THE BLOG

First Female Archaeologist Appointed as the Head of the Archaeological Research Center in Iran

01/21/2014 02:24 pm ET | Updated Mar 23, 2014

Women's disadvantaged status in archaeology even in the Western progressive societies has been well documented. Most often, gender inequalities in the discipline of archaeology are assumed or asserted to derive from the more general phenomenon of patriarchy in culture and/or from the masculinist values of science. However it is also important to account for gender bias and gender relations on another, more contextualized level as well, examining how such relations articulate through the specific, local, and highly situated values and practices of each society.

It is taking into consideration each specific local (archaeological) expression of gender and biases - experienced by women in everyday life - that presents them with the opportunity for a real change.

Despite the limitations of women in Iran, they have managed to make significant advancements in academic and professional life in the years following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Currently, women in Iran make up a majority of college students in every field, archaeology being no exception.

Iran has been a nation that stands out in the region as committed to women's education, and the Islamic Republic of Iran has one of the highest female to male education ratios in the world.

Despite the numerical disparity between male and female excavation directors, the situation in Iran in regard to the number of female archaeologists and their effectiveness in the field is way beyond the standard of the majority of the countries in the region, specifically the Arab states. Female archaeologists form a great number of professional practitioners in this field, holding executive, administrative, and academic positions. Also, female students form the large number of archaeology students in every university, many pursuing their studies to higher degrees.

As Jack Straw, former Britain's minister of Homeland has written upon return from his recent visit to Tehran: "In Hasan Rouhani's Iran you can feel the wind of change". And among many signs of this change, on Saturday January 18th the first female archaeologist was appointed as the head of Iran's Archaeological Research Center. A female linguist was also appointed as the head of the Iran's linguistic research center.

Although the new administration has been formed without a female member, a woman has been chosen as the spokesperson of the foreign ministry, one has been named vice president and director of environmental protection, and one has been appointed as vice president for legal affairs.

Iran's new president has sparked hope for many women across the country as he promised to advance women's rights - among many other promises - during his campaign. The women of Iran voted for President Rouhani, and they will be keeping a close eye on the actions of his administration on women's issues.

By voting for him, these women had voted "yes" to moderation and hope, and expect to hold more executive and managerial roles in the public branch, given the importance of leadership positions for professional advancement of women.

These changes are mostly important considering all the limitations that the former administration insisted on, such as gender-based quotas in higher education and gender segregation in the universities. Archaeology was one of the fields that was planned to be restricted to only male students. These moves were undertaken with the intention of decelerating the entry of women into the universities and guiding them toward staying at home. It appears that the new administration has realized that it cannot, instead of creating jobs for the educated women, disregard their rights for the sake of a certain value system.

The creation of a new language around women and equality, which has been able to unfold under the increasingly recent open space, is slowly but surely facilitating the process of removing the obstacles from the path towards a mutually respectful relationship between the government and women. If the new administration succeeds in making women feel secure, they will finally be able to constructively express their needs directly to the government.

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