Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Behind the Veil

Here's a passage from the book I am currently reading,

"He had been a conscious mythmaker, and he had turned himself into a myth. What they mourned ...... was the death of a dream. Like all great mythmakers , he had tried to fashion reality out of his dream, and in the end, ... he had managed to destroy both reality and his dream."

I wonder who it sounds like? Well, it isn't, the passage continues,

"Added to the crimes, to the murders and tortures, we would now face this last indignity - the murder of our dreams. Yet he had done this with our full compliance, our complete assent and complicity."

The writer is talking about Ayatollah Khomeini, who turned back time in Iran, took freedoms away from women that they had come to take for granted, because every woman should be able to take equality for granted.

She says,

"Our society was far more advanced than its new rulers, and women, regardless of their religious and idealogical beliefs, had come out onto the streets to protest the new laws....."

"At the start of the twentieth century, the age of marriage in Iran - nine, according to sharia laws - was changed to thirteen and then later to eighteen. My mother had chosen whom she wanted to marry and she had been one of the first six women elected to Parliament in 1963. When I was growing up, in the 1960s, there was little difference between my rights and the rights of women in Western the time my daughter was born....the laws had regressed to what they had been before my grandmother's time : the first law to be repealed.....was the family-protection law, which guaranteed women's rights at home and at work. The age of marriage was lowered to nine - eight and a half lunar years, we were told; adultery and prostitution were to be punished by stoning to death (for the woman); and women, under (sharia)law, were considered to have half the worth of men.....My youthful years have witnessed the rise of two women to the rank of cabinet minister. After the revolution, these same two women were sentenced to death for the sins of warring with God and spreading prostitution. One of them...remained in exile...The other, the minister of education and my former high school principal, was put in a sack and stoned or shot to death."

Azar Nafisi, 'Reading Lolita in Tehran'.

It's an incredible read, the story of her life in Iran as a university teacher, against the backdrop of the post-revolution Islamic Republic, and the Iran-Iraq war. What comes across most clearly is how ordinary this extraordinary woman is. She's a woman like any of us, or like any of the women in our lives. Women who could choose what they wore, or talked to, where they went, what they thought. All that was taken away, and they were plunged backwards in time, further back maybe than women have ever been in the West. Apart from the horrors, the deepest pain came from the lack of understanding of her own husband, a husband whom she was allowed to marry through love. He was happy, his business was doing well.
How fragile it all is.
And that's why those of us who do, continue to fight the good fight, because however much we have, it can all be taken away in a heartbeat.

After all that, I have someone else to congratulate. Alex's friend Hazel who has gained a First from Oxford. Well done Hazel! Great women, both of you!

1 comment:

Sleepy said...

I'll keep an eye out for that.