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Women's Learning Partnership

The text below is a biography of Mehrangiz Kar featured by Women's Learning Partnership (WLP), a renowned organization addressing women's rights in the context of development and peace.


Nationality: Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Profession: Lawyer, Professor/Teacher, Scholar/Writer
Languages Spoken: English, Persian
Area(s) of Expertise: Gender Violence, Law, Women's Human Rights
Country/Region of Expertise: Iran (Islamic Republic of), Middle East

Mehrangiz Kar is a leading Iranian attorney, writer, and activist working towards the promotion of democracy, rule of law, and human rights within the framework of Islamic law in the Islamic Republic of Iran since the 1979 Revolution. She received her degree in Judicial Law from the University of Tehran in 1967, and is among the first women attorneys who opposed the Islamization of gender relations following the Islamic Revolution. Despite her work and efforts being frequently impeded and curtailed by her nation’s intelligence services, she has been an active public defender in Iran’s civil and criminal courts and has lectured extensively-- both in Iran and abroad-- on political, legal and constitutional reform, promotion of civil society and democracy, and dismantling of legal barriers to women’s and children’s rights. Banned from making public appearances within her country, including conferences, radio and television, Ms. Kar has used international forums as a platform for voicing her opinions and advocating for the rights of citizens under the Islamic regime. In April 2000, following her participation in a symposium in Berlin, she was arrested and imprisoned on charges of acting against the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Three of the five charges against her are pending, for which she may again be arrested upon her return.

Ms. Kar has written numerous articles that have appeared in several influential and independent journals worldwide. Her books have received international critical acclaim. Her most recent works are: The Sacred Necklace (2002), Women’s Participation in Politics: Obstacles and Possibilities (2001), The Burned Palms (2001), Legal Obstacles Against Political Development in Iran (2001), Violence Against Women in Iran (2000), Legal Structure of the Family System in Iran (1999), and Elimination of Gender Discrimination: A Comparison of the Convention On Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and Iran’s Contemporary Laws (1999).

Ms. Kar is the recipient of several international awards including the 2002 Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, awarded by the Human Rights Institute of the Bar of Bordeaux and the European Lawyers Union to lawyers working for the defense of human rights; the 2002 Democracy Award awarded by the National Endowment for Democracy to individuals advancing human rights and democracy around the world; the 2002 Hellman/Hammett Grant from Human Rights Watch for writers who are targets of political persecution; the International PEN Awards (2002, 2001, and 2000) for persevering as a writer in the face of oppression and brutality; and the Latifeh Yarshater Award for the best book on Iranian women in 2000.

From 2001-2002 she was a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, where she worked on a project entitled "The Juridical Foundations of the Crisis of Democracy in Iran." The project explores the theory and practice of law within the context of the Islamic Republic of Iran to assess the probability of effecting changes from within the government and establish a democratic political system. Ms. Kar is currently a visiting scholar at American University's Washington College of Law, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia.