Taiba Hussain showcases clothes and jewelry at the Nowruz Phoenix celebration on March 18, 2023. (Photo by Paula Soria/Cronkite News)
PHOENIX – The second annual Nowruz Phoenix, a celebration of the Persian new year, was also a commemoration of the global movement for women’s rights.
The celebration, which took place March 18 at Civic Space Park, honored Iranian and Afghan women who are raising their voices to create awareness of gender inequalities in their countries and worldwide.
Since last year, Iran and Afghanistan have seen significant turmoil related to a lack of women’s rights, including strict dress codes and limited education access. This has led to a push for women’s rights in both countries.
On Sept. 16, Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman whose Kurdish first name was Jina, died in police custody after being arrested for improperly wearing her hijab, the use of which is mandated for women by Iranian law. Amini’s death sparked a series of protests across the country, and various protesters, including children, were killed by Iranian authorities, according to media reports.
In 2021, the Taliban took back control of Afghanistan and erased two decades of women’s rights progress, according to the United Nations. Women are not allowed to travel without a male guardian and have been banned from pursuing college education.
“Nowruz is a celebratory event. It will always be a celebratory event, but we cannot ignore the atrocities that are occuring in these countries,” said Phoenix Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari. She is the first Iranian-American elected to public office in Arizona, according to the city of Phoenix.
During the Phoenix celebration, Persian and Afghan vendors and artists gathered to showcase and sell their work. Attendees purchased products ranging from handmade jewelry to Middle Eastern cuisine. Performances also showcased Middle Eastern cultures.
“It is great to see the event getting bigger and better this year. We are seeing so many more vendors and new people attending the event,” Ansari said. “I am proud that we will be honoring the women in Iran and Afghanistan at the end of the event with a candlelight vigil.”
The city of Phoenix partnered on the event with the International Rescue Committee and the Arizona Persian Cultural Center. Both of the organizations have worked to develop a supportive environment for those who have come from Middle Eastern countries to the United States in search of a better quality of life. They are also advocates for women’s rights, and during the event, both of the organizations had booths and shared messages of advocacy on stage.
“Women are the solution, and we all have to fight together to make sure that women’s rights are not denied,” said Aaron Rippenkroeger, executive director of the IRC in Arizona. “This will not be easy, but out of these challenges can come hope, resilience and renewal. And the spirit of renewal is strong in the tradition of Nowruz.”