Iran is considered to be a strict Islamic nation where minorities and women have limited rights. Nonetheless, it is true as much as the fact that feminist movement has a firm ground there. This process has overcome the Islamic revolution and found its expression in brave persons we would like you to know about.

1. Sussan Tahmasebi

Sussan Tahmasebi is a founding member of the award-winning One Million Signatures Company also known as Change for Equality. As the name suggests, this campaign collects one million signatures for women’s equal rights. It has received wide international recognition. Sussan Tahmasebi, supporting this aim, organized a number of protests and was charged on several occasions. Repeated interrogations didn’t prevent her from promoting the democratic society and making women’s rights a national priority in Iran.

She currently works for ICAN (International Civil Society Action Network for women’s rights peace and security) as its Co-founder.

2. Shahla Sherkat

This strong woman is one of Iran’s feminist pioneers. She is a founder and publisher of Zanan magazine which included the information on women’s issues, problems, and achievements. This first independent journal had been monthly published for 16 years before it was shut down. Recently, Sherkat has run the second “edition” of this magazine – Zanan-e Emrooz. However, Iran’s Press Oversight Committee has decided to suspend publication as well. According to The Iran Project, encouraging cohabitation or “white marriage” caused its ban.

Despite all these obstacles, Sherkat believes that one day she will be able to complete her work again.

3. Setareh Mazhari

In late 2012, Setareh Mazari came across a four-minute video with a hijab-wearing woman who was surfing in her motherland, Iran. A 28-year-old Irish surfer, Easkey Britton, who has spent several weeks riding waves in this region.

This discovery became the starting point of Mazari’s new life. She used to experience this kind of sport abroad in her childhood. Repeating it in a home country at first frightened her. However, Setareh Mazhari began to learn surfing and then to teach others as part of Waves of Freedom. Finally, this step has supported many women to join such a kind of sport and broken down some gender boundaries.

4. Arezou Hakimimoghaddam

Arezou Hakimimoghaddam became a canoeist because Islamic laws did not allow her to wear a swimsuit. She trained six years in swimming to take part in the 2012 Olympics but the Government prevented her from participating in international competition. For this reason, Arezou took up kayaking and came seventh in her heat for the K-1 200M race.

Above all, this year she took part in the Asian Canoeing Championships and won 4 medals (one gold, one silver, and two bronzes).

5. Masih Alinejad

Masih Alinejad is an Iranian journalist and writer. In 2014 she started a special campaign “My Stealthy freedom” and inspired thousands of Iranian women to remove their hijabs making photos without them. The response was phenomenal: more than one million people liked this post. Many of her followers even shared their pictures with the whole community. Surprisingly, her mother and sister both kept on covering their head in public. That was their choice and this fact matters. Alinejad had no intention of showing the opposition to the hijab. She just wanted “to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women”. Now Masih lives in exile and continues supporting the right to have the freedom to choose.

6. Taraneh Alidoosti

Have you ever heard of “The Salesman”, a 2016 drama which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film? Taraneh Alidoosti starred there and now enjoys great popularity all over the world. Last year she turned out to be a feminist. After returning from Cannes at a press conference Alidoosti revealed the “women power” symbol on her arm.

Her response to the sharp reaction was absolutely adequate and sincere: she asked people to keep calm and explained her own understanding of this movement. It was very brave of her to make such a claim not only because of her feminism support but also because of the tattoo itself. It is not legal to have tattoos in Iran.

7. Dr. Leila Alikarami

Practising lawyers represent an important part of Iranian feminist movement. Leila Alikarami is such a person. Since 2001, she has concentrated on women’s and children’s rights. Like Sussan Tahmasebi, Leila has also worked on the One Million Signatures Company.

She currently focuses on protection of those women who have been jailed by the Iranian Government. The fact that many female activists have to deal with arrest shows an acute need for the lawyer’s support. That’s what Leila Alikarami deals with. Her main wish is to see greater right for women and more freedom for the media.

8. Dr. Nina Ansary

“Jewels of Allah: The Untold Story of Women in Iran” has received multiple awards. Furthermore, Women’s eNews has recognized the author, Dr. Nina Ansary, as one of the 21 century’s leaders. She donated the profits from her book to charities, especially those that help disadvantaged girls and women in Iran. One chapter was adopted.

Nina Ansary is a historian whose aim is clear: she wants to show the strength of Iranian women who have been suffering much. There is her main principal:

Never let anyone define who you are or what you should be.

Women’s position in contemporary Iran seems complicated and paradoxical. On the one hand, they are able to make significant progress in education and win positions in parliament, city councils or other important jobs. On the other hand, the percentage of their participation in these fields is amongst the lowest in the world. Their employment, economic and occupational mobility have many barriers. That’s why they keep on fighting and take steps to the life free of discrimination and oppression.

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