LGBTQ Iran: Art, Activism and Therapy of Trans theatre in Iran

Key information

4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Virtual Event

About this event

For the third session on LGBTQ Iran, Saman Arastoo, Iranian actor, director and activist, will share his life of being trans in Iran, and present excerpts of his theatre production and self-cognition workshops, before discussing his work as an artist and activist in the world of Iranian performance.


About the speakers

Saman was born in 1967 as Farzaneh Arastoo in Shahrud Iran. Aged 16 she wrote, directed and performed in Celul Hijda ‘Cell 18’, and founded the Avaye Divanegan (Song of the Mad) Theatre Group. In 1987 she joined the management team of the Shahrud theatre society for three years and remains an active member until the present day. Farzaneh had a ‘forced marriage’ in 1991, which lasted a year and a half, after which she spent five years teaching underprivileged children and adults, whilst undertaking performance studies in Tehran. In 1999, she moved to Tehran and began working in theatre with the Iranian greats, including Davoud Rashidy. Farzaneh first appeared on film in Masoud Kimiai’s, ‘Sarbazhayeh Jom’eh’ (Friday’s Soldiers) in 2004, before going on to work with directors including Asghar Farhadi and Tahmineh Milani. In 2006, the Suisse Embassy in Tehran invited Arastoo to stage readings of Annemarie Schwarzenbach’s travelogue (translated by Firouzabadi, publisher Ali Dehbashi).

In 2008 Farzaneh underwent sex re-assignment surgery, after which he was contacted by trans from all over Iran for advice and assistant. Over the next years Saman learnt more about Iranian trans experiences and in 2015 initiated his “self-cognition workshop” , involving transsexuals - a place to be open, share and find a single voice - to create a united cohesive group within Iranian society. Without governmental or institutional backing, Saman raises funds to realise his theatre workshops and productions. Inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Antoine Artaud, he uses drama therapy for treating the inner turmoil, whilst his workshops and theatre productions seek to better understand and represent the lives and experiences of trans in Iran.

In 2016 Avaye Divanegan theatre group won best performance for their play ‘haman bash ke nisty’ (Be What You Are Not), at the first ever ‘Iran- France Performance’ festival, after which they were invited to present the play by Jean Louise Hekel for La-Nef in Paris, and at Berlin’s FIND Festival 2017 by Thomas Ostermeier, Schaubühne Theatre, performing to sold out audiences in both cities. In 2021 Saman’s film ‘hamatun man-u mishnasyn’ (You All Know Me) was nominated for the ‘Best International Medium-Length Film’ category at BIMIFF, in Brazil.


Bahar Azadi received her doctorate in philosophy from University of Paris Descartes-Sorbonne. Her main area of interest is the subject of trans-identity, subjectivation and resistance. She dedicated her thesis to the subjectivation of trans-identity in Iranian society after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Paris 1- Sorbonne and part-time researcher in unit U1037 Inserm at the Faculty of Medicine Bichat, University of Paris 7, studying female genital mutilation in France


Roya Arab is a musician, archaeologist and curator of cultural events celebrating MENA heritage, with a focus on Iran.


This webinar will take place online via Zoom. 

The webinar will also be live-streamed on our Facebook page for those that are unable to participate via Zoom.

Organiser: SOAS Middle East Institute

Contact email: