Iran’s Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance ordered the closure of Iran’s only women’s monthly magazine, Zanan-e Emrooz (Today’s Women), on April 27. The order followed publication of a series on common-law marriage, which is taboo among hardliners in Iran.
But Iran’s female MPs claim to know nothing about the magazine, or its ban. Three members of parliament’s women’s faction insisted a magazine could not be banned for “no reason,” but admitted they had not heard of Zanan-e Emrooz, or that it published exclusively on women’s issues.
“The Supervisory Board did not give any notice,” managing editor Shahla Sherkat told IranWire. In fact, Sherkat said, staff were not informed at all. She read the news on Tasnim news agency’s website just as Zanan-e Emrooz was going to press with its twelfth issue.
According to Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, the Press Supervisory Board closed the monthly magazine because of its coverage of common-law marriage in Iran, known as "white marriage." The series was published in October 2014, and focused on the legal and sociological implications of the practice, featuring an interview with sociologist Saeed Moidfar.
Tasnim and Mehr News reported that, in its last meeting, the board discussed the “promotion of white marriage, which is contrary to religious and national values.” After reviewing Zanan-e Emrooz’s reports on white marriage, the board decided that the magazine was guilty of promoting the “phenomenon” in a number of articles. “Based on Paragraph 2, Article 6 of the Islamic Republic’s Press Law, the articles were deemed to be contrary to public morality, and the publication was shut down.” The case was referred to the court, Tasnim said.
The Press Supervisory Board operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, and is made up of representatives from the ministry, the country’s judiciary, and parliament, as well as religious authorities, academia and a members from other key institutions. The board has the authority to issue publication permits for the press, and to rescind them.
The term "white marriage" was first introduced in 2014 by the Director General of Social and Cultural Affairs of Tehran’s provincial government.
For some time now, hardliner commentators have warned against the lifestyle choice, and against the dangers of it spreading more widely across society. Though Zanan-e Emrooz was not the first Iranian publication to broach the subject, its series of articles on the topic has led to its demise.
“Without a doubt, when such practices are made public they are immediately reviewed and critiqued by the media as, in this case, it was by many domestic newspapers and news agencies with different viewpoints,” the magazine’s Facebook page said. “And this is what we did, especially because half of it relates to women.”
“We were getting ready to tell our readers about the publication of our twelfth issue,” the magazine’s page said, “but today, before were even notified, the magazine was shut down.” The page recounted the experience of reading the news in the press, which it said had “become a norm in Iran.”
“We did not promote it, nor did we justify it,” it added, “we just explained it. As it happens, we also reported on the failed experiences of women who believe that such a relationship sacrifices women rights. Two sociology experts gave their opinion about the imprudent nature of it and the legal section of the magazine warned women against it. This was the whole story. Before the magazine was shut down, nobody asked us about what we had written and why. We were not given a chance to be heard and defend ourselves. Nobody told us that everybody else can talk about this issue except this magazine, which is dedicated to women. Nobody knows where to bring up issues that women face in this society.”
Zanan-e Emrooz published its first issue in June 2014. Immediately after, hardliner newspaper Kayhan, which is published under the supervision of the Supreme Leader’s office, and the Fars news agency, both spoke out against it — drawing attention to the fact that it was the relaunch of a women’s magazine that had previously been banned.
The magazine Zanan (Women), whose managing editor was Shahla Sherkat, published for a period of 16 years, beginning in 1991. Hardliners insisted that the magazine promoted feminism. When Women was eventually banned in 2007, there was no other publication in Iran positioned to cover women’s issues. Zanan-e Emrooz filled this void for 11 months. And, once again, the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance has created a void.
IranWire talked to three women MPs in Iran about their reaction to the ban on Zanan-e Emrooz.
Shahla Mir Galoy, a gynecologist and a member of the Parliament’s Health Committee:
▪ Have you ever read the magazine Zanan-e Emrouz?
God knows I have no time whatsoever. Sometimes I might glance over news websites, but I have no chance to read newspapers and magazines. I have no time to read at all.
▪ Zanan-e Emrouz is the only magazine published for women. As a member of the women’s faction in parliament, you must be aware of it.
No, I have not heard anything about it. Has it published something about me? Who is the managing editor?
▪ No, there is nothing in it about you. The magazine’s managing editor was Shahla Sherkat, and it was closed down today.
It was closed down today? I know absolutely nothing about this magazine or even Ms. Sherkat. I must talk with other members of the faction and see why it was banned. We don’t receive this magazine. They send us all sorts of publications, but I have never seen this one.
▪ You said that you glance at news online. All news websites have now reported that the magazine has been shut down.
Yes, but unfortunately I was visiting my electoral district today and have yet to follow the news.
Laleh Eftekhari, Tehran representative, a member of parliament’s women’s faction, and a Ph.D. in Koranic studies:
▪ Do you know the magazine Zanan-e Emrooz?
No, unfortunately not. If you want to have an interview you must first coordinate with my office director. Send an issue of the magazine to my office and, after you have coordinated with my office director, come to parliament. Also, coordinate on the theme of the interview beforehand.
▪ No, I can’t, Ms. Eftekhari. Zanan-e Emrouz was shut down today.
It was shut down? They don’t shut down a magazine for no reason. What was the reason?
▪ Many experts recently warned about the spread of “white marriage” and the magazine wrote about it. That is why it was banned.
Look, if this magazine has committed an offense, then it must be shut down. They would not shut it down without a reason.
▪ But since this magazine is dedicated to women and you are a member of the women’s faction in parliament, you must have a view.
Right now I have no time to talk about it, but I will take note and will follow it up in Wednesday’s session to see what is going on. God be with you.
Nayereh Akhavan, representative for Isfahan, and a psychologist:
▪ Have you heard that the magazine Zanan-e Emrouz was banned from publication?
No, this is the first that I have heard of the news.
▪ Have you seen at Zanan-e Emrouz before?
No, but I am going to have a look at it now.
▪ It was the only specialty magazine for women. As a member of the women’s faction, you must be aware of it.
I have heard the name but it was not among the publications that we receive. I have not seen it. Maybe other members have. Why was it shut down?
▪ The Press Supervisory Board objected to what the magazine published about “white marriage.” But a great number of websites and newspapers have written about the spread of white marriage.
I have to see the article to understand why the Supervisory Board objected to it. I will read it and will follow it up.
Ministry Bans Zanan-e Emrooz (in Persian )