All posts by Pantea Bahrami

Confederation of Iranian Students

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Confederation of Iranian Students

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Confederation of Iranian Students

My purpose is to make a documentary film about the Confederation of Iranian Students, an organization of expatriate Iranian students dispersed throughout the world but especially concentrated in the US and Europe Between 1960 and 1978. This organization contributed to democratic practices and ideas prevalent among opposition movements. The Islamic Republic of Iran has eliminated any historical record of student organizations, especially secular, left, and nationalist movements. Although many articles and books have been written about the Confederation, no documentaries exist. The founders still living are few in number. There is, therefore, an urgency to capture their accounts of the early days of the Confederation.


Countries in dictatorial settings, where there are no independent political parties, trade unions, or civic organizations, student movements are often the force behind political activity. During the period in which it was active, the Confederation was the only organized opposition to the Shah outside of Iran. Inside Iran, the opposition was largely forced underground through severe repression. Limited opportunities for higher education in Iran, as well as a policy on the part of the Pahlavi regime of pursuing modernization through educating students in Western universities, led many students to travel abroad. Despite the expansion of universities and colleges inside Iran in the late 1950s, and the number of Iranian students studying abroad exploded from 4000 in 1957 to 31,000 in 1965. By 1978 there were 100,000 students studying outside Iran. Among this expat student population there were many supporters of the Confederation. The organization was focused on events inside Iran: freeing political prisoners and human rights, as well as opposition to the death penalty. When it organized a demonstration, tens of thousands would show up. From the beginning, the politics of the Confederation reflected the politics of opposition inside Iran. Later, the constituency of the Confederation became radicalized through a variety of factors aside from the ideologies of underground political groups in Iran; for example, guerrilla organizations, besides anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements in Europe, the anti-Vietnam War movement in the US, and the exposure of students to political ideologies from China, Cuba, and Latin America.

Organizational History

According to its initial charter, membership was a matter of individual inclination, not a congress of the representatives of political groups and parties, although it was known that members were often associated with political organizations. In order to maintain the independence of Confederation members, there was an injunction against political parties recruiting in the organization. The other precepts were transparent and open communication and a platform of support for freeing political prisoners in Iran and human rights generally, including an end to the death penalty. As the Confederation became radicalized, it became harder for members to agree on a common political platform, causing a split. From its inception, Confederation’s participants embraced parliamentary procedure, and Robert’s Rules of Order became the standard for conducting meetings. Membership was based on an individual affiliation rather than membership through any political groups or parties, although these were also present. The Confederation was financially independent and with a budget supported through membership dues.

Political History

In 1965, an assassination attempt on the Shah by one of his guards became an excuse for the government to crack down on leftist students. They arrested six members of the Confederation who were returned to Iran and ultimately sentenced to death. The Student Confederation sought the help of the United Nations to abolish the death penalty using international law, with the support of public intellectuals concerned with human rights such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell, as well as various human rights organizations. This was unprecedented for a student organization and brought the Confederation to the fore on the international stage where its success led to its prestige and legitimacy. Besides the influence of the Shah’s repression of the regime’s political opponents, the political influences on Confederation participants derived from the politics of the eras in which it was active: the Vietnam War and the demonstrations in opposition to it, social movements, both in Europe and in the United States, such as the Women’s movement and the Civil Rights movement. Various factors contributed to the end of the Confederation. The forces that led up to the Iranian Revolution made the Confederation redundant, but even before that there were splits in the organization.

Protests Against the Shah

In a 1967 protest in Berlin, during a visit by the Shah to West Berlin, the Confederation organized a large protest attended by thousands of people, in collaboration with the socialist German Student Union. The protest turned violent and a German student named Benno Ohnesorg was killed. Fifty protesters were injured and many were arrested. Some historians believe this incident had an important role in the birth of radicalism in Europe and, for example, in such factions as the Baader-Meinhof group. Anytime the Shah traveled abroad, the Confederation students staged protests against him. On April 18, 1962, the Shah received an honorary doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The fact that the universities could be compromised in terms of their relationship to the Shah was a matter of contention for Confederation members and their supporters. For two decades, the Confederation and its allies played an active role in exposing, in an international arena, the human rights violations of the Pahlavis. In the 1970s, Finland, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, and India were host to student protests against the Shah. In June 1976, students occupied the Iranian embassy in Geneva and found documents, later published by the American journalist Jack Anderson, which showed that SAVAK not only gathered information about its opponents in Europe, but also spied on European politicians, for example British MPs. The US Congress later established a commission to investigate these allegations. In 1978, one year before the Revolution of 1979, the Shah and Farah (his wife) were invited to the White House to meet President Carter. Iran under the Shah was a member of OPEC, and perhaps the motivation was to cement a relationship in a region that was in turmoil, though Carter knew of the 2,500 political prisoners and of the reputation for torture by SAVAK, the secret police. The Confederation organized a demonstration in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, attended by around 5000 Iranian students. The protest turned violent, and 100 demonstrators were arrested. Because of the tear gas, the Shah and Farah were photographed entering the White House with tears in their eyes, and the headlines read, “Crying Shah and Farah enter the White House.”

Women in the Confederation

Although female students were active in the body of the organization, as in other political parties of that era, they had no leadership role. Men monopolized the leadership of the organization. Patriarchal values were dominant in all aspects of the leadership. Most members of the Confederation in the United States joined the organization because they were affected by the anti-War and Civil Rights movements. The feminist movement from the 60s to the early 70s also affected women activists within the Confederation. It is interesting to observe that the organizers of the largest student protest against the veil after the Islamic Revolution in Iran were the female Confederation students who returned to the country after the Revolution. The insistence on women’s suffrage, as well as the practice of sending university graduates into rural areas to fight illiteracy, were two key demands of the Confederation that the Shah adopted in his “White Revolution,” which was a program of “modernization” for rural Iran.

Approach to Making the Film

The aim of this documentary is to bring the experience of the Iranian Student Confederation to younger generations who did not witness it, to appreciate its contributions and, its limitations. This story will be told through narratives, archival footage, and interviews with approximately 30 former members, selected to represent a holistic view of the organization, with different geographic and national groups represented as well as women. The use of archival footage from conferences and demonstrations, photos, and interviews with supporters of the Confederation will be other resources contributing to the film. Questions to be asked during interviews with the Confederation leaders identified as the spokespeople for this history will be prepared around various topics and will depend on my research into their participation. The discussion points taken up during the interviews will be based on the circumstances of their participation. If more than one interviewee can be present, a dialogue between participants might be constructed to allow the audience a window into the process of arriving at a record of this historical period. As a filmmaker, I approach each prospective interviewee with a series of questions, but allow for an open dialogue and conversation. To capture interviews with thirty influential members of the organization who live in eight to ten cities worldwide will take some time, so it is urgently important to begin this process within the next year.

Click to open the long version of this proposal in PDF format

کنفرانس زنان کردستان ایران

بیش از ۱۵۰ زن در اسلو شاهد برگزاری چهارمین کنفرانس زنان کردستان ایران در روزهای ۱۷ و ۱۸ اکتبر بودند. برگزار کننده کنفرانس مرکز بررسی مسائل کردستان ایران و کمیته ای شش نفره از زنان کرد در نروژ بود.

این کنفرانس بطور مشخص به مسائل زنان کرد ایرانی می پرداخت، مشکلات ویژه ای که ازیک سو در چهارچوب جنبش زنان ایران به آن بی توجهی می شود و از سوی دیگر از طرف جنبش زنان کرد مورد بی مهری قرار می گیرد. بنابراین این سمینار به طور ویژه به مشکلات و دغدغه های زنان کرد ایرانی می پردازد. نمونه های این مشکلات مثل فقر، بی سوادی بخش از زنان کرد، سرکوب آزادی های سیاسی، نبود امکانات کافی از سوی مرکز و همچنین نگاه بشدت مردسالار و ناسیونالیسم کردی است که معضلات زنان کرد ایران را در چهارچوب مسائل ملی نادیده می گیرد. مجموعه این عوامل فشار را بر روی آنها آنقدر زیاد کرده که بخشی از آنان به خود سوزی دست زده اند. محور سخنرانی آوا هما، نویسنده، در این کنفرانس تحت عنوان «ازخانی تا خودسوزیی، چه بر سر زنان کرد آمده» بر روی موضوع علل و پی آمدهای خودسوزی زنان و به ویژه در کرمانشاه تمرکز داشت.

در کنفرانس سخنرانی های متعددی صورت گرفت که از جمله می توان از سخنرانی عصمت صوفی، پژوهشگر، درمورد رابطه ناسیونالیست و جنبش زنان کرد در ایران نام برد. او تفاوت ها و شباهت های جنبش زنان ایرانی و زنان کرد را مورد کنکاش قرارداد.
از سخنرانان دیگر که از ایران به کمک اسکایپ در کنفرانس حضور داشت می توان از سیمین چایچی نام برد که به نقش سازمان های غیر انتفاعی در کردستان ایران پرداخت. شهین طالبانی هنرمند کرد، مشکل زنان هنرمند کرد در جامعه کردی را مورد بررسی قرار داد. افزون بر آن حلیمه رسولی، وضعیت زنان و فعالیت های زنان کرد در کردستان را مورد تجزیه و تحلیل قرار دارد.

در گفتگو با آوا هما، نویسنده، عصمت صوفی پژوهشگر مسائل فمنیستی و گلنار قبادی از اعضای مرکز بررسی مسائل کردستان ایران به بررسی برخی از موضوعات کنفرانس پرداختم.


Fundraising for Budding Grief

Budding Grief – Massacre of Political Dissidents in Iran (1988)

Support the project on Indiegogo.

Our Documentary

During the Summer of 1988, a couple of thousands of political prisoners who were the dissidents of the Islamic Regime were hanged in Iran. Those who were in prisons were already sentenced in court but they had to participate in the 2-3 minutes re-trials and without knowing exactly what was going on, were convicted and executed secretly.

PanteA Bahrami (Director) was in prison after the revolution for four years (1981-1985) and has witnessed the situation of Iran’s prisons first hand herself. She tried to track down the survivors of that massacre and interviewed them in the course of 7 years.
This documentary is a result of 7 years work and right now is in the final stages. We need your support for some parts of the animation and editing.

We hope that by documenting this painful piece of history, this injustice would never happen again.

What We Need & What You Get

The Post-Production costs for the 90 minute documentary are budgeted at $8,000. This includes editing, titling, color correct, short animation, mastering and, of course, closed captioning.

If we would be lucky enough to surpass our goal, every dollar raised beyond the $8,000 will go towards attending in different festivals.


The Impact

PanteA Bahrami (director) is a well-known artist and activist who has worked on the issues of Human Rights extensively. Her previous piece called “And in Love I Live” is a documentary film about political activities and experiences of three generations of female political prisoners in Iran during the past five decades. In this documentary, thirteen women talk about their political activities and prison experiences. The documentary includes reconstructed scenes of some of the prisons of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

We believe, Massacre of 1988 was a crime against humanity and the world should know what happened and those who were involved should take the responsibility for their actions. We believe that making this documentary can be a pivotal step towards this goal.

Other Ways You Can Help

You can share the link of this campaign on Social Networks, in order to generate awareness and support.