An Apology to a Woman I Didn’t Know

The violent crackdown of the Islamic Republic’s security forces on how women dress in public was well on its way when I arrived in Tehran last spring.

One morning a few days after my arrival I decided to walk to the nearby Super Jordan food market , located at the corner of the famous Jordan Boulevard (aka Africa Blvd) and Golazin street, and do some food shopping. As I was approaching the store I noticed there is some commotion on the street not far from the store. The security forces had set up makeshift apprehension stations on both north and south bound direction of the boulevard. An officer was standing in middle of the two lanes on each side of the boulevard pulling over cars carrying passengers which he deemed wore unacceptable attires or appearance. There were also male and female officers on the side of the street apprehending people who were walking on the side walk.

Jordan Boulevard is a famous gathering spot for young men and women. They usually cruise around in pairs in their fancy cars all dolled up in the evenings to exchange numbers, socialize from the security of their car and perhaps more if they can get away with it.

As I got closer I noticed a female security officer, fully clad in black chador and black gloves had just stopped a thirty something woman a few steps from the entrance of the store and questioning her. The only part of the female officer’s body part which was obvious was triangle of her face. Everything else was covered with black. I was close enough to hear what they were saying.

The female officer started by telling her “How can you step outside your house looking like this”

They started arguing. Their arguments maybe lasted a couple of minutes, when the female officer grabbed her arm and said “Let’s go”.

By that time a male officer had approached the woman from behind and along with the female officer started to guide her to a van with tinted windows parked on the north corner of the boulevard.

It was then that tears started rolling down the woman’s face. As she cried she pleaded “ But I have a child at home, please let me go”. She repeated that a few times, but her plea had no impact on the officers. She was put in the van.

As I stood there, frozen in my steps, the only thing I could hear was blood throbbing in my ears.

I stood ashamed, shocked and sad. I was ashamed of myself. I felt that I should have done something or said something. I tried to absolve myself by thinking “Everything had transpired so fast. I did not have enough time.” My conscience weighed in “You had enough time?”. Perhaps I should have walked up in a peaceful manner and asked the officers “What law has this women violated and how can you apply such a law. After all making a judgment about someone’s appearance in public is very subjective. Besides this lady was not like the young girls who purposefully dress provocatively and cruise up and down Jordan Avenue at night. I should have done it as a matter of conscience, but I failed. The Islamic government had successfully instilled the fear of god in me.

I was shocked because there were dozens of people, men, women, young and old who walked by and went about there business without even blinking. They were absolutely unapologetically indifferent and numb. They did not look shocked or sad. It was as if they had blinders on.

In the days, weeks and months after that incident I saw so many other instances in so many places of how detached, numb and selfish Iranians have become. I saw it in government offices, in hospitals, in lines for bread and on the road.

People from all walks of life utilize indifference as a tactic to live in today’s Iran. Their lack of compassion and consideration for their fellow citizen and respect for decency is mind boggling. Rather than coming together in times of turmoil Iranians have chosen selfishness as their strategy for survival. Iran today is a dog eats dog nation, a country where everyman is for himself.

Some Iranians choose to justify their behavior. I heard the same unacceptable excuse time and time again. “Everyone is struggling in Iran” seems the party line. Yes there is a struggle going on in Iran. It is a struggle between the haves and the have-nots.

The haves namely the greedy merchants, the gutless real estate speculators, the price gouging high rise builders, the useless middle men, the crooked wheelers and dealers only care about making exuberant amounts at any cost. They are indifferent and numb towards they plight of their countrymen because they have a major stake in the government’s survival. They thrive because there is no rule of law. They bribe and buy there way up and down the ranks of the society. As long as they are raking in the money, going for clothes shopping in Dubai, vacationing at the resorts in the coast of southern Turkey and living their lavish lives they are willingly indifferent and careless.

The have-nots, who make up the vast majority of Iranians fall into two categories. A minority among them are those who are old, weak, unable or unwilling to stick it to their fellow man and therefore are being annihilated. The rest are fighting tooth and nail to acquire the life styles of the haves or create a perception of it. They are willing to do anything. Even if they have to step over each other, cheat and lie. Of course, they have to be numb and indifferent to make it. But is that a valid excuse?

Leading a life without integrity is a new trend in Iran. Perhaps that is the real why one has to be numb and self centered to lead such an existence.

I hope and pray that Iran is saved not only from the grips of its current government, but also from Iranians and the people they have become.

Lastly, to the woman who I watched get dragged away that day I apologize.

Meet Iranian Singles

Iranian Singles

Recipient Of The Serena Shim Award

Serena Shim Award
Meet your Persian Love Today!
Meet your Persian Love Today!