A Portrait of Armenian Women In Iran
I covered my head with a scarf, as it was the law of the country I was going to. It’s difficult to simply imagine the lives of Armenian women in Iran - a country where a clear red line stands between what is and isn’t allowed.
The Armenian community has a rich, historic past. However, the forced relocation by Shah Abbas in the 17th century gave new color to the community that used to live there for centuries. Around 300,000 Armenians from the Ararat valley were relocated into three main directions to: Aterpatakan, Tehran and Isfahan. A variety of crafts, art and trade started to newly blossom with the arrival of the Armenians.
At present, however, this community consists of 60,000 Armenians, the majority of which - 50,000 - live in Tehran. The Armenian women in the community are compared to an army; they put the most effort into the community’s survival and development.
“Armenian woman”, “Anahit”, “Armenuhi”, “Ani”, and the “Benevolent union of Armenian women”; The eclectic union of Armenian women in Tehran. These are the women’s organizations in Tehran, which were organized around community needs, such as helping the poor, giving shelter to refugees, take care of the elders, educating those women who didn’t go to school in crafts, carpet-weaving and etc.
There are also the women's unions in Isfahan. I moved on from Tehran to the only village populated with Armenians in Peria, the village Boloran. It has only been a few years since women have started wearing modern clothes instead of national garments here. However, it’s not the garment or modesty that have made the women in the Armenian community stand out. A century ago, in Nor Jugha, Armenian women would weave carpets and invest the earned money from the sales into building schools, churches and cultural centres.
The portrait of Armenian women in modern Iran is diverse. Nowadays, Armenian women there have different posts both in the community and in Iranian organizations. During the shah era, the ballet and arts have had their heyday. It’s distinctive that Armenian women have had the title of being ‘mothers’ in astronomy, sculpture and stage costumes.
After the revolution, many bans and limitations came into place both for the local minorities and the general Iranian population. Like everyone, Armenian women too, respecting the law of the land, covered their heads, but not their minds and speech. These days they also continue working and creating the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Music by Anush Estik Hovhannisian