Shirin Ebadi: “Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope”

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Here is an excerpt from the first chapter:

When my mother was growing up, she dreamed of attending medical school and becoming a doctor. But before the day of the khastegari, the family roundly dismissed this possibility, on grounds that my mother scarcely had control over. As she entered adolescence, it escaped no one’s notice that she was becoming a rather spectacular beauty. Had she been born a generation earlier, when it was unheard of for women to attend college, her luminous, fair skin and slender figure might have conferred some advantage in the only realm in which she could compete, the marriage bazaar. But for a young woman born in the late 1920s, a time when patriarchy was slowly loosening its grip on Iranian society and a few women were being admitted into universities, her good looks were a liability to any ambition greater than marriage.

She did not wear the veil, for her family was not so traditional as to insist that its girls cover their hair. But she did witness the banning of the hejab, as part of the modernization campaign launched by Reza Shah, who crowned himself king of Iran in 1926. Turning an expansive country of villages and peasants overnight into a centralized nation with railroads and a legal code was a complex task. Reza Shah believed it would be impossible without the participation of the country’s women, and he set about emancipating them by banning the veil, the symbol of tradition’s yoke. Reza Shah was the first, but not the last, Iranian ruler to act out a political agenda:secular modernization, shrinking the clergy’s influence:on the frontier of women’s bodies.

At this link is a less than favorable review of the book, entitled “Don’t Hold Your Breath.”

This interview with the author, Iranian lawyer (and Nobel Laureate) Shirin Ebadi provides a sense of what one Islamic feminist activist’s life is like. Another interview transcript is here. And yet another is here.

And here is an account of a speech Ebadi gave at UCLA, which you can actually listen to here. And here is a link with many details about her new book, including that fact that it was banned in Iran. Finally, here is a link to a self-described Iranian Feminist Newsletter page that lists other books by or about women in Iran.

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