Reading Lolita in Tehran

The plight of women under fundamentalist Islam pathological obsession with women as sexual predators who must be tightly controlled and monitored came into focus when reading Azar Nafisi inspiring book Reading Lolita in Tehran.

At the risk of oversimplification, it's about a group of young women, her students, who meet in secret in her apartment, to remove their veil and "immerse themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James and Vladimir Nabokov."

An informative excerpt:

We follow Sanaz down the stairs, out the door and into the street. You might notice that her gait and her gestures have changed. It is in her best interest not to be seen, not to be heard or notice. She doesn’t walk upright, but bends her head towards the ground and doesn’t look at passersby. She walks quickly and with a sense of determination. The streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities are patrolled, by militia … They are called the Blood of God. They patrol the streets to make sure that women like Sanaz wear their veil properly, do not wear makeup, do not walk in public with men who are not their fathers, brothers or husbands.

She will pass slogans on the walls, quotations from Khomeini and a group called the Party of God. … Beside the slogan is a charcoal drawing of a women: her face is featureless and framed by a dark chador. MY SISTER, GUARD YOUR VEIL. MY BROTHER GUARD YOUR EYES.

If she gets on a bus, the seating is segregated. She must enter through the rear door and in the back seats, allocated to women… in taxis men and women are squeezed together like sardines, as the saying goes and the same for minibuses where so many [women are] harassed by bearded and God-fearing men.

You might well ask, What is Sanaz thinking as she walks the streets of Tehran… Does she feel humiliated by the new laws, by the fact that after the revolution, the age of marriage was lowered from eighteen to nine, that stoning became once more the punishment for adultery and prostitution.

In the course of nearly two decades, the street have been turned into a war zone, where young women who disobey the rules are hurled into patrol cars, taken to jail, flogged, fined, force to wash the toilets and humiliated …

Bernard Payeur