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Living grandma's dream
Her intelligence, stamina, and persistence gave me inspiration

By Farzaneh Fouladi
November 17, 2001
The Iranian

I have been an active reader of your online magazine for over three years now. This year I am graduating from high school and awaiting my college acceptance to god knows where. I have written an essay to one of the many prompts each college application has asked for: How has my life been altered because of my surroundings?

Upon this request, I wrote a short essay of how my grandmother, whose obviously Iranian, has basically made me a stronger person as a female and a scholar. I hope you will read it and find it amicable for publication. I will enclose my essay which i wrote totally by myself and hope that it will be published somehow.

A baby doll, a stand-in mirror and an active imagination takes a little girl to uncharted worlds. This little girl grows day by day believing that fairy tales do come true, that one day she too will change into a beautiful princess who will eventually marry well and have wonderful children. She puts on old, dusty lace dresses that her mother used when she played dress-up. The little girl imagines in a fairy tale fantasy that one-day she too will be praised her magnificent beauty and intelligence. She glides through her bedroom as if she was on center stage and imagines her prince charming. This little girl continues to grow up and the more she thinks about her wild fantasy of becoming that "princess" life takes an unexpected turn.

As the girl matures, she is eventually belittled and forced, without her consent, to wear the Islamic hijab. This is the standard garb Muslim women are required to wear. She must obey her father and brothers (regardless if they are younger than her) because she is a female and deemed their inferior. She is brought up in a world and culture where she is brainwashed to believe that she can only amount to nothing more than a housewife and mother. Maybe after slaving over a kitchen stove for 20 years, she would gain some respect as a cook.

This little girl's dream becomes a nightmare as she is forcefully married off at a ripe age of fifteen. By then her breasts have developed and her hips are wide enough to allow her to bear children. A mixture of politics, religious doctrine and culture smothers her from receiving an education and blinding ignorance, blocked her from ever succeeding in her world. She would never become the true "princess" she ought to be or have that passion, education, or adventure she yearns for simply because she is a woman. As the inferior sex, she was brought into this world to become the archetypical servant; one who is required to slave in the kitchen, and serve the whims of her husband, father, and brothers.

This little girl is my grandmother. This little girl could have been me. I was born in Iran on August 1, 1983. By the early 1980's, Iran was in complete turmoil. The Islamic Revolution was in full fury and the country had reversed its timeline from the golden years where women were honored and respected to time where they were now degraded and placed in a low position in society. Women could no longer have personal freedom; freedom to wear as they pleased, freedom to study and interact in politics, including most of all their personal independence. It became a society of conformity and despair for many women. This was also a complete backlash to the women's movement that took place in the 1960's in Tehran, Iran's capital.

I came from a family of strong independent women, who refused to allow society to disillusion and control them. My grandmother lived in a small village in Semnan, just four hours away west from Tehran. Her ignorant father would keep her and her sister locked up in their house for days. They lived on a farm and were given freedom only to attend to the farm chores. However, their courageous mother would sneak her daughters from the backyard and allow them to receive the best education that could be offered during the 1930's.

Reading and writing skills were acquired without her husband or father ever knowing. My grandmother eventually completed the fourth grade before her father learned of her secret. Despite her father, my grandmother was extremely determined to continue with her education even though she could not keep attending grammar school. She forced her younger brother, who eventually went on to law school, to send her books and other reading materials. This allowed her to stand up to her three brothers and be as educated as them.

My grandmother was a strong and fierce woman who did not allow herself to be degraded by anyone, man or woman. She refused to allow these religious doctrines to get in the way of her education. This was true even though she was unable to continue going to school. She may have been forced to marry at a very young age and raise six children, but she demanded that each of her three daughters be respected by their father and brothers. Her intelligence, stamina, and persistence gave me the inspiration I needed to realize that despite all the obstacles blocking my way to success, I am able to control my own destiny.

Like my grandmother, I have had the same difficulties in achieving my goals although to a lesser degree. I came to this country with my parents when I was a year old. We began our life in Florida with little money and little knowledge of the language. My mother never lets me forget that the reason why we continue to live in the United States is because it gives us freedom. Freedom is something that we would never have enjoyed if we had remained in Iran. I have been blessed with the opportunity of going to college and being able to study whatever I please. While at the same time, I need not worry if my scarf is big enough to cover my hair or if I know enough about the religion of Islam to allow me to apply to a certain university.

I wanted to prove to my mother and grandmother that we women, given the opportunity, are able to prosper in whatever we choose. That is the reason why I elected to take as many challenging courses as I could throughout high school. I even attended Princeton University summer school in the summer of 2000. I cannot forget the look in my grandmother's eye when she came into my dorm and looked at me with such pride. The pride and her support are always with me. She inspires me to always do my best!

Throughout my high school career, I refused to allow my culture, religious, background, or my sex to get in the way of my dreams. This is the reason why I have always been attracted to politics. My life evolves around politics; it is politics that influenced my grandmother's society and now it's politics that prevents a new generation of immigrants from paving their road to their ultimate utopia. Even now in the twenty-first century, many people in Iran are under the illusion that a Muslim-raised first generation Persian woman could not understand politics.

To prove that I can get myself involved in politics, during my junior year of high school, I applied for an internship position with my local Representative, Congressman Peter Deutch. I remember distinctively that everyone, including my parents, were skeptical that I could get the job, but I did. I was able to become an intern for my congressman. I was able to get myself involved in politics, which was unheard of in my cultural background.

Despite all the obstacles in my way, I was able to accomplish what I sought throughout my high school career. This is because I realized that before my generation, women such as my grandmother never had the opportunities I now enjoy. As I am becoming a woman, I will continue to strive to do the best I can do to achieve my dreams.

My goal now in life is to study political science at a respectable educational institution (hopefully yours). I want to continue the political life I have begun and continue to prove to the people around me that despite my sex I am equally intelligent, strong, and fierce as the next person. Eventually I wish to continue my internship for my congressman and attend law school. This is a dream my grandmother was never able to even hope of accomplishing.

Comment for The Iranian letters section
Comment for the writers Farzaneh Fouladi


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