Thursday, February 1, 2007

Diasporic Memoirs

If you live in North America, the chances are that when you talk about the "media-fabricated wars" in a cocktail party, you would hear something like "yeah, like Wag the Dog", or if you talk about the Iraq war, you get a nodding head "yeah like in the Three Kings". And the chances are that when people talk about the women in Iran, Betty Mahmoudi of Without my daughter; Never! comes to mind. I was among many Iranians who boycotted this film, to protest against the act of engraving the memories of an Image-driven nation, with non-representative images of a case of domestic violence-- turned into a factual cultural ubiquity, thanks to the magic of "based on memoirs of ...".

But now, a group of Iranian-American feminist scholars are raising an alarm flag about "a particularly lucrative industry of Iranian and Muslim women's memoirs [that] has mushroomed in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities." Niki Akhavan, Golbarg Bashi, Mana Kia and Sima Shakhsari, warn that "These women's memoirs have assumed center-stage in appropriating the legitimate cause of women's rights and placing it squarely in the service of Empire building projects, disguised under the rhetoric of the "war on terror."

Once the favored tale of "civilizing missions", the contemporary rescue fantasy now has a new twist. Rather than being spoken for by ambassadors of "civilization", Iranian women are able to speak for themselves courtesy of international publishing houses. Women selected according to the resonance of their experience within this narrative become the mouthpiece for the "authentic" Iranian experience, making the current construction of the "rescue fantasy" more insidious than ever.

See a short version of the article here.

In today's Iran, women are at the forefront of literacy, educational, artistic, journalistic, and legal advancements. In a social, literary, and political tradition of resistance that extends from generations of peasant and working class women down to Tahereh Qorrat al-Ayn, Shirin Ebadi, Shams Kasma'i, and Forough Farrokhzad, Iranian women continue to struggle for their dignity and civil rights. Iranian women took two monarchic dynasties to task and they now hold the Islamic Republic responsible to address their demands. Any military or economic sanctions against Iran will only set Iranian women back in their achievements, and cause nothing but hardship and tragedy (as disastrously evident in Iraq today).


Saa said...

Very good post. It reminded me Iraqi women in Saddam's regime and today in US regime. I never say Saddam was not evil but I still say in his regime, fanatics had no power. Women were working in politics, actaully active in every sphere of life. They were free to wear western dresses. But Western Media showed them helpless as they do now for Iranian women. They(some American women) said that these women(Iraqi) need freedom and for this they sent them vibrators as gifts. People curse those US soliers who raped Iraqi women, but sending vibrators as a gift with title to enjoy the freedom is not raping the dignity of victims of war?

naj said...

Hi Saa, I agree with you.

Regarding Harper's magazine's vibrator story ... I take it to be a tongue in cheek piece of criticism of American invasion of Iraq.

Icar said...

salaam! postaie ghabli khundaneshun bishtar hal midad. shayad age bekhain nazaretoono rajebe ina begin hamash chand satr bishtar nashe vali in posthaye akhiretoon kheili toolani hastan.

Monte said...

"Iranian women took two monarchic dynasties to task and they now hold the Islamic Republic responsible to address their demands."
Wow - these must be heroic stories that would be of benefit to the whole world! May the stereotypes of nations fail!

naj said...

hi Icar,
thanks for your comment. I try to make shorter posts.

naj said...

Hi Monte,

There are both heroic stories in the feminist movement in Iran (which started 100 years ago, at the SAME time that the western women were claiming their own right, by gaining access to Oxford, parliamentary system and etc), and very simple day-to-day stories.

You can find some samples in my posts.

thanks for visiting