Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Journalist and Founder and Sole Owner of the Magazine
Hijri 1376-Present (AH); Common Era 1956-Present (CE)
Shahla Sherkat is the founder and sole owner of Zanan, an Iranian magazine that concentrates on women's issues . She felt mainstream journalism was ignoring serious coverage of women's rights in Iran and Zanan became the first independent journal--and one of the most successful--to focus on women's issues after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. She is a winner of the 2005 International Women's Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award and the 2005 Louis Lyons Award from The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Sherkat has worked as a journalist for 26 years and continues to publish Zanan despite the political climate where the government tightly controlled publications. Zanan consistently and provocatively covers women's issues, like articles on divorce laws, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, domestic abuse, and maternal custody issues. In 1998, investigated the rising amount of HIV/AIDS victims in Iran, critiquing the government's laissez-faire attitude toward the disease. Another story, published in 2003, covered the controversial topic of prostitution in Iran. A 2004 story touched upon gender discrimination within Iranian universities. Sherkat and Zanan have faced their own dose of adversity over the years. Zanan's offices were attacked by fundamentalist gangs during the early and mid-1990s. Authorities have threatened Sherkat and her writers with imprisonment. Since she is the editorial director, Sherkat is liable for the content of the magazine and has been called to Iran's Press Court to defend specific articles, including an article by 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and a controversial series of articles about Islamic law and women that were written by Mehrangiz Kar, women's rights lawyer, and Mohsen Saidzadeh, Islamic cleric. Despite the adversity, Sherkat continues to publish and the charges brought against her for publishing the aforementioned pieces were eventually dropped.