Global and Iranian history are both closely intertwined with the lives and destinies of prominent figures. Every one of them has laid a brick on history’s wall, sometimes paying the price with their lives, men and women alike. Women have been especially influential in the past 200 years, writing much of contemporary Iranian history.
In Iran, women have increased public awareness about gender discrimination, raised the profile of and improved women’s rights, fought for literacy among women, and promoted the social status of women by counteracting religious pressures, participating in scientific projects, being involved in politics, influencing music, cinema... And so the list goes on.
This series aims to celebrate these renowned and respected Iranian women. They are women who represent the millions of women that influence their families and societies on a daily basis. Not all of the people profiled in the series are endorsed by IranWire, but their influence and impact cannot be overlooked. The articles are biographical stories that consider the lives of influential women in Iran.
IranWire readers are invited to send in suggestions for how we might expand the series. Contact IranWire via email ([email protected]), on Facebook, or by tweeting us.
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Nasrin Moazami is a biologist and a pioneer in biofuel technology. In 1995 she was awarded the Chevalier de I'Ordre des Palmes Académiques for her outstanding research. In 2015 she was appointed to UNESCO’s International Basic Sciences Program (IBSP).
Moazami was born in 1945, and in 1976 received her Ph.D. from the faculty of medicine of Laval University in Canada. In 1987 she established the best-equipped biotechnology lab in Iran, which continues to be a center of scientific research. In 1995 she founded the Persian Gulf Biotechnology Research Center at the Persian Gulf island of Qeshm, the first Iranian center for applied marine biotechnology.
For 15 years she has worked with five engineering teams on a project in the southern province of Bushehr to turn microalgae into a new biofuel. Prior to that she was active in another project to eradicate malaria-carrying mosquitos through biological agents instead of chemical pesticides which, among other shortcomings, pollute water resources and introduce toxins into the human body.
To conduct her research, Moazami worked within a very traditional community on Qeshm island. “I had no trouble obtaining authorization from the local government,” she wrote in a report for UNESCO. “But I also needed the support of the community to ensure that no potential mosquito breeding ground was neglected, including in the home. I approached the religious leader Molana Khatib with a request to present the malaria trial to the religious leaders from the villages the next time they gathered in Qeshm mosque. Coming from a woman, such a request would normally have been turned down, but Molana Khatib was so impressed with my arguments that he acquiesced. ‘You are a scientist, not a woman’, he reasoned.”
It was this experience which led her to her next project. “The special bond I formed with the Qeshm islanders during the malaria eradication trials led me to found the Persian Gulf Biotechnology Research Center on the island in 1997. The center develops plant propagation using the tissue culture of bananas, orchids and date palms to increase agricultural productivity. It also explores the qualities of coral for health applications. Coral is strikingly similar to bone, with a 98 percent degree of compatibility. This makes coral a potential substitute for bone transplants in patients, as there is no risk of rejection by the human body.”
She was not oblivious to the human context of her scientific research and became active in improving the life of the community in which she was conducting her work. “Shortly after the center opened its doors, I proposed setting up a training school for female health-care workers on the premises,” she writes. “The project was designed to kill two birds with one stone: both health care on the island and employment opportunities for young unmarried women were sorely lacking on Qeshm at the time. It was not uncommon for girls to be married off at the tender age of 12 or 13 for lack of other prospects. Girls were entitled to only three years of primary schooling, a restriction that did not apply to boys.
“The local authorities were supportive of the scheme. Within a couple of years, thanks to the collaboration of the Ministry of Health and financial support from the UNDP [United Nations Development Program], 25 girls were enroled in the health-care training school and first-aid clinics were sprouting in the villages.
“The government went on to found secondary schools for both girls and boys and three universities, which today offer courses in physics, chemistry, biology, environment and aquaculture. One of them also offers an MBA, in collaboration with Carlton University in Canada. The island is hoping to develop tourism. At the Persian Gulf Biotechnology Research Center, students can enroll in Master's degrees in both environment and tourism, proposed in collaboration with the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands. Half of all tertiary students on Qeshm in 2004 to 2005 were women.”
Moazami is a professor of biology at Tehran University, has published more than 70 research papers in international scientific journals and has completed 19 research projects.
Also in the series:
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Jinous Nemat Mahmoudi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Simin Behbahani
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Forough Farrokhzad
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Parvin Etesami
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Farokhru Parsa
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Jamileh Sadeghi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Fatemeh Daneshvar
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Fatemeh Moghimi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Googoosh
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Sima Bina
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Tahereh Qurratu'l-Ayn
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Farah Pahlavi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Pardis Sabeti
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Mahsa Vahdat
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Maryam Mirzakhani
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Fatemeh Karroubi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Shirin Ebadi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Mehrangiz Kar
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Narges Mohammadi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Zahra Rahnavard
50 Iranian Women You Should Known: Leila Hatami
50 Iranian Women You Should Known: Golshifteh Farahani
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: Susan Taslimi
50 Iranian Women you Should Know: The Khomeini Women
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