What to Read on Iran this Week: Arts, Women in Iran, and Remembering Zahra Kazemi

This week, we’ve seen plenty of continued coverage of the future of nuclear talks, the tightening of sanctions against Iran, internal political wrangling as Hassan Rouhani prepares to take office, and Iran’s problematic relations with its neighbors.  Yet, we want to make sure you didn’t miss some other good reads from this week on topics that may not have received as much media attention.

In the arts, two pieces in the Guardian are well worth a look.  Saeed Kamali Dehghan writes of discontent with the continued blacklisting of maestro Mohammad Reza Shajarian’s performance of “Rabana,” once a staple of Iran’s state broadcasts during Ramadan, but banned since Shajarian expressed sympathies for the Green Movement.  Meanwhile, Ben Child covers another dissident artist, discussing acclaimed director Jafar Panahi’s defiance of his house arrest to appear via Skype at the showing of his latest film, Parde, at a festival in Prague.  Turning back the clock of Iranian arts 1000 years, meanwhile, we get to Omid Memarian’s article in Iran Wire on the release of Hamid Rahmanian’s newly interpreted, vividly illustrated version of Ferdowsi’s national Iranian epic, the Shahnameh, or Book of Kings.  If we include the culinary arts, you can take a look in the Financial Times at Najmeh Bozorgmehr’s examination of the spread of upscale dining establishments in Tehran.

There have also been a few interesting reads on women’s issues in Iran this week.  Also in Iran Wire, Azadeh Moaveni takes an in-depth look at the changing symbolism and fashion of the manteau – the basic form of mandatory overcoat for those women who choose not to wear a full chador.  While years ago it was generally a bland and shapeless garment, she notes, it has been reclaimed and transformed to the point where manteau designers and fashion shows are a widespread phenomenon.  Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund observed its annual Population Day in Iran, focusing on issues of maternal health and adolescent pregnancy, and reported encouraging progress in Iran toward Millenium Development Goals.   However, in Al-Monitor, Mehrnaz Samimi reports on what she sees as less encouraging developments for women, as Ahmadinejad has proposed a new law decreasing working hours for women.

And this week, we have to remember a tragic day in Iranian human rights history.  Ten years ago this week, Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, detained after taking pictures outside of Tehran’s Evin Prison, was killed in custody.  The somber anniversary has been commemorated, among others, by Reporters Without Borders, who take the occasion to discuss the plight of journalists in Iran in the past decade.

Enjoy the reads over the weekend!