Being Woman: Diverse Voices of Women from Afghanistan and Iran

Recorded: May 21, 2023
Event: Bilingual Lecture Series

by Haifa Asadi, Avatef Asadian, Fariba Borhanzehi, Soraya Fallah, Elham/Elie Gheytanchi Fotoohi, Ava Homa, Homeira Qaderi, Farzaneh Sabetan, Simin Sabri, Marmar Stewart, Melika Zarr

Being Woman: Diverse Voices of Women from Afghanistan and Iran

About the speakers: (labels in parenthesis represent the topic each speaker was asked to speak about)

Haifa Asadi: (Youth Generation of Arab Iranian Women)

Haifa Asadi is an advocate for gender, racial, and ethnic justice. She grew up in Ahwaz, where she witnessed the struggles of her young Arab classmates academically and emotionally dealing with systemic racism and discrimination. This was the trigger for her to start a life-long fight against injustice practiced against Arab people in Iran, actively advocating for Arab rights and against racism. As a feminist, she has used every opportunity to advocate for women’s rights, especially those of the marginalized ethnicities of Iran. She has written articles, made speeches, and held meetings with like-minded individuals on how to tackle ethnic groups’ marginalized status and how to advocate for the more oppressed groups among these ethnicities. She has two bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and English language and literature, as well as a master’s degree in energy systems engineering. She has worked as an engineer for many years and currently functions as a technical project manager for an international tech company.

Avatef Asadian (Arab Iranian Women)

Avatef Asadian is an expert on civil rights in the central municipality and in the dispute resolution council court and relief court, serving as a family counselor.  She is a passionate artist and poet, writing in both Arabic and Persian.  Due to her political activities, she was banned from publishing her poetry, getting some government jobs, and participating in cultural activities.  In 2006, she was granted political asylum and moved to Sweden.  In December 2022, she founded the Elami Ahvazi Women’s Voice Association with a group of Arab women. She appears in many radio and TV broadcasts and is interviewed about the human rights of ethnic and Arab women in Iran.

Fariba Borhanzehi (Balouch Iranian Women)

Fariba Borhanzehi is a literature graduate from Iran and is a pharmacy graduate from Uppsala University in Sweden. She is a defender of human rights and a fighter for the equality of women. She participated in many conferences, roundtables, and television and radio interviews to speak about the current revolution in Iran. She believes as a Balouch woman, she is treated like a third-class citizen in Iran. After the murder of Zhina Amini, the massacre of the bloody Fridays of Zahedan and Khash, the killing of Nikahas and Khodanurhas, and the execution of Alireza Rahnavard, she could not remain silent and decided to become a voice for change.

Soraya Fallah (Kurdish Iranian Women)

Soraya Fallah is a lifelong women and human rights researcher, activist, and community mobilizer for collaborative action. She holds a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from California State University Northridge (CSUN). She is a published author of books, peer-reviewed articles in professional journals. Her latest publication is a research-based reference book, Learning Challenges for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) Students with Disabilities, recognized as groundbreaking research on students with disabilities that should benefit students across the world. She worked with CSUN’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) as a researcher and an educational consultant in 2Teach, an Educational Consulting company focusing on the Middle East, North Africa, and Southwest Asia (MENASWA) populations. She works extensively with local and international NGOs to promote human rights throughout the world, focusing on Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CLD) populations from the Middle East. She is one of the founding members and first ambassador of UNWomen- L.A., and currently is the co-president and Advocacy Chair of the United Nations Association in SFV. Soraya is recipient of the U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein Award for promoting Women’s Rights; the Women in Diplomacy Award; USA’s Global Citizen Award, and the Iranian Women Study Foundation (IWSF) Critical Feminist Award.

Elham/Elie Gheytanchi Fotoohi (Women’s Social Movements)

Elham Gheytanchi studied Sociology at UCLA. She has been teaching at Santa Monica College for the past 22 years. Her area of research is women’s movements in Middle East and North Africa. Her articles have been published in scholarly as well as mainstream journals. Her recent interview with PBS:

Ava Homa (Kurdish Iranian Women)

Ava Homa is the award-winning author of Daughters of Smoke and Fire.  She is also a journalist and an activist. Her writings have appeared in the Globe, Mail, Guardian, BBC, New Statesman, LiteraryHub, Literary Review of Canada, and many more outlets. She holds a master’s in English and Creative Writing from the University of Windsor in Canada, and another in English Language and Literature from Tehran, Iran. She was born and raised in the Kurdistan province and now divides her time between Toronto and San Francisco.

Homeira Qaderi (Afghanistani Women)

Homeira Qaderi is an Afghan writer, activist, advocate of women’s rights, and educator. Qaderi was awarded the Malalai Medal, Afghanistan’s highest civilian honor, for exceptional bravery by the President of Afghanistan. She received her Ph.D. from Jawaharlal Nehru University in India and was in residence at the University of Iowa in 2015. Her first book in English translation, Dancing in the Mosque, was excerpted by the New York Times and chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best non-fiction books of 2020. She is also the author of six books, short stories, and a novel, Noqra: The Daughter of Kabul River. Homeira Qaderi is currently a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University.

Farzaneh Sabetan: (Bahai Iranian Women)

Farzaneh Sabetan holds a master’s in organizational, educational, and clinical psychology. She is the founder of the psychology department at the scientific institute BIHE and has been teaching various courses for many years, including systematology, philosophy from letter to practice, social psychology, group dynamism, and healthy personality. In addition to teaching, she has also been engaged in counseling; her primary focus for the past several years has been family discussion. She has also spoken at conferences and seminars and participated in radio and television shows. She writes, translates, and produces program content for media. She translated three books and is currently a consultant and analyst of psychological issues.

Simin Sabri (Azeri-Turk Iranian Women)

Simin Sabri is an intersectionalist feminist and a human rights activist fighting for gender equality. She is also the spokesperson of “Azerbaijan Democratic Party,” which has a history of holding accountable the Islamic regime of Iran to human rights issues of Turks and other ethnicities in Iran. She is also an active member of The Socialist Left Party in Norway. Since being deprived of higher education in the field of medicine at Tehran University (Beheshti), for the past 35 years Simin lived and worked as a specialist in psychiatry in Bergen, Norway. In 2009, she was invited by the government of Norway to cooperate with a committee of subject matter experts with the focus of reviewing the refugee acceptance policy and its organizational work at the Department of Justice and Police. One of the highlights of her activities is in the field of children’s rights and psychology. She has led the activities of ADP team members who are working together with the goal of meeting the needs of a multi-ethnic population within Iran. She believes that the demands of women in Iran goes beyond just gender equality, but for freedom and liberty for ethnic groups in Iran.

Marmar Stewart (Lur Iranian Women)

Born to a well-established and politically active family in Lorestan, Iran, and raised in Hamburg, Germany, Marmar Stewart now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. From a young age, she has been dedicated to human rights and social issues, and she worked extensively with Afghan women refugees seeking political asylum in Hamburg. Her professional background is in journalism (Public Relations). She came to Atlanta, Georgia to work for CNN, where she served as a coordinator with Bobbie Battista on CNN’s Talk-Back Live Show. She has undertaken a variety of independent projects, including successful charity and fundraising work for the local Kurdish, Afghan, and Syrian community as well as refugees. In addition, she is determined to help improve the diagnosis and treatment of autism. Her children’s book We Are Special—three publication runs of which have sold out—addresses the issues of siblings of children coping with autism and with speech therapy for autistic children. In her current position as Entrepreneurship Coordinator with The Refugee Women’s Network in Decatur, she works to promote the economic empowerment of refugee and recent immigrant women throughout the state of Georgia.

Melika Zarr (Iranian Queer Women)

Melika Zarr has a bachelor’s in Applied chemistry from Iran. After immigration to Germany, she changed her field to fight for queer community rights as a Lesbian. Melika is an Iranian LGBTQ Activist and Public Figure who is active in the Iranian political scene. She writes about her experiences as a queer person on many social media platforms, attends online television programs for social and political analysis, and tries to raise awareness about the LGBTQ community. Since 2019, she has worked with the LGBTQ organization @6rangiran as their Media and Communications Manager. There she tries to demonstrate the problems of the community in Iran and to address and fight against the human rights violations of the LGBTQ community by Iranian authorities.