Iran’s Nature Lost a Loving and Kind Mother!


Dr. Khadija Catherine Razavi passed away on April 15 2022.

Defenders of the environment, nature conservation and indigenous and local communities of Iran, have lost one of their most knowledgeable and sincere activists. Catherine was born in July 1944, and together with her late husband, Dr. Mohammad Taghi Farvar, a well-known activist and facilitator, she worked on one of the most important rural development projects in Iran: the Alashtar Regional Development Plan, which was underway during the 1970s. In the early 1980s they founded the NGO, Center for Sustainable Development and the Environment (CENESTA) — one of the oldest and most active NGOs in Iran.

She had a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the National University of Tehran, a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Physiology and a Master’s in Economics from the University of Caen in France. She received a Doctorate of Social Sciences and Rural Development from Sorbonne University in Paris.

As CEO and Chairman of the Board of CENESTA, she was one of the leading activists on environmental protection and empowering indigenous and local communities over more than four decades of her professional life. With mastery of several languages (Persian, French, Turkish, English and Arabic), her valuable efforts at the national and international levels will never be forgotten — both to raise awareness of environmental issues, and to sensitize and awaken the human conscience to take practical action to preserve mother earth and biocultural diversity. At the international level she played a key role in the Council of the Global Environment Facility and as an advocate for the rights of nomadic peoples at the UN Convention on Combatting Desertification. Her vision was of a society based on sustainability, with a focus on rural and nomadic communities, small farmers, forest dwellers, and marine coastal communities.

Catherine was an unassuming activist who lovingly sought to safeguard both the land of Iran and her people. She led many of CENESTA’s programs and projects, including “Living with the desert”, “Highlighting and using indigenous knowledge against desertification and land degradation”,   “Promoting indigenous and environmentally friendly technologies”, “Supporting  the rights of indigenous and local communities,  particularly nomadic tribes”, “Integrated Pest Management”,  “Participatory  Plant Breeding” and “Participatory Evolutionary Breeding”. She played a key role in raising public awareness on the harms of GMOs.

She will always be remembered as someone who played an important role in sharing knowledge and raising awareness of different segments of society and in safeguarding the environment of Iran. All of us — as friends, acquaintances, colleagues and the environmental community of Iran — will proudly engrave her name on our hearts as someone who was a mother for nature. May her soul be uplifted and her path be a fruitful one.

Nahid Naghizadeh, 16 April 2022

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