The Other Side of Silence

A Memoir of Exile, Iran, and the Global Women's Movement

By Mahnaz Afkhami

320 pp., 6 x 9, 26 halftones, 1 map, notes, index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-6999-1
    Published: October 2022
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-7000-3
    Published: September 2022

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When Mahnaz Afkhami picked up the phone in a New York hotel room early one morning in November 1978, she learned she could never go home again: she had been declared an apostate and enemy of the Iranian Revolution and was now on its death list. Afkhami, Iran's first minister for women's affairs, began to rebuild her life in the United States, becoming an architect of the women’s movement in the Global South. Along the way, she encountered familial, cultural, political, and organizational hurdles that threatened to derail her quest to empower women and change the very structure of human relations.

A skilled storyteller who has spent her life in two worlds, Mahnaz Afkhami shares her unexpected and meteoric rise from unassuming English professor to a champion of women's rights in Iran; the clash between Western feminists and those from the Global South; and the challenges of international women's rights work during the so-called war on terror. Her journey through exile shows what it takes to launch and sustain a worldwide grassroots movement: funding, an ever-expanding network, conferences, education, and decades of hard work requiring individuals and organizations to persevere despite ongoing wars, humanitarian disasters, and climate change. Told with humor, honesty, and compassion, Afkhami's remarkable story illuminates the possibility of bringing opportunity and choice to women across the world.

About the Author

Born in Kerman, Iran, Mahnaz Afkhami is the founder and president of Women’s Learning Partnership, executive director of the Foundation for Iranian Studies, and former minister for women's affairs in Iran. She lives and works in Bethesda, Maryland.
For more information about Mahnaz Afkhami, visit the Author Page.


"Afkhami’s complexities and passion make even the driest policy discussions captivating. The result is a thought-provoking addition to the international women’s rights shelf."—Publishers Weekly

"Mahnaz Afkhami is part of a line of singularly independent women who make their own way in the world but also leave a mark and inspire others. Her compelling and gripping narrative seamlessly weaves memoir, political events, and the trajectory of second-wave feminism. This is an outstanding book."—Valentine M. Moghadam, author of Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East

"An honest and absorbing life story written with humor and passion. At this critical moment in history, Mahnaz Afkhami's memoir offers a much-needed road map for creating a global women's movement, based on five decades of experience working with women from around the world."—Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, former UN high commissioner on human rights, chair of the Council of Women World Leaders

"Mahnaz Afkhami has written a superb memoir about her life as a women's rights leader in Iran before and during the revolution and then, in exile, as a voice for women throughout the Muslim world. Her extraordinary heroism and dignity shine on every page."—Carl Gershman, founding president of the National Endowment for Democracy

"Drawing on her diaries over the last fifty years, Mahnaz Afkhami, a prominent and pioneering leader in the history of global feminism, reflects deeply and passionately on the struggle for women's rights in Iran, America, and across the globe. This brilliantly vivid narrative will keep you turning the pages."—Leila Ahmed, Harvard University