Journal of Global Citizenship & Equity Education, Vol 2, No 2 (2012)

Marginalization and Leadership: Iranian Immigrant Women’s Challenges in Canadian Academia and Society

Zahra Hojati


Iranian women disappointed by increasing social and political instability in their homeland have migrated to Canada to achieve their dream of social rights and justice. However, the tragedy of September 11, 2001 directed considerable hatred toward Middle Eastern people. They did not feel at peace, were not treated with respect, and their presence in the west aroused suspicion. More recently, Iran's president, Mahmood Ahmadinejad is largely seen to be a person who threatens world peace; this negatively impacts Iranians in the west as those remaining in Iran face heavy economic sanctions. In this article, which is a small part of my thesis research findings, I discuss the challenges of first-generation of Iranian immigrant women through their experiences in Canadian graduate schools and workplaces. How do they negotiate the many negative images of Iranians and how do these images shape their experiences within these institutions?

First-generation female Iranian graduate students' experiences in Canada are unheard and undocumented. In interviews, these women questioned the ability of neo-liberal capitalist schools to connect them to Canadian society while honouring their Iranian origins and identities and enabling them to achieve their goal to live and study in Canada. I argue that Iranian immigrant women experience a double exclusion both at school and in the workplace despite their willingness to engage with both places. This dual exclusion is an enormous source of pressure on their minds and spirits. The goal of this research is to give these women a voice. Policy makers in school and workplaces will benefit from the findings of this research, which calls for significant changes to realize social justice in Canadian society.


Iranian women graduate students; racialized women’s bodies; higher education; marginalization; exclusion; identity; integration; social justice; 9/11

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