Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency reported last week that Shahla Sherkat , editor of “Zanan-e Emruz,” will be put on trial by Iran’s Press Court on September 7. Fars, said to be close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), did not provide details about the charges against Sherkat.
The report has led to concern that action could be taken to shut down the monthly devoted to women’s issues.
Sherkat, whose previous publication was shut down under the administration of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, has not publicly commented on the report.
A Tehran-based journalist who used to work with “Zanan-e Emruz” confirmed in an interview with RFE/RL that the Fars report was accurate.
The journalist, who requested anonymity, said that the case against Sherkat appears to be based on a complaint related to the monthly’s first issue, which came out in May.
Previously, Sherkat published Iran’s leading women’s magazine “Zanan” (” Women”) for 16 years. Authorities revoked the magazine’s license in 2008 for offering “a somber picture of the Islamic republic” and publishing “morally questionable information.”
In a 2009 piece, Sherkat wrote that the work of “Zanan” journalists reflected the problems and needs of women, with the aim of trying to build awareness and find solutions.
“To prevent our revelations about women and their issues from disturbing the public’s consciousness, ‘Zanan’ was closed,” she wrote.
Sherkat has been accused by hard-liners of continuing her work through “Zanan-e Emruz” and of spreading feminist ideas, which they believe are contrary to Islamic principles.
Even before it hit the newsstands on May 28, the monthly came under criticism from conservative websites and media outlets, which blasted its existence as a “failure” by the government of President Hassan Rohani.
Rohani has called for gender equality and promised Iranians more freedom, and the publishing of “Zanan-e Emrouz” had created hope for women’s rights advocates in the Islamic republic.
“While feminist views are in clear opposition to the Koran, the government has given license for the renewed publishing of a banned feminist magazine under a new name,”
When “Zanan-e Emruz” was launched, Iran’s state-controlled television asked whether granting a publishing license to Sherkat was in line with Iran’s interests, given her “background and deviant views.”
“Seven years after the closing down of the ‘Zanan’ magazine managed by a woman with feminist and Western views, a magazine with a different title yet run by the same woman has today been authorized for publication,” said the state television report.
‘Assault’ On Women’s Rights
The attacks by hard-line media have continued, including by the influential “Kayhan” daily, which claimed Sherkat works on feminist issues with groups opposed to the Islamic establishment.
Another conservative outlet, mashreghnews.ir, said Sherkat’s background and past work is the main reason for the objections to “Zanan-e Emrouz.”
The report said the worldview of Sherkat and other editors of “Zanan” were shaped by Western views of women, which, the website said, differ significantly from Islamic teachings.
“Because of the influence from feminist movements in the West, religion is being cited as one of the obstacles to achievement of women’s rights,” the June 3 report said.
The website also published an old photo of Sherkat sitting next to self-exiled Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who’s come under fire from hard-liners for her human-rights activities.
Susan Tahmasebi, a well-known Iranian women’s rights activist, says Sherkat has always been very mindful of the many red lines in the Islamic republic, especially with regard to female civil liberties, which have always been a sensitive issue.
She says “Zanan-e Emrouz” covers the issues and problems of concern to women in a “moderate manner.”
“‘Zana-e Emruz’ has become a space for Iranian women to discuss and reflect on women’s issues,” she says. “It reflects the concerns of half of the country’s population.”
Tahmasebi believes the outcry over Sherkat and her publication are “an assault” on women’s rights.
“The men who try to stifle her or others similar to her should really keep in mind that these are demands and issues that their family members, their wives, their mothers, their sisters, and their daughters are dealing with, and just suppressing them is not going to make them go away,” said Tahmasebi, who lives in the United States.
Among stories the monthly has covered since its launch are an interview with Indian American novelist Jhumpa Lahiri, a discussion with Iranian author Goli Taraghi, a report about Iran’s ban preventing women from entering sports stadiums, and an interview with prominent human-rights defender Emad Baghi regarding a campaign to end executions.
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