Zahra Rahnavard

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Zahra Rahnavard
Zahra Rahnavard, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Hamed Saber (cropped-01).jpg
Zohreh Kazemi

(1945-08-19) 19 August 1945 (age 74)
Alma materUniversity of Tehran
Islamic Azad University
TitleFormer Chancellor of Alzahra University
Political party
MovementIslamic feminism[1]
Spouse(s)Mir-Hossein Mousavi

Zahra Rahnavard (Persian: زهرا رهنورد‎; born Zohreh Kazemi; 19 August 1945) is an Iranian academic, artist and politician.[2] Rahnavard is a university professor, artist, and crusading intellectual who had been under house arrest from February 2011 to May 2018. In 2009, Foreign Policy magazine named her one of the world’s most distinguished thinkers.[3] She is the wife of former Iran Prime Minister Mir Hussein Musavi. In part of her work, she has underlined the need for men to respect the laws of hijab in the same way as women, as well as a general activist for women's rights in the middle east.[4]

Early life[edit]

Rahnavard was born in Boroojerd, Iran. Her father Haj-Fathali was a Sh'ia and anti-Communist. After hearing of a gathering of Sh'ia clerics in Iran, Haj-Fathali emigrated to Khomein, Markazi Province where Zahra was raised.[citation needed] Zahra Rahnavard earned her bachelor and master's degrees in art and architecture from University of Tehran. She also has master's and PhD degrees from Islamic Azad University in Political science.[5]


Zahra Rahnavard in 2009

Rahnavard was among the early revolutionaries against the Shah. In the last years of the Shah, she was close to Ali Shariati, a dissident Islamist leader.[6]

Rahnavard served as the Chancellor of Alzahra University in Tehran from 1998 to 2006, and as a Political Adviser to the former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.[7][8] Rahnavard was the first Iranian woman appointed as a chancellor of a university since the Iranian Revolution of 1979. She was nominated to this post by former Minister of Science, Research and Technology, Mostafa Moin.[9] After the election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 and the purging of reformist officials from the government, Rahnavard was removed (or resigned) from her position as the Chancellor of Al-zahra University in 2006, replaced by Mahboubeh Mobasheri.[10]

As the head of the Women’s Social and Cultural Council, established in 1989, as one of seven government committees exploring various social issues, Rahnavard has called for these committees to be more equally represented by women members and has been an outspoken critic of the government’s failure to accord women what, in her opinion, are their legitimate social and civil rights under the Qu’ran.[11]

She was an active member of her husband Mir-Hossein Mousavi's campaign when Mousavi entered the 2009 presidential election. Now she is a member of The Green Path of Hope and is one of the Leaders of Opposition. Rahnavard is also the author of 15 books.

Personal life[edit]

Rahnavard is the wife of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the former Prime Minister of Iran and had three daughters: Kokab, Narges and Zahra. She and Mousavi married on 18 September 1969. They are now on a house confinement.


  1. ^ Ziba Mir-Hosseini, “FEMINIST MOVEMENTS iv. IN THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC,” Encyclopædia Iranica, IX/5, pp. 498-503, available online at (accessed on 30 December 2012).
  2. ^ "Zahra Rahnavard - O Magazine 2010 Power List". Oprah. 2010. Archived from the original on 18 September 2010. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  3. ^ "Zahra Rahnavard: The Story of a Career". Tavaana. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Rahnavard, Zahra | Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers - Credo Reference". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  5. ^ "بیوگرافی زهرا رهنورد". Yazd Farda. 6 May 2009. Retrieved 20 July 2011.
  6. ^ Alavi, Nasrin (2 June 2009). "Iran: a blind leap of faith". Open Democracy. Archived from the original on 1 July 2011. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  7. ^ Torfeh, Massoumeh (5 May 2009). "Iran's first first lady?". The Guardian. London.
  8. ^ [1] Archived 26 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "Zahra Rahnavard named university chancellor in Tehran". 23 September 1998. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Rahnavard, Zahra | Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers - Credo Reference". Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Rahnavard, Zahra | Encyclopedia of Women Social Reformers - Credo Reference". Retrieved 15 January 2018.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Chancellor of Alzahra University
Succeeded by
Mahboubeh Mobasheri