Women’s rights activist Darya Safai (pronounced safa-ee) has become the first Iranian immigrant to enter the Belgian parliament, after winning a seat in the country’s national elections.
Following a final count on Sunday, May 27, she was elected to the Chamber of Representatives in Brussels, representing center-right Flemish-separatist party, the N-VA (New Flemish Alliance).
Born in Iran in 1975, the 44-year-old left in 1999 following the brutally suppressed student protests of that year.
She, along with her husband and fellow civil rights activist, Saeed Bashirtash, was detained and later released on bail.
The couple fled Iran to Belgium via neighboring Turkey. In her absence, a Revolutionary Court sentenced her to two years.
In Belgium she continued her studies and became a dentist.
Safai remained an outspoken advocate of women’s rights and in 2014 launched a campaign to highlight Iran’s ban on women spectators at stadiums, launching #LetIranianWomenEnterTheirStadiums.
She has repeatedly used Iran’s stadium ban as a symbol of one of the many discriminations faced by Iranian women.
During a volleyball match featuring Iran’s men’s team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Safai was pictured holding a “Let Iranian women enter their stadiums” banner, standing firm in the face of officials who rushed to ask her to desist.
She gained international attention as she revealed the banner at other events at the Games.
In December 2016, Safai was awarded the title “Women Of Peace” by the Belgian Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities at the Belgian Senate, for her efforts in promoting for women’s rights.