Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So you say you wanna' revolution...

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“Things have gotten much worse for us since Ahmadinejad took power,” a young university student tells us at a party. “Our choice of classes is limited. Many of our professors have been replaced. They even removed the benches from the campuses so that boys and girls cannot sit together.”

“They removed the benches?”

“Yes. People still sit on the walls, but all of the benches are gone. The worst part is that most Iranians are happy with this.”

“You think so?”

“They do not want boys and girls talking together.”

I have argued with Iranian friends that the regime does indeed represent many of their wishes, but they always disagree with me. My observation has been that most families want to control their children. They want to control who they see, where they go, and what they do. It is the very small minority who afford their children any measure of freedom. By children, I mean anybody who is not married yet: even then, the control continues.

The Iranian regime is parental. It cares for your soul, it punishes you for disobeying its rules, it shelters you from disturbing information, it reads your diary, and it destroys your porn stash. It is sometimes abusive, sometimes distant, sometimes illogical, sometimes it is even loving. Sometimes your mom will let you do something that your dad disapproves of; sometimes the opposite is true.

In Iran, you remain a child: dependent on the whims of your overprotective and abusive parents; sneaking out behind their backs; secretly disobeying them; expert at playing the good child.

Back to the party…

“They are especially controlling of their daughters,” I say.”

“You would be surprised how much boys are controlled in smaller towns and villages. Iranian families do not want their boys doing anything that they do not know about or approve of. They can be just as controlling of them as of the girls.”

“You are lucky you come from a family that allows you to be independent,” I tell her.

“Yes I am. We are different from most Iranian families, so we have to constantly lie about who we are and what we do. We even have to lie to relatives. It is so hard to always pretend.”

“It can be that way in America too. When your family is different from what is normal, people sometimes get in your business.”

“That’s because there are so many Christians in America. Sometimes they can be just as controlling as Muslims.”

A new group of guests arrive. They shake hands without introducing themselves which is normal for Iranians. “How have you been?” Our host asks.

“Well, you know… waiting for *them* to come.” We may not know their names, but we know who “them” is. “We have our bags packed. Toothbrushes, pajamas, a change of clothes, all neatly packed and waiting by the door.”

“When you are ready for them, they never come,” a young artist jokes.

“That’s true!” the woman laughs. “Exactly why we should always be ready.”


BTW, link to new post at Mideast Youth


Mr.Behi said...

I agree with conservative nature of many Iranian families. Iran has been stuck between tradition and modernity for a long time and Islamic revolution really leaned it backwards for a considerable period. However, the role of the Islamic government in making the atmosphere insecure for families looks higher that what stated here. Families are kind of tending to be more protective about their children because society is so unproductive and the reason is (as stated in the post truly) is that the government always wants to decide what is good or bad. The strategy of “Banning things” is what made the society insecure. For example, in many of the western countries, for buying alcoholic beverages you have to go and show your ID for proof of your age, same for adult material and drugs if it is leagal. In Iran, because all these are banned, they are always available with no control. You can call and alcohol is delivered to your place with no question! As mentioned nicely in this post, separation of boys and girls propelled such extreme reaction from youngsters. Some girls wear a lot of makeup and boys dress like extreme metal bands they somehow are internally fighting the rules that do not make sense. Sex education is nowhere and neither is a accepted way of having relations before marriage… all those force families to be extra protective because they feel that their kids can get into ways that they are not educated about by the society and I guess many of Iranian families are so conservative in the first place to educate their children about taboos.

ET said...

Mr. Behi, I have a question for you: most of my Iranian friends say that it was not this way before the revolution. The more I am here, the more I believe that they were (for the most part) children before the revolution or uncharacteristically free because of the overlap of the revolution and their own coming of age. I believe that Iranian families *were* controlling before the revolution and that the regime is an extension of that tendency. What do you think? Better yet, what do your parents think?