It is not easy being a journalist in Iran, much less a female journalist. Not only do you have to contend with all the usual limitations that curtail your ability to report and write, you have to deal with a male dominated work environment, which does not promote women and recognize their talent. But if you want to write about women’s issues you face multiple challenges, from patriarchal beliefs and approaches of your editors and colleagues, to state restrictions and sensitivity, to cultural sensitivities. Female journalists committed to writing about women and women’s demands in Iran have to play an intricate balancing act while pushing limits that can allow women greater rights and freedoms. There are some brave and dedicated souls in Iran who have committed themselves to doing just this, despite pressures. In fact, these journalists have played a critical role along with women’s rights activists in raising public awareness and creating greater understanding among the public about women’s rights. They have also held decision makers to account on policies that aren’t supportive of women.
Some of these journalists are so dedicated to women’s rights and bring such a keen understanding of the challenges that women face that they are considered by women’s rights activists as one of their own–in fact many are also women’s rights activists, working in civil society organizations or rights campaigns. In tribute to the great work that these women have done in carrying the torch for women’s rights in the press, we want to pay tribute to a few of them on March 8, International Women’s Day. Only a few have been featured here, but there are many more and we are thankful to them all for their dedication to women’s rights and women’s issues under difficult circumstances. We hope to continue introducing them and their work to our readers in the future.
Amene Shirafkan, is a parliamentary reporter at Shargh Daily and Zanan Monthly.Zanan Monthly. She also works with Roozarooz News, an innovative and progressive online platform that provides insight into news and developments through a variety of means including social media and short videos. For over 15 years and through her work as a journalist she has used these platforms along with others to bring attention to women’s rights and women’s issues. At Roozarooz, where she has a freer hand in deciding on content, she conducts video interviews with leading political and social figures and she has asked some tough questions from unlikely interviewees about their views on women’s rights. She also uses the platform to interview a range of women active in various fields, highlighting the fact that Iranian women are in fact accomplished and have much to add to political, social and cultural discussions. It may be her unwavering commitment to women’s issues or it could be the fact that she has worked in the women’s movement for as long as she has been a journalist, but women’s movement activists consider Amene one of her own. She has worked with NGOs to conduct gender training, and she was also an active member of the One Million Signatures Campaign, a broad-based grassroots effort which sought to end legal discrimination against women. She has also conducted trainings on journalism with a gendered approach for Afghan refugees. Amene has a masters in women’s studies and a masters in communications. The Iranian women’s movement is lucky to have such a dedicated and committed journalist in its corner.
Mahboube is well respected for both her journalism and her activism on behalf of women’s rights. She started her journalism career in 2000 writing on social issues for a number of weekly and daily print and online publications. In 2005, she began working as a journalist and editor with an NGO that aimed to build the capacity of civil society. It was then that she decided she wanted to take a more active role on promotion of women’s rights. In 2006, she joined other activists to become a founding member of the One Million Signatures Campaign. The following year, while working at Etemad Daily, Mahboube broke the story around a bill that claimed to protect the family. In an unusual and unprecedented step the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added two measures to a bill introduced by the judiciary. These measures aimed to ease restrictions on polygamy and place limits on women’s Mehrieh through taxation (Mehrieh is a sum agreed upon in the marriage contract payable to the bride upon demand, which women often forgo to obtain divorces which are hard to obtain). Mahboube wrote about the bill and encouraged others journalists to write about it. She also worked with women’s activists to let parliament know that women were unhappy with the proposed measure. Women’s groups finally won and the measures were removed from the bill.
After going to India for a few years to obtain a degree in Sociology, Mahboube returned to Iran, where she began to work with Zanan Monthly as the editor of the Social section. Also, along with other activists she co-founded a feminist platform that is committed to sharing information about women’s movements and women’s status in the region and in other Muslim majority country. This online platform, Bridges for Women, seeks to break the isolation of the Iranian women and especially activists by providing them with info on developments in similar contexts. The members of this platform recently expanded its scope to focus on developments in the Iranian women’s movement as well. Mahboube has paid a high price for her activism. She was arrested twice, but was acquitted of all charges. She used the experience to bring attention to the plight of women prisoners. Despite these pressures, Mahboube now considers herself more a women’s rights activist. She is working to promote awareness among younger Iranians about how they can have equal and healthy relations and she is also working to address and prevent workplace harassment through training and policy dialogue. Of course, she is committed to using her skills as an experienced journalist to promote women’s rights, and she plans to do this through writing for bridges for women.
Mira has been a journalist since 2007. She is currently a journalist and the Deputy Editor of of Ghanoon Daily, where she writes on politics. She makes a point of ensuring that political coverage in the Daily includes reports on women’s political participation and women’s inclusion in politics and in positions of power. But Mira considers herself a women’s rights activist as much as a journalist. In fact she owes her journalism career to her women’s rights activism.
Mira began her activism on behalf of women’s rights in her teens, after personal experiences with discrimination and sexism. She began a blog and started writing about women’s issues and at university she joined a committee that worked to address discrimination against female students in the university setting. In 2005, she began working with a group of women’s rights activists and later together they joined the One Million Signatures Campaign. This experience was a turning point for Mira, in her life and her career. In the Campaign she took journalism classes provided by experienced journalists who were also active in the Campaign. She then began writing reports and articles about women for the Campaigns website and from there she moved on to being a journalist in the Iranian dailies. Given her background on women’s rights, everyone expected that as a journalist she would continue writing about women’s issues, which was fine for Mira, but also posed some challenges in terms of breaking stereotypes to cover other issues. Of course as a politics editor and reporter, she tries to ensure gender balance in the coverage of political developments by Ghanoon Daily. Mira still continues her activism, especially with relation to women’s political participation and inclusion of women in high level positions and decision making positions within government.