by Mahindokht Mosbah
Maryam Firuz in the final decade of her life
Maryam Firuz, the leader of Women's Democratic Organization and the first woman to become a member of the political committee of a party in Iran, passed away in Tehran in the afternoon of Wednesday, 12 March. A descendant of aristocrats, an iconoclast, and a friend of many of the literary and cultural elite, with a life spent with Noureddin Kianouri, 22 years in exile in the Soviet Union and the former German Democratic Republic, 7 years in a prison of the Islamic Republic, and 17 years under house arrest, she had a different profile from other social and political militants.
Maryam Firuz was born in 1914 in Tehran, a child of Abdol Hossein Mirza Farmanfarma, one of the Qajar princes. In 1942, she joined the Tudeh party and concentrated much of her activities in the women's branch of this party. Maryam Firuz, in the aftermath of the 28 Mordad coup d'état against the Mossadegh government in 1953, after three years in the underground, left Iran in 1956. During her years of exile, she was sentenced to death in absentia. Maryam Firuz was a relative of Dr. Mossadegh, and according to her own testimony, in the critical days of 17-19 August 1953, Dr. Mossadegh and the Tudeh party leadership were related on the distaff side.
Mohammad Ali Amui, a political prisoner of both the regimes of the Shah and the Islamic Republic, said about Maryam Firuz: "It's really astonishing that Mrs. Firuz so easily rejected her own aristocratic Qajar lineage. She turned her back on all class privileges she had and devoted her life to the task of acquainting women with their own rights. Women's Democratic Organization was established when women's rights weren't fundamentally debated. In this organization, problems like men's right to divorce at will and terrible legal and educational discriminations between men and women were studied."
Return from Exile
Maryam Firuz, after the revolution, together with many political activists and Tudeh party members, returned to Iran from 22 years of exile. From 1979 till her arrest in 1983, she was the leader of Women's Democratic Organization and the editor of the Zanan [Women] magazine. Her organization and magazine defended the anti-American policy of the Islamic Republic and the "Imam's Line."
Detention in Her Seventies
Maryam Firuz, with her husband Noureddin Kianouri, was arrested in February 1983. The two were first brought to the joint committee 3,000 and then to the first prison.
Mohammad Ali Amui said about the period of Maryam Firuz' detention: "Mrs. Firuz, like other political prisoners, was subjected to torture and pressure. These pressures and harsh treatments of political prisoners have been described in memoirs. When the process of her interrogation was over, Mr. Kianouri requested that he and his wife be put in the same cell, a request that was not granted. I witnessed the love they had for each other: whenever we were allowed to get together, Kianouri was all excited and, like a young lover, dashed to meet her."
Noureddin Kianouri, in a letter dated 5 February 1989 addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wrote about a part of the tortures and pressures inflicted upon him and Maryam Firuz in prison.
Maryam Firuz and Kianouri never became truly free from imprisonment. From 1990, they were put under the surveillance of the Intelligence Ministry and lived under house arrest. Mohammad Ali Amui was one of those who remained by Maryam Firuz's side till her death, visiting her at home. Was Maryam Firuz able to obtain news of the problems of women's movement in Iran and their current activities?
Mohammad Ali Amui: "Dear Maryam read just about all newspapers, even though our newspapers didn't have much to say about women and women's movement. Such news was conveyed to her orally, and she followed it avidly. Mrs. Firuz, due to the prohibition of the Intelligence Ministry, was not permitted to visit anyone, and prominent activists also knew about that."
Maryam Firuz, in addition to several articles and translations, wrote a book titled Radiant Icons, describing those who dedicated their lives to defense of common people among the political activists prosecuted by the post-coup government. In this book, she paid tribute to forgotten radiant icons. Another book by the title of Memoir that Maryam Firuz published in her seventies, however, seems to be the work of the Intelligence Ministry.
Mohammad Ali Amui: "She herself didn't accept this book. Once I frankly raised a question about this book, and she said to me, 'My dear Amu, you don't really think these are my writings, do you? These were written by others under my name.' . . ."
According to Mohammad Ali Amui, on Thursday, 13 March 2008, Maryam Firuz's body was buried, by officials of the Intelligence Ministry, in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery in Tehran, in the double grave with Noureddin Kianouri.
The original obituary in Persian was published on the Web site of Deutsche Welle on 14 March 2008. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.