Saturday, April 29, 2017

Meet the Iranian tycoon smashing gender stereotypes

Daneshvar’s statement resonates with me, “I fear nothing but God. That's why I always take risks and do things that many people do not do.”  - Indeed, fearing God amounts to concerns about creating an imbalance, and injustice in the society. I fear no Mullah, no Muslim and no no-one. I like her spirit and would like to write a piece on what “fearing Allah” means, which is generally mis-understood.  You have a knack for collecting great articles and extracting its essence and placing at. Most times, I read the stuff in red and then read the rest.  Thanks Imran. 

43, has spent years pursuing a successful career in the male-dominated mining industry.

Tehran - Fatemeh Daneshvar moves easily around the room as she speaks of her accomplishments, pausing at one point to admire a photo of her children, and at another to flip through a glossy magazine packed with images of some of the thousands of women her charity has aided.

Daneshvar, 43, now counts seven major businesses to her name, having spent years pursuing a successful career in the male-dominated mining industry. She serves on Tehran's city council and the Iranian chamber of commerce, and has authored dozens of reports on the social problems plaguing Iran, from addiction to child labour. She donates one-fourth of her income to her own charity, Mehrafarin, which supports women and children whose fathers have abandoned them.
But of all that Daneshvar has achieved over the years, she is proudest of her work with Iran's street kids. She runs a programme to train and support dozens of  exceptional orphans, giving them a chance to succeed in the broader community.

"Once, they were just yearning for a basket of fruit; now, they want to be astronauts, the best physicists of the world," Daneshvar tells Al Jazeera from inside her Tehran office.

Daneshvar has done all of this while raising four young children alongside her husband and business partner, and she openly acknowledges that it has not always been an easy road. Along the way, she faced resistance from traditionalist members of Iran's business community - but she persisted, citing a need to send a message to other women in the country.

Daneshvar recently sat down with Al Jazeera to speak about how she found success in a male-dominated industry, while also challenging Western stereotypes of what it means to be a woman in Iran.

Al Jazeera: What initially drew you to the business world?

Fatemeh Daneshvar: I did my MA in the field of business management and later decided to do business for myself. I was single at the time, but it wasn't quite something normal in Iranian culture, which was male-dominated in the business field - especially in mining and importing/exporting.

But I entered the mining industry sector and started exporting mining materials to different countries. My business took off and I got very successful.

Later on, I realised I'd gotten a lot of attention as the only woman active in this field. I realised that I'm quite different from others because of some of the virtues I have, like self-confidence, risk-taking and audacity.

The first business deal I made, I made a $2m deal, but all I had was $200. People wanted to know how on Earth I did that. I explained that it was through the art of negotiations.

Al Jazeera: What challenges have you faced while navigating this male-dominated world?

Daneshvar: I was always committed to setting goals and prioritising my goals, and I tried to look at them from above. Then, I always told myself: "That's nothing, let's do it."

Among those objectives was bringing four children into the world. I made those children at the height of my business and I was quite busy, but it happened and I am very happy for that - two boys and two girls.

It was like an earthquake across the country, that in a totally male-dominated field, a woman has gotten this vote. It was like a thunderbolt.

At that time, it came to my mind to become a member of the business chamber of Iran. There was no female member of the mining industry at the chamber. When I signed up, the senior members made fun of me, saying no such "young lady" should come to this field. They teased me that I should leave; I was pregnant at the time with twins and very busy.

But in the election of the chamber, I got the second-highest vote. It was like an earthquake across the country, that in a totally male-dominated field, a woman has gotten this vote. It was like a thunderbolt.

I received a lot of calls from male members of the chamber that I should resign, and that they could not accept a woman presiding over them. I sometimes got very tired and fed up with these kinds of calls, but I thought if I do resign, it's a kind of betrayal to the women in our society.

Instead, I made way for others: There are currently three other women chairing specialised committees.

Al Jazeera: Do you believe there are misconceptions in the West about what life is like for women living under Islamic rule?

Daneshvar: There is a huge misconception about women in Iran from a Western perspective. When I've travelled to different countries, I've realised that Iranian women are extremely highly educated and enjoy many more freedoms that in some of these other countries. But these misconceptions persist.

In a country like Iran, women have a delicate conduct with their husbands. They shouldn't weaken their husband to strengthen themselves. 

My husband has been a great partner, especially for raising children. When I've had to be away from home dealing with my business, he has filled that gap for me. He has been a great father and is wonderful with the children. This is another key to success, having a supportive partner.

Al Jazeera: What would you say are the most pressing social problems facing Iran today?

Daneshvar: Addiction and unemployment. These two are the root causes of many of the problems that I personally have seen, the social crimes and social harms.

TALK TO AL JAZEERA: Ahmadinejad - Iran can be better managed (22:16)
Our country is neighbouring Afghanistan, where many of the drugs are produced, and it is a transit route for drugs to Europe and Western countries. In the process, a lot of Iranian youth can become addicted to these types of drugs, and this leads to many social problems and social issues. We have divorce, we have family problems; we have many, many issues resulting from this. What is especially worrisome is the addiction among women, which should be tackled very seriously, because they are involved in child-bearing.

The country's senior authorities have always been very sensitive to this, but recently senior officials have paid a lot more attention to the issue, and many rehabilitation camps have been launched. Such efforts have been cumulatively increasing. 

Al Jazeera: What's your advice for women and girls who want to follow in your footsteps?

Daneshvar: I always advise them, the number one enemy is fear. Do not be scared, no matter what. And always think about yourself - set goals and objectives for yourself. Try to know thyself first.

I'm indebted to my spiritual intelligence. Because of the way my family raised me, I fear nothing but God. That's why I always take risks and do things that many people do not do.

This Q&A was adapted from a translated interview and has been edited and  condensed for clarity.

Follow Megan O'Toole on Twitter: @megan_otoole


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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.