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Tehran to Iranian women: Please shut up

HENGHAMEH FAHIMI/AFP/Getty Images A couple years ago, FP published an article about an Iranian magazine called Zanan (“Women,” in Farsi). Written by Haleh Esfandiari of the Wilson Center, who was imprisoned in Tehran for several months last year, “Iranian Women, Please Stand Up” told the tale of Shahla Sherkat, who bravely courted controversy as the ...

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HENGHAMEH FAHIMI/AFP/Getty Images

A couple years ago, FP published an article about an Iranian magazine called Zanan (“Women,” in Farsi). Written by Haleh Esfandiari of the Wilson Center, who was imprisoned in Tehran for several months last year, “Iranian Women, Please Stand Up” told the tale of Shahla Sherkat, who bravely courted controversy as the founder of a glossy women’s magazine that covered topics both political and personal. Esfandiari wrote:

Zanan has run articles on the latest theories of feminism in the West, the unjust treatment of women in Islamic societies, and the significance for Iranians of international conventions on human rights and the rights of women and children.Not all articles in Zanan incite such strong reactions. The glossy has [also] published stories about Iran’s first woman pilot, its first female cab driver, and the country’s first woman racing car ace.

Despite harassment from government officials, periodic censorship, and budget woes, Sherkat managed to keep the magazine open for 16 years. But last week the government shut down Zanan, this time for good. Iranian authorities, according to an editorial in the New York Times, claim “the magazine was a ‘threat to the psychological security of the society’ because it showed Iranian women in a ‘black light.'”

A “black light”? Give me a break! Zanan was one of the very few media outlets in Iran dedicated to women’s issues, and one of the only places where women could actually be heard. Because of numerous run-ins with the government in the past (past contributors to Zanan had been jailed at various times for their writing) Sherkat was always very careful to toe the line with the magazine’s editorial content. The shuttering of the magazine is an outrage, it’s a tragedy, and most of all, it’s a crime against Iranian women. Tehran should realize that by closing down Zanan, it’s only displaying its own weakness and fear.

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