March 25, 2019 | 44° F

Festival addresses Iranian women’s rights

Producer of film to speak on gender inequalities in Iran

Students and faculty can hear the story of 47 Iranian women tomorrow at the third and final installment of a series of films that highlight Iranian women.

“Mrs. President: Women and Political Leadership in Iran,” a part of the University’s first Iranian Film Festival, will screen tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Gathering Lounge at the Livingston Student Center.

The documentary, produced by Shahla Haeri, follows a group of 47 women who wrote their names on the ballot during Iran’s 2001 presidential election, said Fakhri Haghani, professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University.

Haeri, who is also the director of Women’s Studies at Boston University, will discuss the film with the audience and engage with students about the film’s topics.

The women who wrote in their names were not allowed to run because of legal restrictions on women in public office, but they meant to make a statement through their actions, Haghani said.

“[The film] was chosen to show women who were influential and instrumental on women’s activities in public space,” she said.

Haghani said the film festival shows how Iranian women deal with limited rights and discrimination experienced in their country.

While Iranian women face limits on personal freedoms like manner of dress, Haghani said U.S. citizens and other Western countries are often unaware of the true status women have in Iran.

“We wanted to bring these issues to the public,” Haghani said.

Hajar Hasani, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, came to Haghani with the idea to hold the festival after taking a class the professor taught. She said women in Iran, while unequal to men, are not as restricted as the limited coverage the media provides would suggest.

“We wanted to challenge the stereotypes people in America have about Iranian women,” she said. “That they have no voice — no agency.”

Ashley Hogan, president of the Rutgers University Persian Cultural Club, said women in Iran have little trouble finding jobs or getting educated. In fact, Iran leads the Middle East in terms of percentage of women educated, she said.

She said despite this, women still face harsh punishment for minor infractions in dress code. Wearing short sleeves, even in the heat of summer, can result in arrest, she said.

Hogan said the film would end the series on a more political note. Previous topics covered in the film screening have pertained more to the cultural rather than political nature of Iran.

“We’ve focused more on women in art until now,” she said. “Now we’re going more towards the political side.”

She said the films have been a great way to show the ways in which Iranian women are fighting back.  

 “A lot of women try, in small ways to protest, “ she said. “Tighter clothes, smaller scarves, more makeup.”

The Center for Global Advancement and International Affairs, the Rutgers University Persian Cultural Club and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies are all sponsors of the Iranian Film Festival, which is a part of the larger series, “The Fertile Crescent: Gender, Art and Society.”

The series was originally supposed to include four films, but Hurricane Sandy set the series back and as a result, one film was cut, Haghani said.

Despite the adverse weather, Haghani said the series has been successful. She said even though the turnout has not been tremendous, the students and faculty who have turned up are passionate about the cause.

“We had a small, tight-knit community of students and faculty who came,” she said.

By Domenic Ruggeri

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