Shokoofeh Azar was born into an educated middle-class family in Iran in 1972, just 7 years before the Islamic revolution. She spent her early years in the countryside after the family moved from Tehran, experiencing a wonderfully free childhood in close communion with nature (the love of forests and mountains as spaces of spiritual and emotional succour are themes in her life, her paintings and The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree).
Shokoofeh’s early interest in writing and art (she is an accomplished painter and ceramic artist who has successfully exhibited and taught painting during her 7 years in Perth where she lived till December 2017) was sparked by her father who was an Iranian intellectual, author and poet.
After graduating in Literature from university, Shokoofeh worked as a researcher, writer and editor for the Persian Literary Encyclopedia, before becoming a journalist – which had been her life goal. She worked for 12 years for independent newspapers in Tehran; and published two collections of short stories; one children’s book; and a Companion in Writing and Editing Essays in the Persian Literary Encyclopedia, The last won the prize for The Best Book in Iran in 1997.
In 2004, Shokoofeh became the first Iranian woman to backpack and hitchhike along the Silk Road: from Iran to Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan and India. Reports and photos of this 3-month journey were published extensively in the Iranian media to great acclaim.
Nine years ago, she and her colleagues at the newspaper were jailed (some of them still languish in prison to this day). She was jailed 3 times; the last time she was put in isolation for 3 months.
She came to Australia as a refugee by boat and was detained on Christmas Island. A year after her release she started writing The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree. She is now an Australian citizen and living in Geelong, Victoria.