Golbarg Bashi – USA & Iran

Linked with our presentation of Sanctioning of Iran by Iranians.

She is a Visiting Scholar, Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.

She joins the statement: Censorship is obscene, not women.

Golbarg Bashi – USA & Iran

She writes: I travelled to Iran the same year that Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Noble Peace Prize and
Zahra Kazemi was murdered in the dungeons of the Islamic Republic – the year was 2003. The two women who made Iran headline news in 2003 were from the same generation of feminist activists; Shirin Ebadi participating in the Reform movement as a human rights activist and lawyer, and Zahra Kazemi as a Canada-based photographer covering demonstrations in support of the Reform movement. Ebadi, a former judge, had helped change Iranian law to grant mothers custody of their sons until the age of seven (previously it was two), and raise the minimum age of marriage to 13 for girls and 15 for boys. Kazemi was audaciously in the streets taking photographs of the newfound hope the Reform movement had installed in Iranian people, now demanding freedom and democracy, for which she was arrested and died after having been subjected to torture and rape. (Read the rest of this long text of 23 pages on ParsTimes.com).

She says herself on her bio: I was born in Iran, and attended elementary school in Ahvaz (in Khuzestan) and Shiraz. I received my secondary and upper secondary education in Sweden. Then I received a First Class B.A. Honours in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Manchester (1996-2000), where I wrote a major essay on the rise of prose writing by Iranian women writers in the 1990s. After achieving my B.A. (Hons), I received a Masters of Science (M.Sc.) in Women’s Studies at the School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol (2000-2001). I wrote my Master’s dissertation on women’s rights in Iranian law. I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol (2001 – ongoing), where my doctoral research is funded by an AHRC scholarship.

Doctoral Thesis: The working title of my thesis, which I am writing under the supervision of Professor Robert M Gleave, now based at the University of Exeter, is “Shi’i Responses to the Idea of Universal Human Rights in Iran: A Feminist Critique“. My principal objective in my doctoral research is to open up the domain of discussion of the idea of the universal human rights by (1) exploring the endemic issues and problems within the human rights discourse proper, and (2) expanding that discussion into a wider spectrum of contemporary Iranian history during the twentieth century. My intention in this work is to open up the domain and discourses of political discussion of human and women’s rights in Iran back into lived experiences and historical nuances. I argue that privileging of the Islamist discourse over its nationalist and socialist alternatives, both in Iranian domestic politics as in the global geo-politics, is a development of recent vintage and must not be allowed to distort our comprehensive conception of history. Any assessment and critical engagement of issues of human rights or civil rights or women’s rights in Iran must thus be located in the domain of these inter-related ideological and cultural formations.

I thus intend to demonstrate that a familiarity with modern Iranian history over the last one hundred years shows that a multiplicity of ideologies and political practices have allowed for a much wider reading, interpretation, and application of universal human rights than the current Islamic discourse allows or projects. The current liberal (reformist) leaders and ideologues of the Islamic republic who are in opposition with certain norms and practices of the Islamic republic and openly argue for human rights to some extent, have in effect plunged the current Iranian political culture ever deeper into an Islamist language. I will argue that their theories are not anymore native or relevant to the Iranian context than those of Mehrangiz Kar or Reza Afshari (non-religious Iranian advocates of human rights). The Islamists’ claim over nativism or authenticity further Islamicise and limit the horizon of our understating of question of human rights, women’s rights and civil rights, and push the question of human rights into domain of Islamic jurisprudence (with fundamental irreconcilabilities with women’s and reproductive rights, and matters regarding sexuality in particular).

Current Status: I am currently a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in New York, writing the final draft of my Ph.D. thesis, while working on a human rights, civil rights and women’s rights project.

Research Interests: I have a keen interest in Iranian women’s studies (history, law and gender), contemporary Iranian legal and philosophical thought (history, ethics, human rights), as well as in the politics of media representation of gender, race and ethics.

Teaching: My primary teaching interest lies in women’s studies and topics related to Iranian studies in the humanities and social sciences. I have taught a final year undergraduate module ‘Islam in Europe’ in the Department of Religious Studies, Umeå University, in Umeå, Sweden. I have also tutored undergraduate seminars in Islamic Studies at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Bristol.

Publications: 1) Eyewitness History: Interview with Ayatollah Montazeri, Payvand News (2006); 2)
Sanctions placed on Iran by Iranians, Gooya News (2005); 3) Review of ‘The End of the World’ (2005); 4) Ideological Tyranny in Iranian Women’s Studies: A Response to Shahrzad Mojab, Free Thoughts on Iran (2005). (Longer version available at Payvand News); 5) Crisis in Iranian Women’s Studies, Gooya News (2005). Features at Iranian.com. (Read more on Golbarg Bashi Website).

On the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation’s 16th International Conference at the Austria Center in Vienna, Austria (8-10th July 2005) she writes: First of all I would like to give my thanks to the Vienna team for their hard work. I want to praise and raise Ms Golnaz Amin to the skies for having established the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation (IWSF) and for her continued soul-drenching work to uphold IWSF and its conferences. I would also like to thank every team which has taken on the demanding task of organising this annual international conference for the past 16 years (with very limited resources and heaps of difficulties). Iranian women’s studies is – as we all know too well – an immensely contested area of inquiry. (Read all of this long article by Golbarg Bashi on Iranian.com).


Sanctioning of Iran by Iranians;

Perrenial Perspectives of a Secular Canuck-Iranic otherwise known as Shahram;

Iran Chamber Society;

Persian Mirror;

Free Thoughts on Iran.

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