Iranian Women Speak

Caroline Reddy is a Children’s librarian at White Plains Public Library. Her work has appeared in Active Muse, Calliope, Clinch, CulturalDaily, Grey Sparrow, Starline, and Tupelo Quarterly Review among others.  In the fall of 2021, her poem “A Sacred Dance” was nominated for the Best of The Net prize by Active Muse. A native of Shiraz, Iran, Caroline’s work has also appeared in the anthology Iranian Women Speak (IHRAF)  to raise awareness for #ZanZendegiAzadi, #WomenLifeFreedom movement, in Iran. Her first manuscript Shake the Atmosphere to Reclaim an Empty Moment is forthcoming with Pierian Springs Press. For more information please click on this link:

  1. How did you become interested in participating in the #ZanZendegiAzadi movement?

I was born in Shiraz, Iran in 1978, and my family lived in Tehran until I was eight years old. In 1986 (during the Iran-Iraq war) my family and I moved to Paris, France and then settled in Westchester, New York.

Since I am part of the Iranian diaspora, I have always wanted to feel more connected to those who had similar experiences as I have had in my life.

I became involved in the Iranian art scene in NYC and spent my weekends at Cafe Nadery. I attended art shows and had my first featured reading at Cafe Nadery. There, I felt a sense of community/family and began to write a novel based on my experiences.

After Cafe Nadery closed, I continued to follow the Iranian art scene in NYC and back in Iran—however, despite many artistic/cultural triumphs that I had witnessed, the tragedies of the Iranian diaspora seemed overwhelming. Hence, the novel that I had been writing for seven years became stale and I didn’t write again for over five years.

When COVD hit I had a revelation—-if I only had a few days to live, what would I want my life to look like? What legacy would I want to leave behind? I found my way back to writing through the muse of poetry, which became my new love. And my way to lend my voice to the call for human rights.

I published “The Basement of Tehran” with International Human Rights Arts Festival months before the tragic death of  Mahsa Amini. During the protests, IHRAF contacted me to publish “The Basement of Tehran” in a new collection. In addition IHRAF asked me to write another poem, as well as provide the introduction to IHRAF, Iranian Women Speak–this has been a great honor–holding this sacred space for voices that have been silenced.

  1. The word “transformational” comes up several times in your introduction. Can you tell us more about how art can provide a transformative experience?

Art can be the catalyst which sparks change within us, allowing us to transcend our personal experiences, expand our awareness, and allow us to more fully understand the human condition.  When someone hears a song and is moved by the melody or lyrics, there is the possibility for them to be transformed in that moment. When one sees a film there is the invitation for them to better understand their own story; even perhaps see it through a different lens. And similarly, when one interacts with powerful literature, they are afforded the opportunity to expand their own horizons, learn something new about themselves. Art has also been my lifeline throughout my life.

Art has become one of the most significant tools for Iranians; especially those living in Iran. For example, Shervin Hajipour’s song Baraya, won a Grammy last year for best song for social change. The lyrics of the song Baraye (which translates to “because of” or “for” in Farsi) were composed from tweets by various Iranian who took to the streets of Iran to protest against the death of Mahsa Amini.

I was also fortunate to collaborate with my friends/artists (Azam Ali, ShviaJlayer) and other Iranian women in an Installation-Playing in Wonderland created by artist Mohammad Barrangi.  This installation was created to bring awareness to #ZanZendegiAzadi.

In February, I also performed an Artist Talk on art/activism and the installation “Playing in Wonderland.” I have also read some of the anonymous poetry from Iranian Women Speak  via VALA Gallery–hosted by artist/friend Penny Thieme.

The fact that women and men around the world were able to unite through art in different capacities, cities and countries, illustrates the transformative power of art. I believe art is one of the most powerful gifts/tools that all humans possess; and once it is used for advocacy, it becomes a force that emits our collective consciousness.

  1. Many of the works are being published anonymously. Why?

Those who are published as anonymous are most likely women and/or young girls–from inside of Iran who want to lend their voice to this movement. And need to remain anonymous for not only their safety, but that of their loved ones as well.

I believe that if we want to reclaim our sense of identity, honor our connection to our homeland, and support those who call for change, Iranians outside of Iran can choose to hold the space for those published as anonymous. In doing so, hopefully, we can carry their legacy forward and help cultivate a brighter future for all of us.

  1. Have you ever considered having an exhibit, including both poems and visual art works?

I have been in contact with Hamid Rahmanian to discuss his artistic work from The Shahnameh-the epic book of kings.

I am also good friends with artist, ShivaJlayer, who has also used her art for activism during ZanZendegiAzadi Movement. We have spoken about combining our artistic mediums.

In addition to these projects artist/friend Penny Thieme (VALA Gallery) and I have been in dialogue about creating a women’s art display and having an exhibition at her gallery sometime in the future.

I also want to take a moment to thank the staff at WPPL for having a copy of  Iranian Women Speak in our collection and giving a voice to thousands of women in Iran.  I also hope to perform an Artist Talk/Poetry reading-featuring my own original poetry; it would be an honor to read at  WPPL.


Azam Ali
Mahsa Amini
Mohammad Barrangi
Baraye by Shervin Hajipour with English Subtitles
Baraya by Azam Ali
Cafe Nadery
Baraye by Coldplay
Farhang Foundation
Amanda Gorman Ted Talk: Using your Voice is a Political Choice
Shervin Hajipour
Shervin Hajipour Grammy Award Winner for Best Song for Social Change
Iranian diaspora
Iranian protests
Iranian Revolution
Iran-Iraq war
Iranian Women Speak
International Human Rights Arts Festival
Haleh Javenshir
Rooja Mohassessy
Negin Moss
No One Knows About Persian Cats, directed by Bahman Ghobadi
Nowruz The Persian New Year
Playing in Wonderland Installation by Mohammad Barrangi
Hamid Rahmanian
Marjane Satrapi
The Shahnameh
Penny Thieme
Stranger Things SAG Art/Activism speech by David Harbour
TIME-Heroes of the Year (Iranian Women)
Loga Ramin Torkian
VALA Gallery
The Yellow Dogs (a band from the film No One Knows About Persian Cats
Elaheh Farmand
Nooshin Rostami

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