Freedom to feel beautiful, just the way you are
Meet the Iranian human and women's rights activist Aram Ostadian-Binai, founder and CEO of The Soulfuls Community, Mentorship and Consultancy. For Aram, the fight for freedom is not an attitude expressed on March 8: it is a condition of life for her and for all Iranian women every single day. On International Women's Day, Rudolph Care cannot think of anything more meaningful than giving Aram’s voice a platform.
Our founder, Andrea Elisabeth Rudolph, met Aram Ostadian-Binai at the Danish Elle Awards 2022, where both were nominated. Aram was awarded Voice of the Year for her inspiring work with the organization The Soulfuls, and a relationship between Andrea and Aram took form. At the same time, in September 2022, a women-led revolution began in Iran, and shortly after, when Aram curated the art exhibition Women Life Freedom to highlight female Iranian artists and their revolutionary message, Rudolph Care supported the event in Copenhagen.
Tell us your story?
"I was born and raised in Tehran, where I lived until I was 14 when we moved to Denmark. Today I live with my husband and two boys north of Copenhagen, close to nature and the sea. My curiosity about the world and people leads me to travel extensively.
Previously I lived and studied in England and the USA and was part of several exciting projects—everything from building a bridge between fashion and tech industries in London to bringing Nordic design, food, culture and fashion to Japanese and international readers.
My work is my biggest passion, and my mission is to create a permanent bridge between young women of all backgrounds and where in the labor market they see themselves."
How do you see the situation in Iran right now?
"In the fall of 2022, the world finally heard the voices of Iranian women when Mahsa Amini was killed by the Iranian morality police. Since then, the women-led revolution in Iran has developed strongly. They are fighting for their freedom—and they are paying the ultimate price for it. But amid the chaos, Iranians are standing shoulder-to-shoulder to fight for their country's freedom across gender and age. Their courage and community are such powerful signals. They inspire so many and I'm proud that the world is finally seeing a glimpse of that true Iran that many have forgotten after 44 years of oppression."
How can the international community help to effect change for women in Iran?
"We must continue to believe in their struggle. These women demand that we share their voices, even when the Internet periodically shuts down and the news from Iran becomes more difficult to share. We must believe in their continued struggle, share their stories and maintain our demands to local politicians for sanctions against the Iranian regime."
Who are your role models and what have you learned from them?
"Growing up in a country like Iran, among so many brave women, has given me a sense of stability. The Iranian women I know have so much drive, courage and talent. My mother is my role model. She is a woman who has stood on her own two feet and taken her place in the world despite the odds, both in Iran and in Denmark. In Iran, and despite legislation, she became a female entrepreneur. In Denmark she has created her own opportunities by studying and seeking jobs, even though she didn't know the language very well. These stories inspire me and light a fire within me. I see every person, especially women, as beautiful and full of potential, just the way they are. It's time that we continually remind ourselves and our young women of this. Part of my message is that you are beautiful, worthy and possess great power, regardless of your background, skin color and body type."
Freedom is being able to be yourself without fear. To be able to dress the way you want, to work with what you want, without gender, skin color or religion defining either freedom or passion. That freedom is worth fighting for
When did you become aware of your opportunities – or lack thereof – as a female?
"I have stood behind closed doors for a number of years. When applying for jobs I encountered comments such as, "you lack experience", or with the underlying message "you don't fit in here." I have chosen to interpret them as I was too new in the business, despite time and time again being surpassed by those who were greener than me.
I still managed to hold on to hope. I studied at renowned universities like Harvard, Central Saint Martins and London College of Fashion. I worked hard. But it has also dawned on me that the system in Denmark and in the Nordics in general is not designed for those who look like me. A woman—and a brown one, too. We’re reluctant to give chances to those who are different from us. We'd rather take them on those who look like us than women with a different skin color and a different name. My organization, The Soulfuls, was created to give young women a place where they can feel good enough, feel heard and seen. To allow them to express their potential. My hope is that young women don't have to go through the same thing I did."
Where do your social commitment and feminism come from?
"I look up to women and girls who dare to speak out and take a stand. From Malala Yousafzai to Greta Thunberg to the women and girls of Iran. I get involved by creating cultural communities centered around art and creativity. That is my activism. We can create dialogue, connection and cohesion through art in a way that can otherwise be difficult to put into words. Creativity and culture are inclusive by nature, so I see it as creating communities, events and content that can bring us together. It’s an effective way to engage more people. I am passionate about women and girls having the freedom to step into their full potential."
How can Denmark help the women's struggle in Iran—in essence, that of all women?
"Take up the fight for all women, use your voice and be an active ally. Both for the women's struggle in Iran and the power struggle we experience in Denmark. The time has come to act on what we say. Let's change the narrative and stand together to co-create a better future for all girls and women—in Iran, in Denmark and in the rest of the world."