By her account, Ms. Afshar had a privileged upbringing in which, surrounded by nannies and servants, she did little on her own. While attending the prestigious Jeanne d’Arc School for girls in Tehran, she said, “I read ‘Jane Eyre’ and I thought: Well, if you left me on the side of a road, I wouldn’t know which way to turn. I’d better go to this England where they make these tough women.”
She persuaded her parents to send her to St. Martin’s, a boarding school in Solihull, England, outside Birmingham, where she spent three years. She then attended the University of York, graduating in 1967. She received a doctorate in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge in 1972.
Ms. Afshar returned to Iran for several years, working as a civil servant for the Ministry of Agriculture, a job in which she often traveled to small towns and villages. “I loved talking to the women,” she recalled, “who were not even aware of the Islamic rights they had: the right to property, payment for housework, all kinds of things.”
She also worked as a journalist for Kayhan International, an English-language newspaper, and wrote a gossip column called “Curious,” attending parties as she covered the social life of prominent Iranians.
In 1974, Savak, the shah of Iran’s feared secret police, summoned her over her involvement with left-wing intellectual groups, her brother said. The incident frightened her enough to return to England. There she was reunited with Maurice Dodson, a University of York math professor whom she had met when she was a student. They began dating in 1970 and married in 1974.
Ms. Afshar traveled to Iran with her husband during the Persian New Year in March 1975 and visited the country for the last time in 1977, two years before the Islamic Revolution.