Hi all. Well, as some readers of the blog will know one of my favourite countries I have ever visited in the world is the incredible country of Iran. The history is brilliant, some of the cities should be UNESCO heritage sites in their own right (for example, Yazd) and the people are the friendliest, most generous people I have ever EVER met.
But right now an oppressive and malignant regime is cracking down on protestors in horrific fashion. I generally try to keep politics out of my blog because the ensuing arguments that I’ve seen in other places on the web are quite appalling. Interestingly at the Iran/England World Cup match last week the England captain decided not to wear a rainbow armband as a form of protest about Qatar’s treatment of the LBGTI community, due I heard to the fact that he might be suspended if he did. At the same time the entire Iran side refused to sing the national anthem in protest of what is happening back home – which should leave no-one in any doubt about the severity of what is happening right now and that it is REAL. What might these players face when they return home? Very possibly something a lot worse than a suspension.
But I did not want to write a long post about the injustices occurring in a country I love. Instead I wanted to relay an experience that I had when I was in the southern city of Shiraz. And I wanted to talk about my interactions with Iranian/Persian women. NO – it’s nothing like that! Please! But I wanted to convey that women in Iran are brave, definitely have their own opinions and I hope and believe they will one day, hopefully soon, be the driver of change in Iran.
Although covering hair is the law in Iran for women, and indeed I saw that most women wear the hijab, they are always doing what ever they can to push the boundaries of the rule. Hair often sticks out of the front of the hijab, deliberately, and make up is extremely common and liberally applied.
I arrived in Shiraz back in 2004, over 18 years ago now, after a longish share taxi ride with a Australian Octogenarian called ‘Charlie’. He had just been to Yemen and had an incredible lust for life. I don’t know if he is still alive, if he is he would be over 100 right now (I did a google search, couldn’t find anything, not even an obituary) but I wouldn’t put it past him!
I’m not sure how or why but we ended up sharing a room in Shiraz. He wanted to meet people in Iran, and so he suggested we go to a University. I think he had a bunch of Australian souvenirs he wanted to hand out. So we did! We went to a University who didn’t know what to make of us, but before we knew it we had an invitation to come to and English language class.
So we attended either in the afternoon or the next day. The class was probably 70% women and 30% men and in general the women were certainly the more vibrant and engaged members of the class. And we chatted for an hour or so. And then I got the question – what did I think of the Hijab? Should women wear it?
And honestly it was a tough question to answer IN IRAN. But I had to be honest in the end, and I said that I believed that there was nothing wrong with it, I was in favour of women wearing – as long as it was their choice. I didn’t know what the reaction would be. But everyone in the class actually burst into applause at my answer.
In fact I hung out with some of the class members over the next few days in Shiraz, and if truth be told – I came close to getting engaged, but that’s another story. Considering the current climate in Iran I won’t be sharing any photos of any Iranians today, although it was 18 years ago. Let me tell you though that the women I met in Iran, including a guide at a Tehran museum who told me she went to illegal Salsa classes weekly, are strong and intelligent. And if there is going to be true change in Iran, and I believe there will, even if what is happening now quietens down and is quelled by the authorities it won’t take much to spark more, then you can expect Iranian women to be leading the charge to a more free, fairer and more open society. And I believe the positive flow on from such an Iran would be enormously positive for the rest of the world.
Thanks for reading. May the Journey Never End.