We had the immense pleasure to interview Saghi Ghahraman between the summer and autumn 2022 about her trajectory and activities as a poet, queer activist and . As she defines herself in her blog (https://saqighahraman.wordpress.com/) Saghi Ghahraman “is ‘a counterrevolutionary figure known for promoting immoral issues’, according to an Iranian Ministry of Culture official, 2007. She fled her native Iran after being arrested for working with a communist organization’s women’s branch. She has been living in exile in Canada for since December 1987, and is devoted to providing a voice for the Iranian gay, lesbian, and Transsexual community. To this end, she co-founded the IRQO (Iranian Queer Organization) and acted until 2019 as the president of the organization at Which Point She Voluntarily Demolished IRQO within Canadian laws for NGOs. She also chief-edited the journal Cheraq (www.cheraq.org), IRQO’s online monthly magazine and coordinates Gilgamishaan Publications (www.gilgamishaan.com).
Note: Saghi Ghahraman has “intentionally used terms that are consistent with their time to provide a clearer image of the past and the road we’ve taken to get to this point, where non-binary people have taken the lead in the Iranian LGBTIA community”.
The text between brackets has been added by the interviewers for contextualisation needs.
- Could you tell us about biographic trajectory?
In Iran before and during the 1979 revolution, as a young citizen and an activist (perhaps revolutionary and leftist).
I was born and raised in a clan descended from the Qajar dynasty, concerned with politics and political dilemmas, deeply familiar and exposed to corruption, oppression, and abuse of power. Growing up, I was well-educated in classic and modern literature that addressed the politics of their respective periods. A few of my extended family members were either imprisoned or exiled for opposing Pahlavi’s regime. As a teenager, I was aware but not actively involved. On top of it all, my uncle was employed in SAVAK, Iran’s Intelligence & Security Agency, exposing us to insider tales of interrogations, tortures, and such. My father, a high-rank officer in the Army, opposed the Shah’s regime and widespread abuse of power. In high school, I composed essays and fiction, and stealthily wrote slogans of protest on blackboards! The fear of the Shah’s agents was overwhelming in high school but during this time my focus was on writing essays, poetry, and fiction. It was in university and after the revolution when I joined a political party and started working steadily towards the cause. I worked with the Tudeh Party of Iran, and its Women’s Organization until I fled Iran [in 1984].
After the 1979 Revolution and as an Iranian exiled person: your life as an activist among other activists and other exiled Iranians?
I joined the Tudeh Party of Iran during the Cultural Revolution in universities when all the students and educators were sent home for over two years [between 1980–1983] . By then I was convinced that the revolution itself was the next problem one must fight with. But the power imbalance between horrified masses and the leading group that had assumed power was shocking. The Tudeh Party of Iran – a communist party with a long history in Iran’s politics and literature, and with strong ties with then-USSR – and its leadership that had returned from exile, seemed a tolerant and steady path to fight the wrongs the leading group and the obscure governing kept committing.
My involvement was with the party’s Women Organization. We went door to door, during times when only women and children were at home and engaged them in conversations about the challenges of married life, literacy, news, voting, the ongoing war with Iraq, and such. In higher-level circles of the Women’s Organization of the Tudeh, members read and discussed books, articles, critiques, and current events. We were not allowed to discuss politics! Members weren’t supposed to have opinions other than what was published and distributed weekly. This was the case for all activists working with any groups in those years. That was how groups controlled and led the vast number of members who joined them. It seemed logical. But also suffocating. There’s this false image of activists and political activism during those years that almost no one cares to clarify. There was nothing glorifying about it. Nothing open-minded and tolerant about it, and the reason was that generations of Iranians were thrown from one failed social movement into another one in the late 19th century. Even though Iran was never named officially a colony, colonial politics ruled, and collective efforts of groups were aborted and manipulated by Russia, Britain, and then America. My generation grew up under a Coup regime and arrived in an engineered revolution. None of us, as a society, had any education and training in either politics or activism. The history of activism before the revolution, and for the first decade afterwards, consisted of hush-hush, badly translated ideas and books, underground militia bravery, isolation, jail, torture, and execution. Nothing can move people from financial and cultural poverty into a life where one is aware of being alive and thriving as a simple human being. My comrades, mostly, lost their lives in jail, or got out and lived with trauma either in Iran or in Diaspora. The idea of social activism in Iran replacing political activism has come around in the past two decades. Still new, but it is promising. A big change from what we used to have.
… and with other exiled Iranians ?
With other exiles in Canada, it was a completely different ground, a different battlefield. In Canada, I freed myself from anything that could bar my way or slow my pace. While anything I would do in Turkey would mean a futile death for myself and my family, any form of death in Canada would be a part of my chosen activism. Soon after arriving in Toronto, I was working fiercely with a group of Tudeh Party and its Women Organization in exile, I was observing the Communist Party of Canada, observing institutions of thought and how all of them stripped me from my own identity, and I just gave up and started a wild war against traditions that directly and effectively challenged my identity and self the way I remembered myself. My opponents were the other exiles in Canada, all Iranians in Diaspora, and eventually, anyone who read and heard and met me. At this stage, I was faced with threats, death threats, attacks, insults, isolation, and more, both by my husband at home, and other Iranians out there. I separated from my husband a year after arriving in Toronto and divorced him the next year. My children suffered because of my reputation throughout childhood and youth. For them, it was constant trauma everywhere they were. It was between 1990 to 1995 when I introduced one issue after another that was taboo within the culture, such as marital rape, gender identity, same-sex attraction, open relationships, and the unveiling of words and images that were considered indecent in my poetry and fiction. It was like bombarding society and culture every step I took. The community responded with rage, fear, hate, but also with awe, and love for the figure I was. At that time, many political activists and literary groups in Diaspora shunned me, and yet others cherished me, wanted to include me, own my name. I never allowed that. I must add that not everyone in Diaspora were exiles. Exiles were a small number, while most of the Diaspora were immigrants who were not persecuted and forced to leave, thus their mental health, relations with back home, and financial possibilities were very different from the condition of exiles.
What was it like to be a queer (and eventually a queer activist) then (if you identified as queer before or during the revolution)? What relationship can you describe between your gender/sexual identification and political activism? Also, how did this relationship evolve since the 1980s?
We are talking about Iran in the 60s and 70s. I knew about “homosexuality”, same-sex attraction, gay figures, and family friends who were gay, or lesbian. But it was mostly whispered, and hushed information. I couldn’t talk about it out loud or discuss the topic. I knew I was different, but I wasn’t completely clear about it, didn’t have a name for it. I was always considered odd among relatives, in school, among friends, but not queer – the term wasn’t known in Iran back then. So, being odd only meant that I would be a loner, but respected. It meant that others would look up to me, and listen to me, but not get very friendly. I can say it had its benefits. My gender identity helped me have a much more sensitive undersigning of normalized gender segregation, literary characterization of female identity, and The Tudeh Party’s misogynistic view of women. It saved me from falling into the pits of Women’s Rights, for example. Still, all these were not very known to me rhetorically. I acted on instinct more than information.
When I arrived in Canada in December of 1987, I immediately started working with a branch of the Tudeh Party in exile, reading material in English, writing about my own vague understanding of my gender identity and sexual orientation, exploring life, mothering my kids, and investigating how to safely get a divorce. I was still carrying the fears the IRI, and my husband had instilled in me around divorce. I am extremely grateful for my gender identity during those early years I came to Canada. It was my guiding light. It was my own private mentor. It was because of my gender identity, that I could see things, wrong, and right, that other in the community saw only two decades later. In the beginning, in Canada, the Iranian community and locals thought of me as an extremely modern woman. Though as it turned out, a few years later, I was not modern. I was Queer. My interpretation of things was different.
- Exile and the Iranian diaspora
Like many Iranians who have been leaving Iran since the 80s, you had to endure a long journey. Before arriving in Canada, you spend many years in Turkey. Could you talk about your experiences there?
It was the year 1984. A very different time in Iran compared to what the young generation recalls. Cultural cleansing was viciously at work. The regime issued absolute travel bans and shut down all borders. No airplanes, buses, trains, or ships left Iran’s premises. It was at a time when a huge number of persecuted persons fled illegally and risked their lives. My husband, baby, and I were among them. We left through the mountains of Iran’s north-western border with Turkey.
It was also a difficult time for Turkey. Martial Law was in effect. The Turkish police were vicious and suspicious, and citizens were still in shock, albeit on a much lesser scale compared to what was happening to the people of Iran. For many refugees, arriving in Turkey meant freedom from the regime. For me, it was entering a very brutal domestic imprisonment that lasted until we arrived in Canada 5 years later. My husband first threatened me when we were halfway up the first of five mountains before crossing into Turkish soil. He said: you’ve been gambling with both our families’ lives. If you take one wrong step from here on, I will personally take you back to Iran and hand you over to [Iran’s] border police. I had reason to believe he would do just that – I had agreed to leave Iran with him out of fear that he would report me before I escaped. He made that threat on several occasions during our stay in Turkey. The second time he threatened me was a year into our stay when I said I have decided to divorce him. He said if I mentioned the word again, he would have someone murder my parents in Iran, and take a photo of their slain bodies for me to see. Again, I had reason to believe he would do what he said.
Aside from that, both of us had to hide many details from the Turkish police otherwise we would be deported. Refugees had no protection in those years especially those of us with connections to communist groups, or Kurds. I was a member of a communist party; he was a Kurd, raised in the mountains with family members who led the fight against the regime and ruled regional mountains in the Bani Sadr’s era. We used to hide many details from our neighbours. Residents in every neighbourhood were instructed by police to keep an eye on refugees living on their block. Our personal letters were delivered in opened envelopes, our phone was tapped. There was no way to connect with other activists even if I was not under the same roof with a mentally and emotionally abusive husband. Comrades would pass by each other with blank faces. On one occasion I met a cell member whom my husband invited to have supper with us in a café. We both pretended we didn’t know each other. So, to answer the question, I had no connection with any other activists while in Turkey.
This is an example of the lives many women refugees had in those years in Turkey. There were no laws to protect us. There was nothing our families could do from across the border. We could be abused, killed, or disappeared and no one would be able to find a trace of us. I was extremely afraid of my husband at the time. My mental and physical strength was spent on keeping my children – I gave birth to my daughter while in Turkey – and myself safe until we left that country.
What was it like in Canada?
We arrived in Toronto, Canada in December 1987. I started working with the Tudeh Party and its Women Organization from day 1. At the same time, I looked for ways to get a divorce. Again, my husband threatened to kidnap my kids and take them back to Iran if I mentioned divorce. I had already checked with lawyers and police who said he could, as the children’s father. Several Iranian men kidnapped their kids and went back to Iran as they couldn’t stand their suddenly empowered wives in the western culture and workforce. So, again, I believed he would do it if I pushed for divorce. But in Canada, I didn’t feel as vulnerable as I did in Turkey. I threatened back. The procedure took over two years, and I got my independence back. I left the Party and the Women’s Organization at the same time. Their agenda for Women’s Rights and Freedom was just a meek parody of anything resembling rights and freedom.
I was writing again at that point, after about 10 years, and was confident my poetry and fiction would be a strong force against the vileness of my culture and its taboos.
The Iranian community in Toronto, and in Diaspora in general was a young one, and not as large in those days. Refugees in Canada and Europe consisted of members or affiliates of political groups who fled Iran when each group came under attack and lost legitimacy. Most of these various Marxist groups were fanatics in their political beliefs. Men didn’t believe in women’s freedom, were afraid of the western lifestyle, and were lost without their political leaders. Most of them suffered traumas when in hiding or in jail. Their social status was suddenly reduced to none. Employment was another disappointment since they didn’t qualify for office work at the levels they were used to. They loved to have meetings and discussions about the cause and engage in long, futile conversations. Women had a completely different approach. They relied on their leftist background as inspiration and looked at adult education and the job market to better integrate with their host country and the many benefits for newcomer women and children – as it seemed so back then.
Iranians in exile or in Diaspora built everything from scratch. The first Farsi radio programs, first Farsi monthly magazines, Farsi Sunday Schools, social meetings, literary programs. The community was trying to cope with trauma. Many committed suicides. Many were admitted to mental institutions and never came out. Many faced charges and stayed in prison for years. Many husbands were indicted for domestic assaults, many children were given to foster homes. It was chaos back then. Contrary to what many might assume, belonging to the leftist camp didn’t mean the person is educated, open-minded, and tolerant. I can even say that those who had no leftist background were much more open to the idea of freedom, equality, and tolerance. It was within and against this community in Canada, the US, and Europe that I began my fight and for the next 10 years I was fighting a real war with the Iranian community in Diaspora. My ideas were shocking to this audience. I would constantly attack every aspect of the system and faced the expected consequences. The topic of marital rape, gender equality, open relationships, and motherhood without patriarchal obligations were some of the issues I brought up and fought for at a time when many Iranian women in literary circles denied that females can receive sexual pleasure. Canadian laws and institutions served as a friend to me. Saved for a tiny group of Iranian women, I had no friends nor a friendly environment between 1990 to 2008 when political differences and the Iranian Queer Organization’s (IRQO) [she created in 2009] put more distance between myself and the non-LGBTIAQ Iranians. But interestingly, I have been loved and respected as a controversial figure all along. I published 4 collections of poetry and a collection of fiction, blogged, and wrote on social media about gender identity and sexual orientation. I published photographs of my body in nude and BDSM poses, and during menstruation. The community in Canada stopped looking at me as a member of the community, but as a detached poet and activist. I can say that my words reached Iran more than they did the folks in Diaspora.
Why did you create IRQO (The Iranian Queer Organisation) there, and what problems did you encounter?
IRQO was created in Canada simply because it wasn’t possible to create and maintain an organization of that nature and calibre in Iran. It was created in Canada because the founding members resided in Canada. I believe the more important question is why it was created to begin with, for which I’ll need to provide some backstory. Prior to the year 2000, Gay and Transgender Women in Iran had a vast online coming-out that started in “Yahoo Rooms”. In 2000, blogging was introduced in Iran through Hossein Derakhshan and became the main virtual space for gay men and Transgender Women who used it to interact, connect, exchange information, and provide support. In those years lesbian and trans men, and more so bisexual and intersex people, had less presence. Lesbians and Trans Men caught up shortly after, followed by bisexuals. Intersex individuals didn’t use the online space to come out. In 2007, when we decided to create IRQO, there was already a very active and influential cyber-community of LGBTAIQ and their leading figures who were outspoken in their online comments, posts, and exchanges. They created waves for issues that were important to their group. For example, when Persian Blogs – a blog space provider – shut down all LGBT weblogs for indecency, gay bloggers wrote an open letter and protested, forcing the provider to reopen their blogs within a week. Trans Women also made waves and were a force against sex-reassignment surgeons who provided risky procedures.
Despite their force, this community of bloggers was extremely vulnerable, and the regime could, at any time, either remove their online venues, or physically kidnap, arrest, or blackmail them into silence. No one would know, and no one would care. The unofficial reports of the murder of gay and Trans Women were horrifying. I believed that it was crucial for them to have connections with the outside world, media, and human rights organizations, and to get reliable help when needed. It wasn’t possible to reach out directly from Iran. So, I created a network of bloggers with whom I would consult at every step. This was absolutely important because I didn’t want to impose on the community or endanger them by taking the wrong approach and potentially triggering Iran’s regime against those who resided in the country.
In 2008 when I registered IRQO as an NGO with two silent partners, securing a reliable connection with rights organizations was my priority. But there was another reason for a strong and outspoken IRQO, and that was to bar Western media, tabloids, Gay exclusive media, and loud gay activists such as the late Doug Ireland and Peter Tatchle from grabbing at any news about the gay Middle East to create commotion and bring more harm on the community. Also, the US government used the Iranian LGBT cause as a weapon against Iran’s regime which again brought more harm than protection.
Another pressing problem was the wave of gay men and Trans Women who fled to Turkey to claim refugee status. The UNHCR wasn’t very familiar with sexual orientation, gender identity, and local cultures. Police were brutal when dealing with LGBT asylum seekers. Town folks were hostile. Rape and murder happened on numerous occasions. An organization to serve as a bridge and representative was extremely needed.
These were the main concerns for me, personally, and why I committed myself to IRQO from 2007 until 2019. During this period, we did a lot more than we had planned. Our achievements were huge. IRQO and I were trusted by the UNHCR, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and gay rights organizations, which helped the work we were doing. During this time, IRQO prepared several Universal Periodic Reviews to address human rights violations.
During the 15 years IRQO was active, less than a few LGBT activists in Diaspora were willing to come out and work in person. As an organization, we were constantly juggling between having both a public and underground presence. Another common obstacle we faced was that almost all members of the Iranian LGBTIAQ suffered from PTSD, prescribed drug dependency, suicidal tendencies, plus physical injuries caused by sex-adjustment surgeries. That meant colleagues and team members disappeared with symptoms for unknown periods.
It all changed in recent years and now there is many queer activists inside Iran and in Diaspora. The younger generation of queer activists are filling the gap, be it in art and literature, journalism and media, politics, and activism, and constantly raising awareness.
What are the main changes you have witnessed in the diaspora political scene these past decades?
Two changes have had an important impact, both positive and negative, on the LGBT in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, and North Africa. The first one happened in the early 2000s, when the west began to take notice of the LGBT cause in the region and used it as a weapon against local regimes. This impeded the movement in Iran but made the activities in Diaspora thrive and spread vastly and encouraged other opposition groups to open their doors to LGBT issues and figures. The second took place around the time the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed. Following that, Iran’s lobbies in the West earned strength; with new venues for more direct communications, the LGBT were quickly off the agenda for Western powers. This was almost at the same time as the Green Movement in Iran and there were crackdowns on all social movements for years to come. The regime’s quick and strong attack on the Green Movement as well as freedom of expression, press, and social media, forced the LGBT community within Iran to move out of cyberspace’s larger stage and into WhatsApp to connect in small, trusted, neighbourhood groups, for meetups and group chats. Thus, the strong public presence of Gay, Trans Women, Trans Men, and Lesbian Bloggers, who were building momentum towards an actual coming out through their virtual presence, vanished. Only in the past 2 years are the voices and words of LGBTIA+ activists gaining momentum once again.
Can we talk about a LGBT movement?
There has been no basis for a social movement in Iran in the last century. The closest Iran came to anything resembling a social construct that would leave room for a social movement was during the past 40 years of the Islamist reign in Iran, and that only meant a constant crackdown on the attempts for a social movement for rights.
In the case of LGBT, we used to call it ‘Movement’ to encourage individuals and offer hope. Even though online presence of LGBT bloggers and activists was as vast as other social groups, it was not as experienced, educated, trained, and connected. Also, the online presence didn’t extend to actual interactions between activists. The online presence itself was not consistent. Every pseudonym could disappear, and others would surface. It was difficult to establish who was behind the blogs, how long they would keep at it and when they would disappear. It was difficult to plan and execute plans. One of IRQO’s achievements was to create a steady and consistent point of contact, and a pillar for the everchanging face of blogs to reach out to. In recent years too, when Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram replaced weblogs, and with the absence of IRQO, this non-movement changed shape, faded in many ways, and lost big portions of political weight. But in exchange, individual figures who are not interested in the politicizing of the LGBTIAQ cause, have found subtle ways to take a vast space in Diaspora’s outlook, and obscurely carved a place for themselves within other social groups. We are dealing with a wildly spread and vaguely constructed LGBTIAQ body that both craves and fears determined collaboration and mutual perspectives. Aside from all other factors, one reason for this is the confusion over the huge array of increasingly growing new definitions within gender identity and sexual orientations, boundaries blurred with intersectionality, that in recent years, haven’t allowed members of the community to come together under a shared definition. It will have amazingly beautiful outcomes in the future, but in my opinion, impacted the collective efforts so far, when a sense of belonging within the community was needed.
In recent years, LGBT activity became riskier in Iran, more alienated from the mainstream and its institutions. Isolated attempts to paint the walls and bridges with the LGBTIAQ motto was linked to Israel and US, rather than the genuine bravery of isolated LGBTIAQ activist. If we talk about a more current “current”, there is going to be added hostility against the LGBTIAQ and their involvement or assumed involvement in this recent uprising for the murder of Mahsa Amini in the hands of Iranian morality police. Islamists who assumed power in 1979, took their first steps against civil society by stripping Women of civil rights, and the LGBT of their human rights. Their hostile approach was not an ideologic approach, but a tool, a weapon. They’ll need this weapon now more than ever.
- Poetry, activism, and selfhood
You said, “you cannot divide your life as a poet, as a person” (Poetry of witness, 2016). How did your poetry entangle with your life? Where is the place of poetry and literature in your professional and political life?
I consider poetry part of my identity. I started very early to express myself through writing poetry. Poetry was also a big part of my upbringing, like politics. If I lived in a different time and place, I might have dedicated my life, the old-fashioned way, to activism. But I would be a poet, regardless. I see the world through writing poetry. When I read my own poetry, I am reading it for the first time, and explore the world of the poem. I am the writer, and the audience, both. It’s my connection to the outside world.
My poetry allows aspects of my political life to take space within my writing. Professional and political are both secondary to poetry.
We have found that in recent years, you have also incorporated queer concepts into your poetry. What do you think of Claudia Yaghoubi‘s reading of your work, when she says you give “voice to the historically unthinkable and unspeakable issue of veiled Iranian women’s bodies and voices breaking the deafening silences concerning the multiplicity of gender identities and sexualities” (2021).
When Dr. Yaghoubi wrote the article, she hadn’t read my previous work. I published my first short story in 1995. The story and it’s vague but obvious mention of attraction between two women unleashed tremendous anger among the Iranian community in Diaspora against me. My first collections of poetry, published from 1998 to 2003, are either full of queer erotic mentions or criticize patriarchal ceremonial interaction between male and female actors of the culture. But these books aren’t available in bookstores or online, so I don’t think she had access to them.
Roya Hakkakian described my poetry in her speech in 1999 IWSF as “the first example of lesbian poetry in contemporary Farsi literature”. In the same year, Ramin Ahmadi wrote an article his interpretation of my work as homoerotic. The Mirror, one of the poems in my second collection, The Whore Is the Savior, published in 1999, reflects a female couple making love. In my other earlier work, where there is no obvious mention of attraction or encounter between two women, the very basis of patriarchal norms is criticized, not from within its system, but rather from a queer point of view.
Queer erotic (can we call it that?) concepts are also a central part of your poetry. Could you tell us more about that?
In my early works, I used to mention the concept unconsciously. My understanding of love, love making, friendship, relationships, would shape itself with stark or subtle metaphors of same-sex interactions. I also picture the male body with female characteristics. I saw and admired feminine features in the male body and body language in my poetry. I have also criticised the constructed body and body language of Woman and Man in mainstream culture. My approach to motherhood, to my own children, to poisonous parenting methods of patriarchy, my approach to all topics is a queer approach. My understanding, admiration, descriptions, criticism, and confrontations in my poetry and fiction come from a queer perspective. I think that’s only natural, and through the years my language and perspective have become more mature, informed, and determined.
How and why was the Gilgamishan publishing house born?
A couple of months before Tehran’s International Book Festival in 2009, when writers in Iran complained about censorship and books banned by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Mehdi Hamzad, one of the leading voices in Farsi Blogestan wrote: As gay writers, we don’t even exist, and can’t even have the privilege to whine over censorship. That was the spark. So other leading bloggers in Iran and I discussed it and decided to prepare manuscripts of poetry and fiction by bloggers, and submit them for publication to Afra, one of the pioneers of Iranian publications in exile in Canada. We created the blog Iranian LGBT Book Festival on the same day of the Tehran International Book Festival with around 25 titles (http://ketabkhaneh88.blogspot.com). A year later, we decided to register a publication exclusively for the work of the LGBT. Hamseresht, the strongest voice of the time among Iranian LGBT bloggers, who came up with the idea of a digital publishing house of our own, suggested Gilgamishan for its name, referring to the first mythical gay figure, most famous among the gay community for his same-sex love affair. Gilgamishan is run and moderated by volunteers who edit, do layouts, and design covers. All works are digital and submitted to Library and Archives Canada. This, and the permanent column we published on Radio Zamaneh, a popular and well-known Farsi-language media based in the Netherlands, and were big steps, especially because it was through these publications that we were able to transform the face of Iranian LGBT in the eye of the mainstream. Pârk-e Dâneshjoo (Students’ parc) which is a very large park in the center of Tehran, has been known as the gathering and socializing center of Iranian LGBTs for many decades, is no longer the only point of reference. Even with their pseudonyms and obscure whereabouts, these writers added to the picture of the gay, lesbian, and Trans Women and men in mainstream media and within families.
 Claudia Yaghoobi is a Roshan Institute Associate Professor and the director of the Center for the Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Yaghoobi is a scholar of Iranian cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies with a focus on the members of sexual, ethnic, and religious minoritized populations. She is the author of Transnational Culture in the Iranian Armenian Diaspora (Edinburgh UP 2023), Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Persian Literature and Film (Cambridge UP 2020), and Subjectivity in ‘Attar, Persian Sufism, and European Mysticism (Purdue UP 2017).
 International Conference of the Iranian Women’s Studies Foundation