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Who are you calling "kharaab"?

By Saghie Zarinkalk
September 23, 1999
The Iranian

If you are an Iranian girl, independent, single and without a family living in Europe or the U.S. or anywhere else outside Iran, you will relate to this .

It is very frustrating to see Iranian men and women label single Iranian girls abroad as "kharaab" (promiscuous, to put it mildly). What is even more disappointing is that these kinds of comments usually come from mothers! They expect unmarried women to at least lie about their social life.

These terrible attitudes exist in every aspect of our society. It is embedded in our minds. Everything a "kharaab" girl achieves in her life will go down the drain once she reveals her boyfriend or dresses up to go out. She is suddenly "not marriage material".

Exactly why is this girl "kharaab"? Because she doesn't believe in cultural or religious barriers. She defies cultural tyranny and pursues the truth. Because she gets to do the things that are prohibited in Iran -- things like being independent, open-minded, honest, and unpretentious.

I have lived in the U.S. almost all my life and I am very proud to see that most Iranians here are successful. That goes for both men and women. Some of the women came to this country, lived alone, worked hard, got a college degree and climbed the difficult steps of corporate America. As a result they have earned a reputation for being intelligent and conscientious.

Imagine the difficulties of an Iranian girl, with Iranian values, leaving home and moving to the West. She works hard and perseveres, becomes a success and brings joy to her life. And just when she begins feeling proud of herself, she begins to hear remarks like "kharaab" coming from her own kind; Iranians who are supposedly known for their "aatefeh" (caring, love, and affection).

This attitude has its consequences. Here's a true example: Because of the severe stigma attached to Iranian women living abroad, some Iranian men travel to Iran to marry that "wholesome", "najib" woman of their dreams, hand-picked by their mothers. But then so many of these senseless marriages fall apart. One way or another it is that naive, lonely and sad man who ends up paying for his narrow-minded vision.

I can go on and on about this. There is so much to say. But it all comes back to our backward thinking, even if you are highly educated and living in free societies. If we cannot change things in Iran, the least we can do is make a change in our communities abroad.

I am not single. There are Iranian men abroad who are open-minded and do not fear the achievements or their female companions or their liberal views. They praise them. That's wonderful to see. But isn't that the way it's supposed to be?

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