Iranian feminist magazine under threat

Grace Davies
5 February 2008

This blog has previously featured writing from and about women in Iran, in particular the inspiring One Million Signatures campaign. It is therefore with sadness that we received the following news from Nayereh Tohidi of California State University about the revocation of the license of the Iranian feminist magazine, Zanan. Nayereh writes:

Dear colleagues and friends,

As you might have already heard, on January 28, 2008, the Press Supervisory Board of Iran backed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has announced revocation of the license of Zanan magazine, Iran's most prominent and important feminist journal.

Published since February 1992, Zanan (meaning women in Persian) is an independent monthly magazine dedicated to the reporting and analysis of women's issues, problems and achievements. It has many thousands of subscribers in different provinces of Iran and also among diaspora circles. Zanan's survival for 16 years (152 issues published as of January 2008) against financial difficulties and political pressures is a remarkable record of success in the history of Iran's usually short-lived independent publications in general and of its women's publications in particular. Zanan has provided a pluralist forum for women's voices from diverse ideological and cultural backgrounds.

Zanan's license holder, editor and manager, Shahla Sherkat (recipient of the international award for Courage in Journalism), has represented a gradual shift among numerous Muslim women activists from radical Islamism to a liberal spiritualism and egalitarian reformism and pragmatic feminism. Zanan's agenda has not been limited to an egalitarian reinterpretation of the Islamic canon. Each issue includes enlightening sections on social problems and contentious issues; theoretical debates, interviews, and cultural studies; legal advice; feminist critique of law, literature and films; health issues, sports, and leisure; labour and business; introduction of new books; and international as well as national news pertaining to women.

According to some activists, events that have taken shape since the license revocation of Zanan suggest that the decision might have been motivated more by the personal and ideological animosity of a few individual members and not the whole Press Supervisory Board. It is suspected that individuals identified as supporters of President Ahmadinejad are tying to give the impression of a fait accompli without the legal authority to do so or even without the support of other institutions and individuals in charge of supervising the press.

Therefore, to save Zanan from a permanent shut down, it is imperative to wage a vigorous national and international campaign in support of this magazine that is now the sole print tribune left inside Iran to speak for equal rights and gender justice.

On behalf of Shahla Sherkat and Zanan's dedicated staff (over a dozen wonderful women and men journalists who are about to lose not only their jobs but probably also their high spirit for change), and many thousands of Zanan's readers, I appeal to you for your support. To help you with the work, I will send you more needed information and a short suggested statement (to be prepared by a few of us in close contact with Zanan) hoping you will endorse it in support of this magazine. I am sure many among you scholars, journalists, and advocates of human/women rights who are knowledgeable about Iran have already known of Zanan and do appreciate its significant role in the process of cultural construction toward equal rights, civil society, and democracy in Iran.

Many thanks and sorry for the lengthy message,

If you wish to join the sign-on campaign to save Zanan, email Nayereh Tohidi at nayereh.tohidi AT csun.edu

Reporters without borders has the story, plus read more on Zanan, and its editor Shahla Sherkat.


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