Monday, May 24, 2010

Hijab Power-Play again; Another Desperate Act, again!

The desperate goons of Ahmadinejadist persuasion have promised a new round of persecution of the bi-Hijabs (i.e. people who do not observe the government imposed dress code: requiring women to cover their hair and skin--save hands, feet, face; and men to not wear t-shirts, tight pants and sport excessive/stylized hair/beard styles. The picture is an example provided by Fars News, Ahmadinejad's mouthpiece.

The women activists and the civic-society activists are tolling the warning bells; rightly so! "Hijab is an instrument of power in the hands of the authoritarian government." It is not only the instrument of their power, but also a manifestation of their grip/control on the society.

In modern Iran (i.e. after the constitutional revolution) the rulers have invariably used women for political intentions: whereas the Quajars killed the brightest of them on charges of scandalous blasphemy (she dropped her veil in public); Pahlavis legislated them out of veil, making Hijab illegal; Khomeini legislated them into veil; Khatami won their vote on the promise of freedom of dress and social rights; Ahmadinejad is struggling hard to look pro-women; albeit in his schizophrenic way: promoting idiot mindless women such as his minister of health (the first female member of cabinet since inception of IRI) who fit the patriarchy bill!

I remember the first round of Hijab-fascism well. I remember it because my mother was an official feminist before revolution; not one of those who thought women's right were inversely proportional to the length of their skirt--rather one who believed women should not be objectified, should not be reduced to pretty sexual eye candies. She believed in women having equal (if not more) capabilities than men had. I remember this common narrative about how she took assignments in such frightening rural areas in Iran that her male counterparts didn't dare to.

When revolution came, all those who worked under mother's department ran to black veils; suddenly the most flirtatious and sexually exhibitionist of them adopted chador; the most drunk and morally decadent men of her department began wearing a beard and stopped shaving. Soon, those people reached the top; became the bosses; and who was the first to fire? My mother!

I remember when revolution and Hijab came! For the first few months, mother wore a little Dior scarf over her coiffured short brown hair. My father too, refused to not wear a tie, to not wear crisp pants. Revolution had come, but my parents did not change their dress code. This, together with their refusal to allow their departments being robbed (literally, with trucks) out of items that belonged to the tax-payers, by young revolutionaries, accelerated the appearance of their names in media as "anti-revolutionaries" to be "cleansed" out of the government.

My own encounter with forced Hijab came later. I was 8.5 at that time. I went to a semi-private elementary school. It was a small school with enlightened staff. When mother wore her little scarf for the first time; I too wore a large pink georgette scarf over my beautifully made gray uniform (with a white dantel collar and a pleated skirt, buttoned nicely in front, tight around the waist--mother never let us wear pret-a-porter; our clothes were carefully designed and made by herself.) I remember I also wore a pair of dotted pink trousers under my uniform. I wanted my hijab to be complete; and in my young mind, I also wanted to be fashionable--hence the matching scarf/pant color!

I walked to the school with my mother; and we were greeted by the principal who always stood in front of the door when students arrived. She too was wearing a scarf; but as soon as she saw me she burst into laughter: "what's that you are wearing?" I don't remember what I said, I remember she and mother talking and nagging at the current situation a bit and then I took the pink georgette off and went to my class. It was only in the last year of elementary school that I was FORCED to wear a bucket for uniform, and a hair covering scarf over that--and that's because we moved to a different city; a conservative one!

Again, my Hijab zeal made for a funny story that my friends and I still laugh at! My mother bought me a really hair-covering scarf made in some Muslim country. I wore the "complete" Hijab, went to school, and my teacher introduced me to a student who was from the same city I had just arrived from! The student happened to be Bahai, and seeing my complete Hijab, she feared I was a fundamentalist muslim being forced on her! I gave up that fashion statement too; and resorted to a white scarf!

And then, I grew up in 10 years of being harassed over my hijab; in school, in streets, in university. There was always something I was picked on:
Your winter coat is pink!
Your shoes are white!
Your pants are too tight!
Your pants are too loose!
Your overcoat's opening in the back is too high!
Your scarf in the back is not low (I had long hair that I braided, and it always stuck out of the back of my hejab! So I put it in my manteau, which made it look as if I had a hunch!)
Your shawl is red!
Don't sit behind "brothers"
Don't sit in front of "brothers"
Is that eye liner?
Is that nail polish?
I was even picked on for wearing a Jean jacket--it was a western symbol! And this one really sucked because I was raised under my mother's strict "no-logo" "anti-western" doctrine. Mother did not allow VCR machines in the house--because she thought imported films from abroad were trash. I was perhaps the only teenager of my days who didn't own a madonna/ michael jackson/george michael poster in her room! Mother wanted us to be original and creative; and somehow the creativity, which was fully home-grown made me more of an odd ball--I managed to be called to the principal's office and punished more often than others with real western tendencies.

But, what did this Hijab do to me?

Truth is; it only helped to crystallize my rebellion, and my awareness of this inverted objectification of my sexuality. Perhaps, if I were not forced to scarf, if I were not harassed because of my choice of colours, I would not have fully grasped the desperation of those who ruled me in the name of religion. Perhaps, my disdain for Islam and Hijab should be credited to IRI! I am happy that all measures the IRI took made me question religion, while making me aware of the power of my sexuality.

The Hijab fascism, however, made it impossible for people like my mother to remain in the society. She refused to go back to work--although she was invited back some years later. She refused to wear a bucket; it suffocated her. And she wasn't the only one who decided to stay off. Although many were not as stubborn as she and my aunt were, and they camouflaged into Hijab, while being the soldier of the women's camp.
Mother also decided to send me away--she thought I was a misfit for that society (and she was right). She also relaxed her anti-western policies on my younger siblings--but somehow even they never acquired a Madonna poster.

Mother did some thing else too: when the vigilantes harassed my youngest sister or mother, who can not still wear a scarf quite properly, she pulls them aside and recites to them Koranic verses, with interpretations, thus either shaming the vigilantes with their ignorance, or annoying the hell out of them to have to listen to a granny. After all, mother's still charismatic and calm, and fascism in Iran is not THAT bad to raise a baton over a respectful, aloof, soft-spoken grand mother.

P.S. if you have noticed, Iran is run by really ugly men! I assure you that the average population of Iranians is not this grim/gross looking. But being ugly guarantees you success in the IRI :) The ugly men of IRI cannot help their arousal seeing inaccessibly beautiful and fashionable women and men parading the streets. This has nothing to do with religion. It really is just an inferiority complex that raises these fascist practices.


Anonymous said...

The most crutial struggle of the Long War is in Iran,but the American mainstream 'news' on Iran is just Backpacker Moms, and Nukes,Nukes,Nukes.During the Cold War we Westerners idolized the anti-Communist resisters behind the Iron Curtain,but the West has not developed the same admiration , and support for Iran's Green Movement.Short of war, foreigners may not have much effect on the future of Iran,but the Green Movement might still get some benefit from clarifying, and publicizing its nature in the West.

Naj said...

Tamara; please leave a comment on whichever post you want me remove your comment from.