Today’s Dame of the Day is Atena Farghadani (January 29, 1987-). This artist and political activist always combined illustration with critique, but one of her cartoonist offended the Iranian government and landed her in jail for three months. After her release, she posted a video explaining the cruel treatment she received in the Iranian prison system. In January 2015, Farghadani was arrested again and sentenced to roughly 12 years in prison. While Amnesty International took up her case, the Iranian government continues to charge her with further infractions.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Pardis Sabeti (December 25, 1975-). As a computational biologist and medical geneticist, Sabeti studies how genes impact the evolution of disease. In 2014, Sabeti and her team were able to track the outbreak of ebola back to a single encounter between an animal and a human. Once they pinpointed the origin, the team studied the RNA shifts that led the disease to mutate over time.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Shappi Khorsandi (June 8, 1973-). Born in Iran, Khorsandi and her family were forced to flee to Britain during the Islamic Revolution. She chronicled how the move impacted her family and childhood in her book, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English. Khorsandi continues to tour throughout Britain and internationally.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Maryam Mirzakhani (May 1977-). Mrizakhani loved math from a young age; in 1994, she became the first Iranian woman to win gold at the International Math Olympiad. One year later, she improved on that performance and became the first Iranian woman to achieve a perfect score and win two golds in the competition. In 2014, Mirzakhani won the Fields Medal for her work in understanding curved surfaces; she is the first woman and the first Iranian to ever win the award.
With so many stories and images of Iran and its stalled nuclear talks filling the news, it’s easy to forget that a country is more than just its government. With a population of over 79 million, Iran is far more than President Hassan Rouhani and his politics.
Photo courtesy of Marion Poizeau
In 2010, friends Marion Poizeau and Easkey Britton traveled to Balochistan, a remote region on the Pakistan border, armed with a camera, a surfboard, and a mission. Britton, an Irish surfer, became the first woman to surf in Iran. Clad in a wet suit and a headscarf, she rode the waves while Poizeau documented the event. The resulting video attracted attention from the Internet, the Iranian police, and, most importantly, the locals. My favorite moment is a shot of two girls grinning and holding the top half a wet suit, eager to try the sport themselves.
Even after their trip ended, tales of Poizeau and Britton spread amongst Iranian sportswomen. After some planning and plenty of online correspondence, Poizeau and Britton returned to Iran in 2013 to teach. This time around, snowboarder Mona Seraji and swimmer Shahla Yasini joined Britton in the surf. The resulting experience formed the basis of Into the Sea, a documentary chronicling the development of women surfers in Iran.
For Britton, the impact of surfing extends far beyond the sport itself. Girls look up to women surfers as role models and leaders. Practicing the sport teaches women to embrace failure, to relax and let go when things get difficult, and to take risks to achieve greater success. This ability to take risks and gain confidence bleeds into all facets of a woman’s life. Confident women trust themselves and their peers and are able to push forward social change. Through their documentary, Poizeau and Britton share a perspective that contrasts strongly with Balochistan’s reputation of being a poor and dangerous area. Using surfing as a point of connection, the duo connected with the region’s citizens and dismantled perpetuated stereotypes.
Britton and Poizeau eventually returned home, but they remain committed to the cause through their non-profit, Waves of Freedom. Stay current by signing up for their newsletter or make a donation if you can.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Marjane Satrapi (November 22, 1969-). Growing up in Iran at the dawn of the Revolution, Satrapi witness family members and friends suffer and even die under the new regime. To protect her from the government’s restrictions on women, her family sent her to boarding school in Vienna. Satrapi wrote of her experiences at home and abroad in the graphic novel trilogy, Persepolis. (The books were later turned into an animated film of the same name.)
Today’s Dame of the Day is Shahla Sherkat (March 30, 1956-). As the founder and publisher of Zanan Magazine, Sherkat periodically appeared in court to defend her publication’s content. Following the Iranian revolution, Zanan ran controversial articles critiquing the government, condemning domestic abuse and discussing taboo subjects like sex. In 2004, Sherkat served a four month prison term after attending a conference in Berlin discussing political reform in Iran.
Today’s Dame of the Day is Shirin Ebadi (June 21, 1947-). Following the 1979 revolution, Ebadi was banned from practicing law by conservative clerics until 1993. During this period, she wrote books and articles for Iranian periodicals. Ebadi defended child abuses cases and clients who spoke out against the government. In 2003, Ebadi became the first Iranian to win the Nobel Peace Prize; however, her award was allegedly confiscated by the government. She currently lives in exile but continues to fight for human rights.