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13 Men Died for Her Love: Pictures of Persian Princess, the Beauty Symbol in 19th Century

Every culture has its own standards. Who would be called beautiful with what features changes from culture to culture? Time also affects this change. What is beautiful may not be so anymore. In Persian culture, the definition of beauty was different from Western understanding in the 19th century.

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Masculine features were appreciated in women, also, feminine features were appreciated in men. Women with heavy eyebrows and mustaches were considered to be attractive; in fact, many women strengthen their features accordingly by using mascara. Men were also expected to be slim and delicate. Sometimes, in the pictures, the gender of the person could be distinguished only by looking the headgears.

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Although through increased interaction with the Western world has changed the beauty standards since there was a woman who should be mentioned when talking about Persian beauty in the 19th century.

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This woman is Princess Qajar, the beauty symbol in Persia. 13 young men committed suicide because their love rejected by her. Her full name was Zahra Khanom Tadj es-Saltaneh (1883-1936). She was the daughter of the King of Persia, Naser al-Din Shah. She had four children, two daughters and two sons from her husband Amir Hussein Khan; though, they divorced later on.

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Among her lovers was there a Persian poet, Aref Qazvini, who wrote a poem about her named “Ey Taj”.

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Zahra was a pioneer feminist in her era. She was one of the founding members of Anjıman Horriyyat Nsevan (the Society of Women’s Freedom). She worked for women’s rights in Iran. She was an intellectual woman, a writer, a painter, and an activist. She was the first woman in court to take off the hijab and wear western clothes.

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From Tehran University to Harvard, her life is a subject of academic studies.

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