I wear a hejab in Iran. The country requires this of me. And I do, as requires. As I have done before, and as I will do again, in my life.
Turns out, I dislike and like it. I dislike it; because it’s an order! The little bit of teenager that still resides in me, rebels. And initially it’s a bother. But soon it becomes a habit. Ha – a nun’s habit! It’s bizarre. I almost start to like it … for practical reasons. It offers great protection against the sun. It works well with the helmet. It catches my hair and wraps around my neck, with ease in and out of the helmet. It is quicker to arrange than hair. Sometimes I even feel prettier with it. And it allows the ‘introvert’ me to retreat … although, Harry doesn’t like this. He wants the ‘bubbly’ me up-front. But most of all I like it, for a beautiful sense it gifts. A sense, I belong …
I belong, at least for our stay here, to women in Iran.
And it is not my imagination. Harry gets it too and calls out my “sisterhood looks”. As we walk, I collect a sky-high pile of these looks. Unlike anywhere else, these ‘looks’ deliberately exclude men, and my Harry. These looks, between ‘hooded’ sisters and I, for precious moments stand still. From under my veil, your veil, our veils. We pull together, we cohere.
And we savour our similarities and our differences.
And this I know …
Your robes do not mark you!
There is a headscarf, a hejab, a manteau, a chador, for every girl and every occasion. And you wear it ALL with aplomb! Some of you find comfort in the black chador; others push the envelope. The headscarf slips, the jeans are skinny, the heels are high, the colours are bright, the leggings are shapely, a shoulder shows and wisps of hair fall.
We do not see downtrodden women in Iran. No, you are not the hapless Muslim women. You are not oppressed by your culture, slave to an uncaring God and servants to your men. You are not the ‘caged virgins’ we hear of in the west.
I do not mean to belittle your limitations. You have many! I have none. But I suspect these limitations make you different, stronger, deeper …
You pour over matters, so complicated. With roots that lie deep; history, culture, heritage, religion, gender and class. And we can’t begin to understand! Your Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi and film-maker, Samira Makhmalbaf cut to the bones of these matters. While sport stars win the right to wear the hejab at international sporting events in 2014. We see, it is not as simple as we think!
Iranian women make gains, every day, within an Islamic framework.
And this I know … Feminism is alive in Iran.