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Tehran's Women Cultural Center Holds Ceremony in honor of Ms Shahla Lahiji


By Syma Sayyah, Tehran


Last Monday evening, we were invited by Markazz Farhangi Zanan (Women Cultural Center - Zanestan ) to attend a ceremony in honor of Ms. Shahla Lahiji’s recent achievement of winning the First IPA Publishers’ Freedom Prize 2006.


Shahla Lahiji


The International Publishers’ Association (IPA) established this award only this year to be given to any person or organization in the world that has made a contribution to the defense and promotion of freedom of expression.  It is an honor for all Iranians that an Iranian lady has won this award.  Ms. Lahiji who has been the head of Roushangaran Publishing Group since 1983 was the first female publisher in Iran and has published many works by women and about women.  She has taken business risks in the aim of education and the promotion of women’s values and their concerns.  Ms. Lahiji was been a writer, translator and a journalist before becoming the managing director of Roushangaran.



The ceremony took place at the Peghah bookstore on the corner of Enghelab Ave and Felestine Street.  Many well known faces were present from many different fields; many of the guests were leading women activists.  The ceremony started with Ms Farnaz Saifie, member of WCC, giving a speech on the 23 years of Ms Lahiji’s life and experiences in publishing in Iran. We then enjoyed the writer Ms Parinoush Sannie whose speech “Why Silence” referred to the media’s silence regarding such a prestigious award being won by Ms. Lahiji and the fact that nothing was written about it in the media, at a time when a second prize in something insignificant and from anywhere gets a lot of coverage.



Later we took pleasure in journalist and writer Lily Farhadpour's talk about “Lahiji as journalistic subject” - she told us many anecdotes and gave us many reasons why a journalists’ life becomes easy when they interview Ms Lahiji, as she is clear in her mind and speech among so many other qualities. She then read excerpts from her book; The Berlin Women and the chapter she had dedicated to Ms Lahiji, the romantic one.  She also informed us that the first award Ms. Lahiji had won was the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in April 2001.


The next speaker was Sara Loghmanie who gave a most impressive and informative talk on the background, ideas and how and whys that started the One Million Signature Campaign in Iran (we-change ), demanding changes on the biased laws that discriminate against women in Iran.  She said that women from any background who end up at the Ministry of Justice’s many halls learn that they all are dealing with the same discriminating law. 



She went on to state that the first three people who signed this campaign were Mrs. Ebadi, Mrs. Behbahani and Ms. Lahiji.  She said that the organizers had realized that changes at the top do not help enough and therefore the need for changes in the law must come from the grass roots within the civil society.   It is only then that when the law changes it cannot easily be changed back, as it is the demand of the general public rather than the elite. The campaign volunteers try to inform women in particular, face-to-face, at any opportunity they can, formal and informal, and invite those who want to sign the petition to do so, the petition that thousands of us have already signed.  I was delighted to learn that now those of you who are away from home and support the campaign are able to sign on line. You can read a lot more about this campaign at: one million signatures



We heard poems by two poets dedicating their work to Ms Lahiji as well as informative talks by Nahid Keshavarz, Maryam Mirza, and Golnaz Malek and Farnaz Saifie who also beautifully conducted the proceedings.  Finally Ms Talate Taghinia from WCC and Ms Tayebbat from the Peghah Bookstore presented Ms Lahiji with gifts.  It was a pleasure to see such a broad smile on Ms Lahiji’s face among so many friends from a long life of hard work and struggle to such a high peak of success.



Related sites:        for Zanestan        for one million signatures Campaign,11,07,02,36,25/    for more detailed text and better pictures


Evin Hotel is further down the road - By Shahla Lahiji, 2001


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