of the women's movement in Iran is a very complicated task and requires
time and space. This very brief article is meant to provide much needed
basic information for the general public and to provide a coherent picture
of what has been happening over the last two centuries. The second half
of the nineteenth century is the beginning of fundamental structural and
ideological transformations in Iran and the start of the women's movement
that is still going on.
The first major
figure, Fatima, the eldest daughter of a prominent religious leader was
born in Ghazvin in 1814. Fatima and her sister Marzieh received religious
training and became masters in Persian literature, Arabic and Islamic studies.
At the age of 14, she married her cousin the son of Mulla Mohammed Taghi
Borghani, one of the most famous Usuli religious leaders. Orthodox and
dogmatic the Usulis dominated the theological schools and strongly opposed
all other schools of thought including Ahkbari and the latter Sheykhi who
demanded reforms and challenged the authority of Mujtahids. The two sisters
influenced by a close relative took the side of the Sheykhi.
In 1828 the young
couple moved to Iraq to further their religious studies at Najaf and Karbala,
where many Sheykhi ulama resided in exile. The long stay in Iraq introduced
Fatima to others including Seyyed Kazem Rashti and his Succesor Seyyed
Mohammad Bab, whom she never met. She also became exposed to European politics
and influence spreading in Middle East at the time. Fatima joined Rashti
who gave her the title of Qurrat al-Ain and eventually ended in the top
leadership of the later Babi movement. Her actions alienated her family;
she left her husband started lecturing and openly supported the Babi movement.
Amongst many changes demanded by the Babis, emancipation of women became
an issue. Though her actions were predominantly religious her presence
often without a veil in public debates created a stir even amongst the
Babis and she often was forced to leave and move to another city. Her very
strong presence in the movement initiated the formation of the first well-organized
women's league in Iran.
The first meetings
were held at the house of the widowed Mrs. Rashti and quickly spread throughout
the country. Fatima, Marzieh, Khorshid Beygom Khanum, with the mother and
sister of Mulla Hussein Boushroyeh, the mother of Hadi Nahri, Rustameh,
the first militant female leader in the movement and Mrs. Rashti traveled
all over, organized meetings, helped and rescued Babis. Many female members
of the Royal court also supported Fatima who was known as Tahireh or pure
by this time. In 1848, after the massive persecution of the Babis, the
remaining leaders gathered at Behdasht. In the meeting Tahireh tears off
her veil and demands emancipation of women. Her radical actions splits
the leadership; Tahireh herself is arrested is send into exile. She escapes,
a few days after a failed attack on Naser al-Din Shah's life; she is captured
in Tehran and along with other Babi leaders was executed in 1852.
The Babi and their
successor Bahai women's movements were genuine, dynamic, progressive and
emancipated the female supporters of these faiths. However they remained
sectarian and were secondary to the principal doctrines of the faith. Though
this limited their appeal to the general public but the incidents were
observed by all. The mass execution of Babi women and children shocked
the nation particularly the upper class and more educated women, lessons
were learned, moves copied and actions followed.
In the later half
of the 19th century other prominent women emerged. Taj Saltaneh, Naser
al-Din Shah's daughter in her famous memoirs criticized the stagnation
of the political and social institutions in Iran without rejecting Monarchy.
She mentions the pitiful state of women in Iran, criticizes the notion
of veiling and how it has stopped women from advancing and joined secrete
societies with other members of the royal court. Bibi Khanoum Astarabadi
in her pamphlet The Shortcomings of Men strongly criticized the derogatory
popular book Educating Women and concluded that the writer's understanding
of keeping women in their place implies the total subjugation of women.
Bibi and her mother
belonged to the generations of women who served the Royal women. They thought
literature; calligraphy, music, religion and many were talented poets with
their own written works of which quite a few have survived. In the late
1900's women had a very strong presence in the constitutional struggle
and the subsequent revolution. The Reuter concession of 1872 and the Tobacco
protest brought masses of women into the streets. Kamran Mirza, the vice
regent was attacked by hordes of women. Militant women lead by Zeynab Pasha
alongside armed men attacked government warehouses in Tabriz. At the same
time the wife of Haydar Khan Tabrizi and other women armed with sticks
protected pro constitution speakers in Tabriz.
ki Baradari is a summer pavilion at Lahore, Pakistan. It was built by Kamran
Mirza, a son of first Mughal emperor Babur and a brother of the second
Mughal emperor Humayun.