Across the secular-religious divide
Reading Parvin Paidar's book, I found my purpose in life
October 25, 2005
The very sad news of Dr Paidar's passing moved me tremendously even though I did not know her personally, but her work had inspired me ever since I was an undergraduate student.
Hence, with this note, I would like to convey my heartfelt condolences to her entire family, and all her devoted colleagues. I would like to thank Dr Tohidi for passing on the very sad news in such an inspirational and celebratory way in "Nimeye Paidar". We have indeed lost one of our most brilliant, fair-minded and dedicated feminist scholars. It can only be hoped that other Parvins can fly over our horizon to give us hope and wisdom.
It was only on Friday last week (3 days ago) that I sent an e-mail to a Tehran-based feminist quoting from Dr Paidar's work, and giving references to her outstanding 1995 book Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran (Cambridge University Press, 1995) hoping women were reading it in Iran.
I had been eager to read more books and papers by her, in vain for sometime. Only now I know why she wasn't writing... Alas, I wished I had been able to tell her how inspiring she has been, and how brilliantly she mapped the Iranian women's history, and showed us all that there is hope despite our differences and problems.
Dr Paidar, among other eminent Iranian women's studies scholars, firmly laid Iranian women's history/development plight on the academic/development map, and sparked a movement in Western universities/development agencies which is unstoppable now! Her work is an ocean of wisdom; gives one pride in women's scholarship; and is a powerful tool in Iranian women's struggle for justice and equality.
Personally, having grown up outside Iran, and having had "inferior and inconsistent" images of the Iranian resistance to tyranny during my childhood and early adulthood, her work made me feel otherwise. In her book Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran, I found someone who was objective, sharp, sincere and inspirational... How refreshing and liberating it was to discover this as a young second-generation Iranian student!
She opened up a very difficult path for others to follow... it was perhaps in her writings that I first understood that as feminists it is vital for us to work across the secular/religious divide and let go of political sectarianism. This is her legacy to me, a mere student.
In my opinion to truly celebrate her work, we MUST reach out to women and men in Iran who have an egalitarian consciousness, regardless of their political and religious affiliations. We must find peace, unity, strength and understanding within this group before we can lay our ideals bare before those we truly disagree with.
I wrote a very simple undergraduate essay years ago titled, 'Discuss the "boom" in prose writing by Iranian women authors in the 1990s within the context of the situation of women in contemporary Iran' which drew a great deal from Dr Paidar's wonderful book Women and the Political Process in Twentieth Century Iran. Before writing this piece of coursework, I had been a middle-range student, not overly enthusiastic about much in life... writing this essay changed my life, while preparing for it; I found my purpose in life.
Thank you Dr Paidar; rohetaan shaad.
I recommend reading an interview carried out by Roza Eftekhari during Dr Paidar's illness which is published in Zanan (in Farsi).
Golbarg Bashi is a PhD student at University of Bristol, UK.