Meet Courage in Journalism Award Winner Parisa Hafezi, Reuters Bureau Chief, Iran

The single mom has suffered beatings and detentions to cover the news in dangerous Tehran.

By Lesley Kennedy • Reporter
parisa hafezi reuters bureau chief image
Parisa Hafezi is the Reuters Iran bureau chief.
Photograph: International Women’s Media Foundation

Also, I think I want to display a strong role model for my daughters. I want to teach them to be strong, to be challengers and not to give up because of pressure. Life without challenges and risks could be very boring. By taking risks, we are paving the ground for younger journalists.

More: How do your family and friends feel about the work you do? Do they ever ask you to switch careers?

PH: I am a single mother and the only child, so it makes life more difficult for me. My parents support me, but sometimes my mother complains about my stretched working hours and the fact that I have no personal life. My daughters have mixed feelings. They are proud of me, but they don't want to become journalists. They dislike my work trips and are always worried about detentions. 

More: How does being a woman affect your job?

PH: It has its pros and cons. It is difficult enough to be a woman in a male-dominated Islamic country. Imagine how difficult it is to be a female journalist working for “the Zionist news agency” in an Islamic country. But I should say that it has some advantages too. Officials cannot ignore you and always try to be polite to you, as you are a woman.

I have learned to be a challenger and I never give up. Once you prove yourself as a female journalist by writing strong stories, then you are respected, even if your male colleagues or authorities try not to openly display that respect. But to be honest, my policy as the first female journalist working for foreign media in the Islamic Republic is to focus on my job as a journalist and forget about my gender.

I have never taken a man as my role model and have never wished to be a man. I see no difference between myself and my male colleagues. But sometimes as a mother I feel guilty because of not being able to spend enough time with my girls.

More: Would you ever consider taking a different assignment?

PH: If it means working in another country, I should say not yet. There are many stories to be covered in Iran. 

More: What sort of reaction do you get from other women who see you putting yourself on the line to report the news?

PH: Some of them encourage me, some others tell me to get another job and some think I am crazy. But what encourages me to continue is that there are many female journalists in Iran working for local media. They are brave and talented. When I became Reuters bureau chief in Iran, many of them called me and congratulated me. When I got the IWMF award, many Iranian female colleagues told me that they were happy because it showed we can do it. 

More: What message do you think your courageousness sends other women around the world?

PH: It shows that being a woman does not mean that you are less strong than men. You can face various kinds of problems, from fearing losing custody of your little daughter after the divorce because of the laws, to being considered a second-class citizen, to being detained for covering protests. But as a woman, you are strong enough to think, decide and act accordingly and properly. 


Click here to learn more about the International Women’s Media Foundation.


Meet the other 2011 Courage in Journalism Award Winners:

Kate Adie, former BBC chief news correspondent
Adela Navarro Bello, general director of ZETA newsmagazine, Mexio
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of Prachatai online newspaper, Thailand


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First Published October 24, 2011

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