Hashemi, Faezeh (1962–)

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Hashemi, Faezeh

Faezeh Hashemi (Faezeh Hashemi Bahrami, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani) is an Iranian politician and social activist known equally for her audacious work on behalf of women and social reform as she is for being the younger daughter of powerful politician and former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Faezeh Hashemi served one term in Iran's Majles (parliament) and has been active in both the governmental and nongovern-mental sectors as an advocate for change. She is often categorized as an Islamic feminist as a result of her call for reforms within a framework that argues the compatibility between Islam and women's rights.


Born in 1962, Hashemi entered public life at a relatively young age. She first rose to major national recognition as a political figure during the 1996 parliamentary elections, when she succeeded in winning a seat as a Tehran representative in the Fifth Majles. She ran as the only woman listed with the Kargozaran-e Sazandegi (Servants of the Construction), a party whose origins trace to her father, the president of Iran at that time. As a result of factional struggles with a hardliner coalition, Rafsanjani had approved the formation of the moderate rightist coalition that became the Servants of the Construction party.

In her early thirties at the time of the election campaigns, Hashemi's energetic style and bold agendas

for reform garnered much attention from supporters and detractors alike. In the lead-up to the elections, Hashemi ran a spirited campaign advocating for women's rights and stressing the importance of women's involvement in sports and in the public sphere. Although she adhered to the convention of women political figures wearing the black chador, she added the flair of donning patterned scarves and casual clothing beneath it. Her campaign style and platform greatly angered conservatives who attempted to variously disrupt her rallies and events held in her support. Announced election results showed that she had received the second-highest votes in Tehran after the conservative candidate and ranking cleric Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding her successful bid for Majles, Hashemi's parliamentary tenure was filled with disappointments and defeats. Startled by the surprise 1997 victory of Reformist president mohammad khatami and the support he seemed to have among members of the Majles, hard-liners in the government pursued a number of tactics to undermine changes proposed by Khatami and reform-minded parliamentarians. Hashemi and her allies were unable to prevent the ratification of a number of bills drafted by ultraconservatives targeting women. One such bill prohibited doctors from treating patients of the opposite gender and another attempted to curtail the press from running features and debates on women's issues. Although neither of these laws was ultimately implemented, their ratification in 1998 was demoralizing for Majles members who failed to bock its passage.


Name: Faezeh Hashemi (Faezeh Hashemi Bahrami, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani)

Birth: 1962, Iran

Family: Married with children

Nationality: Iranian

Education: B.A. in political science & business administration; master's in international law; some training at the University of Tehran in science of sports education.


  • 1992: Founder and president of Islamic Countries Women's Sports Solidarity Council.
  • 1996: Election to Iran's Majles; founder and chief editor of Zan, Iran's first ever daily women's newspaper; managing director of communication network of women's NGOs; vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee

Although Hashemi had been aligned with many reformist elements in attempting to forestall conservative obstacles to change, she lost the support of most reformists and their constituents by the time of the 2000 Majles elections. The main reason for this was linked to her father's decision to enter the race as a candidate. Rafsan-jani's disputes with conservatives in the lead-up to the previous elections had made the former appear as a relative reformer, but the rise of Khatami and a new breed of emboldened reformists resulted in a reconciliation between the two. Hard-liners backed the entrance of Rafsanjani into the parliamentary race, igniting fierce debates and exchanges between the conservative and reformist press. Faezeh Hashemi sided with her father, thereby completely alienating almost of all of her allies in the reformist camp. Both she and her father ran on the list of the Kargozaran-e Sazandegi party. Rafsanjani came in thirtieth out of the thirty seats allotted to Tehran, but Hashemi failed to rewin her seat, thus ending her tenure as a member of the Majles. Her unsuccessful bid for reelection and her father's poor showing were widely regarded as a humiliation for both the powerful former president and his daughter, who only several years earlier were among the country's most popular figures.


Despite having an independent spirit and having at times taken different positions than him, Hashemi seems to have been greatly influenced by her father, an alliance with whom cost her reelection to the Majles. He facilitated her entry into the public arena, and was supportive of many of her projects, including her contributions to the promotion of Muslim women in sports.

Hashemi advocated for advancing women in sports both before and during her election to the Majles. She is well known for her successful campaigns to allow women to bike in public in Iran. She served as a member of Iran's High Council of Sports and she also founded and presided over the Islamic Countries Women's Sports Solidarity Council. She has also served as the vice president of the Iranian Olympic Committee. In addition, she was involved in the planning of the Islamic Countries' Women's Sports Solidarity Games, which took place in 1993. Hashemi's opening speech at the games stressed the compatibility of their athletic activities with the values of Islam and noted the importance of sports for the health, strength, and joy of Muslim women.

In 1996 Hashemi joined her father and then-president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on a six-nation tour of Africa. Faezeh Hashemi took the trip as an opportunity for promoting Muslim women in sports and advertising the achievements of Iranian women in this regard. While on the trip, she encouraged other Muslim countries to follow Iranian women's achievements in athletics and offered the help of Iranian women coaches and referees. After her tenure as a member of the Majles, Hashemi remained active in promoting Muslim women's participation in sports.

Hashemi has also been influenced by and contributed to discourses of Islamic feminism. In July 1998 Hashemi launched Iran's first ever women's daily newspaper, Zan (Woman). In addition to providing information, the paper provided a forum wherein women could voice their concerns and express their reflections on social and political developments. Its editorials included criticisms of child-custody laws, stoning as a form of punishment allowed in the constitution, and other repressive legal or social practices applied to women in discriminatory ways. Although the focus of the publication was on women's issues, the paper also attempted to engage a mixed audience by contextualizing the aims of the women's movement in terms of the broader goals of strengthening civil society and working for better civil liberties in Iran.

Prior to the 1998 election of Majles Khobregan (the Assembly of Experts), Zan launched a campaign to encourage women's participation as candidates. The Majles Khobregan is an important body elected for eight-year terms by the public and mandated by the Iranian constitution to supervise, elect, and dismiss the supreme leader. Hashemi's father is a powerful member of the Assembly of Experts. Zan's campaigning on behalf of women's candidacy in the elections resulted in 10 women running in competition with 368 men. The candidacy of the women was rejected on grounds that Iran's constitution does not allow women to be part of this assembly.


Shahla Sherkat (1956–) is an Iranian journalist, publisher, and women's rights activist who is best known as the founder and publisher of Zanan (Women) magazine. Prior to the founding of Zanan in 1992, Sherkat was the editor of Zan-e Ruz (Today's woman) magazine. In 1990s Iran, Zanan was instrumental in including women and their demands in developing discourses about civil society and civil liberties. Sherkat took as her task the reconciliation of Islam with feminism. The magazine drew from and collaborated with a range of intellectuals and feminists, with a secularist female lawyer, Mehrangiz Kar and cleric Seyyed Mohsen making regular contributions during the publication's early years. In the lead-up to the 1997 presidential elections, Zanan played an important role in endorsing Mohammad Khatami as the candidate for gender equality while casting his opponent, the conservative Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, who was favored to win, as being against it. The Iranian women's vote in those elections is widely noted as a main contributing factor to Khatami's surprise victory. Like many other publishers and journalists with reformist leanings, Sherkat has been the target of hard-liners.

Despite the important role it played in shaping the pertinent discourses of the day, the paper would not escape the fate that would was to befall the majority of newly budding publications that were singled out by conservatives in an attempt to undermine the agenda of President Khatami and the reformist press. In January 1999, Zan was suspended for a two-week period on grounds that it had defamed police intelligence Chief General Mohammad Naghdi. As owner and editor-in-chief, Hashemi was fined about 1,500,000 rials (approximately US$170) in connection with the charge. Less than a year after it was created, the Revolutionary Court ordered that the paper be shut down on the offense of having published an Iranian New Year's greeting to the people of Iran from Farah Diba Pahlavi, the exiled widow of the former shah of Iran. In defense of her paper, Hashemi took her case to court, but neither her efforts nor those of the reformist press speaking in her support were sufficient in saving the daily. Eight and a half years after her publication was closed for good, branch 1083 of Iran's public courts acquitted Hashemi of charges that Zan newspaper had insulted and published lies about the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces.

In additions to her contributions in the arena of the press and women and sports Hashemi created Komisione Banoaan (Women's Committees) in a number of Iran's cities as part of her activities in working toward the achievement of women's rights. The committees were created with the goal of bringing women's issues to the attention of city mayors. Perhaps more importantly, the committees aimed at promoting and integrating women's involvement in political, social, and cultural developments. She has worked as the director of Mehr White Home nongovernmental (NGO) and has served as the managing director of Communication Network of Women's NGOs in Iran. Hashemi's pursuit of various projects within the framework of Islam has been credited with mobilizing women from religious classes toward participating in projects of women's rights.


On the world stage, Hashemi has been most recognized in connection with her contributions to promoting Muslim women in sports. The Islamic Countries Women's Sports Solidarity Games that she was instrumental in establishing are officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee and have been held every four years since 1993. During the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, Hashemi was recognized as a leader in the promotion of women's sports.


Hashemi's spirited campaign for the fifth Majles and her brave pronouncements advocating for women's rights blazed the trail for other women to make more radical expressions of reform. Indeed, while Hashemi herself failed to win reelection, many such women with bolder ideas for reform successfully took seats in the Majles. Her successful lobbying on behalf of Iranian and other Mus-lim women's participation in sports have to led to what seem to be enduring establishments and precedence for continuing to make strides in this regard.


Halgraves, Jennifer. "The Muslim Female Heroic: Shorts or Veils." In Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity. London: Routledge, 2001.

Mir-Hosseini, Ziba. "The Rise and Fall of Fa'ezeh Hashemi: Women in Iranian Elections." Middle East Report 218 (Spring 2001): 8-11.

Povey, Elahe Rostam. "Feminist Contestations of Institutional Domains in Iran." Feminist Review 69, no. 1 (2001): 44-72.

                                            Niki Akhavan