She runs the major transsexual campaign group in Iran, and frequently bails out trans persons who have been arrested.
In 1978, before the Iranian Revolution, she wrote to Ruhollah Khomeini, who was in exile, requesting religious guidance. He replied that she should follow the Islamic obligations of being a woman. After the Revolution, like all other transgender persons in Iran, she was harrassed, and made to wear men’s clothing, forced to take male hormones, and confined in a psychiatric hospital. She tried approaching Khomeini directly and was badly beaten up by his bodyguards before succeeding.
However he did give Fereydoon a religious authorization for SRS surgery, and has been taken to be a fatwa that covers other transgender persons as well. Subsequently Maryam struggled to organize transgender persons in Iran, and introduce medical standards. However she was not happy with procedures in Iran, and had surgery in Thailand in 2001.
In contrast to almost everywhere else in the Muslim world, sex change operations are legal in Iran for anyone who can afford the minimum £2,000 cost and satisfy interviewers that they meet necessary psychological criteria. As a result, women who endured agonising childhood and adolescent experiences as boys, and - albeit in fewer numbers - young men who reached sexual maturity as girls, are easy to find in Tehran. Iran has even become a magnet for patients from eastern European and Arab countries seeking to change their genders.
This situation would have been unthinkable were it not for the bravery and persistence of Molkara, who embarked on a personal odyssey that brought persecution and abuse in her quest for Khomeini’s official blessing. Khomeini had pronounced on gender problems in a book written in 1963, when he indicated there was no religious proscription against corrective surgery. However, says Molkara, the statement applied only to hermaphrodites, defined as those bearing both male and female genital characteristics. It provided no remedy for those - such as Molkara - who physically belonged to one gender but were convinced that they were members of the opposite sex.