Sima Bina is a great Iranian singer who can’t sing in her own country because of being a woman!
Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi
For the last thirteen years and especially since the presidential election of last year the government has been trying very strongly to stifle the voices of Iranian women, who have taken a leading role in urging the Iranian government and also the Iranian men to respect their rights. And they have suffered for doing so. Neda Soltan, the young woman shot to death during anti-government protests in June 2009, has become the symbol both for the Iranian people’s disaffection with their leaders and for the terrible cost the regime is exacting on peaceful opponents.
For the last thirteen years their struggle and courage to get out of the chauvinistic system in Iran has been a hard one for the women’s rights activists. But they proved to be an important part of the Iranian society. They were one of the reasons that Mohammad Khatami, who stood for liberalization and reform, was elected as the first president after the revolution in 1997. From that time on they took jobs which traditionally belonged to men, such as police women, bus drivers, lawyers, etc. They proved in many cases that they could do a better job than their male counterparts. They realized that they had enough power to make themselves heard to Iranian men. A good example is an incident called the “soccer revolution” which happened in 1997: when 5,000 women defied the ban on entering soccer stadiums in an act of protest against sexual segregation. They stormed the gates of the national stadium to join 120,000 men in celebration of Iran’s national football team which had returned to the country after participating in the 1998 World Cup.
Women were not afraid anymore to talk about women’s issues. During the last presidential election in June 2009, they joined their men at rallies and attended demonstrations and shouted loudly for freedom and women’s rights. Some of them established foundations and organizations promoting and supporting women’s rights because they felt that they can no longer depend on the men who were responsible for the mess in Iran to make changes in their lives.
Young women especially were not interested in getting married and becoming housewives. Instead they wanted to educate themselves. The number of women attending and graduating from universities has been rising year by year. And the more developed and educated ones have entered and participated in the political arena. Several women have held high-ranking posts in the government or parliament.
Over recent years the image and status of Iranian women has developed very positively around the world. Whether considering Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who became the first female Muslim to win and made ex-president Khatami jealous of her achievement in 2003, or young Ivy League professors such as Maryam Mirzakhani, many Iranian women have, as somebody wrote, “achieved greatly in areas like education, political participation, and social mobilization, and have made great strides in terms of entering different fields of academia”.
Iranian women have also played an important role in gaining international recognition for Iranian art, in particular Iranian cinema. Movie makers such as Shirin Neshad, Samira Makhmalbaf, Marzieh Mashkini and Rakhshan Bani Etemad, have put Iranian cinema on the world map while trying to portray women’s relationship with Iran and its Islamic revolution.
In this post I would like to introduce another female movie director and her short movie: Sadaf Foroughi’s Feminin, Masculin. It shows a female bus driver in Tehran, Farahnaz Shiri, who has the courage to do a small action, but makes a big change in her bus. She changes the women vs men seating regulation in her bus and she documents how female and male passengers reacted to this change.
I hope all the women who get on her bus are inspired by her actions and courage. Although, as one woman on the bus in the film said, just changing the seating wouldn’t give women equal rights. I think the only way to change women’s rights radically and effectively is by changing the present constitution and amending their rights in it. She believes this and much more must be done in order to achieve true women’s rights and equality.
Power to the women in Iran!
In the male dominated society of Iran, Farahnaz Shiri, the first female bus driver in Tehran, has made her own little society in her bus. In Iran there are different sections for men and women on public buses. Women should enter buses from the back door, which is separated from men’s entrance, and should sit or stay in a limited zone at the end of the buses which is separated from men’s zone. But in Mrs. Shiri’s bus everything is vice-versa. She is the governor and the only law maker of her own little society. In her bus, men must enter from the backdoor entrance and must sit or stay in the limited zone at the end of the bus. Mrs. Shiri is struggling to prove herself in this society and resisting a series of injustices that she faces as a woman in the Iranian society.
About the Director
Sadaf Foroughi was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1976. She graduated with a bachelor degree in French literature and continued her study in master degree in cinema and now she is student on PHD in film philosophy. She joined to Iranian Short Film Association (ISFA) in 2004. Till now she has 9 short films in her cinematographic background and has taken a part as an editor in 4 short films. She has some experiences in photography and choreography.
Among her recent works is the documentary produced by experimental and documentary film centre of Iran. She also made two video arts produced by New York film Academy in 2008. She is currently presenting her new documentary produced by STEPS International.
About the co- writer
Kiarash Anvari (b. 1977 – Tehran, Iran) is an Iranian filmmaker and video artist. His films and video art pieces have been screened in different venues and festivals around the world. He is now living and working in Montreal, Canada.
Producer & director: Sadaf Foroughi
Editor: Erez Laufer and Sadaf Foroughi Laufer
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