Global and Iranian history are both closely intertwined with the lives and destinies of prominent figures. Every one of them has laid a brick on history’s wall, sometimes paying the price with their lives, men and women alike. Women have been especially influential in the past 200 years, writing much of contemporary Iranian history.
In Iran, women have increased public awareness about gender discrimination, raised the profile of and improved women’s rights, fought for literacy among women, and promoted the social status of women by counteracting religious pressures, participating in scientific projects, being involved in politics, influencing music, cinema… And so the list goes on.
This series aims to celebrate these renowned and respected Iranian women. They are women who represent the millions of women that influence their families and societies on a daily basis. Not all of the people profiled in the series are endorsed by IranWire, but their influence and impact cannot be overlooked. The articles are biographical stories that consider the lives of influential women in Iran.
Jinous Nemat Mahmoudi was the first Iranian woman to be appointed as the head of the National Meteorological Organization. She was born in 1929 in Tehran and was the daughter of Kamale Ajzachi, a teacher, and Abbass Nemat, who was best known for establishing the printing process gravure in Iran, but was also a writer who contributed to a range of newspapers and publications. Under the Shah, Nemat published Tehran Mosavar magazine, one of the country’s oldest and most popular magazines.
Mahmoudi’s passion was science and nature. She was a great lover of the mountains and the countryside. In fact, she was so fond of Alborz that “creating the largest robust treasure of human sciences and civilization” was her primary concern. She wanted to collect every document that related to science and civilization, pre-historic animals, scientific discoveries and speeches by prominent scientific and historical figures into one place, and aimed to store the research on microfilm. “We, as Iranians, must have a role in safeguarding and protecting the world’s science and heritage.”
It was her university degrees in physics and meteorology, alongside her calm and strong-willed character, that led to her success and scientific achievements. During his reign, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi came to rely on Mahmoudi as the country’s most distinguished specialized meteorologist.
She began her career as a weather forecaster and theoretical teacher of Asian meteorological and climate studies and was appointed to the first meteorological school in the country. Her last post was as the head of the National Meteorological Organization, which at the time was a branch of the Defence Ministry. She was effectively the deputy Defence Minister, the equivalent of an army general. She also represented Iran at international conferences.
“I remember when we were in Iran, my mother stood in her meteorological office in Tehran Mehrabad Airport watching the sky and telling me that whatever I do in meteorology, I do for my love of this country and its people,” her daughter Mona recalled.
But her love for meteorology, the mountains and the sea was not confined to her professional career alone. She was also the first person in Iran to begin research on solar energy and its potential in producing heat and was in charge of the Iranian Atlas Project.
Alongside her career and numerous work trips, she also fought to secure equal rights for women. Mahmoudi was a member of Zonta (the Association for Educated Women for Peace), secretary of the Deyhim Peace association and chaired the board of directors for the Women’s Association of Roads and Meteorological Ministry.
It was during this time that Houshang Mahmoudi, the country’s first children’s radio presenter and a documentary filmmaker, came into Mahmoudi’s life. They were married and had three children, Aryana, Mona and Artin.
Shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Mahmoudi became a victim of the new Islamic government’s policies towards Baha’is.
After the establishment of religious rule, the new regime showed no regard for the Mahmoudis’ scientific expertise, but instead targeted the couple for their religion. Jinous Nemat Mahmoudi was quickly fired from her job because she was a Baha’i. She and her husband were forced to live in secret, underground. They had, luckily, previously sent their children abroad to study. Then, in August 1980, Houshang Mahmoudi disappeared and was never seen again.
The early days of the revolution saw the execution of people belonging to the Baha’i faith. Members of local and national Baha’i circles either disappeared or were arrested by the state. Several were executed. Jinous Mahmoudi became a member of the Tehran National Circle and following this, the head of the National Religious Circle. She was active in several Baha’i committees, including the Tehran National Circle, where she was the deputy leader. Although her life was in jeopardy, she continued to visit Baha’i prisoners and their families. Revolutionary guards eventually arrested her on December 14, 1981 while she was visiting a Baha’i association member.
The authorities never published any information about the reasons for her arrest, her trial or the court’s final verdict. A single document on the case is available, which was published by the general prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court on December 28, 1981. According to this, Jinous Mahmoudi and seven other Baha’is were convicted by Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court and sentenced to death on charges of “spying.”
Jinous Mahmoudi was executed in Iran a year and a half after the disappearance of her husband, without the knowledge of her family. They later found her anonymous grave in Kofrabad in Behesht Zahra cemetery after unofficially being informed of her death.
Interview with Mona Mahmoudi, daughter of Jinous and Houshang Mahmoudi/Interview with Jinous Mahmoudi in Zan-e Rooz magazine, 1976 /Diary of Jinous Mahmoudi, Boroumand Foundation.