Saturday, June 2, 2012

Farideh Mashini and the Fate of Women's Studies

Iranian universities have  provided post graduate degrees in the field of Women's Studies since 1998. The MA degree program was established by the efforts of both academicians and civil society. The non-governmental Institute for Women's Studies and Research , of which I have been a founding and trustees member, had an instrumental role in proposing the degree and preparing its curriculum in 1996. I was part of that effort and we had proposed at least three branches for the degree program, including women's rights in Islam, family studies, social roles of women.  After approval in 1998, many students studied in this field during the past decade . Recently, during a major review and restructuring of  Human Sciences in Iran, which has been conducted with a certain ideological and political mentality, the Women's Studies degree has been changed to Women's Rights in Islam, thereby limiting the focus of the studies and courses provided. Since the initial attempt had been to delete the degree program in total , this seems to be a compromise to keep the program, but in a controlled manner that would subside the worries of certain conservative groups about the so called Feminist ideology that might permeate and poison such courses. The reality is that an academic approach should enable familiarity with all lines of thought in a particular field,  for only after such an approach would it be possible to make scholarly and unbiased comparisons and appraisals of each school of thought. This is the approach that Islamic leaders and scholars have historically  promoted based on the teachings of the religion.

We have lost a renown woman activist and Quranic researcher, and one of the early graduates in the    Women's Studies program.  Farideh Mashini (1960) died of cancer on Wednesday, after a long struggle against the disease. Farideh is well known among women activists for her dedication to the cause and for her support for the families of political prisoners particularly after the disputed elections of 2009. Mrs. Mashini was briefly arrested in 2009 and interrogated later as well.  Farideh had since several decades, convened sessions for the exegisis of the Holy Quran , particularly on women's rights and status. She was known for her progressive views and insight on these matters. She was a member of the board of the Institute for Women's Studies and has contributed to Farzaneh Journal of Women's Studies  Farideh has also written many research articles and contributed to many national and international conferences. She was one the Muslim Students Following the Line of Imam in 1979 .
We all pray that her soul rest in peace and eternal happiness.

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