She served as Minister of Education of Iran under Amir Abbas Hoveida and was the first female cabinet minister of an Iranian government. Parsa was an outspoken supporter of women’s rights in Iran.
Farrokhroo Parsa was executed by firing squad on 8 May 1980 in Tehran, at the outset of the Islamic Cultural Revolution.
Farrokhroo Parsa was born on 24 March 1922 in Qom, Iran to Farrokh-Din and Fakhr-e Āfāgh Pārsāy. Her mother, Fakhr-e Āfāgh, was the editor of the women’s magazine Jahān-e Zan («The World of Woman»), and a vocal proponent for gender equality and for educational opportunities for women. Her views on this subject met with opposition of the conservative sections of the society of her time, leading to the expulsion of the family by the government of Ahmad Qavām, from Tehran to Qom, where Fakhr-e Āfāgh was placed under house arrest. It was here that Farrokhroo was born, some minutes past midnight on Iranian New Year’s Eve 1922 (Nowruz, 1301 AH). Later, with the intervention of Prime Minister Hasan Mostowfi ol-Mamalek, her family was allowed to return to Tehran.
Upon obtaining a medical degree, Parsa became a biology teacher in Jeanne d’Arc Highschool in Tehran. At the school she came to know Farah Diba, one of her students at this school, and who would later become wife of King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In 1963, Parsa was elected to parliament (the Majles), and began petitioning Mohammad Reza Pahlavi for suffrage for Iran’s women. She was also a driving force for legislation that amended the existing laws concerning women and family. In 1965 Pārsā was appointed Deputy Minister of Education and on 27 August 1968 she became Minister of Education in the cabinet of the Amir-Abbas Hoveyda government. It was the first time in the history of Iran that a woman occupied a cabinet position. Farrokhroo Parsa was executed by firing squad on 8 May 1980 in Tehran, at the outset of the Islamic Cultural Revolution.
In her last letter from prison, Farrokhroo Parsa wrote to her children: «I am a doctor, so I have no fear of death. Death is only a moment and no more. I am prepared to receive death with open arms rather than live in shame by being forced to be veiled. I am not going to bow to those who expect me to express regret for fifty years of my efforts for equality between men and women. I am not prepared to wear the chador and step back in history.»
Her successor as the Education Minister of Iran, Manouchehr Ganji another minister before the Islamic revolution, expressed surprise at her execution: she was «a lady, […]Doctor, a competent physician who entertained good relations at the Ministry with revolutionaries like Beheshti, Bahonar, and Rejaii.» In fact, during her tenure as minister of education, Beheshti, Bahonar and Mohammed Mofatteh were on the ministry’s payroll. These three were to be major players in the Islamic Revolution several years later. With her ministry’s funding, Beheshti established the Islamic Center of Hamburg and Bahonar was able to set up a few Islamic public schools around Tehran.
After the 1978 solar revolution, she was charged with: «wasting the treasury property and creating corruption in the Ministry of Education and aiding and abetting prostitution in education and effective cooperation with SAVAK and expelling revolutionary cultural figures from the Ministry of Culture of Iran» Etc.… » was sentenced to death in the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Tehran, headed by Sadegh Khalkhali, after nine trials. She said in her defense:
«I’m sorry that I have been accused of something that has no solid basis, and that this action has divided my thoughts. In the accusations against me, even my religion has been questioned, and I have to say that I am a Muslim and I was born a Shiite, and God willing, I will die a Shiite. Regarding the looting of the treasury, which is my biggest accusation, I must say that I deny it, because throughout my service, I had neither financial work nor accounting. Those who have accused me of stealing millions should say how and where did I steal this money? «
She was hanged as a «corruptor on earth» (the cause of corruption on earth) at the age of 57 on May 7, 1980, equal to May 8, 1980 in Tehran, and was shot because the rope was torn. The date of execution of Farrokhro Parsa was set as the birthday of «Fatemeh Zahra». Revolutionary corpsmen refused to wash the body of Farrokhro Parsa, who had been executed as a «corruptor of the land». Inevitably, the women of her family washed her body.
On the last night of her life, Farrokhro writes in a short will that «I do not have a will because I do not have much property and what I have has been confiscated, I do not owe anyone, and if I ask someone, he should know to give it to my children. I know and I am satisfied that I have not committed the sins attributed to me in the indictment and the cases mentioned. Give my prayer, which includes my rosary, ring and watch, to my husband to give to my daughter. The court makes a big difference between men and women, and I hope the future will be better for Iranian women. «Distribute the money I have in prison among the prisoners.»
•Lentz, Harris M., «Farrokhrou Parsa», Assassinations and Executions: An Encyclopedia of Political Violence, 1865-1986, Jefferson: McFarland, p. 208.
•Bahrami, Ardavan (May 9, 2005), A woman for all seasons: In memory of Farrokhrou Parsa, iranian.com.
•Pahlavi-Diba, Farah (May 8, 2000), In memory of Mrs. Farrokhrou Parsa executed on May 8, 1980, (in Persian), farahpahlavi.org, archived from the original on February 25, 2008, retrieved March 30, 2008.
•Ganji, Manouchehr (2002), Defying the Iranian Revolution: From a Minister to the Shah to a Leader, p. 80.
•Pirnia, Mansureh (2007), Madam Minister: A Collection of Memoirs and Notes Written by Farrokhroo Parsa
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