I cannot allow my article on feminist resistance in Iran to be used by a foundation which censors other women’s voices on Palestine

My statement on the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s decision to withdraw from awarding the Hannah Arendt Prize


Before I begin, I want to say that I write these words with a very heavy heart. A heavy heart for several reasons: for a missed opportunity to bring feminist struggles together transnationally, for yet another experience of how the cycle of precarity works through institutions that have power over one’s material existence, and for yet another failure to see all the precarious hours of work of all the people (inside and outside this institution) dissipated. I am also frightened: I do not know how this will affect me, my economic existence or my life as a migrant in Germany. So it is not in spite of, but because of this fear that I have made this decision.

I am writing this statement as one of the authors who contributed to the Heinrich Böll Foundation Dossier: Feminist Voices Connected: FightingAntifeminismGlobal. My contribution, Feministischer Widerstand aus der Ferne, focused on the continuity of feminist resistance in relation to the political geography of Iran and the dynamics within and across the so-called “Iranian diaspora”.

I was deeply shaken to learn of the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s decision to cancel its participation in the awarding of the Hannah Arendt Prize to the Jewish author Masha Gessen, and its following statement on December 13, which stated: “This (Masha’s) statement is not an offer for open discussion, it does not help to understand the conflict in the Middle East. This statement is not acceptable to us and we reject it,”.

This decision was taken in spite of the fact that four of the authors (including myself) canceled their participation in the Berlin International Conference planned for November due to the statement of the Heinrich Böll Foundation on October 9th and the numerous conversations (including with the board) on this matter and their promises to offer spaces for reflection and to maintain feminist spaces.

I do not see the Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s decision as a singular one, but as a continuation of the wave of repression, boycott and silencing of critical perspectives that has been growing in Germany in recent months: from the cancellation of writers’, artists’, students’ and activists’ events to the complete militarization of the streets of our home here in Berlin. From the serious political consideration of the denaturalization and deportation of migrants in the German parliament to the monitoring and policing of every single word, act or thought (especially if it is racialized or in any way in a vulnerable position) that is allowed to be formulated, articulated and thought. I can’t allow myself and I don’t believe that any form of liberation will ever take place under the supervision of a militarised force and with dictated guidelines, and I didn’t leave the surveillance of my own country to accept another.

For this reason, and in order to remain committed to my feminist principles, I have come to the conclusion that not withdrawing my contribution, especially  one which deals with the feminist solidarity movement in Iran, will only contribute to the further instrumentalization of one struggle to silence the others. I hereby officially withdraw my contribution from the dossier.

I hope that this decision will be seen as a small flip to make the Heinrich Böll Foundation reflect on its role and responsibility in creating such an environment of fear, lack of solidarity and repression.

I stand in solidarity with Masha Gessen and all those especially Jewish and Palestinian siblings who have experienced censorship, repression and cancellation in recent weeks, months and years.  I also stand in solidarity with all those whose material existence, including their right of residence, has been and continues to be constantly threatened and who have been left with no choice but to remain silent.

In order to make this decision economically affordable for me, I have started a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of my withdrawal. For those who can, you can donate to this campaign.

With solidarity

Sanaz Azimipour

16. December 2023

Support the GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of Sanaz’s withdrawal