Maryam Nashiba - International Women's Day

Maryam Nashiba - International Women's Day

For International Women’s Day, we spoke to RMIT Training Language Educator Maryam Nashiba. Maryam spoke with us about her powerful We the Women of RMIT Training portrait, inspired by protests following the death of Mahsa Amini.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in Tehran, Iran. From around the time I was born, forty-four years ago, Iran entered a period of Islamic fundamentalism. The hijab was mandated. Before that era, you can see images of women in Iran with their hair out, wearing things like short skirts. All that changed after 1979.

Many Iranians left the country and moved to places like the USA when the regime changed. We knew lots of people who left, but we stayed.

I moved to Australia with my husband in 2007. We came here first on a working holiday, but we liked it so much we decided to pursue permanent residency. It wasn’t easy coming from a country like Iran – they want police checks, access to all your records – but we got there eventually.

My first job was as a Persian interpreter helping refugees. It was a full-on role, working with people who’d often come here by boat, having lost loved ones. 

I started working at RMIT Training in 2013.  

How did you find living in Australia? 

When we first arrived in Australia, we didn’t feel like foreigners, because there are already so many people here from other countries. Everyone was super friendly.  

My husband and I have always loved it here. We feel like coming here was one of the best decisions we ever made. Our son was born here, and he is eight now. We’re dual citizens of Iran and Australia.

Can you tell us about your We the Women of RMIT Training portrait?

On September 16, 2022, a 22-year-old Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini was arrested for wearing her hijab incorrectly. She was beaten by authorities and later died in hospital. 

Maryam Nashiba Screenshot

This photo of her – it still gives me chills – was circulated widely on social media. Iranian people – women and men – were so outraged. They’d had enough. 

People started taking to the streets. There are more than five million Iranians living outside of the country, and those Iranians came together to protest too. Mahsa Amini’s death brought us all together, from the USA, from Canada, from all over Europe and Australia. I’m not sure why it was this woman, this death, this time – but people had just had enough. It was too much. It was so unfair. She was only twenty-two years old. 

I’ve joined in many of the protests. I’ve travelled to Canberra twice to protest. I go as often as I can. 

At the protests and online, more and more women have started cutting their hair in an act of solidarity for Mahsa. My portrait is about the bravery of those women, putting myself in their shoes. It’s the least I can do. 

The protests have been healing for me. It’s been like therapy. 

We used to feel helpless as Iranians, and now we feel unity. The fact that there are protests all around the world is giving power and inspiration to those still in Iran. 

What is your hope for Iran? 

I just want freedom for Iran, a normal life. The people there deserve so much better than this. 

It's such a beautiful country, with a rich and unique history. The Persian culture is just so beautiful, the food, the people, poetry and the traditions, everything. People are afraid to visit Iran. People can’t experience that culture. It’s such a shame. 

How did you feel being part of We the Women of RMIT Training project? 

I was very emotional. Matt and Elizabeth from the Student Experience team were really good, helping me with my poses, helping me to feel empowered. I just want to be a little bit useful. I want to contribute. I wanted to do something for the women of my country. 

To be honest, even in the western world, there is still inequality between men and women. I wish and hope for a world where people respect humanity, no matter the gender.   

Maryam Nashiba Portrait

Maryam’s portrait is part of the We the Women of RMIT Training exhibition, opening on Tuesday 7 March 2022 in celebration of International Women’s Day. 

02 March 2023


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.