Broadcasting women's conference discussions with Paltalk
July 13, 2004
I have been going to Iranian
Women’s Studies Conference since its inception in 1991. IWSF’s annual meetings
are usually held in different countries by rotating organizing
committees. I have missed couple of these conferences and have
always regretted it. Not the case this year! For the very first
time, almost the entire conference - held in Berlin, Germany
(July 2-4) - was broadcasted through paltalk. It allowed s
participants to listen online, write emails one to one and/or to
all participants in the chat room.
The only sections not broadcasted
in the paltalk
chatroom were the art performances. Although it was a pity not
to be able to listen to Darya Dadvar’s mesmorizing voice
- I had heard her singing before - as well as Fetneh, a band in
Germany; being able to listen to all the presentations and the
subsequent Q & A sections was truly a blessing.
Listening to the conference guests speak via internet,
miles away from its actual site, was a unique experience. IWSF
bring Iranian-born women or those
women who identify as Iranians by association from all over the world and provide
a forum for dialogue, interaction and possible friendships. Women from Iran,
the US, different European countries and Australia come together to discuss various
issues pertaining to their identity in their original and adopted homelands.
I have seen women from various ethnic, religious
or political backgrounds in these conferences and their encounters
provide the most amazing lessons for women’s
rights activists. Sometimes their worlds are so different that even a common
language, namely Persian, is not enough to dissolve their communication barriers.
No other panel brings out this challenge more than the “second generation
Iranian women” panel.
Despite its short time life of four years, the Second
Generation Iranian Women panel has become part and parcel of IWSF
conferences. This panel allows Iranian
women, ages 18-32, whether born in Iran or abroad to have a voice in a movement
that has traditionally favored Mooye Sepid (white hair symbolizing wisdom).
This year too, young Iranian women sat together and discussed ways in which
gender roles clash with traditional ones.
This year’s guests from Iran,
Raha Nasseri and Narin Kashani, each talked about the problems facing young
Iranian women in Iranian Universities, workplaces and in the family. Both
of shame and inadequacy with regard to women’s loss of virginity
or any sign resembling their loss of “Nejabat”, traditional
gender role expectations in today’s Iranian society. Narin talked
about the psychological effects of traditional gender roles on young Iranian
which could at times
lead to suicide, an alarming trend among young Iranian women in the capital
as well as in the countryside.
Azadeh Zamiry-rad, Mehrnoosh Tarkashvand and two
other participants who were born/raised in Germany talked about
pressing issues such as France’s new
legislation to ban hijab in public schools and lack of freedom of movement
for young women in Iran respectively. Azadeh said that even though
her parents belonged
to the progressive left and she had been raised in a secular setting
in Germany, she thinks Muslim women living in Europe should be
given the choice to wear hijab. As was expected, this brought about
an uproar in the audience and we sure heard it in our paltalk room.
stood firm on her ground and argued that she
stands for freedom of choice and despite mounting disagreements from
the audience, she stated her preference for a Europe that does
not force its citizens to put
aside hijab. In a calm and surprisingly unwavering tone, Azadeh stressed
that she has no intention of persuading others to come to her
side. She simply wants
to let the older Iranian generation women, who in their right have
felt oppressed by Islamic Republic of Iran for its law of mandatory
hijab, to hear an opposing
view from her and her peers. I could sense the tension rising in
the conference from the comments expressed by the audience broadcasted
Listening to the presentations in the paltalk, away
from the salon with 600 other participants, allowed me to be more
viewpoint favored by the audience was expressed, there was a standing
ovation. On the contrary, when audience disagreed with the presenter
you could hear “noch,
noch” (a sound Iranians make in the public to demonstrate their
disapproval) and other discrete sounds of discontent familiar to
here in Los Angeles, unable to make any sound and limited to writing
few lines in the chat room - with participants ranging from 140
to 160 during the live broadcast -
I was forced to listen to the presenters and the subsequent question
and answer period more carefully. As a result, questions asked
by some participants on the
ground appeared irrelevant.
Although the audience was tolerant
in lieu of the fact that the conference was held in Berlin, a country
in which Iranian activists
from all political spectrum have historically had a visible existence,
there was still room for more dialogue. Why couldn’t the
participants ask relevant questions rather than announce their
it a cultural trait not to
engage in an actual dialogue with those who have opposite views
my initial enthusiasm, due to time difference between Germany and the U.S.,
I wasn’t able to listen to all the presentations and hope to do so in
near future if they are re-broadcasted via paltalk.
I would like to make some
to IWSF local committee for the next year’s conference:
1) It would be great
to put a camera in the paltalk chatroom,
2) Repeat the whole broadcast in
a week, so interested parties all over the world can listen to
the chatroom in a way in which participants can ask questions to which
the presenters can respond if they choose to do so. By extending
such as this to
the realm of paltalk, we can all have a chance to become self-reflective
and specially hear our own peculiar sounds.
goodbye to spam!