June 23, 2003
I am woman
I have a long suit coat that I brought to Iran to wear in order to fulfill the dress restrictions for women. It turns out, however, that my suit jacket was meant for an air conditioned office building, not for the streets of Tehran. After a lot of sweating and discomfort, N took me to buy a manteau: the knee-length jacket that women are supposed to wear.
We went into a store run by men and filled with women. “Don’t speak, don’t speak,” N said in broken English before we arrived. (When I open my mouth, prices go up.) It turned out that the prices were already marked and N thought they were good, so she let me talk. I tried pink manteaus, blue manteaus, and jean manteaus before settling on 1 black linen manteau and 1 khaki ramie-cotton manteau. The funny thing is that N had my dressing room door open, and I felt exposed even though I was still wearing more clothes than I would normally wear in the summer.
Before coming here, I promised myself that I would not obsess over the headscarf and the manteau that I am forced to wear. When other writers did that, I was bored. I thought that there were other issues of women’s life that were more important. After all, I do have to wear a modicum of clothing anywhere I go. It’s just that I don’t really want to walk around the city topless or bottomless, but I definitely do want to walk around without a scarf on my head and without a manteau. I mean, it’s summer for god sakes!
I am losing my tolerance. Anyone who knows me, knows how frigging accepting I can be (I can hear my sisters and brother laughing now). But I am losing my tolerance.
My sisters-in-law can’t run out in the street to say goodbye when friends and relatives leave; they are afraid to be seen from the doorway even; they barely leave the house during the day because of the heat. It’s not even that hot! But it is that hot when you are wearing a scarf and a manteau.
I used to believe women who said that the hijab does not restrict them in any way. Oh yeah? Try telling that to any woman that I have spoken to hear in Iran. Even religious women that I have spoken to are fed up with the restrictions. Every single woman I have spoken with from those who pray 3 times a day to those who don’t pray at all feel restricted by the dress code and restricted by this regime.
This is the first time I have been in a truly restrictive society. Church and state? Prayer in school? A religious society? Come here if that is what you want. You’ll quickly find yourselves longing for liberals and liberal society.
Speaking of tolerance
How can I have tolerance for a society that severely restricts my rights? How can I accept that and live with it? And can I help but associate these restrictions with Islam?
I was in a total intolerant tailspin when I received an email from a good friend that included a long conversation that her high-school aged son’s class is having about religion. What a wonderful mix of ideas (however immature) and gentle and humorous respect for each other’s diverse opinions that conversation proved to be. Here is a post from her son’s Islamic classmate responding to a Christian classmate’s assertion that American society suffers from a lack of religion:
“...but mainstream relgions have been manipualted and twisted into what im sure you would consider 'immoral'. for example, Osama bin Ladin's form of "Islam" and the KKK's form of "Christianity" these have nothing moral about them and actually contribute to the "downfall of society" you referred to. perhaps if one insisted on taking an optimistic outlook on things, one could say that the essence of relgion is moral, but if one were to be realistic, it must be acknowledged that the same relgion that was meant to 'inject morals' has in many cases destroyed them. now at the risk of sounding like our deep-thinking friend caleb, i must ask, is relgion, even when manipualted and used for destruction, really worth it?
and by the way, LONG LIVE THE LIBERALS!!!!!!!!”
(If you want to read the whole discussion click on http://www.grahamisbald.cjb.net/ , then click on the link to the forum, and then click on "OK Faeza.")
K took me on a walk of places he had been beaten up in this city. “Here is where I was thrown out of a second-story window. Here is where I was beaten and dragged and left for dead. Here is where I used to give out pamphlets and got beaten up for it. Here is where I was when I was told that the beating I got was deserved.”
This treatment he got from less than one percent of the population of his city. Less than one percent believed so fervently and extremely in their religion and its rightness that they were willing to kill and die for it. Less than one percent of this city terrorized the other 99% of the city and forced them to live with the restrictions of an Islamic regime.
It does not take much. It just takes unquestioning faith and twisted beliefs.
Read Salam Pax’s account of riding in a taxi with someone he thought was potentially a suicide bomber and ask yourself, “Who is an innocent?”
A different day…Let’s just say, that if you ever come to Iran, make sure to eat ice cream with carrot juice.