Mahsa Shekarloo, women’s rights activist, writer, editor, translator and founder of the online feminist journal Bad Jens, died Friday September 5, 2014, surrounded by her family. She had been stricken with an aggressive form of cancer. In this post, Tori Egherman from Arseh Sevom, an organisation that promotes openness and human rights in peaceful Persian-speaking communities, joins others around the world in mourning her loss and celebrating her life.
Mahsa was thoughtful, skeptical, and insightful. In life she would not have wanted to be the center of so much attention. Her passion and work were not done to fulfill a personal ambition or to place her front and center in the public spotlight. She worked because of her great curiosity, her dedication to human rights and the women’s movement, and her belief in the possibility of change.
Mahsa was born in Tehran but spent most of her childhood in Chicago. She moved back to Iran in the early 2000s right after graduating from college. It was there that she discovered a place she could love and a society she could contribute to. In an article about Mahsa, The Feminist School wrote [fa]:
She was part of a group of people from the Iranian diaspora who returned to Iran to employ their cultural capital and experience and contribute to the culture. She joined a group of Iranian women who were taking advantage of that moment when there was a small opening in the political system to expand the women’s movement and the discussion of equality of men and women in the culture.
Mahsa also translated two of Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi’s books: Women's Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and The Story of One Woman.
The streets are our stomping grounds
In February of 2014, Mahsa worked to help promote and organize One Billion Rising-Iran, which was part of a global day using dance to call attention to the issue of women’s rights. This is how the group described itself:
For us in Iran, One Billion Rising is one more way for diverse social groups to unite and demand justice and equality for women in the home and in society. We take to the streets because they form the fabric of our lives. The streets are our stomping grounds. They hold our memories, pain, and joys. They are where we find our allies and friends and where we become aware of dangers. They are where we take refuge when our homes become unsafe. It is on the streets where we have discovered our voices and also have lost our lives. The streets are where we articulate our demands and where we haggle and negotiate, not just with the merchant, but also with the ruler and sovereign. Stomping in the streets is a way for us to arrive at reconciliation, equality and social justice for all. This action is for those who want joy for themselves and for others, and who are willing to stomp for it.