With Jewels of Allah, Nina Ansary Challenges the History of Women in Iran


In Jewels of Allah, local author, historian, and activist Nina Ansary celebrates the feminist movement in Iran and the host of strong women it bore. This Wednesday, June 24, Ansary will be reading from Allah at Book Soup beginning at 7pm. We caught up with her ahead of her appearance to discuss her work and its far-reaching effects.

How has your life as an American citizen affected your view of Iran’s oppression of women?
As a U.S.-Iranian citizen, and specifically as a woman born in Iran, I am deeply saddened by the irrational manner in which the current regime debilitates the female population at large. I am in awe of all women who struggle daily for the innate rights and show resilience despite adversity.

How do you think Jewels of Allah will be received in Iran?
My greatest wish is that it will provide a sense of hope by showcasing the numerous fearless female role models not only in Iran but throughout history who have courageously sacrificed so that future generations can prevail.

What impact does your social media presence have in shedding light on the issue of oppression of Iranian women? 
It has been of tremendous value in raising much needed awareness regarding the plight of women’s rights activists in Iran. The borderless nature and phenomenal outreach of social media also allows for those with a common cause to communicate and amass support for their respective causes.

In your book, you spoke of the struggle of the Iranian women’s movement to reinterpret the Koran in a way that counters the notion of female inferiority and that advocates for female freedoms. What is that reinterpretation?
In many ways, reinterpretation of passages used by extremists to justify the inferior position of women is an extraordinary phenomenon. Hoping to reinvent the system from within, modern theologians and some women’s rights activists are courageously taking an ideological leap of faith by demonstrating a more evolved interpretation, paving the way for liberation through that which has been held as the finite word of God.

L.A. has a significant Iranian population. How do you think they will respond to Jewels of Allah? Will anything surprise them?
I hope that the Iranian population will embrace an extraordinary part of their history which shines with a myriad of heroic women from all walks of life who for centuries have been a beacon of inspiration, hope, and pride.

In what ways can Iranians in L.A. actively support the women’s movement in Iran?
I prefer to look at the women’s movement in Iran from a humanitarian perspective. We all have a collective responsibility to amplify the voices of anyone or any group that has been unjustly oppressed and disempowered. Remaining silent is never the right option. In fact, there are times when remaining silent is an even greater injustice. That being said, Iranians can support the women’s movement in Iran by bringing much needed attention to their ongoing plight. I am most grateful to so many Iranians and non-Iranians who, over the last year and a half, have made a concerted effort in raising awareness and amassing support for women handicapped by the irrational premise of patriarchal laws.