Zanan, Iran’s Leading Women’s Magazine, Shut Down by Government

February 8, 2008

In a significant setback for the women’s movement in Iran, the Press Supervisory Board of Iran backed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, revoked the license of Zanan, the country’s most prominent and important women’s magazine. Zanan, which means “women” in Persian, is a monthly magazine dedicated to the reporting and analysis of women’s issues, problems, and achievements.

After 16 years of publication, Zanan's founder Shahla Sherkat has been accused of "offering a dark picture of the Islamic Republic through the pages of Zanan" and of "compromising the psyche and the mental health" of its readers by providing them with "morally questionable information."

To learn more about the revocation of the license of the only publication inside Iran that speaks for equal rights and gender justice, please read the articles and statement below.

For more information about the women’s human rights situation in Iran, click here.

The Attempted Silencing of Zanan by Farideh Farhi provides more details about the events surrounding Zanan’s license revocation.

Equality at Half Mast by Margot Badran in Arabic and Turkish laments the recent closing down of Zanan.

Statement by Professor Nayereh Tohidi, California State University

Dear colleagues and friends,

As you might have already heard, on January 28, 2008, the Press Supervisory Board of Iran backed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has announced revocation of the license of Zanan magazine, Iran's most prominent and important feminist journal.

Published since February 1992, Zanan (meaning women in Persian) is an independent monthly magazine dedicated to the reporting and analysis of women’s issues, problems and achievements. It has many thousands of subscribers in different provinces of Iran and also among diaspora circles. Zanan’s survival for 16 years (152 issues published as of January 2008) against financial difficulties and political pressures is a remarkable record of success in the history of Iran’s usually short-lived independent publications in general and of its women’s publications in particular. Zanan has provided a pluralist forum for women’s voices from diverse ideological and cultural backgrounds. Zanan’s license holder, editor and manager, Shahla Sherkat (recipient of the international award for Courage in Journalism), has represented a gradual shift among numerous Muslim women activists from radical Islamism to a liberal spiritualism and egalitarian reformism and pragmatic feminism. Zanan’s agenda has not been limited to an egalitarian reinterpretation of the Islamic canon. Each issue includes enlightening sections on social problems and contentious issues; theoretical debates, interviews, and cultural studies; legal advice; feminist critique of law, literature and films; health issues, sports, and leisure; labor and business; introduction of new books; and international as well as national news pertaining to women.

According to some activists, events that have taken shape since the license revocation of Zanan suggest that the decision might have been motivated more by the personal and ideological animosity of a few individual members and not the whole Press Supervisory Board. It is suspected that individuals identified as supporters of President Ahmadinejad are tying to give the impression of a fait accompli without the legal authority to do so or even without the support of other institutions and individuals in charge of supervising the press.

Therefore, to save Zanan from a permanent shut down, it is imperative to wage a vigorous national and international campaign in support of this magazine that is now the sole print tribune left inside Iran to speak for equal rights and gender justice.

On behalf of Shahla Sherkat and Zanan’s dedicated staff (over a dozen wonderful women and men journalists who are about to lose not only their jobs but probably also their high spirit for change), and many thousands of Zanan’s readers, I appeal to you for your support. To help you with the work, I will send you more needed information and a short suggested statement (to be prepared by a few of us in close contact with Zanan) hoping you will endorse it in support of this magazine. I am sure many among you scholars and advocates of human/women rights who are knowledgeable about Iran have already known of Zanan and do appreciate its significant role in the process of cultural construction toward equal rights, civil society, and democracy in Iran.

Nayereh Tohidi

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