs it is stated that centuries of dominance of negative views on women, sociologically and humanisticaly, and other hardships necessitate special attention to the subject of women. It is hoped that graduates of women's studies programs will be able to present gender-neutral points of view. [13]


Some of the most notable activists are:[3]

See also


  1. ^ Sanasarian, Eliz. The Women's Rights Movements in Iran, Praeger, New York: 1982, ISBN 0-03-059632-7.
  2. ^ Afary, Janet. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906 - 1911, Columbia University Press, 1996.
  3. ^ a b Sanasarian 32–37
  4. ^ Sanasarian 136
  5. ^ Sanasarian 124–129
  6. ^ Sanasarian 128
  7. ^ Sanasarian 144-147
  8. ^ Sanasarian 131-136
  9. ^ Rostami Povey
  10. ^ Rostami Povey
  11. ^ Rostami Povey
  12. ^ Rostami Povey
  13. ^ Women studies, books and women organizations. Iran's sociology association (Women studies groups). 2006. Tehran


  • Afary, Janet. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906 - 1911, Columbia University Press, 1996.
  • Rostami Povey, E. "Contestation of Institutional domains in Iran". Feminist Review. No. 69, The Realm of the Possible: Middle Eastern Women in Political and Social Spaces (Winter, 2001), 44-72
  • Sanasarian, Eliz. The Women's Rights Movements in Iran, Praeger, New York: 1982, ISBN 0-03-059632-7.

External links

Women's rights groups

Simple English

The Iranian women's movement, also called the Persian women's movement, involves Iranian women's social movement for women's rights. The movement emerged after Iranian Constitutional Revolution, and lasted until 1910 in which the first Women Journal published by women, to 1933 in which the last women’s association was dissolved by the Reza Shah’s government. Women’s movement re-emerged again after Iranian Revolution (1979).[1] [2]


  • Bibi Khanoom Astarabadi (1859–1921)
  • Touba Azmoudeh (1878-1936)
  • Sediqeh Dowlatabadi (1882-1962)
  • Mohtaram Eskandari (1895–1924)
  • Roshank No'doost (1899-?)
  • Afaq Parsa (1899-?)
  • Fakhr ozma Arghoun (1899-1966)
  • Noor-ol-Hoda Mangeneh (1902-?)
  • Zandokht Shirazi (1909-1953)
  • Maryam Amid (Mariam Mozayen-ol Sadat) (?-1919)
  • Shahnaz Azad (1901-1961)
  • Roya Toloui (1966-)
  • Parvin Ardalan (1967–)
  • Noushin Ahmadi khorasani (1970–)
  • Shadi Sadr (1975–)


  1. Sanasarian, Eliz. The Women's Rights Movements in Iran, Praeger, New York: 1982, ISBN 0-03-059632-7.
  2. Afary, Janet. The Iranian Constitutional Revolution, 1906 - 1911, Columbia University Press, 1996.


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