Inside Stories

Iranian Poet Named UMass Lowell Greeley Peace Scholar

UMass Lowell Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies 2024 Fatemeh Shams (COURTESY PHOTO)

Lowell – Iranian writer, activist and feminist scholar Fatemeh Shams has been named UMass Lowell’s 2024 Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies.

Shams is a poet and essayist whose leadership in Iran’s Green Movement in 2009 landed her and her family in exile. An advocate for political change, structural justice and gender equality, her work advances Iranian and Afghan women’s rights to bodily autonomy and intellectual freedom.

As the 2024 Greeley Scholar, Shams will visit UMass Lowell next month to lead programs for the campus community, including the national Day Without Violence, which showcases these causes. She will also be the keynote speaker at free events open to the public in Lowell and Boston. These programs include:

  • Wednesday, March 30, 2 p.m. – Shams will read from her poetry at the Lucy Parsons Center, 358 Centre St A, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
  • Thursday, April 4, 9 a.m. – Shams will be the featured speaker during a virtual event hosted by the Greater Lowell Interfaith Leadership Alliance. Members of the public who wish to join the conversation online should visit
  • Tuesday, April 9, 10 a.m. – UMass Lowell’s annual Day Without Violence observance will feature Shams’ presentation “Girls of Revolution and the Future of Feminist Resistance Movement in Iran,” at Allen House, 2 Solomont Way, Lowell, on the university’s South Campus.

“To be selected as this year’s UMass Lowell Greeley Peace Scholar is a profoundly meaningful recognition and honor. Lowell, with its long and rich history of labor movement, and its significance as the birthplace of the first union-working women, stands as a symbol of inspiration and hope. For someone who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to the pursuit of gender justice, this recognition holds immense joy and meaning,” Shams said. “To be Greeley Scholar while my region is plagued by war and violence, my commitment to peace and non-violent resistance remains steadfast. I hope that through my contributions during this visit, I can further enrich the discourse on peace-making and resistance, particularly in the context of gender justice.”

Shams was born in Mashhad, Iran, where her mother’s underground library fueled her love of literature and became a safe haven from the country’s conservative political and religious environment. She was recognized with a silver medal of Iran’s National Olympiad of Literature when she was 16; her poetry and essays lay bare the fundamental struggles of her era: tyranny, sexual violence, self-determination, alienation, forced displacement, and loss of the mother tongue.

Among other works, she is the author of the monograph, “A Revolution in Rhyme: Poetic Co-Option Under the Islamic Republic,” and “When They Broke Down the Door.” Her work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Michigan Quarterly Review, London Poetry Magazine, World Literature Today, Penguin Book of Feminist Verse, and Penguin Anthology of Persian Women Poets, and elsewhere.

“We are excited to bring to UMass Lowell Fatemeh Shams as the 2024 Greeley Scholar. In keeping with this year’s theme, ‘Imagining New Possibilities with Feminist and Queer Resistance,’ the Greeley Advisory Board sought to identify a scholar whose life and work exemplify the transformative potential of these concerns,” said Urmitapa Dutta, chair of the Greeley Scholar for Peace Studies Board and a UMass Lowell associate professor of psychology. “Dr. Shams’ contributions highlight how feminism impacts multiple arenas. We believe our students and the public will greatly benefit from the insights she brings to the table.”

Greeley Scholars are selected for their achievements as humanitarians and their efforts promoting peace and conflict resolution at the local, regional, national or international level. With the honor, Shams joins a roster of distinguished past recipients.

The honor is named for the late Rev. Dana McLean Greeley, who was a longtime Unitarian Universalist minister in Concord, Massachusetts. The Greeley Scholar Program is funded by the Greeley Endowment for Peace Studies, established with a gift from the Dana McLean Greeley Foundation for Peace and Justice and a contribution from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via the UMass Foundation. In addition, this year’s programs are sponsored by UMass Lowell’s College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Created in 1966 by what was then known as the Peace Studies Association, the Day Without Violence is held each April on college campuses to pay homage to the work and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *