Thursday, March 02, 2006

Community Affair

Lots of links to some great reports (Farsi) and pictures of the latest attempts by some Iranian women to watch the Iran-Costa Rica football match in a stadium they are officially barred from! The battles continue as they have always.

I haven’t been able to get Anjoman out of my mind, though. Floods of memories.

My father was a soldier. He had a harsh, loud voice, aggressive manners and (occasionally) violent rages. He also had a penchant, like some other soldiers everywhere, for heavy drinking, hard play and the Iranian equivalent of bar fights—this latter only in his younger days.

Never once, do I recall, hearing his voice become loud in exchanges with my mother. She still reminisces fondly, decades after his death, about the time she came home to flowers. Not just a dozen or two, but hundreds of different kinds of flowers sprinkled everywhere from the main gate on through the yard and the stairs into the living room all the way to the bedroom with finally the bed covered in roses.

My mother tells me there was a time once he took a harsh tone with her when I was one or two, perhaps, at his father’s house; he too a soldier but of a religious persuasion. Then a blunt rebuke from my grandfather: “Do you recall your father raising his voice with your mother. Do you intend to see your son hearing his father’s voice raised against his mother?

That, apparently, was all it had taken. He was a decent, loving husband and an adorable father.

Terribly patriarchal and old fashioned, I know. Limited and reductionist when it comes to woman and the sex roles. And a not too terribly masked misogyny at work yes! Structurally or fundamentally violent, yes. A mere question of degrees, yes!

But a terribly significant one!

I like assertive women. I like intelligence. I respond to eloquence and passion. Assertive, intelligent, eloquent women are interesting to me and fun to interact with. They are also, in my more lascivious moments, sexually delightful.

An incorrigible man, I admit to it! Thank heaven for Sartre and his notion of the objectifying gaze. I would have been even more perverted without it. Of course, I’ve grown to like things simple. Simple fantasies will do when to seek anything more becomes improper—in the old fashioned sense of that term.

I don’t believe in a just Deity. So I don’t get to worry about having a “pure” heart. Only just about keeping my scruffy paws away! What goes on in my head is my business.

Naturally, I gravitate towards certain types of women. I still have many fond memories of a number of my Shuai-Chiao partners and my (horse) riding companions! I don’t overtly ogle and so they too feel comfortable around me. Three women I’ve encountered in life I can’t get out of my mind though.

One of the three I’ve recollections about from my childhood years. She is a few years my senior. Now a physician, for a number of years she’s been helping me with suggestions about my health on a routine basis. We drive each other crazy though. She is a monarchist. We argue about all things passionately. She is no pushover.

She has lived under the Islamic regime while always trying to hold her own. At war with all manners of imbecility all the time and well versed in profanities, she tries not to compromise her principles. She is tall, imposing and has the demeanor of an undefeatable warrior goddess.

And one early morning around two, she came knocking at the door knowing I’d be awake—disheveled and in obvious distress with bruised arms and a teary face. Apparently not the first time. Her husband too is a doctor.

There is another woman who doesn’t live in Iran. I met her a few years ago on one of my trips. She spent years of her life a political prisoner. A leftist, she was tortured mercilessly and faced mock executions. She had never budged, though. She refused to renounce her beliefs!

She has a beautiful smile. The sort that you simply “know” comes with tested inner strength. And a smile intended to mask pain she is too proud to give anyone the satisfaction of getting a glimpse of from a distance.

The one regret about all of her ordeals in life I gather, “Refusing to tolerate the Islamic regime, and yet, having ended up tolerating that bully for a husband.”

The third is the one who shamed me in a fundamental way. She didn’t mean to. It just happened that way. She too was a warrior.

A veteran of the Islamic prison systems, she was an odd sort of an activist when I met her. She used to always preface-- or so I thought-- some of her more problematic statements with “it has been scientifically proven.”

Naturally, of course, there were many sharp exchanges. And one night in particular, as I was standing up to light a cigarette in the middle of one of our more heated arguments about what the “workers and peasants wanted”:

“Sit down, h,” she asked me.

“I don’t want to. Why should I sit down?”

“It has been scientifically proven…”

“Utter imbecility….unadulterated manure…what sort of a science….?.”

“Please sit,” she said, “the light behind you hurts my eyes.”

Years flashed before my eyes in rapid succession. I felt my ears turn red. A sense of shame began to permeate my body in waves. An absolute, dreadful embarrassment!

In all the years I’d argued with her, never once had I noticed that-- she who insisted on speaking on behalf of all the workers and peasants spread across different countries, cultures and time zones—she tended to switch to “it has been scientifically proven” mostly when speaking of her own desires or wants.

And I’d missed it. Years of “training” with texts and I’d missed it. It wasn’t really absent in her speech. I was the absent party.

There is nothing inevitable about domestic abuse in any culture. The only inevitability is the shame of the community that ignores and tolerates it everywhere.

Nadia Anjoman’s story and a poem in English.

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