Why Iranians Need Cheragh Academy in the Aftermath of #MeToo

Jun 22, 20210 comments

Iranian feminist and women’s rights activist Samaneh Savadi has been working with our IranCubator project for almost a year to launch Cheragh Academy (website is in Persian), the first-of-its-kind educational online platform focused exclusively on workplace sexual harassment in Iran. The project is a bold and unflinching response to the global #MeToo movement, which reached Iran in the summer of 2020, almost three years after it first erupted in the United States. 

#MeTooIran shocked the country. Thousands of women and some men broke their silence by publicly sharing personal stories of sexual harassment, assault, abuse, and rape. They shared their experiences in hopes of raising awareness, protecting new generations of Iranian women from similar experiences, transforming Iranian culture, and ultimately pushing for reformist laws.

#MeTooIran exposed more than 100 men including athletes, members of the media, doctors, actors, writers, and members of the parliament as perpetrators. The best known case was that of Sarah Omatali, a former journalist living in the United States, who accused Aydin Aghdashloo, an internationally acclaimed artist, of sexual assault. Another twelve women accused Aghdashloo of sexual misconduct spanning a 30-year period. Most were his former students, and some were journalists who reported on arts and culture.

In spite of #MeTooIran, it is challenging to talk about sexual harassment in Iran because there are still no clear laws on sexual harassment and no legal protections for people who speak out. It’s quite the opposite. Accusers might end up becoming the accused because of Zana, an Islamic law that punishes unlawful sexual intercourse.

Research shows that annually 1,650 cases of serious sexual crimes are reported in the city of Tehran. Sociologists believe that the real number is closer to 10,0000 annually. Even though a limited number of workplace sexual harassment studies have been conducted in Iran, sociologists and activists believe that it’s widespread. One survey of 82 young female employees revealed that 75 percent had already experienced sexual harassment.

Cheragh Academy was created as a direct response to the #MeToo movement in Iran and its mission is to provide quality and culturally appropriate education on sexual harassment. One of its objectives is to provide high-quality education by regularly publishing essays written by Iranian feminist scholars, thought leaders and culture makers. Another is to provide high quality online sexual harassment training courses made specifically for Iranians. Ultimately, Cheragh Academy aims to facilitate an ongoing, constructive conversation about sexual harassment, to educate Iranians on what sexual harassment is, and to provide training to all interested employees, employers, managers and educational institutions. 

Learn more about Cheragh Academy and get engaged. These are just some actions you could take today:

  • Check out Cheragh Academy’s educational website (in Persian) and spend some time reading the thought-provoking essays written by Iranian feminists, experts and leaders in workplace safety and workplace sexual harassment. Even though the website is written in Persian, you can translate it into English. For example, the Chrome browser has a built-in and easy-to-use plugin.
  • If you speak Persian, follow and engage with @CheraghAcademy on Instagram, Twitter and Telegram. Share our posts or create your own and use these hashtags: #آکادمی_چراغ # آزارجنسی # آزارجنسی_درمحیط_کار
  • Attend the first of four sexual harassment training courses organized by Cheragh Academy and Project WHEN, which will be available starting Tuesday, July 6. In this first course, employees will become familiar with their legal rights, the concept and examples of sexual harassment, as well as how to react to it. This course is in Persian, free and open to anyone interested in learning how to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. The time commitment is 1 hour and, upon successful completion , you will receive a certificate of completion. This course is in Persian, free and open to anyone interested in learning how to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. 
  • Share this link to Cheragh Academy website with any HR professionals, managers and employers you know in Iran. We want as many interested managers in Iran to take these courses and to encourage their employees to attend them as well. Consider contacting them on LinkedIn.
  • Join our Instagram Live scheduled for Friday, July 9. We’ll talk about sexual harassment in the workplace with the creator of Cheragh Academy, Samaneh Savadi. We had over 1K people join our last Live and the conversation was lively, inspiring and eye-opening. This conversation will be in Persian.