It's reigning women
What a year for Iranian women
February 27, 2004
Trendy as it is to describe photographs without
publishing them, here's a few snapshots related to 1382, dubbed
the 'Year of Iranian women'.
Samira Makhmalbaf picks up the Jury prize for her film At Five
In the Afternoon (Panj-e Asr) in May.
Sat next to a swimming pool, clad in a trendy rendition of hejab
(but hejab nonetheless), she displays the inches of hair by
which many gauge the success of reforms in Iran.
Her head-to-toe black contrasts with the sparkling blue of
the pool. Jealous tentacles of the Islamic Republic trail
even to the spring idyll of the French Riviera. She is unaware
she is heading a year in which more than any other, Iranian
women will claim the world's attention.
even Googoosh, a couple of years earlier, could compete
with the proliferation
of this image: Laleh and Ladan Bijani's
two smiling faces girt by a single hejab. Never applied so
tightly as to suggest it was their will to wear it, it raises the
why they should have to at all. No craniotomy, after all, is
required to relieve this aspect of their suffering.
are, discomfited by a roosari (toosari)
at their final press conference in the Raffles hospital
at the mercy
of a man called Dr Goh.
The pop goddess Googoosh walked straight out of Iran
into costumes that confirmed her penchant for seventies'
intact. Her high-profile exit led to speculation that
the fortune of women in Iran was about to change. Some
singer breaking her silence would lead to regime fall
Here she is in peacock-like majesty, the first people's royal
to leave Persia, strutting, cutting a distinctly pre-Islamic
figure, with an album called 'Zoroaster' to boot.
Googoosh as agent of social upheaval, however, did not materialize.
We exiles get excited in our rare outpourings of unity. (Remember
how France 98 football fanatics were convinced Iranian players
would strike a goal for the young, against the mullahs.)
What was Googoosh if not an exile phenomenon? Thousands poured
into her shows in Europe and North America and, by all
accounts, wept of tears of catharsis. Jpegs shot from inbox to
bearing images of what few thought we would ever see: Googoosh
on our doorstep.
A photographer is killed in prison in Iran. Zahra Kazemi's
smile mars a summer's day in England. Her job was to produce
images, not become one. Iran's Islamic Stone Age shows no respite.
Cavemen still drag women around by the hair. The president
Autumn arrives, a woman is pictured sans hejab on the terrace
of a Paris café supping a drink. Perhaps it is gin, Shirin
Ebadi's secret, further rebuke to the mullahs.
So what if few
of us know who she is and fewer still would have tipped her to
win had they been asked six months ago - it
is a sweet sight. In a year of war an Iranian woman wins the
award for peace.
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones watch a radical woman
lawyer from the Islamic Republic attack US foreign policy in
her Nobel prize acceptance speech, in Oslo. How paths cross
Larry King shakes hands with Shohreh Aghdashloo. She is on his
show with Ben Kingsley to promote the film House Of Sand
And Fog, which gained her an Oscar nomination for best actress in
role. This image, even if she does not win, will please a generation.
(Think how long millions of Americans had to wait for Halle Berry
to win best actress.)
Picture nine (imagined)
Douglas and Zeta-Jones watch another Iranian
woman pick up an award. Aghdashloo's talent - for so long
denied its full expression - is
finally rewarded. Not at the Fajr film festival from which she
is excluded but at the Kodak theatre in LA. She got lucky, her
detractors say, if that book had not been written she would have
stayed in Persian language theatre.
Perhaps, and if Pulp Fiction had never been made, John Travolta would not now own a mini-airport
in his backyard.
Aghdashloo stuck to acting despite the inhospitable
terrain of Persian language theatre-in-exile, with all its ups
In making the leap from the Persian-language stage to English-language
film, she displays a resilience not dissimilar to that of the
last Iranian woman to hit the headlines this year.
Shahrbanou Mazandarani surprised the world when she emerged,
alive, nine days after the earthquake that destroyed Bam.
Comedy & Satire in
San Jose, this Friday, February 27 >>> Details