Nazila Fathi – WOMAN of ACTION™

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A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this powerful woman leader that is devoting her life to the courageous and dangerous field of journalism, working to bring truth to the front, justice for all women and children and more … saying:

“The first time I fell in love with journalism was when I saw that press conference [in Iran during which Geraldine Brooks was chided by government officials for dressing extremely conservatively]. I realized the power that journalists can indirectly have—the authority, and how politicians could worry about their image in their encounters with reporters.”



nazila fathi head shot in front of library wall of books

Nazila Fathi


Nazila Fathi (born December 28, 1970) is an Iranian-Canadian author and former Teheran correspondent for the The New York Times. She also reported on Iran for both Time and Agence France-Presse.

nazila profileIn her book The Lonely War she interweaves her personal history with that of Iran, from the 1979 Revolution until, when continuing to report from Iran became life threatening in 2009, she was forced into exile. Photo: Delphine Rodrik

Fathi was born in Tehran in 1970. Her father was a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Energy.

She studied English at Azad University, and while there began working as a translator for foreign reporters. From that beginning she became a stringer for The New York Times, Time, and Agence France-Presse.

Frustrated by the Iranian government’s multi-year press accreditation process, Fathi moved to Canada in 1999 and became a Canadian citizen. She earned an MA in political science and women’s studies from the University of Toronto in 2001 before returning to Tehran as a correspondent for The New York Times.

As reported in VOGUE, Fathi says: “It was July 1, 2009. I had been the New York Times correspondent in Tehran for nearly ten years. Massive protests, known as the Green Movement, had peaked over a contested presidential election, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to demand the incumbent president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, be removed from office.

The government reacted violently, sending police to attack the demonstrators and banning journalists working for foreign media from covering the protests. I ignored the ban and continued to go out on the streets to report what I saw. The uprising was the largest Iran had seen since the 1979 revolution, which happened when I was eight years old.

During the two decades I had spent as a reporter, I had watched dissent gradually build into an avalanche. This was the biggest story of my life—as well as the most significant political event in Iran’s recent history. I could not allow myself to be cowed into staying indoors.”

Government forces have given your photo to snipers, with orders to shoot you,” the commander told me.

“Stop going out on the streets.”

nazila-fathi-familyThe author in Bethesda, Maryland, with her children, Tina and Chayan. Fathi’s The Lonely War: One Woman’s Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran, will be published next month by Basic Books.

During the 2009-2010 Iranian election protests, Fathi and other journalists reported on the violence by the Iranian government against peaceful protestors. In early 2009, the Iranian government banned international journalists to stop coverage of the protests, but Fathi continued to report.

In June 2009, other journalists were arrested by Iranian authorities.

Fathi was placed under surveillance by the government, and threats were made against her life.

Nazila Fathi, a 2011 Nieman Fellow, reported from Tehran for The New York Times until 2009, when she fled to Toronto and reported on Iran from there.

In July 2009, she and her family left Iran for Canada.

Our one-bedroom apartment, where we lived for our first year in Toronto, told the story of our fragile new life: The children slept on futons in the solarium; I continued to cover the protests for the Times from a desk in the corner of the bedroom. As we moved around the apartment, we constantly stepped on plastic tiaras and cheap games and puzzles bought in haste to entertain the kids in our tiny new space. They had covered the walls with A4 paper, on which they had drawn the red, white, and green flag of Iran and written the names of their grandparents. They were terrified of forgetting their past.

During those early months they often cried before bed, asking for a relative or a friend in Tehran. I held them to my chest and told them everything would be fine. But the reality was, I had no idea what our future had in store.

She was a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School in 2012.

She subsequently became an associate at Harvard’s Belfer Center, a Nieman Fellow and a Shorenstein Fellow.

nazilabookFathi’s book The Lonely War was published by Basic Books in November, 2014.

Fathi also translated Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi’s book, The History and Documentation of Human Rights in Iran.

In the summer of 2009, as she was covering the popular uprisings in Tehran for the New York Times, Iranian journalist Nazila Fathi received a phone call. “They have given your photo to snipers,” a government source warned her. Soon after, with undercover agents closing in, Fathi fled the country with her husband and two children, beginning a life of exile.

In The Lonely War, Fathi interweaves her story with that of the country she left behind, showing how Iran is locked in a battle between hardliners and reformers that dates back to the country’s 1979 revolution. Fathi was nine years old when that uprising replaced the Iranian shah with a radical Islamic regime. Her father, an official at a government ministry, was fired for wearing a necktie and knowing English; to support his family he was forced to labor in an orchard hundreds of miles from Tehran. At the same time, the family’s destitute, uneducated housekeeper was able to retire and purchase a modern apartment—all because her family supported the new regime.

As Fathi shows, changes like these caused decades of inequality—especially for the poor and for women—to vanish overnight. Yet a new breed of tyranny took its place, as she discovered when she began her journalistic career. Fathi quickly confronted the upper limits of opportunity for women in the new Iran and earned the enmity of the country’s ruthless intelligence service. But while she and many other Iranians have fled for the safety of the West, millions of their middleclass countrymen—many of them the same people whom the regime once lifted out of poverty—continue pushing for more personal freedoms and a renewed relationship with the outside world.

Drawing on over two decades of reporting and extensive interviews with both ordinary Iranians and high-level officials before and since her departure, Fathi describes Iran’s awakening alongside her own, revealing how moderates are steadily retaking the country.

Nazila Fathi has a master’s degree in political science and women’s studies from University of Toronto and is the winner of three fellowships at Harvard Kennedy School.

Fathi recalls one editor telling her what journalists could do in Iran:

“We have the freedom to say whatever we want to say, but we don’t know what happens afterwards.”

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Nazila Fathi – New York Times, 2021


A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this powerhouse into our global alumni with open arms, looking forward to future collaborations, bettering the lives of all women and children, focusing on truth and the empowerment of all women.

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Brava Nazila!


Original 2015 – Updated 2022


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