Zahra Lotfi holds a PhD from Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, Iran in History of Iran in the Islamic Era, a field which spans the geographic area of Farsi civilization including Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan and the time span of the 7th century until today – although Lotfi’s studies focus primarily on contemporary events of Afghanistan and Iran. Noticing an absence of women’s voices and presence in historical resources, and dealing daily with women’s issues while writing her thesis in Afghanistan, Lotfi turned to the field of women’s studies, establishing the Center for Women’s Development and Research at Avicenna University after she completed her thesis. “I felt that the field of women’s studies could improve and promote the viewpoints, thoughts, and function of women activists as they defend women’s rights in Afghanistan,” Lotfi says.
During her years in Afghanistan, she realized that, “Women are the silent class of Afghanistan society.” If a woman decides to work or study outside of the home, her social circle will closely monitor her behavior and speech to be sure she adheres to traditional society’s rules and values. Women must adapt to traditional and religious standards and if they don’t, they may become outcasts or victims of honor violence – violence perpetuated in the name of family honor, often when certain behaviors are seen as disobedient. After observing this pattern in society and seeing videos of honor violence on social networks, Zahra decided to focus her work on this critical issue, particularly on the disproportionate impact this cultural practice has on women.
Zahra looks forward to sharing her work while at Northeastern with other scholars in the field. She notes, “While the field of women’s studies has been founded recently in Afghanistan, it has been researched and established in the USA for several decades. I am so glad that I will learn from the experience of the scholars at WGSS to forward my research and share my future work.”