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Breaking the Embargo on NGOs in Iran

By Roksana Bahramitash, Ph.D.

During my last visit to Iran I came across a few grassroots organizations which inspired me to write this short note for Iranians outside of Iran to be informed of the importance of such organizations.

These organizations are independent of any internal or external support and are engaged in important civil society activities. My aim is to spread the word about their tireless efforts to make life easier for those members of society in need of assistance. One striking organization that I became highly familiar and found their work admirable was AHEBBA, the Society for the Protection of Schizophrenic Patients and their Families,

The association is run almost entirely by women, many of whom are volunteers and engage in the activities of the association as a labour of love. Their main goal is to provide support and build capacity for the patients and families who have to carry the burden of looking after their loved ones who are suffering from schizophrenia.

AHEBBA-Music Therapy Class

I had a short interview with Mrs. Dehbashizadeh, one of the founding members of the association, who is a kind and pleasant lady and who graciously accepted an interview about her work alongside two other dedicated women; Mrs. Taghavi, the social worker, and Mrs. Riahi, the coordinator of the association. They explained that their reason for being involved with AHEBBA, is that in a mega city like Tehran, where people have to work two jobs, as well as taking care of those who suffer from mental or physical disability, is a huge task. Moreover, patients who suffer from schizophrenia are labeled and stigmatized by society, who views such a handicap as shameful for the families of these patients. In some cases, patients are excluded and shut off from their own families and live in the margins of society. AHEBBA seeks to break social taboos surrounding the condition and provides services to the patients and their families.


The association runs several programs such as group therapy, music therapy, Yoga, woodwork and pottery as well as day visits and sightseeing. All these programs are offered through financial support and volunteer work of people who care for the cause. Finances are often scarce and the society has to struggle to ends meet.

The association shared with me their desire to be in contact with other sister organizations outside of Iran and to be in contact on an international level for exchange of ideas and experiences.


The association gave me a tour of their exhibition and I asked them to send me films that I can post for others who may be interested in the cause. I am hoping that this will bring some contacts and links to them and break their isolation from the international community, and I am happy to volunteer information dissemination regarding their activities and possible outreach, that individuals or organizations may be interested in. Please feel free to contact them through their website or via email with me at

About the author: Dr.Roksana Bahramitash is a sociologist whose academic work is on Iran and is currently affiliated with the University of Montreal Director at the Chair of Islam, Pluralism and Globalization as a visiting scholar.

... Payvand News - 01/18/12 ... --

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