Campus community pays tribute to women of Iran through music, poetry

Author: Matt Itelson
March 2, 2023
Farnaz Zabetian’s mural on a garage door on Clarion Alley in San Francisco depicts a woman cutting her hair in front of raised fists and the colors of the Iran flag
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Farnaz Zabetian/Clarion Alley Mural Project

Events for Women’s History Month also celebrate Iranian New Year, support Iranian Freedom Movement

San Francisco State University students, faculty and alumni are coming together for several events this month supporting women’s rights in Iran. Admission is free. 

Professor Persis Karim, director of the San Francisco State Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, organized the events with Music Professor Hafez Modirzadeh. Karim says the events are a tribute to the “brave women, girls and youth of Iran and, more importantly, students, who continue to fight for their rights even in the midst of severe state violence.”  

“While the protest movement in Iran was sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Jina Amini, a young Kurdish woman, and was initially a call for women’s rights to determine bodily autonomy, the movement has grown in its demands and across all sectors of Iranian society,” said Karim, who holds the Neda Nobari Distinguished Chair. “We have much to learn from these brave young people — who are risking their lives to demand freedom and to push for a vision of the future that is democratic and anti-authoritarian.” 

In celebration of International Women’s Day, renowned Iranian singer Marjan Vahdat and SF State Creative Writing Assistant Professor Tonya M. Foster will team up for a voice and poetry performance. (Foster holds the George and Judy Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry.) Following, SF State students will present improvised readings with live Persian music accompaniment. This event takes place on Wednesday, March 8, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Knuth Hall. 

On Thursday, March 16, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., “To the People of Iran: Music for a New Year’s Liberation” features live Persian music to celebrate the Iranian New Year and support the people of Iran, in solidarity with the Iranian Freedom Movement. Performers include SF State students Shahin Shahbazi, Mona Shahnavaz, Samandar Deghani and Sirvan Manhoobi and alumni Pezhham Akhavass, Nasim Gorgani, Faraz Minooei and John-Carlos Perea (who is also an associate professor of American Indian Studies at SF State), among other special guests. This recital also takes place in Knuth Hall. 

On March 14 from 4 to 6 p.m., Foster will participate in “Undisciplining the Fields” with anthropologist, filmmaker, poet and educator Abou Farman at The Poetry Center.  

Shahbazi is a graduate student in music composition who plays the tar, a traditional Persian lute instrument. He immigrated to the U.S. from Iran in 2013. 

“The people in Iran need our voice. This is the time we stand with them,” he said. “I always try to be the voice out of Iran because I believe the young generation. They want change, they want freedom, they want to be equal. They deserve to be happy and to live their life.” 

The events are made possible with the support of a 2023 College of Liberal & Creative Arts Extraordinary Ideas grant. Additional support is provided by the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, the Poetry Center, George and Judy Marcus Endowed Chair in Poetry and the departments of History and Philosophy. 

Learn more about SF State’s Center for Iranian Diaspora StudiesSchool of Music and George and Judy Marcus Funds for Excellence in the Liberal Arts