Iran's Revolutionary Women

An underreported part of the Iranian protests is that women are leading the way. Dana Goldstein on why Iran’s feminists decided they’d finally had enough.

Arash Ashourinia, AFP / Getty Images

Arash Ashourinia, AFP / Getty Images

Parvin Ardalan

Ardalan, journalist, co-founder of the Women's Cultural Centre, and leader in the One Million Signatures Campaign, was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for "threatening national security" with her campaign for women's rights. Four other women's rights activists were also sentenced. Ardalan wanted to collect a million signatures in support of her cause.

Kevin Frayer, CP / AP Photo


Googoosh was Iran's most famous recording artist when she was forced to give up music for 21 years after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 banned solo female singers. She staged a comeback world tour in 2000, singing to a cumulative audience of one million people, and now lives in Los Angeles.

Alfred, Sipa / AP Photo

Zahra Rahnavard

The wife of political opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, Rahnavard was the first woman to be appointed chancellor of a university since the Iranian Revolution. She's written 15 books and has been an active force in her husband's campaign and the post-election protests.

Forugh Farrokhzad

Farrokhzad, who died in 1967 in a car accident at the age of 32, is the most famous woman in Persian literature. She married when she was 17 and a few years later had to relinquish her child to her ex-husband's family when the marriage failed. As a divorcee in Tehran, she was met with much disapproval. She explored the plight of women in Iran in her poetry.

Charles Dharapak / AP Photo

Shirin Ebadi

A Nobel Peace Prize winner and noted human rights lawyer, Ebadi recently spoke out against the post-election violence in Iran and encouraged protesters. Ebadi was the first woman to serve as a judge in Iran, but after the Islamic Revolution in 1979 brought a ban on female judges she was dismissed and given clerical duties. She set up her own law practice and co-founded the Human Rights Defence Centre. She recently suffered violent attacks from extremists.

Behrouz Mehri, AFP / Getty Images

Simin Behbahani

Iran's national poet, Simin Behbahani, was born in 1927 and nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1997. Behbahani, known as the "lioness of Iran," is credited with expanding traditional Persian poetry and is noted for her devotion to human rights. "We wrote our books not with ink but with blood," she said of writing after 1979.

Morteza Nikoubazl, Landov / Reuters

Fatemeh Rakei

Rakei was one of only 13 women members of a 270-seat parliament and fought ardently to expand the rights of women in Iran. She championed a law in 2004 that granted women the same inheritance rights as men and has been an outspoken critic of President Ahmadinejad's policies.

Rakhshan Bani Etemad

Etemad is Iran's leading female film director. Her films feature women characters grappling with discriminatory circumstances. Despite the social criticism in her movies, she and her work are widely popular at home as well as abroad.