SOAS University of London

Centre for Global Media and Communications

Azadeh Pourzand

BA (Oberlin College), MPP (Harvard Kennedy School of Government), MBA (Nyenrode Business Universiteit)


Azadeh Pourzand
Azadeh Pourzand
Email address:
Thesis title:
"Activism Beyond Impact: The Case of Iranian Women’s Quest for Equality (working title)"
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors


A human rights researcher and a civic entrepreneur, Azadeh has spent the past decade contributing to the design, implementation and impact evaluation of civil society strengthening, media development, education and human rights programs for marginalized communities in the Middle East and South Asia. Her research and writing focus on human rights in Iran, with an emphasis on freedom of expression, rule of law, minority rights, and women's empowerment. Having previously served as the editor-in-chief of Women's Policy Journal of Harvard, Azadeh has participated in numerous panels and presented on topics related to human rights held by institutions such as the Nobel Peace Center, Chatham House, the Middle East Institute and Front Line Defenders. A selected member of BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network, Azadeh has published two co-authored book chapters on women's rights and rule of law in Iran, published by Routledge and Indiana University Press.

PhD Research

My research focuses on Iranian women’s rights activism that emerged soon after the establishment of the Islamic Republic which came about after the victory of the IslamicRevolution of 1979. In contrast to previous studies conducted on post-revolutionary Iranian contemporary history focused on women’s rights that offer an outlook on the objectives and functionality of these struggles, this research brings in emotions and explores what role emotions plays in activism, and their implications on internal dynamics, communications of women’s rights activists among themselves, and with the public(e.g. other women, the public at large, the government, the international community, etc.). 

While interested in women’s rights struggles in post-revolutionary Iran as necessary contextual background, this research does not aim to assess the rights, or lack thereof, of women in contemporary Iran. The research is rather interested in studying the experiences, perspectives, narratives and outlooks of diverse women’s rights activists in regards to equality, their journey in becoming activists, the evolution of their activism in this struggle, and their mediated communications by way of which they express themselves, exert presence and influence, communicate their experiences, and desires amongst themselves and to the world beyond their activist circles.

In this vein, the research project is concerned with the various ways in which not only well known but also the less visible and emerging women’s rights activists have sought visibility, representation, acknowledgment and equality in contemporary Iran, particularly through social media as alternative platforms for expression and communication. I aim to explore the evolution of women’s rights activists’ use of alternative media (old and new) to insert their presence, the stories they tell and the narratives they shape to express themselves ever since the IslamicRevolution of 1979. In doing so, I hope to pay particular attention to the role(s) that the use/choices/(un)availability of media, and space for staging their demands, has played in shaping their struggles, the diversity and intricacies of dynamics of activists, approaches and narratives/stories within today’s Iranian women’s rights movement.