The British House of Lords (BHL) is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and is also commonly referred to as 'the Lords'. The Sovereign, the House of Commons (which is the lower house of Parliament and referred to as the Commons), and the Lords together comprise the Parliament. In May 2000 a historic change was made to the way in which nonparty-political members of the BHL appointed. The British Appointments Commission (BAC) was given the key role of recommending to The Queen the names of individuals BAC think should be appointed on merit. The BAC is a non-statutory advisory body set up by the British Prime Minister to make recommendations for non-party political peerages. The BAC has to find people of distinction who will bring authority and expertise to the BHL. The Commission recommends individuals on merit and their ability to contribute effectively to the work of the House. On October 18, 2007 it was announced that Haleh Afshar, an Iranian female professor, would be created a Baroness and join the BHL as a non-party political peer. In this article the life story of Professor Haleh Afshar as the First Iranian Woman who got a Non-Political Seat in BHL would be briefly studied and discussed.
She was born in 1944 in Tehran, Iran. Her father was late Hassan Afshar, a Professor of the Faculty of Law at Tehran University.
She was an undergraduate at the University of York, (a campus university in York, England) in the 1960s.
She worked as a journalist before and after her initial studies at York, where she was to return after receiving her PhD from Cambridge University.
Haleh Afshar has served on the British Council and the United Nations Association of which she is Honorary President of International Services. Haleh Afshar is now a Professor in Politics and Women's Studies at the University of York. She is also Visiting Professor of Islamic Law at the International Faculty of Comparative Law, University of Strasbourg. Haleh Afshar is the founder and Chair of the Muslim Women’s Network, and she is an advisor to the British Government on public policy relating to Muslim women and Islamic law.
She is married to Maurice Dodson who is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics at The University of York, UK. (His research interests are Metrical Diophantine Approximation, Harmonic Analysis and Applications to Signal Processing, Chaos and Biology).
In addition to working in the fields of development studies and women's studies Haleh Afshar has also been teaching and researching on issues concerned with Islam and Politics, women and conflict as well as race and equality. She has edited a volume entitled Iran: A Revolution in Turmoil, Macmillan 1989 , and has written a book entitled Islam and the Post Revolutionary State in Iran, written under the pseudonym (in Persian: Naam-e-Mossta-aar) Homa Omid, Macmillan 1994 and Islam and Feminisms, Macmillan 1998.
There is an active group of research students working with Afshar in these fields and the current work include issues relating to women and work in Iran, women war violence and survival in Palestine, Lebanon, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, Islam and politics in Turkey and Islamist women in Turkey, as well as research concerning Muslim women in the UK in terms of their faith, their lived experiences and the impact of education on their lives.
Haleh Afshar is also part of a group working on issues related to race and ethnicity. The group recently completed its work on an ESRC research project to conduct a comparative study of empowerment and dis-empowerment for British women in their third age. ESRC, The Economic and Social Research Council, is the UK's leading research and training agency addressing economic and social concerns.
In addition to her academic studies, she has written widely as a journalist on Muslim women and the War on Terror.
In 2002, a year after 9/11, she said in an interview with Stephen Lewis of the Press that, 'Fundamentally, the world hasn't changed at all. It is getting harder to get on an aeroplane. But I don't think really that the world is any different than it was a year ago. Terrorism did not start on September 11, and it won't stop there. Perhaps what September 11 really succeeded in doing was making us aware of just how dangerous a world it was that we already lived in. There were both winners and losers from the tragedy that was 9/11. The winner was the United States arms industry, which has grown fat on the profits of fear. The main losers - apart, of course, from the victims who lost their lives, and the families who were left behind to grieve - have been ordinary Muslims. Ultimately there is only one way to bring an end to terrorism, and it is not by going to war. It is by tackling the injustices that are at the root of terrorism.'
In October 2007, after her appointment in the BHL, she said that, “I was really very surprised and honored to be considered a People's Peer. In fact, I was lost for words when I was told. I shall certainly be fighting for equal opportunities for minorities and for women as I have always done.”
Appointments Commission’s Website (2007): Online Notes on House of Lords
Irandokht Website (2007): Online Article on Haleh Afshar (in Persian).
Kadivar, D. (2007): Online Article on Hail Baroness Haleh Afshar.
Lewis, S. (2002): Online Interview with Haleh Afshar.
Wikipedia Website (2007): Online Note on Haleh Afshar.