One can hardly discuss women scientists in Iran without reference to the drastic changes that have occurred in the status of women as a whole, in the concept of the women’s role in society and in their rights and education during the 2500 years of Iran’s recorded history. Throughout Iranian history women have played significant roles in all walks of life. This high level of participation reached a peak with the rise of the Achaemenian Empire (540 to 320 BC), when women enjoyed the same privileges as men and were regarded as full partners in public and domestic life. Women kept this high status until the Sassanian Dynasty (233 to 632 AD) when their position deteriorated radically. Although Zoroastrianism, the state religion of the time, encouraged women’s education and considered that men and women were created equal, the rights of women were heavily restricted at this time. Polygamy, which had hitherto been prohibited, became an accepted practice and men were given the right to divorce their wives. However, despite these changes it is evident that women were still highly regarded members of society, and it was not until the period following the Arab invasion that their status was seriously undermined.
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