Friday, August 26, 2016


Maybe Iran's Women Really Can Cause An Earthquake

Women come to the aid of a man being beaten during election protests last June.
Women come to the aid of a man being beaten during election protests last June.
By Golnaz Esfandiari
I wasn't surprised when I read the comments by Iranian cleric Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi in which he claimed that women who don't dress modestly lead men astray and even cause earthquakes. In fact, I was amused, thinking he was being unusually imaginative in his reasoning.

But I wasn't surprised. After all, I grew up in postrevolutionary Iran, and we used to find statements similar to Sedighi's on state television and in state-controlled newspapers all the time.

I clearly remember how the hijab became obligatory soon after the revolution, ostensibly to help girls and women protect "their chastity," as well as to shield them from all the evil in society. They told us again and again how the hijab was for our benefit and how it somehow made us valuable.

I remember watching television as a child and hearing a cleric explain in very serious terms how women's hair sent special rays directly into men's eyes, making them lustful. He was trying to explain to us why we had to cover ourselves even during the hottest days of summer.

Odd Science Fiction

Although I was very young, his words struck me as some sort of odd science fiction. Even if the story of the rays was true, why did I and my mother, sisters, and friends have to "protect" ourselves? Maybe it would make more sense for the clerics to force horny men to wear dark glasses?

They told us that the hijab was a gift from God that would preserve us as “untouched pearls.” We heard lots of beautiful phrases like that.
At first, I just thought it was unfair. Later, though, I came to understand that all this was just a reflection of a basic truth in revolutionary Iran. Women are not protected; women are not valuable. Women are second-class citizens, despite all the rhetoric about how women are granted elevated status in Islam and how the Prophet Muhammad loved and cared for women, including his several wives.

We were told that being a good wife and a good mother were the only achievements that mattered for us. Our schoolbooks depicted men out fighting and engaging in adventures of all sorts, while women and girls sat at home, ironing their hijabs and waiting for their men to come home. And, of course, when they got there, the house would be clean, dinner would be on the table, and there'd be a smile on every face.

They told us the hijab was a gift from God that would preserve us as "untouched pearls." We heard lots of beautiful phrases like that.

Many of my friends and I did not buy this line. All we wanted was to get rid of the hijab and dress like the girls we saw in Western media. We knew that some women welcomed the hijab and wanted to cover themselves, and we respected that choice. But we wanted to make our own choice.

Almost every Friday, clerics of Sedighi's ilk would go to great lengths to praise the good women who covered themselves from head to toe. And they would warn against those who refused to do so, accusing them of causing the many ills of Iranian society. It was only a matter of time before they got around to earthquakes.

No, I wasn't surprised.

Emerge Again

In recent days people have been posting a video of a cleric leading Friday Prayers in Mashhad, claiming that he said that women who wear makeup will be eaten by reptiles (what would Freud say?). I watched the video and he didn’t actually say that, but he made similar comments just like the ones we've been hearing all our lives.

And despite this constant haranguing, despite the 31 years that have passed since the revolution, despite the fearsome Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Basij militia, the mighty Islamic republic has been unable to compel women completely to wear the hijab. From time to time, the authorities will begin detaining "improperly dressed" women. They will harass them on the streets and even flog them. They will lecture them will all sorts of bizarre reasons why women must respect the hijab.

But within a few days, women again emerge on the streets with very small and colorful headscarves perched atop their highlighted hair. They wear makeup and short, tight manteaus.

So the authorities keep trying. One Friday, women cause earthquakes. The next Friday, it will be something worse.

All these statements say to me is that the authorities are afraid of these women who they have not been able to control after decades of trying. Women now make up more than 60 percent of Iranian university entrants. And more and more of them are showing that they will not accept second-class status, that they will stand up for their rights.

Maybe Sedighi said more than he knew. Iranian women are capable of causing an earthquake -- one that is shaking all those who insist on keeping women under the chador and at home.

Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Turgai Sangar
April 30, 2010 10:36
"And, of course, when they got there, the house would be clean, dinner would be on the table, and there’d be a smile on every face."

Well, what is wrong with that per se? :) Does the global norm and role model really has to be the ultra-selfish Western(ised) 'want all-do all-be all' women who can only handle their 'emancipation' on kilos of prozac?
In Response

by: Carmela the lesbian
April 30, 2010 14:44
How are you "handling" yourself? Are your palms hairy?
In Response

by: Turgai Sangar
May 01, 2010 15:58
Do you have a moustache?
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by: C Smith from: US
April 30, 2010 15:21
"Does the global norm and role model really has to be the ultra-selfish Western(ised) 'want all-do all-be all' women who can only handle their 'emancipation' on kilos of prozac?"

No, but it doesn't have to be the ultra-selfish global norm of "men rule, women and children are property for profit" either. Believe me, in the US, we do have some states that actually enforce laws that support this concept. I think you miss the point. It's about choice without lethal repercussion.

In Response

by: Turgai Sangar
May 01, 2010 16:11
Bah, Smith, well meant but please save that bollocks about 'freedom of choice' and what all when there are people around who are not blind and know better. The promotion of that whole women's rights thing in Iran, my friend, is not about the well-being of women at all but about neo-colonialism.

It always makes me laugh when I see people or groups who are outraged and making unbelievable noise about 'ze oppression of ze women under Islam' when these same people or groups typically keep silent when it's about the crass exploitation of women in Chinese factories or in the sex traffic from Moldova or the Balkans. And you know whay? Because the latter two are basically part of the *real* design of the bigoted, neoliberal Islam-bashers.

Same with that international LGBT lobby screaming about the predicament of gays in Iran. In reality, they don't give a iot about the well-being of the people in Iran. What they want is Iran to become a vacation park for yuppie gays where the Iranians are either servants or pleasure boys.
In Response

by: Onur Ozcelik from: Turkey
May 01, 2010 00:41
Don't forget about the heavy opium usage in Iran.
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by: Turgai Sangar
May 01, 2010 16:19
Yes Onur-bey, that is tragic. What is more, it perfectly arranges the West, Israël and stooges in Iran (that is, ther twittering North Teheran yuppies and ethnic separatists) to dislocate Iranian society.

Europe (the main end market for Golden Crescent heroin) coveniently forgets that Iran does not only gets the first blows but is also a first-line frontline state in/against the heroin traffic. And the traffic only exists because there's a demand from terminally decadent, hedonistic OECD countries.
In Response

by: Sooz
May 01, 2010 01:19
The global norm used to be the ultra-selfish want-all do nothing man who expected his house to be cleaned and his food to be put on a table by a woman without his lifting a finger to help. Those days are mercifully going away. You may assume the woman would be smiling because she did a good job cleaning after you and feeding you. But if you could see behind the Hejjab you'd see that she's sick and tired of your desired norm.
Excellent piece, Golnar.
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by: Turgai Sangar
May 01, 2010 16:26
Yes, Sooz, and now I'm asking you: is there no healthy way between those two 'norms'?
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by: Afshin from: USA
May 01, 2010 21:54
Its a fallacy to think that women who want to take more than domestic affairs are somehow westernized, please read middle eastern history and see the remarkable women leaders that ancient Persia had, or various points in Islamic history especially during the peak of the Ottoman Empire...
In Response

by: Rose from: U.S.
May 03, 2010 19:09
No one I know is on Prozac...including me - I handle things just fine, for me it's called prayer

by: Ferdowsi
April 30, 2010 11:56
Now that Iran is on the UN Women's RIghts Commission, perhaps they can sponsor some research to develop dark glasses for horny men (and reptiles).

by: Giga from: Eden
April 30, 2010 13:18
I would say that in 21st century, its really a big shame to force women wear a chador. Every men are born with equal rights including women.
From my point of view, the Iranian governmet are doing their best to force women wear chadors, is to have them under their control, nothing more.
Let Iranian women cause an earthquake and get rid off that shame.

by: Jaker from: London/Dublin
April 30, 2010 13:31
A footfall earthquake/tsunami is going to take place in Iran in June

And it wil even disturb the "Man who lives on the Moon"!

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix, AZ, U.S.A.
April 30, 2010 14:26
You cannot legislate morality. You and I both know the difference between right and wrong. The hijab is an antiquated ball and chain that women do not deserve.
In Response

by: Rose from: U.S.A.
May 03, 2010 19:13
Ok, I agree with you on the hijab, but all law legislates morality - that's the point: murder, theft, rape, even greed, etc.

by: Maziar from: Tehran
April 30, 2010 17:09
Hypocrisy of the worst kind in 21st century. Mullahs run organized PROSTITUTION rings all over Iran. Prostitutes walk the streets in Tehran protected by the Police! All that is okay and justified as SIGHEH, but women showing their hair causes major catastrophe. Islamic Republic is so ridiculous that it would be hilarious if it was not so tragic.

by: Hamik C Gregory from: Reno, NV USA
April 30, 2010 18:03
I like your picture! Women in chadors are running to the rescue of a man being beaten up. They have to take on Mr. Ahmadinijad’s goons. Look at their faces! Do they look afraid?
These mothers are capable of causing boobquakes and brainquakes. Who says they can not? With their feminine quakes, they will shake it to its foundation the entire political system in Iran.
They have set them aside for a rainy day! Your picture tells me they will use them!

by: Tita from: Earth
May 01, 2010 12:22
@Turgai Sangar: you miss the point.
It´s very nice indeed when the house is clean, dinner ist on the table and there´s a genuine smile on everybody´s face because this is the work of a family working in unison and not the work of of a few being entitled to being waited upon by the not so fortunate rest.
There´s a lot wrong with dividing people into those being entitled to the continuous attention & service of others and those bearing the duty to provide it. Obligation towards one´s family has to be mutual and fair tom everyone.
In Response

by: Turgai Sangar
May 01, 2010 16:22
Measuring on the reactions I got, I think I was rather right on target. ;-) Anyway, I agree with the last sentence of your comment.
In Response

by: Rose from: U.S.A.
May 03, 2010 19:14
I love it - because everyone disagrees with me, I am right....such logic.

by: dhemk from: toronto
May 01, 2010 15:21

If God wanted us to dress a certain way he would have made women born with the hyjab! this God this and God that makes humanity deprogress, we are in the 21th century not then 12th. OPEN YOUR EYES the molahs want to control people and rob their freedom. In the name of God of course! Oldest trick in the book.

Down with the dictator and his supporters!
In Response

by: Rose from: U.S.A.
May 03, 2010 19:16
dhemk: make a comment on the bible verse that says that women should not dress like men please. Not that I think that we shouldn't wear pants, but don't go too far with your arguments.

by: Iranian
May 02, 2010 00:32
Please correct the name of language on your introduction page for radio Farda. The correct name is Persian not "Farsi". See:
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