Telling the Stories of Iranian Women's Lives: 'Anyone Who Did Research on Women's Issues Benefitted from Hundreds of Articles, Stories and Interviews That Were Featured in Zanan
Sherkat, Shahla, Nieman Reports
It was 10 years old and every week my mother would buy Zan-e Rooz (Today's Woman), Iran's highest circulation women-oriented publication, from the neighborhood newsstand. She always said that when I read a magazine I can speak better. My sisters and I would wait for the magazine every Saturday, and I particularly enjoyed reading its illustrated stories.
In those childhood days I never imagined that I would one day become the chief editor of that magazine. For me, that job seemed like a succulent fruit on an out-of-reach branch, one that a small girl like me could not possibly reach. So when at 21 my sister called to ask if I wanted to be a journalist, I suddenly felt that the missing piece to the puzzle of my being had been discovered. Without hesitation I began to make my quiet and snail-paced move into the world of women's press.
For a decade I slowly and incessantly traveled this road, and with each issue of Zan-e Rooz published-despite our many limitations--we paved a rocky road smooth, so that the women's movement in Iran could progress along it. When accused of "promoting modernist, Westernized and feminist tendencies,' I was fired from the semipublic organization that published Zan-e Rooz.
However, I did not step aside from women-related journalism. Without hesitating, I set out to publish Zanan (Women) magazine for which I became the license holder. With greater control and speed, I was moving forward. Now I was in the arena of maximum expression of views and desires of women no matter their ideology, perspective, taste and approach. And our magazine welcomed them, not just a minority of women who had official legitimacy and whose thoughts and needs coincided with commonly prescribed standards.
Along this road, new pathways opened one by one. Women, as well as concerned and well-skilled men, warmly greeted my attempt to publish a magazine that searched for solutions to the problems women confronted in intellectual, social, legal, political, educational and other arenas. At Zanan, we practiced collective work, democracy and tolerance for opposing views. Our governing principle was the elimination of sexism and the gaining of understanding of the problems facing women working in double shifts in public and private spheres. Zanan did not discourage anyone whose goal was to flourish; everyone could grow in accordance with her talents and capabilities. There was no place for hopelessness. Our answer to self-doubt in the fulfillment of objectives was "nothing is impossible."
This intimate, unified and collaborative family worked--or, better put, lived--together for 16 years. …