A view from Iran

June 6, 2007 at 2:36 pm (blog)

It’s pelage season in Iran. The well-to-do of Tehran take time off and head to the segregated beaches of the north. Men armed with binoculars line up to hire speed boats to gawp at the women’s section from a distance. “The problem is,” says Arghavan, a 25-year-old graphic designer, who came to London four months go, “that you can’t get rid of segregation overnight. Can you imagine how those men would react without a curtain separating the genders?”

So, what do to?

“Well,” she says laughing, “you’d have to wipe the slate clean of a whole generation and start with a society which from the outset allowed men and women to share a beach just like here.”

She adds: “Relations between men and women can be normal, if only the state would leave them alone.”

Arghavan and her brother, she says, were recently stopped in the street and had to prove they were siblings. “If we couldn’t,” she says, “things could get much bigger.” A woman’s father, she said, would have to tell a court he was aware of who she was with. And if the father refused to do this?
“No father would refuse,” she says. “But if he did the girl could be stoned.”

I was recently cornered by a post-grad student in the US who said that actually, things are far better for women in Iran that we in the West were led to believe. “When was the last time you went back,” she said, implying that I did not know the reality on the ground. Are things really okay?
“It depends which family you’re visiting when you go there, their economic situation,” she says. “In [the wealthy] north of Tehran you might see lifestyles you won’t see the like of here in the West,” she says. “But venture out into poorer areas and the villages and meet a 25-year-old woman who was forced into marriage aged 15 and it’s a different story.”



  1. Fari said,

    Well,” she says laughing, “you’d have to wipe the slate clean of a whole generation and start with a society which from the outset allowed men and women to share a beach just like here.”

    What an idiotic comment! It’s a real situation so requires a real answer! It takes education and the corrosion of fear and also an awareness of what causes that fear – which I understand to be an abhorrence for the licentiousness of the Western liberal societies – and therefore a gradual change with laws in place that assure those accepting change that it will not be a change for the worse.
    Don’t you know anyone intelligent, aware to quote?

  2. peyvand said,

    Thanks for your comment. The woman was joking, and if she appeared unintelligent, then it’s my fault alone.

  3. Sajjad said,

    I just wanted to say that she doesn’t seem unintelligent at all to me. She’s actually on to a good point. What would be the worst that could happen if suddenly (in an ideal fairytale of a world) the “slates were to be wiped clean”? Yes, men and womes would all of a sudden go crazy with all the new liberties, enjoy a short duration where they excorcise the demon that is “repressed sexuality” and once that period is over they’d all get on with they’re lives in a much more relaxed and free society. (I’m laughing whilst I write this as I know all to well what an optimistic fool I am!!) the downfall of this “liberated” society would probably be a slight increase in Iran’s population but what the hell, people were bouncing on each other just because a madman said we need more “Soldiers for Islam”!!! Why not just for fun then??

    All joking aside, we terribly underestimate our own youth. This abnormal way of life has only been imposed on us for close to 30 years. It simply cannot remain like this.

    I hope we all ive to see the light at the end of the tunnel again.

  4. peyvand said,

    Thanks for that Sajjad. x

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