“With Determined Spirits”: Activism and Contemporary Women’s Rights in Iran

Bearing Witness | Events | Speakers | Seminars | Resources

Mehrangiz Kar

Human rights activist, attorney, and educator Mehrangiz Kar will deliver the first lecture in the Weissman Center’s  2007 – 2008 series, Bearing Witness.  Kar will focus on activism and women’s rights in Iran, one of only three non-Arab countries in the Middle East and a nation that figures prominently in today’s news. She will discuss activism in the context of Iranian history and contemporary politics, contextualize the history of Iranian women’s rights, and share her own evocative stories of advocacy and protest in and beyond Iran.  

One of Iran’s most prominent activists, Kar has been an active defender in Iran’s civil and criminal courts, and also one of the country’s most published journalists. She has published fifteen books and over one hundred articles.  Her most recent work, Crossing the Red line: The Struggle for Human Rights In Iran chronicles her own life as a prominent feminist and human rights attorney.  Kar’s attention to human rights violations, as well as her efforts to advocate for democratic, legal, and constitutional rights for Iranians, prompted the government to ban her from public appearances in Iran and ultimately contributed to her imprisonment in 2000 on charges of acting against the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Her husband, 76-year old journalist Siamak Pourzand, has been subjected to torture and continues to be imprisoned because of his wife’s activism.

Despite being “frequently impeded and curtailed” by Iranian government agencies, Kar asserts that it is with "determined spirits” that she and many of her fellow women activists have confronted considerable political pressure and intimidation as the call for recognition of women’s rights to protection under the law continues. Kar recently noted that  “[t]he recent international attention toward the Iranian woman and her situation, together with the dedication of the females  within Iran, speaks volumes.”  Indeed, Kar’s colleague and fellow attorney Shirin Ebadi’s commitment to human rights advocacy earned her the honor in 2003 of becoming the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The move to secure women's rights in Iran has intensified recently through efforts such as the campaign to collect one million-signature initiative engineered by Iranian women activists in 2006. In August 2007, on the one-year anniversary of the two-year effort, although activists endorsing the initiative had obtained only 100,000 signatures, they remained determined to achieve national legal reforms, social justice, and gender equity for all Iranian women. 

Ms. Kar will continue her discussions of activism and advocacy with students and alumnae on Friday, 19 October in the center’s first fall student leadership seminar.  Students are invited to preregister for "Activism Abroad and at Home: Law, Reform, and Testimony," a roundtable breakfast discussion with Ms. Kar and alumnae activists.

Event Details

Date: Thursday, October 18
Time: 7:30 pm
Speaker: Mehrangiz Kar
Place: Gamble Auditorium, Art Building, Mount Holyoke College
Admission: Free and open to the public