The Showroom
Event

Symposium: When does a Revolution Start? Part II

Saturday 19 September 2015, 12–5pm

Free, tickets available via Eventbrite

This is an event to accompany the exhibition Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979.

02030

‘Women have been veiled and unveiled by force but they will remain enfolded and covered by physical and psychological traces of their modes of acceptance or rejection of the veil’ - Farzaneh Milani.

The condition of unveiling (1936) or veiling (1979) has been imposed on women in Iran by political powers for the last 80 years, as a result women have been deeply concerned with the notions of exposure and concealment for some time. What should be remembered is that, whilst these physical conditions appeared overnight, the individual psychological and emotional response has obviously not followed the same timeline. Farzaneh Milani’s description of women responding to veiling in its physical and metaphorical forms brings to attention a very contemporary concern surrounding veiling.

The unique photographs by Hengameh Golestan show women protesting on the 8th of March 1979, after Ruhollah Khomeini’s decree on the compulsory hijab. This is the most important day of the feminist movement in Iran where women spontaneously came out onto the streets to protest against the decision.

This two-day symposium at The Showroom will address different works and discourses around this period of history and its resonances today. It will focus on discussions around gender, protest and representation through academic papers and artistic practices responding to the event and to start mapping a wider understanding.

Part I was held at The Showroom on 5 September 2015.

Programme

12–1pm: Dr. Ziba Mir-hosseini, Changing Politics of Iranian Women.

Since the 1979 Revolution, Iranian women’s activism has conventionally been viewed as a polarized conflict between ‘secular’ and ‘Islamic’ ideologies and forces. This view, I contend, masks the real struggle, which has been between ideologies and practices of despotism and patriarchy, on the one hand, and those of democracy, pluralism and gender equality on the other. A growing popular understanding of the nature of this real battle has been one of many unintended consequences of the merger of religion and state in post-revolutionary Iran. In this light, I place the changing nature of Iranian women’s activism and gender consciousness in the wider context of the socio-political developments that by 2009 led to the emergence of the Green Movement – a civil rights movement with women at the forefront.

1–2pm: Screening of Nooshin Farhid, Shallow Water, Deep Skin.

The main video work Shallow Water, Deep Skin has as its focus a single character – the political activist and entomologist Shahin Nawai. Shahin was until recently undertaking research at The Museum of Natural History in Berlin where she worked for a number of years. In tandem with her entomological work in Tehran University Shahin was a founder member of the largest women’s organisation in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian revolution 1979. The organisation was a platform for women to mobilise against the infringement of their rights by the Islamic government. She was forced to leave her country and live in exile. The work by Farhid explores two seemingly different and what might appear irreconcilable differences – the scientific study of the insect world
and the world of political activism. Her approach is to explore, from the outset two historically familiar paradigms of activity, and, as distinct paradigms, establish their frameworks, terms of reference, and boundaries. The video explores these perceived boundaries and introduces elements of fantasy and imagination into their individually complex narratives. What emerges is a set of fragmented narratives that intersect and interweave through these boundary laden activities, breaking down their homogeneity and opening up new spaces of conceptual potential. There are elements of conflict, humour, fear and pure documentation drawn together from the process of precision editing of visual and textual material derived from a range of sources including original footage filmed in Berlin, Scotland, Suffolk and Oxfordshire.

2–2.30pm: Break

2.30–3.30pm: Shahin Nawai, National Unity of Women.

3.30-4.30: Panel discussion: Shahin Nawai, Nooshin Fahrid, Ziba Mir-hosseini chaired by Azadeh Fatehrad and Louise Shelley.

5pm: End

Programme

12–1pm: Dr. Ziba Mir-hosseini, Changing Politics of Iranian Women.

Since the 1979 Revolution, Iranian women’s activism has conventionally been viewed as a polarized conflict between ‘secular’ and ‘Islamic’ ideologies and forces. This view, I contend, masks the real struggle, which has been between ideologies and practices of despotism and patriarchy, on the one hand, and those of democracy, pluralism and gender equality on the other. A growing popular understanding of the nature of this real battle has been one of many unintended consequences of the merger of religion and state in post-revolutionary Iran. In this light, I place the changing nature of Iranian women’s activism and gender consciousness in the wider context of the socio-political developments that by 2009 led to the emergence of the Green Movement – a civil rights movement with women at the forefront.

1–2pm: Screening of Nooshin Farhid, Shallow Water, Deep Skin.

The main video work Shallow Water, Deep Skin has as its focus a single character – the political activist and entomologist Shahin Nawai. Shahin was until recently undertaking research at The Museum of Natural History in Berlin where she worked for a number of years. In tandem with her entomological work in Tehran University Shahin was a founder member of the largest women’s organisation in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian revolution 1979. The organisation was a platform for women to mobilise against the infringement of their rights by the Islamic government. She was forced to leave her country and live in exile. The work by Farhid explores two seemingly different and what might appear irreconcilable differences – the scientific study of the insect world
and the world of political activism. Her approach is to explore, from the outset two historically familiar paradigms of activity, and, as distinct paradigms, establish their frameworks, terms of reference, and boundaries. The video explores these perceived boundaries and introduces elements of fantasy and imagination into their individually complex narratives. What emerges is a set of fragmented narratives that intersect and interweave through these boundary laden activities, breaking down their homogeneity and opening up new spaces of conceptual potential. There are elements of conflict, humour, fear and pure documentation drawn together from the process of precision editing of visual and textual material derived from a range of sources including original footage filmed in Berlin, Scotland, Suffolk and Oxfordshire.

2–2.30pm: Break

2.30–3.30pm: Shahin Nawai, National Unity of Women.

3.30-4.30: Panel discussion: Shahin Nawai, Nooshin Fahrid, Ziba Mir-hosseini chaired by Azadeh Fatehrad and Louise Shelley.

5pm: End

Dr. Ziba Mir-Hosseini is a legal anthropologist, specializing in Islamic law, gender and development, and a founding member of the Musawah Global Movement for Equality and Justice in the Muslim Family (www.musawah.org). She is the 2015 recipient of the American Academy of Religion’s Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion. Currently a Professorial Research Associate at the Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, University of London, she has held numerous research fellowships and visiting professorships. She has published books on Islamic family law in Iran and Morocco, Iranian clerical discourses on gender, Islamic reformist thinkers, and the revival of zina laws. She has also co-directed two award-winning feature-length documentary films on Iran: Divorce Iranian Style (1998) and Runaway (2001). Her latest books are Gender and Equality in Muslim Family Law: Justice and Ethics in the Islamic Legal Tradition, edited with Lena Larsen, Christian Moe and Kari Vogt (I. B. Tauris, 2013); Men in charge? Rethinking Authority in Muslim Legal Tradition, edited with Mulki Al- Sharmani and Jana Rumminger (Oneworld, 2015). www.zibamirhosseini.com

Shahin Nawai was born and studied in Tehran, Iran. In a country that any independent social activities was very difficult or impossible. That time we had only one woman organization which was related to the government under leadership of Shah’s sister. Started the social activity with student movement in Tehran University at the age of 18th. Started to work as researcher in an Institute with BS degree, and experienced the women’s discrimination at work and unequal payment. And for this reason left this institute after 3 years and started to work in Tehran University as research & teaching assistant. The attitude toward women was better in Tehran University. During 70s went to USA to study PhD, and got acquainted to the women’s movement, and with the help of few other women established a study group among Iranian students. At the time of Iranian revolution in 1979, Shahin went back to Iran, and with other 24 women started to discuss about an independent woman organization. During the March 8th uprising of women against compulsory Hijab, we all participated in the protest for a week (8th to 14th of March, 1979), and tried to learn from 10000s courageous women and their slogans on the streets of Tehran. Three weeks after this event with more women after several gathering, we established an independent organization and named it: “Etehade Meli Zanan” (National Unity of Women) which became the biggest woman organization with many members and five branches in other cities. The first office of “Etehad Meli Zanan” was very active till the first wave of repression on August 1979 which became unsaved for all. The office moved to another building with more security to the end of its activities, few months after the second and hard wave of repression on 1982. Shahin like many other activists forced to leave Iran illegally. In exile started to organize a group with few other women in different cities of European countries to share the activities on 1984. We sent two representatives to the “Second International Women Conference of UN in Nairobi, Kenya on 1985. Ten years later many of us were able to attend the third 6 UN conference in Beijing, China on 1995. Shahin is active in different international and national women organizations and attended many conferences and seminars in European countries, USA and Canada.

Nooshin Farhid was born in Tehran, Iran and nowlives and works in London. Her work is primarily concerned with the moving image, which takes the form of single screen works, installations, interventions and animation, still photography and the production of texts. She approaches film as collage, working with on and offline material and with editing and animation techniques alike. Narratives emerge through this process of visual and audio ‘realignment’. Her written texts oscillate between the poetic and the factual, the personal and the philosophic, recited by actors in the form of voiceovers and overlaid onto a composed soundtrack created by the artist. The spoken word weaves the fragmented narratives together contextually and rhythmically. Farhid makes distinctive use of filmic genres and tropes. Nonetheless film is not a primary concern, but the portrayal of the human condition both in a direct documentary format and an allegorical style. www.nooshinfarhid.com

Azadeh Fatehrad is an artist and researcher currently based at the Photography programme of the Royal College of Art, London. Her research engages with the feminist history of Iran from 1909 to the present. Her projects explore still and moving image archives investigating the ways in which the feminist movement has been expanded among urban middle class women in her home country of Iran. Fatehrad has exhibited her work internationally in London, Vancouver, New York and Tehran. www.azadehfatehrad.com

  1. Ps
    Video New film looking at The Showroom's local work

  2. Hg1
    Exhibition Hengameh Golestan: Witness 1979

  3. 02031
    Event Open discussion with Hengameh Golestan, Azadeh Fatehrad, The Showroom and Justice for Domestic Workers

  4. 02032
    Event Reading Group with Azadeh Fatehrad and Louise Shelley

  5. Hiddenfaces
    Event Screening: Hidden Faces by Kim Longinotto

  6. 02030
    Event Symposium: When does a Revolution Start? Part I