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Iranian Jewish Life in Los Angeles: Past and Present

Saba Soomekh, Author

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Iranian Jewish Women's Organization of Southern California: History of Iranian Jewish Women

Iranian women have historically faced many challenges specific to their gender. From having unequal access to education and jobs, to being forced to don the chador, Iranian women tell an incredibly unique tale. As part of his Westernizing reforms and effort to modernize Iran, Reza Pahlavi sought to draw women out of their homes and into society. The forced unveiling of women was included in these efforts. Collectively, his reforms regarding women took place from 1936 to 1943, and are known as the Women’s Awakening. Women were both allowed and encouraged to get an education during this time. Although the workplace was still cloaked in sexism—for instance, women were able to practice as nurses but not as doctors—this was seen as a step up for the women of Iran, who were previously limited to domestic duties as housewives and mothers. However, during the Iranian Revolution, when Khomeini came into power, women were forced to wear the chador and were not allowed to work. Women were essentially thrown back into pre- Shah times. Khomeini ruled Iran under the Islamic Republic and forced the residents of Iran to abide by Sharia law.1

1 Amin, Camron Michael. "Review: The Making of Modern Iran: State and Society under Reza Shah, 1921-1941." Iranian Studies 37.4, Ethnographic Fieldwork in Iran (2004): 732-34.
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