A woman for all seasons
In memory of Farrokhrou Parsa
May 9, 2005
On May 8th 1980, the
Islamic Republic executed a woman whose only crime was
educating her compatriots
and setting an example for so many who gained their rightful place
in our society. She was to face the firing squad for having provided
the opportunity so that Iranians could study, train and therefore,
render their expertise for the betterment of our people’s
lives and society.
None of the above however, were stated on Dr. Farrokhrou Parsa’s
sentence nor appeared on her death certificate. She was condemned
to death like thousand of others on the charges of “spreading
vice on earth and fighting God.”
The two phrases that brought a sudden end to the life of so many
in summary executions, was a sentence loosely defined by representatives
of Allah on earth who had chosen Iran as their platform to spread
their revolution and their God’s justice.
When Parsa was born, Iran was a weak country with its nation
ravaged by poverty and disease. Her mother, Fakhr Afagh was among
the first Iranian women who believed in equal educational opportunity
for boys as well as girls. When she published two articles on the
subject in a magazine she ran, Jahan-e Zanan or Women’s
World, the mullahs of the time had raised objections.
Under the clergy’s pressure on Qavam-ol Saltaneh’s
government, her husband finally was forced to relocate his pregnant
wife to a rented accommodation outside the religious city of Qom.
It was there, under house arrest, that Farrokhrou was born minutes
after Nowrouz in 1922.
She was sent to school and encouraged by her parents to become
an educated woman. As the situation in the country had changed
for better under Reza Shah, Parsa had the chance
to enjoy equal rights, at least as far as education was concerned.
With her parents’ eagerness to educate their children she
continued her studies ever after she was married and bore children.
Years later, when Parsa was a biology teacher at Tehran's
Jean D’Arc high school, Farah Diba, who later married Mohammad
Reza Shah, happened to be one of her students. Her dedication to
her job as
women's rights promoted her to the school’s
principle position. She also used after school hours to visit and
teach women in prisons.
In a letter she wrote to the Shah in the early 1960’s requesting
the right for women to vote, the late Shah had replied, “I
will seek my nation’s vote
on the matter, my people are not consisted only of men.”
Parsa became a member of the Iranian parliament
in 1963, when she pushed for legislation amending women and family
laws. Two years later she became the first woman to fill the position
of deputy minister for education. Finally on 27th August 1968 she
became the first Iranian woman member of the cabinet as Minister
The fundamentalist clergies’ dislike of Parsa did not finish
with her mother’s house arrest, but in the years that followed
brought her at times face to face in conflict with the same black
reactionaries who opposed her efforts in modernization and improvement
in schools’ text books.
Twenty-five years on, Parsa’s murderers are still grazing
carelessly in the country, while the world believes appeasement
could be a new taming method. As much as it is perplexing to witness
European countries’ policies of “let’s try to
understand these people” or “let’s establish
a dialogue” approach with the dictators, it is horrifying
to see these countries taking similar attitudes as to those who
in the 40’s searched for moderates within the Nazi establishment,
while thousands were sent to their early graves.
Parsa’s execution in the height of the Islamic revolution
while they were basking in their glory was only the beginning of
a systematic killing that since has been the official procedure
by the religious rulers of Iran to silence any opposition. On the
face of such atrocities - only comparable to genocides in Turkey,
Germany and Rwanda, the free, democratic and so to speak, civilized
world has chosen to remain indifferent.
Parsa, the first woman executed by the Islamic regime by
no means would be the last. Zahra Kazemi murdered by the reformist
government of President. Khatami - the man Europeans so much love
to negotiate and appease, was yet another reminder to the world
that if the situation in Iran is not dealt with soon enough, many
more would loose their lives in ayatollah’s Islamic dungeons.
But again it seems all this falls on deaf ears!
Twenty-five years after Parsa’s execution, thousands
of Iranian women and girls are still being executed, tortured,
raped, stoned, lashed, hung from cranes in Iranian cities and even
sold to Sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf. Even at this point instead
of assisting Iranians to eradicate the mullahs, the best strategy
the British, French and German governments have recently come up
with is their new idea of offering economic incentives to the Islamic
regime in the hope that they may put an end to their uranium enrichment
program. This is again a proof that such countries’ support
for human rights and democracy are simply a mockery of such noble
concepts when it comes to countries where trade takes priority
over human lives.
Up until 1979, Iranians compared their country to the most advanced
nations in the world. During which our people’s expectations
from our government were to provide them with the best the world
could offer. Nothing less seemed to be satisfying Iranians’ appetite
for progress and reaching the Great Civilization they were promised.
This happened at a time when our public figures were the educated
elite of men and women known and respected internationally.
We all remember those days when our people like spoiled children
complained about absolutely everything. But the question I seem
to be failing to find an answer for, is that, how could it be possible
for the same demanding people to allow themselves to be reduced
to the current sub-human levels? How could a nation whose leaders
were educated and intelligent personalities allow to be ruled by
an ignorant bunch totally irrelevant to modern times?
The Islamic authorities have always feared our women. Twenty-six
years on, their dictatorial power has yet to succeed submitting
the Iranian women to their barbaric ways. They are well aware that
the might of our women once united can destroy the foundation of
their evil mullahcracy.
The agony our late Iranian-Canadian journalist Kazemi had
to go through and her eventual death resulting from all sorts of
torture will always remain as a proof to their fear of women who
were born, brought up and educated during the Pahlavi years. Women
who had learnt to have a free spirit and taught to be strong and
independent. The ayatollahs’ fear doesn’t stop with
women rejecting their authorities today, it extends to even those
brave women who had died years prior to the revolution.
is their legacy that is worrying their theocratic system, so much
that soon after the revolution they ordered the destruction of
Sediqeh Dowlatabadi’s tomb who had passed away in 1962. The
Islamic Republic leaders do not understand that destruction of
tombs; books and killings cannot vanquish our women’s free
spirit and will to live freely. Values encouraged and rekindled
by the likes of Dr. Farrokhrou Parsa.
Although Dowlatabadi’s grave does not exist anymore,
but her last will in which she stated: “I shall not forgive
any woman who visits my grave veiled,” is not only a torch
to lead our female compatriots to freedom but also is a concept
more powerful than any weapon or any religious fanatic.
Today all over the world, Iranian women of Parsa’s
generation and those who were educated by her and her colleagues
hold respectable positions in renowned organizations and universities.
With the exception of few who have never given up fighting for
their rights, those who are living in free and democratic environments
seem to have chosen to remain silent in the face of on-going barbarities
in our country.
The regime’s enmity towards our women is in the ethos of
the Islamic Republic, and it is for the very reason that I recommend
the 25th anniversary of Dr. Parsa’s execution, a fitting
date to remind and to invite all women of conscience, from within
and without Iran, Iranian or not, to unite against the Islamic
I would like to encourage personalities such as Mahnaz Afkhami,
Dr. Simin Redjali, Goli Ameri and many others to form a united
front together with the likes of Shirin Ebadi - if she is willing
to break free from reformists who are using her good name and intentions,
and to mark May 8th in our late teacher and minister’s memory
to form an Iranian Women United Front demanding world leaders and
the international community to support a true referendum for the
abolishment of the government of the mullahs in order to introduce
democracy, secularism and justice in Iran.
This conspiracy of silence must be broken. It is in our silence
and apathy that we remain weak and beaten. How can we forget and
forgive those who never stop killing?
Dr. Farrokhroo Parsa
In her last message from her
prison cell, Dr. Parsa she addressed her children: “I am
a doctor so I have no fear of death. Death is only a moment and
am prepared to receive death with open arms rather than live in
shame by being forced to be veiled. I am not going to bow to
those who expect me to express regret for fifty years of my efforts
for equality between men and women. I am not prepared to wear
the chador and step back in history.”
True reconciliation does not consist in merely forgetting
Nelson Mandela in his speech. January 7th, 1996.