Thursday, January 26, 2006

Being an Iranian Woman...Being a Woman

I have always thought of myself as a feminist. Feminism to me is simply to actively believe in equality between men and women. When I was a little girl, this concept seemed very natural and easy to me. Sometimes I would go to Mimi’s office in Tehran after school, wait around until it was time to go home and do my homework in the lounge. From that lounge I could always overhear Mimi’s young female clients talking about the way they are being treated badly by their husbands. Sometimes they would cry and their voice would break in their throat while they were talking about a man in their lives. Overhearing these women cry and complain with a low and weak tone would somehow make me sad for them. Though, at the same time I would feel very strong and to me the belief in
equality between men and women used to be a very natural part of my life…as natural as water, as air!

During the month of January that Mimi has come to my university in Ohio to teach a one-month-long
class, the two of us have talked a lot about some important matters. We talk about things that we probably didn’t use to talk about as much. That matter is my sentimental life. We talk about my strength and weaknesses in dealing with my emotional life and with young men whom I have liked a lot or a little. Though no real commitment has ever happened in my life yet, I have experienced ups and downs in my sentimental life just like many other human beings my age. I must admit talking with Mimi about these things is not easy. The truth is that we sometimes get into
arguments and sometimes agree.

Tonight she told me something that really shook me. She said, “Iranian women really do need to claim their rights, Azadeh. Claiming your rights as a woman is not necessarily having interviews with different radios and writing books and articles about feminism”. She said to me, “Azadeh, you are a young woman now and you really do need to claim your rights as a woman in your everyday interactions and in your sentimental life”. She paused and said, “You were not born to let a man make you feel as if you are a victim and doomed to tolerate injustice because of your gender”. She said, “No, Lady Azadeh, No. You need to stand up for your right as a woman. No one else will, Azadeh. You need to speak out. You need to value your femininity and become friends with your gender. You are not allowed to let yourself get hurt”.

She has a point. Looking back at my own teenage life and then a couple of years into my twenties, at times I have oppressed my own feelings and haven’t spoken about them with strength. I say to myself, “Azadeh? Who are you? Are you that little girl overhearing Mimi’s clients talk in her law office for years? Are you really that little girl who used to strongly believe that feminism is as natural as water and as air you breathe? Then, why aren’t you being to the point in your sentimental life? Why aren’t you being stronger? Are you intimidated with the opposite sex? Are you for real? Are you going to let them dominate you for the rest of your life and play around with you and your emotions?”.

I feel that some recent incidents and my mom’s warnings have awakened that little Azadeh in me. These recent incidents and Mimi’s points have awakened that natural feminism that has been planted in me before I was introduced to myself as a woman. That little Azadeh will laugh at me; will tease me if I think of myself as an object for being overpowered by men! No way!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

To her

To her,
The United States of America is nothing but a moist room,
The entire universe except that sophisticated cat, Iran,
Is nothing but nostalgia, pain and coldness to her,
Flowers that grow else where but Iran,
Are only capable of reminding her how faraway she is from Iran,
The snow here reminds her of her loneliness,
Of her irritating presence in America and her sorrowful absence in Iran,
American food makes her stomach upset
English hurts her ears,
And suppresses the flowing river of thoughts in her mind,
She hates the way I have started to have grammatical mistakes in Farsi
She hates the way she is abandoned to help young women and men
In Iran
With their ambitious projects, articles, books and thesis

Every night she has dreams that take place in Iran,
In her law office, in the Islamic Judiciary building
Each night, in her dreams she goes back to Iran,
She goes to prison; she gets stood up in the court for hours
But still, the next night she goes back to Iran,

In reality, I beg her day and night
Not to return to Iran,
I am scared of them,
I don’t have the tolerance
To see her in their forceful hands
To see them torture her,
They way they tortured him
Based on the law
Based on legitimacy
Based on morality
Based on their view of religion

I beg her day and night,
“ please, please, don’t go”
“I beg you to cancel your booked ticket for next month”
And she roles her eyes at me
And thinks about Iran.

As for me, with my forgetful youth
I am conveniently used to this country,
The United States of America
And these habitual American ways
That I have adopted in my gestures and manners
Create black holes of incomprehensible distances
Between the two of us,
Between me and HER

It is sadly called EXILE
They tell me that she is exile,
If you go to
and type in 'exile'
it tells you that exile means,
“Enforced removal from one's native country”
In 6 words,
This is what has happened to my Persian legend,
To my other half,
To her

We have been told over and over
That she will be imprisoned
The minute she arrives in Iran.

Her crime: ay, don’t be too naïve!
Her passion for Iran?
No, that is the way you and I might perceive her,
But for THEM
It will be every single lie you can think of:
Being a threat to the regime
Being a spy for various places,
Being anti-revolutionary,
Being westernized,
Not being religious enough!

I beg her day and night,
“Please don’t return to Iran”
And she roles her eyes at me



Saturday, January 14, 2006


While I was cleaning my closet tonight, I found a series of pictures from previous years. At first, I hesitated to look at them, thinking that they might make me depressed and nostalgic. Though, finally I looked through these pictures. I would say the approximate time frame of these pictures were from when I was in 10th grade in Iran till the first year of university in the US. Surprisingly, none of these pictures made me nostalgic or sad. By looking at these pictures, I remembered the changes that my family has gone through over the past few years.

In almost all of these pictures, I felt a sense of alienation in my own eyes. It was as if my eyes were looking at else where rather than the lens of the camera. I looked uncomfortable and worried in most of these pictures. I think the reason for that alienation was both my being a teenager and the way my life was changing in every direction. And of course there are a few in which I am very happy and am laughing hysterically.

In almost all of these pictures there was either me and crowd of friends or my small family. I paused while I was looking at one of the pictures from my final months in Iran in 2001. There was a little party that we had thrown since Lily had retuned from Canada to visit my who was struggling with cancer and the rest of us. Most of my best friends from Iran were present in that picture. It felt really weird to realize that almost all of them are somehow displaced in this world one way or another. One of them was in Cypress last semester, the other one lives in France, another one lives in Canada, the other one has left Iran for Eastern Europe, one of them goes to the best university in Tehran (but she, too, is thinking of leaving Iran), one is on her way to Canada and one has gone to Orroomieh( a city in Iran) for her college years! And I am in Ohio, Lily is in Toronto, my mom is in Boston this year, my dad is in Tehran…

Don’t get me wrong. I am not complaining or anything. I am just saying that it feels weird to think that many people, who are well grounded in Iran, leave as soon as they find an opportunity and there are people like my family members who painfully get kicked out of their country and go into exile. Ironically, all of these cases happen to be present in this constraint picture that is right now sitting next to my computer.

Now all of those friends are in orkut, Hi5 and other internet spaces. I think I can’t expect more than being able to take a look at their pictures and profiles once in a while in my internet network places. I don’t think I can ever have them all in one place and to take a picture with all of them at once… Such a dream is currently against the laws of physics... just like the picture that is in my hand…my friends at the center…in our home… and my parents and Lily in the margins of the picture!

I mean if you think about it, our home city, Tehran, does not even have any space for us anymore. With this pollution, you even think that there is not enough air for an extra person! When I went back to Tehran last year, I felt like a giant who was taking so much space. Walking in those familiar neighborhoods of Tehran would make me think that I was occupying too much space and violating other people’s right to life! It was as if there was not enough land for my feet! And I had lost most of the skills that could help you survive in Tehran. I was slow in crossing the streets and my voice was not high enough so that people could hear me!

Anyways, these pictures took me to my beloved and ill city, Tehran. They reminded me of my family as a whole, my friends, our apartment and my room…It was a cute room. You know what I miss the most about that room? I miss the sounds of the crows that used to sit on the branches of an old plane-tree right next to the window of my room. Man, those crows would get up damn early….GHAAR GHAAR…and I would curl up in my bed and hide my head under the blanket! Ohio does not have crows. It has corn fields with scarecrows in them, but no crows, anyway…

a crow

Monday, January 02, 2006

If I were a Singer...

“Why can’t all decent men and women call themselves ‘feminist’;
Out of respect for those who fought for this?
I mean look around!”
I love Ani Difranco and I love her voice, the lyrics of her songs and her music! She is such a feminist!
Ani wants to sing the life of the streets; the life of nations. She sings the songs of people having to cope with power or its absence. She is a singer for those who absorb life through loneliness, pain and complexities of relationships. Her voice is deep and strong! She is a human singer! I think she doesn’t romanticize humanity. She talks about it in a very realistic, intimate and straightforward manner!
One of her famous quotes is,
“My idea of feminism is self-determination, and it's very open-ended: every woman has the right to become herself, and do whatever she needs to do.”
And another one is:
“Taken out of context I must seem so strange”.
And one more quote;
“They taught me different was wrong”.

Ani was born in Buffalo, New York in 1970. She started to play Beatle’s covers with her guitar at age nine in bars. At age fifteen she left home and supported herself mainly through vocal performances. She started her own recording company with very little money when she was eighteen and she officially began her wonderful career.
I wish to leave hesitation behind and speak out fearlessly like Ani one day!

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