Iran

A story of women and activism in Iran

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article spotlighting the work of one Iranian woman, Nazanin Gohari, as an example of the women's movement in Iran. Originally a hairdresser, the middle-aged Gohari began organizing on behalf of women after attending a women's health workshop.

Gohari, a mother of two and the wife of a civil servant, began embracing community activism in the early 1990s, shortly after the Iran-Iraq war and the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Wartime restrictions loosened and the revolutionary leader's charismatic spell was broken. The country began to focus on practical matters such as rebuilding a ravaged infrastructure and promoting better health. A social worker dispatched to Gohari's neighborhood, the ancient district of Rey, charmed her into attending a breast cancer awareness workshop.

She didn't want to go at first. But from the beginning of the initial session, on breast self-examinations, it was a revelation. One of her best friends had died of breast cancer. "It was eye-opening," she said. "Those 10 minutes changed my life."

One of my favorite parts in the article is about the small library Gohari created in her own house for other women in her neighbor hood to use.

Gohari remembers one girl, a 17-year-old named Sedigheh, who came to her crying, distraught that her parents couldn't afford the study materials for college entrance exams. Scoring high would place the bright teenager on the fast track to a potentially glorious future, maybe even including medical school. Not taking the test would mean a life more ordinary, perhaps married to a man twice her age, tending to babies and home.

For Gohari, helping the teen became a mission, one of many. She scoured the city for the study books, relatively cheap by Western standards but a fortune for Iran's poor.

"She was ashamed because she couldn't afford the books," Gohari said.

The older woman put her hand out to the girl. "I said, 'Study here.' " And then Gohari handed her the books.

Categories: Iran

3 replies »

  1. I hope that the atmosphere of threats and attacks from the US can subside so that we can be more effective in our support of human rights activists like her.

  2. I hope that the atmosphere of threats and attacks from the US can subside so that we can be more effective in our support of human rights activists like her.

  3. You make a great point. I remember reading an interview in The Nation with Shirin Ebadi that talked about how the hostile rhetoric coming from the US made the work of Iranian activists and reformists more difficult, as it gave the government an excuse to crackdown on people who disagreed with their policies.
    http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080512/dreyfuss