Iranian women’s fight for freedom : Iran Women, Then and Now

Women in Iran are taking photos of themselves without headscarves as part of an online campaign by journalist Masih Alinejad.

 

As well as having the right to vote, many are members of parliament. Unlike Saudi women they are allowed to drive, to work and participate in economic life. Most significantly, they make up more than 70% of students in Iran.

But these freedoms were not achieved without the struggle and sacrifice of many extraordinary women.

It is often said that education holds the key to freedom, something understood by early Iranian feminists like Bibi Fatemeh Estarabadi.

Just 30 years after Estarabadi's primary school opened, these women became the first to enrol in university in Iran
Just 30 years after Estarabadi’s primary school opened, these women became the first to enrol in university in Iran

 

 

 

During the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 she opened the country’s first primary school for girls, teaching everything from maths and literature to calligraphy and history.

She faced fierce opposition from conservative clerics who accused her school of harbouring corruption and indecency. But she battled on, giving many young women a voice and a future.

 

 

women in iran without hijab
women in iran without hijab

 

 

Few women used their voices to such powerful effect as Ghamar ol Molook Vaziri. She was born just one year before the Constitutional Revolution and began singing as a child, learning religious mourning songs with her grandmother.

By the age of 20 she was challenging – and changing – Iran’s male dominated music scene.

She performed on stage without the hijab at a time when women who did not wear a headscarf were often taken to jail.

 

In 1924 she decided to sing on stage in Tehran’s Grand Hotel, opening the door for many women to do so after her.

Sixteen years later the first radio signals were transmitted in Iran and the public finally heard Ghamar’s voice. She remains an icon of rebellion and independence to this day.

But it wasn’t just through song that women made their voices heard. Literature had long been a way for them to tell their stories, voice concerns and challenge the status quo.

One woman’s poetry did more to shake the world of Farsi literature than any before – or since.

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