Shirzanan endeavors to become:
- a practical hub to develop a positive, powerful narrative around Muslim females in sport;
- a supportive training and capacity-building network; and
- a media platform with international reach that strengthens the representation, advocacy skills and will of Muslim females in sport to battle discrimination and advocate for gender equality.
Shirzanan is the Persian word for “female heroes” and the name chosen by Tehran-born journalist Solmaz Sharif when she created the first online Iranian women’s sports magazine as a direct answer to the dearth of female reporters covering female athletes.
From 2007-2009, Sharif operated Shirzanan as a virtual newsroom utilizing digital delivery to circumvent censorship. The publication received more than 6.5 million website visits and served as a bridge across the gender divide, cultures and borders.
In 2011, Ms. Sharif and Mara Gubuan met while working at a human rights organization established by Human Rights Watch founder Robert L. Bernstein. Ms. Sharif wrote about dissidents and women’s issues in the Middle East-North Africa region while Ms. Gubuan handled operations, development and a merger with Movements.org.
Inspired by advancements for Muslim women in sport, including:
- the 2012 London Olympics where Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar entered female athletes for the first time in each country’s history;
- the 2012 FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) overturn of the hijab ban; and
- the adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020 with gender equality as a main pillar, the co-founders recruited a stellar board of advisors to develop an expanded Shirzanan media and advocacy platform covering all Muslim females in sport. Shirzanan has been developed as a project of Non-Stop Media whose mission is the production and distribution of free information – particularly to populations whose governments restrict its availability and human rights.
- We produced a pilot magazine issue featuring contributions from key Muslim athletes, media, women’s rights, and sports experts from the Shirzanan board, editing and production from Carole Vaporean and our parent public charity Non-Stop Media board members:
- Rimla Akhtar
- Fatima Saleem
- Hayam Essam
- Sarah Murray
- Shannon Galpin
- Minky Worden
- Solmaz Sharif
- Mara Gubuan
- Laura Secor
- Elisabeth Witchel
- Etelle Higonnet
- Roozbeh Mirebrahimi
- We recruited elite Muslim athletes from seven nations to carry out our first advocacy events as Team Shirzanan:
- a social media #RideForRights awareness campaign;
- a cross-cultural, multi-national “Sports, Media and Equality” panel discussion at Drake University; and
- the 7-day, 462-mile bicycle ride (known as RAGBRAI) across the state of Iowa in July 2015.
- VIDEO of Team Shirzanan
- We formed a Team Shirzanan Athlete Ambassador contingent committed to supporting one another’s sports empowerment initiatives:
- Raha Moharrak – Saudi Arabian mountaineer
- Kiran Khan – Pakistani Olympic swimmer
- Mona Seraji – Iranian snowboarder/surfer
- Hajar Abulfazil – Afghan football player/coach
- Amani Ammoura – Jordanian cyclist
- Rehab Shawky – Egyptian cyclist
- Kulsoom Abdullah – Pakistani-American Olympic weightlifter
- Soolmaz Abooali – Iranian-American Traditional karate champion
- We received international media coverage for Team Shirzanan and our athlete ambassadors through:
- Chime For Change
- Huffington Post
- Women’s eNews
- The Des Moines Register, etc.
- We presented, moderated, attended and advocated for Muslim females in sport at:
- The New York Times
- United Nations
- Muhammad Ali Center for Social Change
- U.S. Department of State
- Human Rights Watch and elsewhere.
- We partnered with Chime For Change to develop journalism training and digital storytelling workshops;
- We joined a coalition led by Human Rights Watch in opposition to the discriminatory ban denying Iranian women from entering stadiums to watch the men’s national volleyball team;
- We attracted 20,000 organic social media followers from around the world;
- We curated a network of leading professionals in media, sports, human rights and Muslim-related initiatives;
- We wrote and procured original articles for our new website (no physical copies printed); and
- We launched our website: shirzanan.org
Shirzanan is only at the starting line in our quest to secure access to sports for all Muslim females throughout the world.
In order to provide information and services free to the public, we rely on donations and grants to sustain and develop our work.
Please support us with a donation to our parent public charity Non-Stop Media today. Shirzanan is a non-governmental, non-profit initiative.