Deborah Amos in NPR:
Iran is starting to see a re-launch of activist groups following the election last year of President Hassan Rouhani. Social movements were scarce after the government crushed public protests known as the Green Movement following the 2009 elections. After the decisive vote for Rouhani, a surge of hope in Iran has attracted activists back to the political arena. Iranian women, in particular, are seizing the opportunity. On a recent afternoon in north Tehran two professional women huddle with an adviser to the Ministry of Mines and Trade. They are building a strategy for promoting jobs for women in government and the private sector.
This would have been impossible under the previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, explains Sohaila Jelodorzadeh, a former member of parliament, now a professor of textile engineering. “We were ignored,” she says, adding, “No, it was more than ignored. We faced social and political problems.” Now, she is politically active again, working with Soraya Maknoon, a former university chancellor, to champion women's employment. Women make up more than 60 percent of the college population in Iran but are less than 20 percent of the working population. “We want to make better use of their knowledge. This is important, not just to have degrees,” says Maknoon. It is just one example of a trend in Iran, says Kevan Harris, an Iran specialist from Princeton University. “Urban issues, pollution issues, environmental issues, women's issues,” Iranians are forming groups to tackle the major problems facing the country, he says. “The universities now are back, full of student politics, so we are going through a wave of mobilization from below in Iran.” The gender gap in employment may be one of the toughest challenges despite a huge social shift on college campuses. After the 1979 revolution, Iran's Islamic government convinced even the most traditional families that it was safe to send their daughters away to college.