Women in Iran

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Women in Iran
Hasht-Behesht Palace santur.jpg
Women as depicted in 18th century Iranian painting.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.496 (2012)
Rank 107th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 21 (2010)
Women in parliament 3.1% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 62.1% (2010)
Women in labour force 49% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.5842 (2013)
Rank 130th out of 136

Women in Iran discusses the history, contribution, aspects, and roles of women in Iran. Women in Iran have always played fundamental, crucial, and representative roles in the long history of Iran.


Pre-Islamic Iran[edit]

Archeological excavations at Shahr-e Sookhteh "Burnt City," a prehistoric settlement in the Sistan-Baluchistan province of southeastern Iran, has revealed that the women of the 4th–3rd millennium BCE community maintained a high level of socio-economic status. Of the seals discovered in graves there, 90% were in the possession of women,[2] who in turn made up over 60% of the population.[3] The distribution of the seals, which as instruments of trade and government represented economic and administrative control, reveals that these women were the more powerful group in their prehistoric society.[2]

"The position of woman in ancient Persia was apparently in nowise inferior to her standing in the Vedic times of early India. As among other oriental nations, however, submission to her lord and master is taken for granted, and the woman who is 'obedient to her husband' comes in for a special meed of praise in the Avesta and elsewhere; but it is perfectly evident, as a rule, there was not that subjection which results in loss of personality and individuality."[4]

The early Achaemenid-era Persepolis fortification and treasury tablets refers to women in three different terms: mutu, irti and duksis.[5] The first refers to ordinary (non-royal) women; the second to unmarried members of the royal family; and the last duksis to married women of royalty. Such differentiated terminology shows the significance of marital status and of a woman's relationship to the king. The tablets also reveal that women of the royal household traveled extensively and often personally administered their own estates.[5] The queen and her ladies-in-waiting are known to have played polo against the emperor and his courtiers.[6] The only limits on the extent of the authority exercised by the king's mother were set by the monarch himself.[7]

In the tablets, "non-royals and the ordinary workers are mentioned by their rank in the specific work group or workshops they were employed. The rations they received are based on skill and the level of responsibility they assumed in the workplace. The professions are divided by gender and listed according to the amount of ration. Records indicate that some professions were undertaken by both sexes while others were restricted to either male or female workers. There are male and female supervisors at the mixed workshops as evident by the higher rations they have received with little difference in the amount of rations between the two sexes. There are also occasions where women listed in the same category as men received less rations and vice versa. Female managers have different titles presumably reflecting their level of skill and rank. The highest-ranking female workers in the texts are called arashshara (great chief). They appear repeatedly in the texts, were employed at different locations and managed large groups of women, children and sometimes men working in their units. They usually receive high rations of wine and grains exceeding all the other workers in the unit including the males."[5] In addition, pregnant women also received higher rations than others. Women with new-born children also received extra rations for a period of one month.

A few experts claim that it was Cyrus the Great who twelve centuries before Islam, established the custom of covering women to protect their chastity. According to their theory, the veil passed from the Achaemenids to the Hellenistic Seleucids. They, in turn, handed it to the Byzantines, from whom the Arab conquerors inherited it as hijab, transmitting it over the vast reaches of the Muslim world.[8]

The Sassanid princess Purandokht, daughter of Khosrau II, ruled the Persian empire for almost two years before resigning. Also, during the Sassanian dynasty many of the Iranian soldiers who were captured by Romans were women who were fighting along with the men.[9]

Persian women are depicted in many masterpieces of Persian miniatures.[10] These are often used as sources to "trace through the sequence of women's fashion from earlier periods".[11] Drawing a Persian girl dressed in colors with Persian wine at hand has been a favorite style for portraying love.[citation needed]

At the Battle of Ctesiphon (363) the victorious Roman soldiers prized young Persian women, seizing them as war booty.[12]

After the Islamic conquest[edit]

Iranian women overseas[edit]

Iranian women as dancers were highly regarded in China. During the Tang dynasty bars were often attended by Iranian or Sogdian waitresses who performed dances for clients. Poets like Li Bai flirted and wrote about them in their poems. Whirl dances were often performed by these girls. Some of these blue-eyed and blond-haired Persian and Greek girls danced in bars and clubs in China during this period.[13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24]

During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (Wudai) (907–960), there are examples of Chinese emperors marrying Persian women.[25]

The young Chinese Emperor Liu Chang of the Southern Han dynasty had a Persian lover in his harem.[26][27] He nicknamed her Mei Zhu, which means "Beautiful Sow"(美豬). Liu liked the Persian girl (Mei Zhu) because of her olive skin colour. He and the Persian girl also liked to forced young couples to go naked and played with them in the palace.[28][29] and he favored her by "doting" on her. Multiple women originating from the Persian Gulf lived in Guangzhou's foreign quarter, they were all called "Persian women" (波斯婦 Po-ssu-fu or Bosifu).[30] Original from the University of Michigan (63 At the foreign quarter, there lived of course many foreign women, and they were called by the Chinese Po-ssu-fu 波斯婦 (lit. Persian women), perhaps because most of them came from near the Persian Gulf. During the Five Dynasties 五代 (907–959), Liu Chang 劉鋹, king of the Nan-han 南漢, had in his harem a young Persian woman, whom he doted upon so much. From the tenth to twelfth century, Persian women were to be found in Guangzhou, and in the twelfth century large numbers of Persian women lived there, noted for wearing multiple earrings and "quarrelsome dispositions".[31][32] It was recorded that "The Po- ssu-fu at Kuang-chou make holes all round their ears. There are some who wear more than twenty ear-rings."[33] Descriptions of the sexual activities between Liu Chang and the Persian woman in the Song dynasty book the "Ch'ing-i-lu" by T'ao Ku were so graphic that the "Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko (the Oriental Library), Issue 2" refused to provide any quotes from it while discussing the subject.[34] Liu had free time with the Persian women by delegating the task of governing to others.[35]

The Wu Tai Shï says that 'Liu Ch'ang [劉鋹, Emperor of the Southern Han dynasty reigning at Canton, about A.D. 970]. "...was dallying with his palace girls and Persian (波斯) women in the inner apartments, and left the government of his state to the ministers."[36][37][38] The History of the Five Dynasties (Wu Tai Shih) stated that- "Liu Chang then with his court- ladies and Po-ssu woman, indulged in amorous affiurs in the harem".[39]

A family of Iranian descent in China was known for the three polymaths it produced, one of them was a woman. Their ancestors adopted the suname Li when they moved to China. She was a poet and her name was Li Shun-Hsien (Li Shunxian), she was known for being beautiful, and had an older brother named Li Hsün (Li Xun) who wrote a book on drugs of foreign lands, and a younger brother Li Hsien (Li Xian). They lived at the court of the royal family of Former Shu in Chengdu (modern day Sichuan). Li Shun-hsien also was a poet. Their family had come to China in 880 and were a wealthy merchant family. Li Hsien dealt with Daoist alchemy, perfumes and drugs.[40]

Of the Chinese Li family in Quanzhou, Li Nu, the son of Li Lu, visited Persia in 1376, married a Persian girl, and returned to Quanzhou with her. Li Nu was the ancestor of the Ming Dynasty reformer Li Chih.[41][42]

Qajar Dynasty[edit]

During the Qajar dynasty (1789-1925), Malek Jahan Khanom as queen mother exerted serious political influence during the reign of her son, from 1848 until her death in 1873.

Under the Pahlavi Dynasty[edit]

Female Iranian PhDs in front of Tehran University's reactor, 1968. Text: "A quarter of Iran's Nuclear Energy scientists are women"

The Pahlavi Shahs were the rulers of Iran between 1925 and 1979 and they introduced many reforms concerning women's rights. An example of an early reform introduced by Reza Shah was the 'forced unveiling of women by a special decree on January 8, 1936 which, as the name suggests, involved the police force pulling the hijab away even from religious women, by force.'[43] Women's involvement in society in general increased. Iranian women increasingly participated in the economy, the educations sector and in the workforce. Levels of literacy were also improved. Examples of women's involvement: women acquired high official positions, such as ministers, artists, judges, scientists, athletes, etc.

Under Reza Shah's successor Mohammad Reza Shah many more significant reforms were introduced. For example, in 1963, the Shah granted female suffrage and soon after women were elected to the Majlis (the parliament) and the upper house, and appointed as judges and ministers in the cabinet.'.[43] In 1967 Iranian family law was also reformed which improved the position of women in Iranian society. It was included in the civil code and was designed to protect wives, children and female divorcees. The general thrust of the reforms were to promote equality between men and women in society.

The Family Protection Laws of 1967 and 1973 required a husband to go to court to divorce rather than simply proclaim the triple talaq of "I divorce thee" three times, as stipulated by traditional sharia law. It allowed a wife to initiate divorce and required the first wife's permission for a husband to take a second wife. Child custody was left to new family protection courts rather than automatically granted to the father. The minimum age at which a female could marry was raised from 13 to 15 in 1967 and to 18 in 1975.[44]

Under the Islamic Republic of Iran[edit]

Many Iranian women participated in the Iranian Revolution, the social changes being greeted by a majority of women (photo),[45] but opposed by a minority of secularized women.[46]

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution Iran became an Islamic Republic. During the era of post-Revolution rule, Iranian women have had more opportunities in some areas and more restrictions in others. One of the striking features of the revolution was the large scale participation of women from traditional backgrounds in demonstrations leading up to the overthrow of the monarchy. The Iranian women who had gained confidence and higher education under Pahlavi era participated in demonstrations against Shah to topple monarchy. The culture of education for women was established by the time of revolution so that even after the revolution, large numbers of women entered the civil service and higher education,[47] and in 1996 fourteen women were elected to the Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Ayatollah Khomeini seemed to express appreciation for women's issues after he took power. In May 1979, the day of celebration for Iranian’s Women’s Day, and the day after he imposed hijab on women, Khomeini addressed his audience and spoke about Fatimah: “After the death of her father, Fatimah (peace be upon her), lived for seventy-five days. She was in this world, overcome with sadness and grief. Gabriel, the Trusted Spirit, came to visit and console her and tell her of future events.” So, according to this tradition, in these seventy-five days that she had contact with Gabriel, he came and went many times. I do not believe that anyone else except the great prophets have had such an experience, in which for seventy-five days Gabriel, the Trusted Spirit, came and went and spoke of things that would take place in the future, that would happen to her ancestors in the future.” [48] The Ayatollah spoke fondly of Fatimah as a role model for women. He said that even though she was visited by the Angel Gabriel, this is not what made her special. To him, her admirable qualities were twofold and supposedly represented by the visits from Gabriel: her special spiritual status and her excellent moral character. He continued to explain that Fatimah could have been born with this spiritual status or Fatimah could have gone through a kind of unique mystical experience. This is why the Ayatollah believed she represented the ideal female role model. Fatimah’s moral excellence is observed in three interconnected activities: struggle, inspiring men, and suffering.[49] Fatimah inspired her husband as a devout Muslim. Khomeini draws parallels to this inspiration with women of Iran and how they should strive to follow their religious calling like Fatimah.

Iran Pre-1979 Comparison Iran Today
42.33% Literacy (15-24)[50] 97.70%
24.42% Literacy (>15)[50] 79.23%
48,845 Students[51] 2,191,409
122,753 Graduates[52] 5,023,992
2.4% Graduates (%)[52] 18.4%
19.7 Age at 1st marriage[53] 23.4

According to UNESCO world survey, at primary level of enrollment Iran has the highest female to male ratio in the world among sovereign nations, with a girl to boy ratio of 1.22 : 1.00.[54]

Female alumnae of Isfahan University of Technology. According to UNESCO data from 2012, Iran has more female students in engineering fields than any other country in the world.[55]

By 1999, Iran had 140 female publishers, enough to hold an exhibition of books and magazines published by women.[56] As of 2005, 65% of Iran's university students and 43% of its salaried workers were women.[57] and as of early 2007 nearly 70% of Iran's science and engineering students are women.[58]

27.1% female ministers in government put Iran among first 23 countries in early 2000s,[59] 2.8-4.9% female parliamentarians in past 15 years put it among least 25 countries.[60] In 2009 Fatemeh Bodaghi became Vice President for Legal Affairs and a top advisor to President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.[61] Maryam Mojtahidzadeh who runs the women's ministry was also selected as an advisor to the president.[62]

At least one observer (Robert D. Kaplan) has commented on the less traditional attitude of many women in Iran compared to other Middle Eastern countries. "In Iran, you could point a camera at a woman ... and she would smile" in contrast to other more conservative places where women may mind this.[63]

At the beginning of the revolution, it was announced that women appearing on television would have to wear the hijab, (also known as rousari). A couple of months later it was announced that women working in government facilities and buildings would also be required to wear hijab, and a few months after that that all women had to wear the hijab in public.[64]

Restrictions on women have varied over the history of the Republic of Iran. In the first years after the revolution, females who did not cover most parts of their body were subject to punishment of imprisonment.[65] During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, restrictions became much less severe.

There are also women in the Iranian police who deal with crimes committed by women and children.[66][67]


Women in Iran were granted the right to vote in 1963.[68] They were first admitted to Iranian universities in 1937.[69] Since then, several women have held high-ranking posts in the government or parliament. Before and after the 1979 revolution, several women were appointed ministers or ambassadors. Farrokhroo Parsa was the first woman to be appointed Minister of Education in 1968 and Mahnaz Afkhami was appointed Minister for Women's Affairs in 1976.

Some, such as Tahereh Saffarzadeh, Masumeh Ebtekar, Azam Taleghani, Fatemeh Haghighatjou, Elaheh Koulaei, Fatemeh Javadi, Marzieh Dabbaq and Zahra Rahnavard came after the revolution. Other Iranian women, including Goli Ameri and Farah Karimi hold positions in Western countries.

There are currently 9 women in parliament, of a total of 290 parliamentarians.[70] This was down from 13 in the previous elections.

Role in Economy[edit]

Since the 1970s Iran has experienced significant economic and social changes. Women’s workforce participation rate went from 9.1 per cent in 1996 to 14 per cent in 2004 to 31.9 in 2009.[71][72] That is a 22.8% increase in 13 years. Women make up over half of the Iranian population, yet they make up a small percentage of the work force. Official statistics reported by the Census Bureau suggest that women’s labor force participation remains quite low.[73] Women make up almost 30% of the Iranian labor force, and the percentage of all Iranian women who are economically active has more than doubled from 6.1% in 1986 to 13.7% in 2000.[74][75] In 2004, there were 18 million people employed in Iran, Women made up only 12.9 percent (or roughly 2,160,000) of the employed population. Men on the other hand made up 64 percent, or roughly 11,520,000.[76] The ILO data, however, suggest that female unemployment has been consistently higher than men’s in recent years (Olmsted). Women are concentrated in the typically female jobs of teaching and caring. 82.7% of female civil servants work in teaching and education followed by administrative, financial, clerical, health and medical professions.[71] However, according to the International Labour Organization, the top three areas of female employment are agriculture, manufacturing, and education. A factor in the increase in women’s employment is an increase in their literacy rates. The illiteracy among women has been on a decrease since 1970 when it was 54 percent to the year 2000 when it was 17.30 percent.[77] Iranian female education went form a 46 percent literacy rate, to 83 percent.[77] Iran ranked 10th in terms of female literacy in the 1970s, and still holds this position today.[73] Women’s labor force participation rate and literacy rate has been on the rise. Yet the unemployment rate for women compared to that of men is still considerably higher. Take, for example, that in 1996, the unemployment rate for women was 13.4 percent whereas for men, the unemployment rate was 8.4 percent.[77] The unemployment rate for both men and women has increased since 1996, with the gender gap in unemployment still present. In 2008 for example, male unemployment was 9.1 percent and female was 16.7 percent [78]

Studies concerning female labor force participation vary. One factor to this is the difference between measurements. The Iranian Census provides one measurement for labor force participation, and the Labor Force survey provides another.[73] The Iranian census for example, used different ages for the cut off age, 10 for the 1976 census, and used 6 for the 1986 census (Olmsted) While the International Labour Organization uses 15.[73] The World Bank and International Labour Organization have different data on recent female employment; the ILO reports an employment rate of 17.1% which is considerably higher than that of the World Bank.[73] Overall, there seems to be a common upward trend in employment over time.

Women in Iran had previously been restricted to the private sphere, which includes the care of the home and the children, they have been restricted from mobility, and they needed their husband’s permission in order to obtain a job.[79] Employers depict women as less reliable in the workforce as opposed to men.[80] However, the Islamic Revolution had some influence in changing this perception.[81] Secular feminists and the elite were not happy with the revolution, while other feminists such as Roksana Bahramitash argue that the revolution did bring women into the public sphere.[81] The 1979 Revolution had gained widespread support from women who were eager to earn rights for themselves. A woman’s responsibility and obligation was in the home, which was the underlying basis of the Islamic Republic.[71] Olmsted adds to this by stating that women have this “double burden.”[73] In addition, men had the right to inhibit their wives from entering the labor force. Ali Akbar Mahdi is in agreement with Parvin Ghorayshi in that through the domestication of women and confinement to the private sphere, they were being exploited in non-wage activities.[82] In Karimi’s viewpoint, after the revolution, even though it had been accepted on paper that women had an equal right to employment, she believed that this did not show in practice.[83] Comparing the pre-revolution and post-revolution era, between 1976 and 1986, the labor force participation of women had declined immensely from 12.9 percent down to 8.2 percent.[73] In addition, during the 1990s, women were being compensated for their housework due to the domestic wage law which allowed women to demand compensation from their husbands for their housework in the event of a divorce.[81]

In 1979 the United States imposed an economic boycott on Iran.[83] In particular, the boycott affected the carpet industry. As a result, the boycott had an impact on women’s participation in the labor force.[73] Weaving is a common occupation for women, as it can be done inside the family home.[83] If the market is volatile, merchants can simply remove or add looms to the worker’s home in response to demand. Therefore, women who have children to take care of can be inside the home while tending to their work.[83] Carpet weaving was very common among women from rural areas. Thus, carpet weaving was a valuable method of increasing the economic involvement of women in rural neighborhoods.[84] In 1996, over 91 percent of the female industrial employees were in the textile industry which consisted largely of carpet weaving.[83] Nonetheless, this all changed due to sanctions. Before the Islamic Revolution, Iranian firms were combined with firms in the United States where Iranians produced rugs for the United States market. However, due to the United States inflicting sanctions on Iran, Iranian imports were banned from the country. The demand for Iranian carpets was still high. In response, Americans bought carpets with Iranian designs from other countries that produced the same carpets, such as China and India.[83] Again, from 1994 to 2005 the export of carpets had declined drastically. In 1994 they were selling over $2 million worth of carpets and then in 2005 it went down to under $500 in carpet exports. In other words, the total share of carpet in non-oil exports had declined from 44.2 percent to 4.2 percent; a drastic decrease.[73] Olmsted concurs with Moghadam this would drastically affect women in the labor market, since the majority of carpet weavers consisted of less educated women.[73][79]


According to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report, the rate of entrepreneurship in Iran for women between the ages 18 to 64 fluctuated from 4 to 6% between 2008 and 2012 while their overall economic participation makes up only 13% of the entire economy.[85][86]

Notable Iranian women[edit]


Iranian women's movement[edit]

The movement for women's rights in Iran is particularly complex within the scope of the political history of the country.[87][88] Women have consistently pushed boundaries of societal mores and were continually gaining more political and economic rights up to the Iranian Revolution. Women heavily participated at every level of the revolution; however, within months of the formation of the Islamic republic by Ruhollah Khomeini many important rights were repealed.[88][89] Almost immediately upon assumption of power by Khomeini, women protested the policies of the government.[89][90]

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian woman rights activist

In 2003, Shirin Ebadi, Iran's first female judge in the Pahlavi era, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in promoting human rights.[91]

During the last few decades, Iranian women have had significant presence in Iran's scientific movement, art movement, literary new wave and the new wave of Iranian cinema. According to the research ministry of Iran, about 6% of full professors, 8% of associate professors, and 14% of assistant professors were women in the 1998–99 academic year. However, women accounted for 56% of all students in the natural sciences, including one in five PhD students.[92] In total 49,8% of the university students in Iran are women.[93]

With the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Western media claimed that women's rights declined.[94][95][96] However, after Ahmadinejad's re-election in 2009, the first female minister was appointed.[97]

Persian women's day[edit]

In ancient times, the 29th of Bahman (February 18) was considered Persian women's day and many people still celebrate this day. History of the celebration dates back to Zoroastrian tradition. International Women's Day is also celebrated by Iranians specially by people involved in Persian women's movement.

Women's clothing and make-up in Iran[edit]

Portrait of a Persian lady in Iran (2006)

Since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Iranian government requires women to wear loose-fitting clothes as well as a headscarf that covers the hair.[98][99][100][101][102][103]

The ordinary headscarf is called rusari روسری in Persian. A type of head covering common among students and government employees is the maghnae مقنعه. The maghnae is a "wimple-like head covering", that is "usually required on college campuses and at other public institutions" in Iran.[104]

Throughout the history of Persia, women in Iran, like Persian men, used make-up, wore jewelry, and dyed their hair. Moreover, their garments were both elaborate and colorful, with clothing styles distinguished more by social status than gender.[105] Women in modern Iran decide upon expressing themselves in various manners, both according to fashion[106] and state regulation.[107] Traditionally a "Persian woman" followed a pre-defined appearance set by social norms that were common for all women in their society.[108] For example, the observations of a late Qajar era orientalist read:

"The Persian ladies' hair is very luxuriant and never cut. It is nearly always dyed red, or with indigo to a blue-black tinge. It is naturally a glossy black. Fair hair is not esteemed. Blue eyes are not uncommon, but brown ones are the rule. A full moon face is much admired, and a dark complexion (termed Namak) is the native idea of the highest beauty. The eyebrows are widened and painted until they appear to meet, and color is used freely in painting the faces."[citation needed]

Women in Persian culture[edit]

Persian literature[edit]

Over the past two centuries, women have played a prominent role in Persian literature. Contemporary Iranian poets include Simin Behbahani, Forough Farrokhzad, Parvin Etesami. Simin Behbahani has written passionate love poems as well as narrative poetry enriched by a motherly affection for all humans.[109] Behbahani is president of The Iranian Writers' Association and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1997.

Contemporary authors include Simin Daneshvar, Shahrnush Pârsipur, Moniru Ravânipur and Zoya Pirzad to name a few. Daneshvar's work spans pre-Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary Iranian literature. Her first collection of short stories, Âtash-e khâmush (Fire Quenched), was published in 1948. It was the first collection of short stories published by a woman in Iran. In 1969, she published Savushun (Mourners of Siyâvash), a novel that reflected the Iranian experience of modernity during the 20th century. It was the first novel published by a woman in Iran. Daneshvar was the first president of the Iranian Writers' Association. Shahrnush Pârsipur became popular in the 1980s following the publication of her short stories. Her 1990 novel, Zanân bedûn-e Mardân (Women Without Men), addressed issues of sexuality and identity. It was banned by the Islamic Republic. Moniru Ravânipur's work includes a collection of short stories, Kanizu (The Female Slave), and her novel Ahl-e gharq (The People of Gharq). Ravânipur is known for her focus on rituals, customs and traditions of coastal life.[110]

Persian music[edit]

Perhaps Qamar ol-Molouk Vaziri was the first female master of Persian music who introduced a new style of music and was praised by other masters of Persian music of the time.[citation needed] Several years later, Mahmoud Karimi trained women students— Arfa Atrai, Soosan Matloobi, Fatemeh Vaezi, Masoomeh Mehr-Ali and Soosan Aslani—who later became masters of Persian traditional music. Soodabeh Salem and Sima Bina developed Iranian children's music and Iranian folk music respectively.

Innovations made by Iranian women are not restricted to Persian music. For instance, Lily Afshar is working on a combination of Persian and Western classical music.

Googoosh is one of the most famous Iranian singers. Her legacy dates back to pre-Revolutionary times in Iran, where her fame reached heights equivalent to Elvis Presley or Barbra Streisand. She became iconic when after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, she lived unheard of for more than 20 years. In 2000, she emerged from Iran and toured the world.

Modern art[edit]

Iranian women have played an important role in gaining international recognition for Iranian art and in particular Iranian cinema.

Since the rise of the Iranian New Wave of Persian cinema, Iran has produced record numbers of film school graduates; each year more than 20 new directors, many of them women, make their debut films. In the last two decades, the percentage of Iranian film directors who are women has exceeded the percentage of women film directors in most Western countries.[111] The success of the pioneering director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad suggests that many women directors in Iran were working hard on films long before director Samira Makhmalbaf made the headlines. Internationally recognized figures in Persian women's cinema are Tahmineh Milani, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Zahra Dowlatabadi, Niki Karimi, Samira Makhmalbaf, Mahin Oskouei, Pari Saberi, Hana Makhmalbaf, Pouran Rakhshandeh, Shirin Neshat, Sepideh Farsi, Maryam Keshavarz, Yassamin Maleknasr, and Sara Rastegar.

Iranian writer-director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is probably Iran's best known and certainly most prolific female filmmaker. She has established herself as the elder stateswoman of Iranian cinema with documentaries and films about social pathology. One of the best-known female film directors in the country today is Samira Makhmalbaf, who directed her first film, The Apple, when she was only 17 years old. Samira Makhmalbaf won the 2000 Cannes Jury Prize for Blackboards, a film about the trials of two traveling teachers in Kurdistan.

In Persian literature one can find references to women as far back as Pre-Islamic times.[112] In some cases, women are mentioned as the potential force behind the failure or success of men.[citation needed][original research?] For example, Dehkhoda states that "women are the taste of life" (زن نمک زندگیست), but then warns that some Men may find this taste too strong to bear (کام مرد از این جهت شور است). In verse, Sa'di rephrases[original research?] this as:

زن بد در سرای مرد نکو
A bad wife in a good man's home,
هم درین عالم است دوزخ او
can bring hell down to this Earth.
زن خوب فرمانبر پارسا
The honorable, obedient and noble woman,
کند مرد درویش را پادشا
can turn the vagabond into a king.

But many texts elevate the status of women in their writings by using the word lady (بانو) instead of woman (زن) in their verses,[original research?] whether narratives or anecdotes. For example, in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh one reads:

ببوسید پیشش زمین پهلوان
Kissed the earth at her feet he did, the great hero.
بدو گفت کای مهتر بانوان
Called onto her he did: "oh highest of all the ladies".

Numerous examples from other poets can be seen as well:

عادت بود که هدیه نوروزی آورید
It is a tradition of the free to bring Norouz gifts
آزادگان به خدمت بانوی شهریار
for the lady of our royalty.

نشنیدستی که خاک زر گردد
Have you not heard that dust turns into gold
از ساخته کدخدا و کدبانو
by the work of the Man and the Lady of the House?
---Naser Khosrow

And many creators of classical verse and prose were women themselves as well. One can mention Qatran Tabrizi, Rabia Balkhi, Táhirih, Simin Behbahani, Simin Daneshvar, Parvin E'tesami, Forough Farrokhzad, Mahsati and Mina Assadi in this group to name nine of them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13. 
  2. ^ a b CHN Press. "Women Held Power In Burnt City". Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  3. ^ CHN Press. "Female population predominant in 5000-year-old Burnt City". Retrieved 2007-04-11. 
  4. ^ Williams Jackson, A. V. (1896). "The Moral and Ethical Teachings of the Ancient Zoroastrian Religion". International Journal of Ethics 7 (1): 55–62. doi:10.1086/205457.  p. 59.
  5. ^ a b c Price, Massoume. "Women's Lives in Ancient Persia". Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
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  7. ^ Cotterell, Arthur (1998). From Aristotle to Zoroaster. New York: Free Press. p. 434. ISBN 0-684-85596-8. OCLC 39269485. exercised by the Persian king's mother were set by the monarch himself 
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  10. ^ Toward an aesthetic of Persian painting. Early Islamic Art, 650–1100. Oleg Grabar. p.213-214
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  27. ^ Société pour l'étude et la connaissance du monde insulindien, Association Archipel, Centre de documentatio et de recherches sur l'Asie du Sud-Est et le monde indonésien, Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France), Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (2004). Archipel, Issues 67–68. SECMI. p. 40. Retrieved 2012-01-04. Les chroniques 52 gardent le souvenir d'une dame persane qui était dans le harem du quatrième et dernier souverain, Liu Chang glJH (959–971). Les débuts du commerce international sur le territoire des souverains de l'État de Min sont Original from the University of Michigan
  28. ^ Roger Darrobers (1998). Opéra de Pékin: théâtre et société à la fin de l'empire sino-mandchou. Bleu de Chine. p. 31. ISBN 2-910884-19-8. Retrieved 2012-01-04. L'expression trouvait son origine sous le règne de Liu Chang (958–971), ultime souverain des Han du sud (917–971), un des États apparus dans la Chine du nord après la chute des Tang, avant que les Song ne réalisent pour leur propre... Liu Chang se rallia au nouveau pouvoir qui lui conféra le titre de Marquis de la Bienveillante Amnistie 17. Son règne a laissé le souvenir de ses nombreuses dépravations. S'en remettant aux eunuques pour gouverner, il prenait plaisir à assister aux ébats de jeunes personnes entièrement dévêtues. Il avait pour favorite une Persane de seize ans, à la peau mate et aux formes opulentes, d'une extrême sensualité qu'il avait lui-même surnommée « Meizhu » (« Jolie Truie »). Il déambulait en sa compagnie parmi les couples s'ébattant dans les jardins du palais, spectacle baptisé « corps en duo », on rapporte qu'il aimait voir la Persanne livrée à d'autres partenaires 18. Original from the University of Michigan
  29. ^ Xiu Ouyang, Richard L. Davis (2004). Historical records of the five dynasties (illustrated, annotated ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 544. ISBN 0-231-12826-6. Retrieved 2012-01-04. Liu Chang, originally named Jixing, had been invested Prince of Wei.. . Because court affairs were monopolized by Gong Chengshu and cohort, Liu Chang in the inner palace could play his debauched games with female attendants, including a Persian. He never again emerged to inquire of state affairs 
  30. ^ At the foreign quarter, there lived of course many foreign women, and they were called by the Chinese Po-ssu-fu 波斯婦 (lit. Persian women), perhaps because most of them came from near the Persian Gulf. During the Five Dynasties 五代 (907–959), Liu Chang H, king of the Nan-han Wi Wh, had in his harem a young Persian woman, whom he doted upon so much. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 63 
  31. ^ Walter Joseph Fischel (1951). Walter Joseph Fischel, ed. Semitic and Oriental studies: a volume presented to William Popper, professor of Semitic languages, emeritus, on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday, October 29, 1949. Volume 11 of University of California publications in Semitic philology. University of California Press. p. 407. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 
  32. ^ Walter Joseph Fischel, ed. (1951). Semitic and Oriental studies: a volume presented to William Popper, professor of Semitic languages, emeritus, on the occasion of his seventy-fifth birthday, October 29, 1949. Volume 11 of University of California publications in Semitic philology. University of California Press. p. 407. Retrieved 2012-01-04. At least from the tenth to the twelfth century, Persian women were to be found in Canton, in the former period observed among the inmates of the harem of Liu Ch'ang, Emperor of Southern Han,'2 and in the latter seen as typically wearing great numbers of earrings and cursed with quarrelsome dispositions. 
  33. ^ Tōyō Bunko (Japan). Kenkyūbu (1928). Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko (the Oriental Library), Issue 2. The Toyo Bunko. p. 52. Retrieved 2012-01-04. 17) Concerning the Po-sm-fu $L $f M, ie. the Persian women, Chttang Ch'o 3£$# towards the beginning of the South Sung, in his Chi-lei-pien WM, says: "The Po- ssu-fu at Kuang-chou make holes all round their ears. There are some who wear more than twenty ear-rings." M jW Hfc Sf £w. ... The ear-rings were much in fashion among the Persians in the reign of Sasan (Spiegee, Erani^e/ie Alterthumskunde, Bd. Ill, s. 659), and after the conquest of the Saracens, the Moslem ladies had a still stronger passion for them (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, p. 102). Original from the University of Michigan
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  35. ^ Herbert Franke, ed. (1976). Sung biographies, Volume 2. Steiner. p. 620. ISBN 3-515-02412-3. Retrieved 2012-01-04. During his reign the number of castrati at the palace increased to about 5 000. Great power was also given to a palace beauty named Liu Ch'iung- hsien JäP) 3^ iA*, and especially to a female shaman Fan Hu-tzu ^ fcfi 3~, who claimed to.. . But Liu was free to spend his days with the Persian girls in his harem, and to oversee the decoration of his splendid new palaces with costly substances. It is said that he used 3 000 taels of silver in making a single column of the ceremonial hall named Wan-cheng tien 
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Further reading[edit]

  • Persian Women & Their Ways Clara Colliver Rice. 1923. Seeley, Service & Co.
  • Voices from Iran: The Changing Lives of Iranian Women. Mahnaz Kousha. Syracuse University Press. 2002.
  • Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers. Farzaneh Milani. Published 1992 by I.B.Tauris
  • Piyrnia, Mansoureh. Salar Zanana Iran. 1995. Maryland: Mehran Iran Publishing.
  • Brosius, Maria. Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.C. Oxford Classical Monographs. Oxford University Press (UK), 1998.
  • Farman Farmaian, Sattareh. 1992. Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Najmeh Khalili Mahani, Women of Iranian Popular Cinema: Projection of Progress, Offscreen, Vol. 10, Issue 7, July 31, 2006, [1].

External links[edit]