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Life

Future seemed bright
The travelers, Part IV

By Laleh Haghighi
May 7, 2003
The Irania

Many years back, in Iran, my grandfather Pedar slowly accepted the then novel idea that his daughters should receive an education outside the home. This was a great leap from my grandmother Bozorg's childhood, spent confined at home, away from outside "corruption."

Pedar's struggle to alter his belief system reflected in some way the struggle made by the Iranian population at large in accepting the many changes brought upon their traditional society by the Shah's desire to "modernize" or at least "westernize" Iran.

My mother and the rest of my aunts took advantage of the initial battle fought and won by their older sister Atiyeh. For them, no pleadings or whining to be allowed to go to school. By the time it came to child number 3, Mahdiyeh, and child number 4, my mother Maryam, not only school was allowed but also social parties and outings as well, all under the supervision of their older brother Ali of course.

It wasn't long before mini-skirts were the rage and ironing curly hair straight was de rigueur for numbers 5 and 6, the twins Sayeedeh and Safourah. They even changed their hated old-fashioned Muslim names to more modern versions of Sahar and Sanaz. It was a long long way from the time poor Atiyeh was forced to drag her heavy, uncomfortable traveling tent of a chador to school with her.

Ironically, Ali and Babak, respectively the oldest and the youngest child, and the two only males of the tribe, were the ones who lagged behind their sisters in terms of their schooling. Neither of them went to college, something that my mother and my aunts all did. However, this did not do anything to lessen the bond between siblings, who were unusually warm, caring and doting on each other.

The future seemed bright. Ali had moved out and started a business of his own. Soon after, he married his landlord's demure daughter. Atiyeh graduated from college and took a job at the Canadian Embassy. She was waiting for her sweetheart, Farhad, to finish his mandatory military service, so that they too could get married.

My mother and her sister Mahdiyeh were having the time of their lives as university students. The twins Sahar and Sanaz were excelling not only at school but also at various extracurricular activities such as swimming, and dancing, something that would have been as alien to Bozorg's childhood as a green-skinned monster landing on the roof of her house. The baby of the family, Babak, a teen with an already manly mustache and shirt buttoned down to his navel, was breaking hearts left and right, and having the time of his life doing it.

One dark cloud happened one day when Atiyeh, on her way back home from her job, was involved in an "accident." I put "accident" in quotes because she strongly suspected that there was nothing accidental about a bucket of dirty water being dumped on her head by some constructions workers working on top of a scaffold, as she was walking by.

Although the foreman apologized profusely, Atieyh thought she heard one of the men muttering: "Whore, go home and cover yourself up." Of course, it had been years since Atiyeh had left her chador at home and now she went to work dressed in the latest European fashion: Hair flowing freely, brightly colored and form fitting clothes, knee-length skirt showing off her legs, high heels, etc.

When Atiyeh told her siblings what had happened to her, they just dismissed it as an accident, seeing nothing more sinister in it. However, they would soon learn otherwise. For murmurs and rants had already been heard for some time from the countryside and the villages, and now had found their way into the capital. Everywhere, behind closed doors and dark curtains, bitter whispers were protesting the alleged corruption brought forth by the Shah into Iran's traditional social and religious mores.

In Paris, an old man with a long grey beard, who had lived there for years without so much as catching a glance of the Tour Eiffel lest it would corrupt his devout eyes, was inflaming minds and hearts with his messages advocating a return to the Muslim way of life.

It would not be long before an explosion heard round the world would shake my mother's carefree life and scatter her siblings and parents to the four corners of the globe, just like so many specks of glass and debris flying randomly into the air. Travelers against their will, so they would become...

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ALSO
By Laleh Haghighi

The travelers
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

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