Shaparak Shajarizadeh speaks up on women's rights and compulsory hijab laws in Iran

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Shaparak Shajarizadeh, Iranian women's rights activist. Image: Gilad Cohen

Few countries have as complicated a political history as Iran, yet the government has been consistent in creating laws that undermine women's equality. For many Iranian activists, the hijab is the embodiment of that inequality. Prior to the revolution, the hijab was banned in an effort to modernize the country. After the revolution, compulsory hijab laws were put in place that can result in prison time.

Shaparak Shajarizadeh is one of the many women affected by these changes. Named by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential and inspirational women, Shaparak was a leader of the Girls of Revolution Street and the White Wednesday movement, where she and many other women removed their hijab in public in an act of defiance against these laws, hoping to create an Iran that embraces a woman’s right to self-determination.

However, few understand the sacrifices that Shaparak has made, not only through her prison time and alienation from friends and family, but also through a national campaign in Iran to portray her as an enemy of the people. This forced Shaparak to leave with her son for Toronto and avoid the persecution of other movement leaders. Despite these setbacks, Shaparak has continued to work tirelessly to bring change to Iran.

Shaparak joins hosts Gilad Cohen and Simona Ramkisson to discuss Iran's gender dynamics, her struggles with survivor's guilt, and what Canada's role should be in promoting gender equality.

Download the episode transcript here.

Hosted by Gilad Cohen (Founder, JAYU) and Simona Ramkisson, produced and edited by Brandon Fragomeni and Alex Castellani. Associate producer: Ron Ma.

Image: Gilad Cohen.

Theme music created for The Hum by Jeff Morrow.

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