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The Pennsylvania State University

Bucerius Ph.D. Fellow

The Greening of Human Rights in Iran: Lake Urmia and Environmental Justice


In the province of West Azerbaijan, Iran, an environmental justice movement emerged in the mid-2000s to reverse the desiccation of Lake Urmia. The Urmia environmental movement has since become a platform for other rights issues, supporting the demands of Iranian social justice movements for greater civil and political rights, as well as local ethnic minority struggles for greater autonomy. Limited scholarshipa ddresses environmental justice as it relates to economic, political, and social rights within Iran. Lake Urmia is an ideal point of entry for understanding how environmental activism is
conflated with, or perhaps co-constitutive of, broader human rights movements in Iran. Understanding how social movements negotiate pluralistic understandings of rights, and the ways that movements subsequently frame rights narratives to attract international support, is central to this study.

A. Marie Ranjbar is a Ph.D. candidate in the departments of Geography and Women’s Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her dissertation research focuses on environmental justice in Iran, and examines intersections between justice, pluralism, and the universality of rights. Ms. Ranjbar has received fellowships from the Fulbright Commission, International Research and Exchanges Board, Social Science Research Council, and the Society of Woman Geographers. She has also held positions with the U.S. Institute of Peace. Ms. Ranjbar holds a B.A. in International Relations from the College of William and Mary, and received her Master’s Degree from the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

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