Friday, November 20, 2009

Before "Neda"; Iran's female icon of resistance was born 193 years ago

Tahere Ghoratol-Eyn; born Zarin-Taj Ghazvini.

She was born in 1816; to a religious family where the father and grandfather were high-priests, with traditional respect and power bestowed on Iran's priests, for they were the systematically schooled ones; before the Quajars embarked on importing Western modernity to Iran, slowly shifting the Iranian education system from theoretical to practical, from theological to pragmatic.

She was "killed" at the age of 36 (1852); arrested for blasphemy and executed by the torturers of the Iranian court, by suffocation. She was not hanged. The executioners of Mahmud Khan the sheriff stuffed her mouth with cloth, chocking her to death and dumping her body in a well.

Tahereh was a poet--a published woman; a rarity for women in those days, when the Oxford colleges did not even tolerate cleaning women entering through the main enterance of the Gentleman's campus.

Tahere was BEAUTIFUL, and anecdotes suggest the king had an eye for her; but she refused joining Nasereddin's shah's Heram; she was an intellectual to the core.

Tahereh was well versed in texts and theories of Islam. A truly "academic" woman, perhaps the first of her kind, to separate from her husband over academic disagreements, and move to Iraq, at the age of 29, to pursue her research and education in presence of Seyed Kazem Rashti. (Here, I am not interested in, or going to discuss the religious sects to which she was connected; for they are irrelevant to the topic.)

Tahereh's biggest challenge to the religious patriarchy was to be so highly educated in religious matters and YET shock the gentleman's establishment, who had accepted her because of her high intellect, by unveiling herself in their presence (in 1848). The shock was particularly grand BECAUSE of Tahereh's high honors in religious sciences, that had elevated her to a quasi-saint state. On the day she became the first woman to publicly unveil, she called for celebration of the moment of liberation from the chains and restrictions of the past. She wasn't executed for her unveiling, of course. After all, the Quajars were not religious monarchs, but "modernist" ones; they brought to Iran Cinema, Gramaphone, and technical university (dar ol fonoon). They tolerated Tahereh and her followers until Babis, to whose movement she belonged in a leading role, rebelled and planned an assassination of the King (Naser al'ddin Shah) a few years later. It is then that executions of the Babis began, and Tahereh was amongst the "dangerous blasphemous" to go. Of course, religious in Iran is, and has always been, a political tool; excuse if you will, to oppress the other at will. Proof for Tahereh's blasphemy was abundant: she called for equality of men and women!

Listen to one of her poems in Persian:

A Beauty Mark - Sahba Motallebi

Endnote: poem link from this weblog (Persian).
And here, a nice essay by Niloofar Baizai (Persian).

1 comment:

Parvati said...

Amongst the books piled precariously on my bedside-table, one of the most cherished recent acquisitions is the Italian translation of a rich and fascinating historical novel that revolves around Tahereh's life, mirrored in its repercussions on lives and events around her:

"The Woman Who Read Too Much" by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani

"This novel is divided into four parts with revolving points of view, of mother, sister, daughter and wife respectively. It traces the capture, incarcertion, torture and final execution of the central figure of the mysterious poetess while exploring her impact on mayor, minister, mullah and monarch in a world of intrigue and corruption in Qajar Persia. The book has been translated into French, Italian in 2007 and will be out in Korean and Spanish by 2008/9[1]; it was nominated for the 2008 Latifeh Yashater Award, but has not yet been published in the original English.

I google-checked: published in Italian in 2009, still not available in English. Can't help wondering why not????