Feminist Revolution in Iran

By: Arman Sabour-Mojaher & Ariadna Angeles-Robles

We created this exhibit with a strong belief that is rooted in the personal advocation for global action and solidarity for Iranian women and girls who dauntlessly and peacefully take a stand for their fundamental human rights. Understanding the latest wave of feminism in Iran is central to cultivating harmonious support among feminists in the West for women in Southwest Asia. Since the conservative Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, women have been under scrutiny, stripped of human rights, and legally bound to live a life under misogynistic oppression. Despite this, thousands of brave women take a stand against the tyrannical government through resistance movements through art, cinema, journalism and protest. 

We aim for the general audience to recognize these artifacts are meant to shed light on contemporary struggles for equality and autonomy that let women in Iran and allies know that while they continue to tirelessly fight against the oppressive dictatorship, feminists around the world will continue to listen, support and organize in ways that ignite social justice, liberation, and equality for all women in Iran. 

Women. Life. Freedom. (زن، زندگی، آزادی)

Islamic Revolution, 1979

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Female Iranian demonstrators by Anne Knudsen, 1979, from Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. Iranian women protestors in LA.

The first artifact is of Iranian Women sitting shackled to a chain in the city of Los Angeles as a form of peaceful protest against the new Iranian government that was formed from the Islamic Revolution of 1979.The new conservative leader, Ayatollah Khomeini reversed all of the social progress women in Iran had fought for and had been granted since the 19th century under the rule of the first Shah of Iran and his son. Apart from being forced to wear a hijab or face incarceration, Khomeini immediately suspended the Family Protection Law, which meant men could divorce their wives by mail correspondence, and child custody could be taken from a woman. Women could be prohibited from working or walking the streets by their husband. These actions were rooted in misogynistic patriarchy and perpetuated violence against Iranian women. That misogyny has continued to linger in Iran and women in Iran continue to protest against the human rights violated by theIslamic Republic. 

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Film and Theater Guide for International Women's Day by Sara Rind, 2016, from UW Bothell Feminist Community Archive of Washington. Movie guide describing films about internation womens movements.

The next artifact is a brochure for the International Women's Day at Northwest Film Forum at UWB on March 5, 2016. It featured the film, Women’s Prison, a movie directed by Iranian filmmaker Manijeh Hekmat in 2002. The film follows incarcerated women during the post-revolution era, Hekmat objectively captures the lives of the women in the prison and how they are affected by an oppressive system and war. In Iran, women can get sentenced to prison for singing in public, not following compulsory hijab laws, or attending a sporting event, and advocating for equal rights (publicly or through social media). Iran is one of the world's biggest jailers of journalists, bloggers and political activists. 

Woman, Life, Freedom / Jin, Jiyan, Azadi

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Jin, Jiyan, Azadi by N. Ghazizadeh, 2022, from Archive of Defiance. Digital art by N. Ghazizadeh meant to display political resistance in Iran.

“Jin, Jiyan, Azadi” is a painting created by artist N. Ghazizadeh as a response to the state death and murder of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was accused of improperly wearing her veil in September 2022. The slain life of an innocent young woman sparked outcry and a revolt by people in Iran led by women seeking transnational solidarity across the world. This movement inspired the imaginations of artists and activists around the world to create art as a form of creative protest whose message can be spread throughout the world. Ghazizadeh’s digital art brings to life the slogan “Women, Life, Liberty” by using art to express sentiments of rage, liberation, democracy, hope, and resistance through the demand for freedom and democracy. 

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Shahrzad Mojab by Archive of Defiance, 2024, from Archive of Defiance. Scholar and activist at the Women and Gender studies institute. 

Shahrzad Mojab is an Iranian scholar, activist, and professor at the Women and Gender Studies Institute and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Her life’s work is dedicated to bringing international attention to the impact of war, and violence on women’s learning and education, gender, migration diaspora and Marxist Feminism and pedagogy. 

Mojab has written books, articles, and directed films that bring awareness to Women's rights in her native Iran, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. In recent years she has created a platform that makes knowledge accessible to the public through the use of arts– such as story-telling, photography, painting, and film. She is the research director of the Archive of Defiance which curates the resistance of Iranian feminist women and allies. 



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"Mahsa Amini Jersey" by Project Muse, 2022 from Project Muse database. An Iranian Feminism supporter raises her jersey at the world cup to raise awareness to the trajedy in Iran.

A woman attending the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, a small country in the Middle East holds up a jersey with the name Mahsa Amini as a way of shedding light on the situation in Iran. The situation in question occurred on September 13, 2022 where a woman by the name Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a twenty-two year old Kurdish woman, was brutally assaulted and killed by morality police in Tehran, Iran. This incident caused an uproar among the women of Iran who were angered by the government turning a blind eye to the situation. Photographer Charlotte Wilson issued this photo to her website and Instagram as a method of further demonstrating the need to bring attention to this injustice.

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Woman, Life, Freedom Mural by VAAF Netherlands, 2023, from VAAF Netherlands. Public art display in the from of a mural by artists native to the Netherlands in suport of Iranian feminist movement.

A Mural done by two artists local to the Netherlands who wish to spread awareness with their art both publicly and on social media. The mural writes Woman, Life, Freedom another example advocating solidarity with this movement. There are many people who lost their lives during these protests either by being killed or placed in jail. Taking place in over eighty cities and towns in Iran alone as well as globally. This movement and its protests sparked a major revolution addressing societal and governmental changes that must occur. Protests in Zahedan became violent to an extreme with demonstrators having a worship service where they were met with live ammunition and shot at by local police. This occurrence is known as the Zahedan Massacre where ninety-three of the protestors were killed. 

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Iranian Revolution by Iranian Diaspora Collective, 2023, from Iranian Diaspora Collective. A post meant to address the protests as something greater.

["Title of Artifact", hyperlinked] by [Creator of artifact], [Date], from [Name of source, hyperlinked], [Creative Commons information if relevant, hyperlinked]. [Brief description if helpful].

Example from FCA-WA:

"Lavender Law Sign" by Lavender Rights Project, 2019 from the Feminist Community Archive of Washington, CC-by-NC. Sign hanging in front lobby of Lavender Rights Project.

This post mentions the state of Iran as having entered a Revolution to emphasize the change that is needed. “This is not a protest,” is a rather powerful statement implying that the society at large must be altered to suit the modern standards of living so that men and women are treated with equality and can live harmoniously. Meant to commemorate the death of Mahsa Amini who was visiting her brother in Iran. She was assaulted, beaten and then killed unjustly by local police because she had her hair uncovered which is an enforced policy by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The morality police stopped her in an underground metro station and took action to the point of what is practically murder. Change must occur.

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School Protests by Adam Carvalho, 2023, this image was used as a leading photo in an article published by The New Yorker. An illustration by Adam Carvalho meant to showcase the feminist movement in Iran gaining traction in schools.

Protests in girls schools began to take place in winter of 2022 in solidarity with the Woman, Life, Freedom movement. In defiance of the strict regulations placed on young women and how they dress, specifically in regard to the head scarves they are required to wear. Not wearing their head scarves was their way of standing up for themselves against an oppressive government. Students in high school and middle school would chant “Death to the dictator!” Many of the girls would end up not wearing their head scarves the following few days and this stroke of action in addition to other protests taking place across the country, this has been one of the most influential revolutionary movements in Iran since 1979.



About Curators

Arman Sabour-Mohajer (he/him)

Hometown: Issaquah, Wa (born and raised)

Intended Major: Business Administration

Ariadna Angeles-Robles (she/her)

Hometown: Lynnwood, WA

Educational Studies Major

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to the faculty and staff that assisted us in making this exhibit happen and guided us through step by step. Shout out to Dr. Julie Shayne, Penelope Wood and Lo Radclyffe.

Sources cited

  • Adams Carvalho, “Protests in Schools: Iran,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 5, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/476.
  • Anne Knudsen (photographer) and Herald Examiner Collection, “Female Iranian demonstrators,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/484.
  • Archive of Defiance, “Archive of Defiance: Shahrzad Mojab,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/570.
  • Charlotte Wilson, “Mahsa Amini Jersey (World Cup),” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/481.
  • Iranian Diaspora Collective, “Feminist Revolution,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/564.
  • N. Ghazizadeh, “Jin, Jiyan, Azadi. Paris,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/567.
  • Sara Rind (photographer), University of Washington Bothell, and Seattle NOW (National Organization for Women), “Film and Theater Guide for International Women's Day at Northwest Film Forum,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/475.
  • VAAF Netherlands, “Mural: Woman, Life, Freedom,” Feminist Archive Exhibits, accessed March 6, 2024, https://uwb.ds.lib.uw.edu/feministarchiveexhibits/admin/items/show/473.

Archive links

Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA)

Calishphere

Archive of Defiance

  • https://www.iraniandiasporacollective.com/resources
  • https://www.instagram.com/adamscarvalho/p/CvvNfLvOICM/
  • https://muse.jhu.edu/article/895927
  • https://www.vaaf.nl/

Feminist Revolution in Iran