I Want to Ride a Bicycle in a Park in North Tehran

http://iranian.com/main/news/2008/06/18/headscarves-tehrans-first-female-only-park (This news feed from Party Girl was headed by her supertitle: “Is This Good or Bad?”) http://iranian.com/main/singlepage/2008/tahmineh-milani-park-segregation     


Well I am not an Iranian woman but I AM a woman and I think if I were an Iranian woman that this is what I’d say

I want to ride a bicycle in a park in North Tehran.

And this is why I’d say it:

We all know that there has been an incremental progression toward perhaps complete segregation of the sexes in Iran (and just what that would entail is somewhat difficult to envisage. Would it include separate sidewalks for women and men?).  And most of us agree that this segregation is BAD.  And that is why we hate each new step in this process.  We are afraid, and rightly so, that it will usher in the worst that is yet to come. Thus, many people want to boycott the new women’s park in North Tehran

Yet specific individual types of segregation may contain within them different practical and symbolic dimensions. Segregation on public transport, of male hairdressers from female clients and vice versa, of female patients in under-staffed hospitals, of male and female office workers and so on, these types of segregation are ONLY bad.  They contain absolutely no positive dimension whatsoever. They close women IN. They are jails.

But for all its its thirteen-foot iron walls, the park in North Tehran does contain ONE positive dimension, both practical and symbolic. And the name of this dimension as I see it is freedom.  This park is OPEN as well as closed, you can feel the wind in your hair when you ride a bicycle, you can lie down in the grass and feel the sunlight on your skin.

And that is why this park has so quickly become so popular.  Segregated subway cars are not popular.  Other than the rigidly dogmatic religious, women do not flock to them. But they flock to the park in North Tehran. And yes, of COURSE this flocking is a double-edged sword, how could it not be when we all know who holds the sword?

But I think sometimes when weighing and balancing, one must simply shrug one’s shoulders and say along with Haafez, the rend of the taverns:  zire shamshire ghamesh raqs konaan bayaad raft…(it is my very favorite Persian quote).  Under the sword of our sorrow we all must dance.  And bicycle down lanes of trees with the wind in our hair .

This park is but ONE more incremental step toward the complete segregation to which the hardliners aspire, and at the end of the day, they will either get it or they won’t–and leave us not forget that the original plans for the park were drawn up by the Reformists—so why not focus on the buses and the hospitals and the fashion police, and not on this park that these women flock to because they so DESPERATELY want it? 

Because they want to ride a bicycle in a park in North Tehran. And run and  jump and dance and sing in the freedom of sunshine and wind in their hair. And in the weighing and balancing, surely there must come a time when one is willing to sacrifice a little bit of politics for even just one ray of sunlight.

Does anyone here understand what I’m trying to say?

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