The UCSB Iranian Studies Initiative is hosting a two-day conference beginning today at the Loma Pelona Center to dissect the nation’s post-revolutionary history and present possible paths toward a more democratic society.
“Constitutional Politics in Modern Iran: A Re-Examination and Implications for the Future” will feature prominent American and European professors, journalists and constitutional lawyers discussing solutions for the difficulties that arise in drafting a more democratic Iranian constitution. While the opening reception starts at 7 p.m. today in the Mosher Alumni House, the conference’s featured content will begin tomorrow with discussions on various constitutional issues; Saturday’s presenters will then delve into social topics such as economic, ethnic and political relations.
According to Leva Zand, a feminist studies graduate student and teaching assistant for a course on modern Iran, speakers will analyze the nation’s current constitution to present a better understanding of discrimination in Iranian daily life.
“It’s going to be a scholarly conference addressing the issues of Iran’s current constitution,” Zand said. “The speakers will answer longstanding problems like economic, gender and ethnic minority inequalities that affect the current constitution.”
Although Western media typically depicts Iran as an Islamic republic with most citizens accepting of this rule, Zand said many Iranians are striving to establish a new constitution requiring the separation of church and state. According to Zand, the event will allow attendees to gain a more accurate conception about individual Iranian citizens.
“[Iranians] are not humanized in the United States; people do not have a face for them,” Zand said. “I think knowing them and that they are nice people would make big changes.”
Comparative literature doctoral candidate Claudia Yaghoobi Massihi said the Western misperception about gender roles in Iranian society portrays Iranian women as inactive or underrepresented in civic life.
“I taught a class last summer and when I asked my students what they thought of Iranian women, they all thought they were oppressed,” Yaghoobi Massihi said. “A lot of the articles about gender relations and sexual ideology in Iran, which are written into the constitution, are the result of women’s activism.”
Brown University professor Mehrangiz Kar, who is also a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University, will speak on Saturday about social issues involving women and gender, religious or ethnic minorities and economic inequality.
Yaghoobi Massihi said she looks forward to discussing various detailed proposals for political change within the country.
“Each one of our speakers is going to propose recommendations for making the constitution better,” Massihi said. “Perhaps this will be a forum for another constitution to be written in later generations.”
For more information about the Iranian Studies Initiative and this weekend’s conference, visit http://ucsb.iranianstudiesprogram.com.