Women

Banning women from life, does not work anymore.

These useless men in the shaking filed of power in our beloved home country do not know how to walk on their toes any more. Just these days we hear the news that Islamic government of our country in prison, banned women from 70 university programs. This is well another effort to remove women from the social life filed. However does it work?

Not only they have killed, raped, burned, stoned, slashed, and put down our women in the past 32 years of their malicious existence, but also they try to terrorize women from existing in all areas of life. All the intimidation, punishments, killings, and brutal actions against women in Iran have only made women to become more resilient, stronger, and more willing to ask for change. Iranian women is not afraid of any treats anymore, this is a reality that these stupid men deliberately try to ignore.

The hardships that Iranian women and also men have experienced will never stop them from willing to change their situations. The governments as such may be in power with help of all their weapon or coercive forces on the streets; however adversity and censors will only encourage people to be willing to learn more and to discover their rights. Appetite for education and life skills among Iranian women have never been this much on the stake, this is why these sick minded men who think they are in charge try to yet again push women backwards. Women in Iran turn out to be the most the intelligent and flexible beings; they know how to ignore these nonsense rules and bans.

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In December 2009, I received a letter from a reader who explained that she needed to understand the misbehavior (stalking and harassment) by her Iranian boyfriend. Not being proud of this to say, the explained misbehavior is however rather a normal behavior in the male culture that many of our boys are being raised in. Having been eager to explore this topic more in depth, now i only touch on one aspect of this problem with misbehavior of our male.

The complex problem with stalking and harassment by this “Iranian’ male sounded frustrating and complicated to deal with. First of all, the issue of harassment and stalking has neither has anything to do with nationality, nor it is related to one sex or one group of people, this is part of the emotional, psychological, and mental health issues that some individuals are suffering from.

At the same time, it was clear that this man like other stalkers had hard time to accept “No” as an answer. Sadly, “No” to these harassers / stalkers mean the fall down of their world because they are badly obsessed and possessive of their female partners.

Who are these stalkers really? I am sure there are enough of studies and research about this topic, , still in my humble opinion stalkers are totally discouraged people whose actions are hurting people and damaging relationships.  

Clearly, harassment is not a problem that can be solved this easily; it takes willingness and a cultural shift; however oppression leaves no room for openness and understanding. Oppressive male culture has to be analyzed by our new generation of young male and females who are fighting for a peaceful change. 

Now back to the comment on the Middlepeace website, the one that I am responding to now; many men in all cultures have the fear of rejection, a reason for them to pursue their thoughts with rigidity, try to convince the partner to stay, and act weird as they do.

Stalking and harassment could be rooted in a male dominated patriarchy, still mental health issues that these individuals are dealing with can not be underestimated. So before the problem belongs to a certain culture, we should see it from a bigger perspective which is the need for family education and relationship health.

It is significant to realize how these individuals view their own world and how their constructs are formed. Thus, the fact is that there is a huge need to challenge the Persian male culture as well as the oppressive male culture.

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It is amusing and exciting to think how women are perceived as “threat” to the national safety of Iran.

We Iranians have heard this phrase multiple times. So as a result, in order to keep the country (Iran) safe and secure, for three decades a large army of men have been trying to fight women as hard as they can and the best they can. This army at times uses females who share the fear about national security with their male superiors.

This battle however is unfair because women have no idea about how they can be a threat to the national security. Besides women are human being as their male partners, so how come they are a big threat?

This unfounded argument and excuse for fighting women opens up a door for recognizing how women are stronger than they are aware of. Once you are being called a threat, then you should wonder what are your strengths and abilities. Once you are presented as worthless you should wonder about your worth that is being taken away from you. Once you are feared, you should question what kind of impact you have on others. In this path it is easier to engage in a new perception about self and others. Why can,t women be human beings they are? Why women have to be silenced at all costs?

A grizzly is considered as a threat to a society’s safety, once her existence is threatened and the surviving mechanisms kicks in. Iranian women do the same. She has one simple and single goal in life: to survive. However back to the concept of being called a threat you just wonder what Iranian women have done to deserve such an excellent complement. A good question is how come women are feared this badly?

How could women make a country unsafe? So this feeling of being threatened by those who hold on to the strings of power can only cause further problems for women. When did this unfair war get started?

In my practice of clinical counseling, numerous female clients as well as male clients all speak of the horrendous pressure on women and families back home.

One female client once asked me why “they” hate us this badly. With “they” she meant all the men and some females who are governing, ruling, judging, and ordering women to go to the hell, to the hell of abuse, violence, and control.

Another female client once told me stories about how in this constant fight about simple things such as physical appearance, women do not back off. It is obvious that women prefer to be recognized as a threat if their rights intimidates men this seriously.

Again going back to the argument about threat to the national safety we can only assume that women are powerful and capable, more than it is acknowledged in a health way. There are certainly an army of healthy minded men who accept women as equal partners. This greater army of healthy minded males do not feel threatened by women and in the contrary they see the value of collaborating with women in building healthier communities.

The hidden meaning behind all this fear is the fact that Iranian woman is strong and has power if they learn to believe themselves. All restrictions of women back home not only have not made our home country safer, but weaker in terms of human rights. This attitude is also in Taliban. The word Taliban literally means seekers, searchers, and those who are willing to know. I guess Taliban does not want to know, that is why they are contradicting themselves. We can assume that Afghan women are also being punished for the same reason as Iranian women.

There is no other way to interpret this fear and this feeling of insecurity by these men who do everything to restrict women. There is no other way to conceptualize this horrible act of crimes against women in Iran and Afghanistan.

Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles May 20th,2009 by this author.

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Honour killing is about violence against females, a serious and complex social-mental health problem when there is zero tolerance for female bodies. It does not matter where this act of crime takes place; it is still a problem of the world and it needs the world’s attention.

Once in a while we hear this disturbing news about killing our female human beings because their families are suffering from rigidity, an illness that has always been the reason for violence, terror, and injustice.

The motives for the killings are to keep the families Honour, which indeed it will be gone by the act of murder itself. There is no honour in killing anyone and there is no honour in fearing female bodies. What kind of a man or a what kind of a family can hurt a female and call it an honour?

Honour killing is a corrupted action that is occurring only because there is lack of proper education in communities who are most in need of attention.

These individuals, groups, and communities see a connection between their honour and the female body they feel they own. What is really going on for these people? Are they hallucinating? Are they really thinking they own their female members? Where does this harsh thinking come from?

This female body in these communities resembles a beautiful sculpture, a painting, a piece of furniture, a pair of shoes that in all times have to be in the sight of its owner. Not owning this thing, means not having it, means not being in control of what you can have and control if nothing else in this world is controllable: The female body. It is unfortunate that these families have no honour to be part of the human community and respect the rights of their female members. Who they think they are?

Why female body is dangerous and threatening for these families anyways?

How come female bodies cause this much of fear and anxieties for some men? Didn’t they enter the world through this female body in the first place? Why can’t they respect females?

The answer can be found in a black box where there are layers of self-centredness, lack of knowledge, illiteracy, social poverty, and fear of losing something that does not belong to them: The female bodies.

Honour killing is about showing ownership; a distorted and sickening belief that has to be cured.

These men really believe they keep their honour by covering, hiding, controlling, disabling, torturing, and killing female bodies.

What is painful is that many of these female victims could be saved if there were enough parenting and family education in those communities. Still, we have to prevent future killing of women within the parameters of honored killing.

What these men cannot see or it does not go to their brain is that female bodies are not a piece of furniture to own, these female bodies are not only bodies, they are human beings and they have a voice, an independent idea of how they want to live their lives, and a right to live with dignity.

Honor killing is a symptom for mental health issues and a serious illness that has to be identified, prevented, and helped with proper education.

Killing of female human being is an illness that only exists among people who are unhealthy enough to not tolerate a diverse world where females bodies are big part of it.

Honor killing is a dishonoring act and dark side of the usual violence against women and it has to be stopped. This has to go to the agenda of all communities who still have one epsilon of honer.

Note: This article was originally published in EzineArticles June 20th, 2010 by this author.

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Back in the 1980s, as a new immigrant in a European country, everywhere I went, people liked to discern my whereabouts. When I said I was a Persian-Iranian woman, the next question was how come I had chosen to live in that particular country. My first impression of these types of strangers questioning me was that people were interested to know about me as a person or become friends with me. After some time, I came to the conclusion that people asked because I did not look like the stereotype woman they had seen in the media. Besides being new immigrant and specifically from Iran, you were being seen in those days, mostly due to your physical appearance; you were distinguished from the mainstream. I would mostly be asked whether I was thriving in my new environment. As much as I was trying to like my new life, I had to make up answers that did not describe my internal pain and suffering.

Those questions although well-intended would make me feel uncomfortable to the point that I felt I was being constantly questioned. For many new immigrants who had traumatic backgrounds, these questions would trigger many flashbacks, emotional reactions, and sadness. I was no exception; life had turned out to be something else for us Iranians, one major factor for us being where we were. The more I was asked these questions and the more answers I gave; I would feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and tired of being in the foreign spotlight all the time. I was not curious to learn about the origin of people or to ask whether they were happy or not in their life. By no means did I had the time or energy to be curious about others. How could I be?

The more I explained the reasons for having left my country of origin, the less I could get distance from the past. All the conversations would end up in an excruciating pain in my throat and chest that would destroy my day. In this path, I had learned that giving people the answers they liked to hear would help me in the situation because as soon as they knew enough about me, they would leave me alone. After a while I realized that the questions were never about me, but about a whole group of us, it was about the life of Iranian women that was portrayed by media as oppressed and weak.

Over the years I would learn more about my fellow Iranian females whom shared similar experiences as I did about the procedure of being questioned by strangers. I came to learn that we were all in the same boat.

Back then, being new immigrants, we did realize that in some people’s eyes, we could be considered as a “threat” if not directly, mostly in various ways. People were wondering why they had to share their land with us, we could understand these concerns if it was a concern as we were not trying to “step on anyone’s feet”. There was an already existing fear about immigrants taking Europeans job away, however we were not there to take anyone’s job, we needed a safe place to live.
The numbers of traumatized Iranians arriving to those doors of refugee houses in all over Europe were consistently increasing. At the same time we Iranians were leaving Iran in any condition, in any size, and in any shape. New immigrants were leaving their comfort zones behind, while they were looking to find a safe peace somewhere else.

People asked who we were and why we had come to live in that country, because they liked to be reassured of us being no threat to their job security or else.

Many of us Iranian women were becoming each other’s witness, we were sharing stories of pain, suffering, loss, and sadness of losing a peaceful life back home. We were settling down, while many of us were carrying the physiological and spiritual wounds within. How could we not? Our home country had been taken as hostage in the hands of those who hated our nation. The more Iranian families would join our new neighborhoods, the more we would realize how much we all unconsciously were trying to forget the past, to suppress our emotions, and to let go of the idea of once seeing a free Iran. Our emotional, mental, and psychological health was undoubtedly interwoven with the sad reality back home. It was in this atmosphere and time-line, that we were trying to find our new identities. This new identity was however something we had not planned for, we had come to the conclusion that we had to hide somewhere without prevailing who we were, because as new immigrants you would not have many chance for jobs, opportunities, etc. If we were trying to look like Europeans, imitating their styles of walking, talking, communicating, then we might create more attention and curiosity. I was seeing how all other women would feel and move along, while I was certain that we would never be able to hide our background.

At times many women and men would change their hair style, change their names, stop speaking their mother tongue, still nothing helped. we were who we were and forever we would remain Iranians out of Iran.

At some point, after several years of my stay in that country, I could comprehend that it was impossible to not hear that question of “where you are from?” Sometimes I was willing to say I am from under the rock, behind the mountain, over the clouds, beneath the bushes. But these answers would never satisfy those who were curious about my whereabouts. Somehow being a new immigrant and not knowing enough about the host country, I was feeling I did owe something to those people who were questioning me all the time. Every time that I had to reveal myself to the totally strange people, then I would be left with a deep level of anxiety, emptiness, and sadness over having let people walking over me.

I recall i had hard time to create my own boundaries and stay there. I was a new immigrant with no boundaries for many reasons.

The experience of being an immigrant or becoming immigrant or living an immigrant’s life was a fairly new phenomenon to our Iranian life. Large groups of people were being challenged by the notion of migration, relocation, dislocation, and multiple adjustment in thousands way without noticing it.

Being new in a country was becoming a shared experience, a common vision among us Iranian families wherever we lived in.

It was in that cloudy years of confusion, we were struggling in many levels, yet being questioned over and over again, was one of the hardest parts of finding our new identity. After many years of mind boggling experiences, I came to the realization that I could challenge the person by expressing my desire for another topic of conversation. In addition, now I could ask them: Where are you coming from?

Now being in year 2011 and after everything that is happening in Iran, i hope that people know more about why we Iranian are where we are.

Note: This article was also published in EzineArticles February 16th, 2011 by this author.

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Now that immigration has turned out to be a way of life among us Iranians, then long distance marriages and long distance divorces are becoming all more widespread.

We live in a world, when long distance relationships become all common. When this relationship leads to the union of the two persons, then there are certain concerns that kicks in. In most of the marriages that happens between two individuals living in two different countries, there is often someone introducing a potential wife to a potential husband. Amazingly, as relationship building are fading color in many communities, then there are those parents who are looking for partners for their adult children. If not directly, at least indirectly parents point out someone who seems to be appropriate for their son or daughter.

Generally couples describe how they choose their partner: “We knew one another family or friends.” Usually in these cases, first attractions are values such as the potential partner’s family name, social status, income, and many other superficial or real factors that matters to the families. However these attractions would seldom be enough for building a respectful, dignified, and cooperative couple relationship mostly because couples are pressured to say “yes.’

Marriage and divorce involves utilizing enormous energy and emotions; however when it comes to long distance relationships and the dissolution of this union, then the loss of energy become a serious issue.

In referring to long distance marriage, we are talking about two partners coming together from two different places, cities, countries, and now continents. Individuals who marry someone residing in another country, while usually from the country of origin. If the families are more and less traditional, then arranging for this marriage becomes a group task. aIn this marriage it is not only the partners who are important, but a whole tribe of both individuals are getting involved. Hardly ever the two partners can decide on the details of this partnership or family union because respect for parents wishes and requests play important roles.

Now why people go back to get married someone from their home country, this questions may misled us to a whole other discussion as there are many significant psychological reasons for this way of building a family. Back to the concept of finding a partner from a known place such as one’s homeland, then after the two individuals are sharing one roof, then regular couple issues plus the consequences of not having known the other person for a longer time, starts.

In most long distance marriages, the couple start learning what likes and dislikes they find in one another. Often the problems go beyond personal styles, partners complain about the arrangement and types of relations, involvements of each family in the couple’s life, wrongful advices, and many culturally shaped stressors for each partner. The dynamic of this marriage are a different story compare to any regular marriage when all involved are sharing one culture, one land, and one law.

If in this long distance arranged or agreed upon marriage, the two families have to agree upon the conditions, proposals, costs, plans, and hopes for a happily ever after life, then in the divorce cases there are many disagreements, conflicts, and group based concerns about the costs and loses that have to deal with. In case of divorce or dissolution of this union, often the partners have to go through two times of legal processes. The concept of long distance divorce refers to the processes in which partners have to obtain divorce documents from the country of origin and where they live. The brake down of this marriage contract involves two countries divorce laws and two cultures comprehension of what divorce is or is not. In this case, when separating partners live elsewhere, families and friends back in the country of origin have to struggle to divorce their son or daughter from their partner.

Long distance divorces are more complicated than the long distance marriages for many Iranian families, since separating partners have to undergo two divorce processes, one where they live as immigrants and another one back home in Iran. I am not sure which process is more painful than others, however you can imagine that when most people in the world go through one marriage and one divorce, Iranian immigrant do it twice for both cycles.

Note: This article was also published on EzineArticles February 11, 2011 by this author.

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Very often i receive calls from my fellow country women who are in the process of divorce or considering divorce. Couple counselling sessions often fail it’s purpose just because the request for counselling is mostly a last minute attempt for one partner to convince the other partner to obey or confirm. On top of that most Iranian males and females do not believe in couple counselling at all, maybe because of the cultural upbringing of some people who believe they know everything and have done it all.

In any case, It seems that a large number of families in our Iranian communities are suffering silently with their marital relationship problems and domestic violence situations.

As stressed out as newcomers can be, martial complications damage the adjustment possibilities for individuals and children. The dilemma of domestic abuse, threats of angry and revengeful spouses (mostly male), in addition to cultural forces on Iranian women, are becoming all concerning.

It appears that Iranian women (mostly and largely) are running away or fleeing from men whom they once married to and men whom became all strangers after some time.

On the same note when the number of Iranian families as new comers are increasing, the cases of divorces and family issues are becoming all predictably observable.

Vanishing fathers from children life due to their in congruent way of handling divorce are another problem that is getting hidden in the context of men moving back to Iran or elsewhere for work. Surely a male dominated culture that majority of Iranian women are coming from should to be studied more carefully without biases. However the truth is that our Iranian men ( a large number of them) handling divorce in a most uncivilized way ever. Threats, violence, put downs, drama scenes, revengeful actions, withdraw of financial support, and stalkings are all occurring without many victims reporting those behaviors.

When it comes to filing for divorce, then there are many challenges at once. Should the couple start with the Iranian style of divorce or the Canadian one? The Iranian style is definitely a headache as it involves implicit and explicit details around money, family reputations, social status, children and on top of them the threat of women for becoming a “hostage” if and when they visit their home country. The nightmare of visiting Iran and falling for all the legal restrictions around “disobeying women” is a real life story for many female victims whose only wish was or is to divorce their abusing husband.

Many times people hire lawyers who could be unaware of the complications and unpleasant communications that our Iranian style of divorce involves.

Surely, Language barriers and ambiguities around contacts with legal authorities tend to increase the anxiety, frustration, helplessness, and emotional pain for many Iranian women who are dealing with divorce.

Solution? A lot needs be done to assist silent victims of domestic and marital abuse in my community and any community.

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In my profession as clinical counsellor, I promote  a socially responsible practice.  On this note, I believe it is significant that we counsellors exhaust our options that we have in our clinical work with our clients.

Past couple of years, I have worked with many Iranian women whom come to counselling for finding a forum to gather their thoughts and strengths.  My observations on how these clients have all been confused and still hopeful, make me write this article.  I will make sure to not specify any details in respect to confidentiality issues.  Still i will focus on the commonalities and difference in my client’s  experiences of clinical depression and clinical challenges.

Most of these clients I have met,  have lived at least 5 or 6 years in Canada.  Some women report numerous clinical symptoms such as anxiety, lack of self-confidence, and need for conformity that has to be studied in the context of  family dynamics in which these clients were raised in.

Some of these women are out of work force and unable to deal with the daily life tasks as  their  symptoms are multifaceted.

Most women report of having  low mood, lack of proper social support and language barriers to begin with.  Despite many concerns, these women are strong persons and they are all willing to find the real and true self of their own.

These women need to be believed and supported in their individual and unique ways of conceptualizing  the notion of change.

Because of my embodied knowledge of the culture of oppression, I prefer not to underestimate the notion of oppressive ideologies (Greene, 2005) when it comes to women’s mental health issues.

Here in Canada the medical modality of handling mental health issues were comparably also wedded (Baker, 2006) to a traditional biomedicine treatment option.

Most female clients I meet, they became  “patients” who are  given drugs for their symptoms; a notion that for many of them was an additional confirmation of their need to be dependent to “others.”  In my idea these women are neither heard or understood holistically and culturally.

By recognizing the harsh, complex, and multileveled socio-political and cultural aspect of why/how many Iranian women develop clinical symptoms, I compare their anxiety to a scream for respect and self-autonomy.

Listening to their  stories, I hear that their behaviours and style of life have been consistent with the social environment (in both countries) that ignored their physiological needs for being recognized as a whole person.

Some individuals develop mood swings that are responsive to the environmental changes, from family of origin to their nuclear family, and from one culture to another.

Forced marriage, migration, dislocation, and adjustment challenges in their new home country, experiences of trauma in various format and shapes, despair due to divorce, and role of  single mothers are some of the many additional forces impacting women’s entire being.

From a developmental framework (Broderick &  Blewitt, 2006; Kaplan & Sadock’s,  2003), my female clients ( at least most of them) struggle in their search for an autonomous self and a sense of self-actualization.

In some cases of child hood memories, parents are being described as individuals without  any skills in emotional regulation and emotional intelligence, considering the culture of subjugation that promoted injustice; a reason for why most women have poor emotional regulation skills (Majnaric, 2003).

Instead of autonomy most women learned to be ashamed and as a substitute for taking initiative they felt  guilty for their long and dream of self-control.   Some women report how they tried to  react to certain unjust situations by conforming while saying: “I do not care”, this is a response to a society and a culture that did not care for them as an invaluable individual.

These women’s  life journey has mostly contained intense sense of inferiority, loss of identity, inability to find satisfying relationships, and challenges in engaging in a meaningful work.

Viewing the subject holistically, we have no information about the biological influences on these women and their  reactions to the experienced traumas.  However, environmentally most women have been  surrounded by a “blaming the victim” attitude.  Bowlby (1956) suggests that children who in their school years require extra need for love and affection, most probably have not had a secure attachment in their first three years of life.

Some clients describe their parents as  “cold and distant” , a reason to view an unresponsive parent as a basis for an insecure attachment.  Some women have no early memories of warmth, love, acceptance, or affection.

Regrettably, we lack knowledge about the “holding environment” and the “object presenting” that constitutes a growing child’s reality (Winnicott, 1992).  It is however reported by some clients that they  had to always be concerned about their mother’s state of mind and in this path they were not given many chances to develop a healthy self-image (Kegan, 1982).

Different world views between a medical system and client’s conceptualization of  “disease” make it hard for some women to obtain a holistic clinical support; instead they have to keep going for the  biomedicine based treatment  that only confirms these ladies lack of options(Robertson, 1998).

In my humble opinion, women from oppressive system will benefit from working with professional counsellors who has sensitivity and more understanding of global women’s issues (Chung, 2005).  In our role as professional counsellors, a social responsible practice of psychology would require us to broaden our views on women, beyond the traditional notion of individual work with clients (Chung, 2005).

Believing that everything about Iranian women is political rather than personal,  it is not hard to notice the need for liberation (Donovan, 1985)  is out there more than ever before when dealing with women in general.

The notion of change goes home to people when they are being approached in a holistically within the framework of therapeutic relationship and in a safe, person-centered, strength based, cooperative, collaborative, and culturally sensitive counselling.

My client  raises several personal, interpersonal, and societal concerns that are of significance to  me as a counsellor.   A socially responsible practice for me emphasizes on social justice that promotes education, prevention, and outreach (Vera & Speight, 2003).  Moreover an ethical, professional, and accountable practice has to find partnership with community psychology that can address oppression, inequality, and social injustice on a client centered basis (Moane, 2003).

References:

Baker, N. L. (2006). Feminist Psychology In The Service Of Women: Staying Engaged Without Getting Married. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 1-14.

Bowlby, J. (1956).  The Growth of Independence in the Young Child. Royal Society of Health     Journal, 76, 587-591.
Broderick, P. C., & Blewitt, P. (Eds.). (2006). The Life Span. Human Development for Helping Professionals. Pearson, Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458.
Chung, R. C. Y. (2005). Women, human rights, and counseling: crossing international boundaries.(Practice & Theory). Journal of counseling & Development. Vol. 83.
Greene, B.  (2005). Psychology, diversity and social justice: Beyond heterosexism and across the cultural     divide.  Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 18 (4): 295-306.
Kegan, R. (1982). The Enduring Self: Problems and Process in Human Development.  Cambridge:  Harvard University.
Robertson, A. (1998). Shifting discourse on health in Canada: from health promotion toPopulation     health.  Health Promotion International, Vol. 13, 155-166.
Majnaric, I. (2003). Emotional Health:  Promoting Children’s Emotional Health.  The B.C. Counsellor.  Journal Of The British Columbia School Counsellors’  Association. Vol. 25, No. 2.
Moane, G. (2003). Bridging the Personal and the Political: Practices for a Liberation Psychology.      American Journal of Community Psychology.  Vol. 31, Nos. 1 / 2.
Kaplan, H. I. & Sadock, B. J. (2003).  Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry. Behavioral Sciences / clinical Psychiatry.  Ninth edition.
Vera, E. M., & Speight, S. L. (2003).    Multicultural Competence, Social Justice, and Counseling  Psychology: Expanding Our Roles.  The Counseling Psychologist, Vol. 31, No. 3, 253-  272.
Winnicott, D. W. (1992). The Family and Individual Development.  London, Routledge.

Poran Poregbal

Written for MAQE,  January 2009

www.middlepeace.com

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This is a story to be told for our next generations. This is about an Iranian woman whose life story is incredible. We have to know this. Our next generations will benefit from knowing how our ancestors lived their life.

Her name was Forogh Cobra Astaneha, a.k.a Maman Aziz.  She was born sometimes between 1910 and 1915.  Her real birth date is unknown to us as her place of birth.  My grandmother died in 1987, yet, still today, I keep thinking of this incredible woman.  I doubt if she ever knew how influential she was. I am unsure if she knew that she was different and brave.  Surely, her life influenced mine and many other women in my community.  Her spirit and her legacy remain with all of us who had the chance to meet this woman, even only once.  Part of her life was rich, fairytale, and dynamic, while Maman Aziz never took anything for granted.  She had visions for a better life, although her socio-cultural surrounding was what it was, limited and biased.  In short, it is fair to say that Maman Aziz was a worrier, a resilient woman who did never settle for less, while she was never understood by others.  Somehow Maman Aziz represented an emancipated individual that many Iranian women at that time wished to be. She was a real inspiration for women in her community, women who could not even dream challenging life as she did. There are many reasons for this argument.

Maman Aziz was born in a rural area of Tehran.  By the time of her death, she must have been somewhere around 70, I am not sure.  She died a young woman; she left with a silent withdrawal from this world and with many questions unanswered.

I remember Maman Aziz mentioning a neighborhood called “Shah Abdul Azim.”  This was either her real birth place or a place where she grow up.  I think she lived a great deal of her early childhood in that area. She used to talk about her father, her two siblings, and the friendly neighborhood of Shah Abdul Azim.

In our family, we learned to call our grandmother as Maman Aziz, meaning a very dear and beloved mother.  I think many of us Iranians had Maman Aziz in their families or at least Aziz, as this was the nicest way to relate to someone we love or appreciate.  The word mother would be expressed as “mama” with the alphabet “n” added to produce the Farsi word.

Maman Aziz was fortunate to model her love for life until the very end.  She never gave up using fashionable make up, wearing nice clothes, and smelling expensive perfume, even to the very end. Her respectful attitude, skillfully caring interpersonal relationships, and personal integrity made her look much younger than her age.  Her smile and kind words to everyone were her real art.

What we know from her life comes from the memories of all the narratives and anecdotes she told us about her life.

Story telling was a real art of many grandparents who tried to entertain children in long, dark, and silent winter evenings or the summer evenings when the sky was overwhelmed with shiny stars.

Those evenings Maman Aziz stayed with us, we resisted to sleep as Maman Aziz would take us to the world of princess and prince in the ancient Persian kingdom.

Maman Aziz being articulate, could let our imaginations sense the milieu these people lived in, the act of gentleness, and the justice they practiced in solving people’s daily problems.

Listening to those stories gave us a chance to imagine ourselves being that beautiful princess who married this young handsome man who was not from the king’s kinship.  Stories were always about the knowledge, bravery, and act of kindness that were the characteristics for the main character of the story.

Maman Aziz used to tell about the kind princess and princes who humbly traveled to poor people and gave them gifts of love.  The stories were always about good and kind people receiving what they deserved, the treasure of love for those who needed it the most.  Interestingly Maman Aziz lived her life like those stories. She found her prince in a very unusual way for an Iranian woman who could stand up for herself.

Maman Aziz was raised mainly by her father.  Her mother had mystically died when Maman Aziz was a little child.  Maman Aziz had few recollections of her mother.  The mystified mother was rarely mentioned by Maman Aziz, a reason for us to wish that we knew more of her mother or my great-great grandmother. She knew about her mother through the narratives she had heard, that was a beautiful and kind woman.  The beauty must have passed on to my grandmother because she was truly glorious to me.

Maman Aziz however described her father as a man of hard work, interested of poetry and a man who encouraged his children to live a life with dignity.

Maman Aziz recalled her father as a loving dad who gave her and two older siblings love, respect, and praise.  She spoke of many moments of care, storytelling, and good relationship with her father.   Looking back I realize that, my grandmother always spoke of a good father who did not discriminate her because of her gender, something that gave her the strength to be the woman she became.

Maman Aziz could read and write Persian / Parsi language well.  In particular she was interested to read children’s story books.  She liked novel and the last book I remember lending her was “Papillion” which was a popular movie and book at the time.

In a time of huge restrictions for girls, Maman Aziz had the chance for learning horseback riding and playing cards.  Her childhood developed into adolescence without any huge crisis. Soon into an early adulthood when she at age 18-19 was married to a young man (my grandfather) who was her cousin.

Her marriage started well and she was pregnant soon.  She gave birth to my mother who was named as Esmat.  However, soon she realized her relationship with my grandfather was not going well.  At some point after my mother was born, my grandmother knew that she could not continue her marriage. Maman Aziz had realized that her husband was turning to an aggressive and demanding man.  Ha was a common man who did not know how to a treat a woman.  Although my grandfather was not abusive, yet my grandmother disliked her husband differing significantly from the gentle prince characters in the many stories she knew.

She had more dreams for her life. In a time when women would be not having any idea about their rights, my grandmother did rebel.  She had a deceive mind and she was ready to seek her true self.

I guess Maman Aziz had a model for her life.  She had values and interests for a respectful, healthy, and more romantic relationship, which was not to be found in her marriage.
Certainly Maman Aziz was mirroring a decisive father or mother or someone else who had taught her to respect herself.   Unhappy about her marriage, she consulted her father who supported her in asking for a divorce.  At some point when my mother was about three years old, Maman Aziz finalizes her decision and her divorce was registered in mid 1930,s ; an act that was least spoken about for even decades after that.

Undoubtedly, divorcing a husband for an Iranian woman must have been challenging and an unimaginable act for many women even within the elite families.  Divorce has never been a natural solution for large number of Iranian women who suffer in the hands of abusive husbands.  My grandmother came to this decision for about 60 years ago in Tehran, a decision that still today gives me some Goosebumps.

Still, my grandmother was a regular woman who was about to challenge people’s attitudes, beliefs, and ideas.

When the Iranian society recognized no rights for women, Maman Aziz, my grandmother could get through the divorce process while she was stating her rights to respect and happiness.

She asked for divorce from her husband with whom she had only lived for 2-3 years.  She decided that she had enough of a man who mistreated her and she asked her husband to let her leave with her young child.

The reality and crisis would hit when she had to face the truth about a family law that would not accept women as a divorced custodial parent.  She decided to leave the marriage while fighting for the rights to her daughter.

Maman Aziz has told us many stories of how much she experienced anxiety, fear, and anger at the same time as she worked hard to get her daughter’s custody.   To her, there was no way she could stay in an unhappy marriage, while she would not let go of her child.  She knew this was the taste of injustice due to a society ruled by patriarchy and the submissive laws where women who rebel had to be punished.  Maman Aziz made a painful decision and that was to leave her daughter to the custody of her ex-husband.

Those years few women could work outside their home as women were rarely recognized being part of a society. Maman Aziz was skillful in her own way.  She visited any ministry office she could to ask for help. In this battle she learned to stand up for her own rights when there was no outside recognition for a divorced woman.  Maman Aziz had to fight while she was under pressure from her community to return to the divorced husband and remarry him for the sake of her child.

Years went by.

Maman Aziz recalled those years as devastating and disturbing to the vision she had for a dignified life.  She was working hard to process her new situation, a young divorced woman in a society where gender roles were clearly defined.  A woman had to stay under umbrella of a man called husband.

Despite the defeat, she had the support from her father to whom she could always go for seeking some peace and quiet.  While challenging the existing court system in Tehran, she was awarded some hourly based visitation rights of her daughter.  She could visit the child every other week in the place of my grandfather, the man, Maman Aziz had divorced.
At this point of time my grandfather had managed to build a new family life for himself, so my mother had a step mother now.

Maman Aziz welcomed the chance to visit her daughter regularly, yet she decided to use her charm while approaching life with a new movement.  She comes back in a position no one could deny her the rights to see her daughter. Maman Aziz hated to be limited in time and place, while she liked to impress the ex husband and his wife.

Maman Aziz was a generous woman and she was a giving person.   She used her talents to put my grandfather and his wife in a position they would treat this little child of hers in a nice and gentle way.

From this moment on, Maman Aziz moves on in her life.   Meanwhile Maman Aziz meets a real gentle- man, a man of class and dignity.  Maman Aziz falls in love with this man who became a true love, alike the prince of stories who was a rich, educated, passionate, humble, and good looking man.

Maman Aziz marries this man whom gives her a decade of exciting and joyful life as they traveled around the country quite frequently.  Being married to a rich man opens up a door for her to impact the visitation rights to her daughter.  Maman Aziz visits her daughter or my mother quite regularly and these are moments of surprise for everyone in my grandfather’s household.

These are the hours that everyone in that neighborhood remembered long enough.  As she had access to a quite rich lifestyle, now she would show up with her modern covered wagon which was a horse drawn vehicle.  Besides that Maman Aziz had her own driver, who would stop the horses nicely, leave the drive seat, and come get the little door of the wagon for my grandmother to step down the movable stair.

Although Maman Aziz was a real stylish and naturally beautiful woman, still she made some extra efforts to wear nice dresses she had purchased in some of Teheran’s nicest boutiques and the eye catching jewelry she was in love with.  Upon arrival at my grandfather’s house, while her driver would drop of the boxes of gifts on the front door, Maman Aziz would use her natural charm to pass individuals who were welcoming her to meet her daughter.

In these scenes she remains humble, as her main purpose was to teach everyone for treating my mother well, as children in my mother’s situation would be treated as less than.

The number of expensive and elegant gifts for my step mother and her children along with the gifts for my mother would be forever recalled as exciting yet overwhelming.  Still Maman Aziz was told that my mother would be denied using all those nice clothes that she had received.  She could do nothing to reverse the clock, while she was hoping for a solution down the road.

If she could not live with her own child, yet she hoped to influence circumstances around the child for a happy upbringing. Yet, Maman Aziz was wrong, in those years; a child whose mother had left would be bullied and laughed at because she was a “motherless” child.

Month after month, Maman Aziz uses her visitation day to demonstrate grace, beauty, and sense of integrity.  Obviously, she tried to maneuver her wealth in order to implicitly ask for a good care of her daughter. Social status was now working for her and she was enjoying her lifestyle.

Maman Aziz recalled her social life with her second husband quite cheerfully.  She offered others a taste of this colorful life, by throwing parties, arranging for card-playing evenings, offering good food, and sharing her wealth with others.

Somewhere, Maman Aziz lived her dream life, yet always carrying a deep sadness inside.  A trauma was also about to occur. After 10 or 11 years of marriage, her beloved husband dies and leaves my grandmother as a young widow.

The pictures left on this man whom Maman Aziz called her love shows a middle-age, well-clothed, well-shaved, and handsome man with a nice smile.

It is not known how Maman Aziz manages the grief of a lost love, in a time when she became a young widow in her mid 40,s.  The house she lived in with her husband would soon be claimed by the deceased husband’s siblings.

Without arguing with these people, my grandmother leaves the house that she had shared so much joy in it with her beloved prince.

People had advised her to claim that house however; Maman Aziz did not choose to go that route.

She moved out of the house while knowing that she had to start all over again. She had no money and no savings. She took her jewelry that would offer her some financial support.

Maman Aziz moves in with her older sister whom lived as a widow too.

Maman Aziz and this sister had something in common. Both had divorced their husbands. Her sister had divorced her husband while she had adult children. Quite interesting that the sister had found out the husband had a second wife, an act that is still a right for many men in Iran.

The two sisters lived together for a longer period of time until at some point Maman Aziz finds her third husband; an entrepreneur, another rich man, whose collection of suites, hats, and shoes cost a great deal.

A few years of living with this man offers Maman Aziz more chances to continue her quite different life style.  Somehow the third marriage had become a way for Maman Aziz to escape the reality of living a widow life with no support.

The sadness over how she did not have control over her daughter’s life never let Maman Aziz live her seemingly busy life.  All the parties she was invited to by all the rich people she knew were quite fascinating.   Maman Aziz had any plan for what if she would become lonely again.  And it happened.

Her third marriage was gone in one winter night early 1960′s, as this quite nice husband dies of cancer.   Maman Aziz was left lonely again and she kept asking herself why she would lose people whom she loved the most.

The next two decades she lived a quite, lonely, and simple life, while her large habits of giving gifts and sharing love continued.  She managed to receive a little pension through her late husband; however she came to find new ways of supporting herself.   She was a real survivor and her next movements in life are sings of enthusiasm to do the best under circumstances.
Her habits of playing cards were now something that came to her life with a new blueprint.

There were people who would hire her to arrange card clubs for rich ladies who liked to do something new.  In these events she would use her charm to tell fortunes through cards when she would put numbers and figures together to tell something about the person sitting in front of her.
In a little while, she became a psychic whom people trusted because she was quite articulate, smart, people person, and intelligent.   All those years she told us stories about princess and princesses, she was filling her life with a rather different lifestyle.
Maman Aziz had learned to live with her extraordinary senses in a world where she had to survive using some tricks involved with magnetism.   Maman Aziz was rather talented at offering hope in her role of a woman, a friend, a neighbor, a grandmother, and now as a psychic.

I do not believe she ever planned to become a psychic; rather she came to find herself in a role where she could use her long life strengths.  After all, she believed in the value of goodness and kindness when outer world was not offering much.  Her interaction with a fairly rich community was a reason she could be paid as people were interested of what she had to say.  Maman Aziz managed to develop her creativity in her new and very different life as a psychic, although she never identified herself in this role.
It was quite remarkable that people would pay her for her services which were about giving them hope.

I guess she managed to encourage people living their life, once uncertainly and ambiguity was pushing hard.

Maman Aziz was criticized by others whom had hard time comprehending an independent woman she was.   Indeed she was always criticized for who she was.   Now with the hindsight we know that she was an emancipated and a free soul who could not be stopped for what she thought was best for her at that time.
Maman Aziz did survive one divorce, two deceased husbands, and many lost dreams. However one thing she never came in ease was the pain of losing a daughter whose life came to be very different than the courageous mother.  Maman Aziz tried to help the adult daughter who came to have her own family, yet the complexity and severity of the mental health issues that the daughter was exhibiting, was more than Maman Aziz could live with.  Her daughter was that “motherless” little girl who always missed a mother who could offer her love and attention.
The amount of gifts Maman Aziz had showered her daughter and the ex-husbands’ family, had not helped at all.   Maman Aziz died knowing that her daughter deserved much better life; still she had not received it.   The sadness over a hurt daughter was deep, although Maman Aziz did what she could to be the loving mother she was.
We know she is watching over us.

October 22, 2009
www.middlepeace.com

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In the discussion about domestic violence we Iranians are behind or it is easier to say that we have never really dealt with this heavy topic.  As much as women rights are a political concern causing fears for men in control, yet women’s rights in relationship is backed up with a complex load of multiple factors.  First of all because of years of oppression our women have internalized the sexism, the discrimination, and the biased laws against their being-in-the-world.  Mainly domestic violence among our Iranian families are hidden and kept in darkness of family matters.  Secondly relationships between man and woman or between partners have no health and human definition in our culture.  Finally we have lost the difference between right and wrong. What can be done? Education and Education, this is our only and last hope.
May 8, 2009
www.middlepeace.com

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