Sadr, Shadi (1974–)

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Sadr, Shadi

Shadi Sadr is an Iranian women's rights activist who has played an important role in Iran since the 1990s. She is a lawyer, and she began her involvement with Iranian women's rights issues at fifteen. She is an active member of the Stop Stoning to Death Campaign and Iranian Women's Charter. She is the president of Raahi Legal Centre for Women and a freelance writer, contributing regularly for Shargh (East) newspaper and Zanan (Women), a feminist journal. Sadr also is a member of the Iran Bar Association and the Association of Iranian Journalists. She was the editor in chief of the Women in Iran Website, and currently she is the editor in chief of Meydaan (Women's Field) website, ( She has written numerous articles and is the author of two books on women and the law.


Sadr was born in 1974 in Tehran, Iran. She has a BA in law and an MA in international law from Tehran University. After she received her law degree in 1996, she became interested in women's issues. She wrote a daily column about women in the Yase Noo Newspaper. This was a period when the reform movement associated with President mohammad khatami's government was expanding. But the judiciary, controlled by the conservative clergy hostile to the reforms, closed many newspapers and journals. The newspapers in which Sadr had published were closed. When she began as a journalist, few journals were interested in women's issues. But her columns on women's rights issues proved so popular that all the journals that published her writings gave her space to write on women's rights issues. In 2002 she set up the Women in Iran Website, among the first communicating through a website in Iran. Her website became popular both within and outside of Iran.

She also has continued to work on women's rights and legal issues. In 2002 she presented at a seminar on the role of women in Islamic countries in Stockholm. She also participated in a panel discussion in Vienna at a conference organized by Women Without Borders in 2003. In 2004 she attended the Fourth World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, and participated in a panel discussion on Feminist Dialogue.


As the president of Raahi Legal Centre for Women, Sadr and her colleagues give free legal advice to women—especially those women subject to domestic and social violence. Through their efforts they succeeded in having the Iranian government suspend in 2003 the laws allowing for stoning to death. This achievement was more than just saving women's lives. They made women's rights issues a public concern to be addressed within Iranian society. Despite these advances, however, Sadr continues to battle the practice. In April 2006 she and her colleagues received information about one case of stoning to death and a few other cases where women and men were sentenced to stoning to death and were awaiting their trials.

Sadr and her colleagues led a campaign to stop this violent act. In a recent interview, Sadr asserted:

The majority of women and men who are subject to stoning to death are among the poorest section of the society. In some cases, male members of the family force women to become sex workers to pay for their drug addiction. In other cases, women are subject to domestic violence and forced marriages and as the result they kill their husbands. I believe that Islam is not against gender justice, therefore we can change anti-women laws and regulations.

Sadr and her colleagues have won the support of ordinary people and some government officials through their advocacy on this campaign. Some government officials argue that human rights abuses violate Islam. Others argue that stoning to death can be stopped as it was practiced in pre-Islamic societies. While Islamic peoples have allowed the practice of stoning to death historically, Islam does not require or condone the practice as a matter of moral teaching

Sadr also has been involved in a campaign to enable women to extend their citizenship and nationality rights to their children. In 2007 they succeeded in changing the law to allow Iranian women married to non-Iranian men to pass on their Iranian nationality and citizenship rights to their children under certain circumstances. The children must be born in Iran and live in Iran for eighteen years. On 8 March 2007 (International Women's Day) Sadr and thirty-two women activists were arrested. They were released on bail and await trial that could result in several months of imprisonment.


Name: Shadi Sadr

Birth: 1974, Tehran, Iran

Family: Husband, Hussein Nilchian; one daughter, Darya

Nationality: Iranian

Education: BA, MA, Tehran University


  • 2002–2006: Editor in chief of Women in Iran Website
  • 2004–present: President of Raahi Legal Centre for Women
  • 2004–present: Freelance writer
  • 2006–present: Founding member of Stop Stoning to Death Campaign and Women's Charter,


Although women in Iran have struggled for recognition of their civil rights since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, they have achieved a great deal. Prior to the early 1990s, women were not allowed to be judges and the law gave men the exclusive rights to obtain a divorce and gain custody of the children. Today successful pressure for the reform of family laws and regulations has resulted in women judicial advisors giving advice to the judges on divorce in the Iranian courts. An amendment in Iranian marital law allows women the right to divorce, the right to gain custody of children in the event of a divorce, and the right to refuse the husband to marry a second wife—provided that these rights were reflected on the marriage certificate. All government departments have women's committees, and all newspapers and journals have women's pages. Ninety-four percent of the population is literate and 64 percent of university students are women. Female life expectancy in Iran is 4 percent longer than men, and contraceptive prevalence is 74 percent. Under certain circumstances, mandatory abortion is approved. The number of seats women hold in the Iranian Parliament is the same as in Turkey, and the number of female professionals in Iran is the same as in South Korea. But women activists, who constitute the majority of the students and a large part of the workforce, are not content with these achievements. In a recent interview, Sadr noted:

These achievements have put us in a special place in the world and in the region. We have become a model for many women in the region. However, the West still portrays us as passive victims of male and religious oppression. They perceive women in Iran either queuing to burn flags or queuing to do nose beauty operation. They ignore the majority of the women who are engaged in women's rights and democracy issues. Our aim is to reach women and men in the West and change their perception of Muslim women, especially the Iranian women.

Sadr has won a number of awards. She won first prize at the Sixth Press Festival (1999) and the Tenth Press Festival (2003) in Iran. In 2004 she also won the Ida B. Wells Award for Bravery in Journalism from the Women's News Organization.


Shadi Sadr will be recognized as an important Iranian women's rights activist.


Stop Stoning Forever. Shadi Sadr. Available from

Women in Iran. Shadi Sadr. Available from

                         Elaheh Rostami Povey