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Women at forefront of Iranian protests says Nafisi

Iranian born literary scholar Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and the new memoir Things I've been Silent About says women have been at the forefront of Iranian election protests because they've suffered the most under the fundamentalist turn of Islamic rule by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and stand to lose the most under any further crackdown by his regime.
Nafisi, who is currently a professor at John's Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and will visit Buffalo next March to appear in the Babel Series, spoke with WBUR in Boston's Robin Young on the NPR program "Here & Now" on Monday.  You can stream audio of the 14 minute interview at Rundown 6/22 | Here and Now
Among highlights of the interview are Nafisi's discussion of two women who are likely to be forever associated with the protests and Iranian government's brutal response to it: Neda Agha-Soltan, a 26 year old philosophy student at Tehran's Azad University who was targeted and shot in the chest by a pro-government militia on Saturday and whose last moments on earth were captured in a horrific amateur cell phone video that has been seen by tens of millions of millions around the world, and Zahra Rahnavard, the wife of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whose visibility in her husband's campaign and achievements as a scholar and chancellor of Alzahra University in Tehran were attacked as an inappropriate model for Islamic womanhood during the campaign by Ahmadinejad.

Nafasi also tells why the Scheherazade story is misinterpreted in the West as solely about the power of erotic imagination, whereas in original Farsi it is primarily moral and even political education that is the primary objective of the eventual Persian queen during her One Thousand and One Nights of storytelling.  As in her writings, Nafasi offers a compelling critique of both fundamentalist Islam and the West's simplistic view of the role of women in the Islamic world.
After listening to this, you'll understand why Nafisi has become one of the most sought after thinkers and speakers of our increasingly globalized era.  Tickets for her March 5th lecture and discussion at Kleinhans are still available, but probably won't be for long.
--R.D. Pohl



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