Thursday, June 25, 2009

Suppressing Voices!

In my poetry workshop the other night, a classmate asked if I was going to blog about Iran at all. I promised him that I would. The reason I haven’t so far is because the Iran-mayhem has evoked multitude of emotions.

My ex-boss, who I adore, is an Iranian Jew. He and his family fled Iran when the Islamic Revolution took place. They somehow managed to escape from the country and after spending years of nomadic life, across continents, they finally settled down in the US. I have mostly heard voices of trauma and bitterness in his stories. Can you blame him? Indians and Pakistanis, who were affected by partition, still have unhealed wounds from sixty years ago. This is a man, who had to abandon his identity overnight, without a land in sight.

I recently read Iranian author, Azar Nafisi’s memoir, “Things I Have Been Silent About”. In her book, Nafisi talks about life of opulence and decadence in Iran during the Shah’s times. I saw pictures of the author and her mother in elegant, off-shoulder French outfits, in a nation, where women today have to compulsorily wear head scarves. How can a culture be so retrogressive? Nafisi left Iran because she refused to wear a headscarf per the laws of the Islamic fundamentalist government.

It’s awful that Neda Agha-Soltan, a twenty-six year old bystander, was shot in the chest last week when she and her music instructor got out of the car to catch a breath of fresh air as it was hot in her car. Ironically, Neda wasn’t supporting either of the political parties in Iran. What angers me more is that Neda Agha-Soltan was on her way back from “underground” music classes as women in Iran are forbidden from public singing. How can any human or religion deny life’s simplest pleasures like music or dancing to another human being? Doesn’t that qualify for violation of human rights?

Last night I had the opportunity to meet and hear Taslima Nasrin and Ma Thida. Nasrin, a Bangladeshi ex-doctor turned author, has been living in exile since 1994. The Muslim fundamentalists blacklisted her because she is not scared to express her voice. Today, she is banned from both Bangladesh and India. She stands for freedom of thought and equality for women. How is that wrong? Nasrin shared stories of atrocities committed against women in Bangladesh—the ones she witnessed as a doctor. I could feel my blood curdle. Thida, a Burmese surgeon and a writer, was imprisoned for close to six years in Burma because her writings reflected a voice that the Burmese government wanted to suppress. Both these human rights activists might have found shelter in the United States, but they long to go home to fulfill their purpose.

I heard a man, from Swaziland, the other night; he told stories about how men in his country are allowed to keep as many wives as they want. Women aren’t allowed to say a word. Today, these women have all been infected with HIV and in some cases, AIDS. If I understood his woes correctly, these women don’t even know that they have a right to voice.

I am perturbed because, even today, women in several parts of the world are still treated as mute objects. There is no obvious critical mass of people to stop this carnage against them. Educating women is the first step to a better society but empowering women will lead to an equal society. How hard is that to follow?

More until next time.

Copyright © 06.25.2009

“Discrimination is a disease” - Roger Staubach


Pradeep said...

This is an excellent post! What bothers me is that peaceful protesters in Iran are being slaughtered and injured and the world turns a blind eye to it! I can understand that open support of those protesters at individual level can be fraught with danger and may also be counter-productive, but I fail to see why countries, with or without the support of the United Nations, could not resort to sanctions against Iran, based on human rights considerations.

Anonymous said...


Pratibha said...

Hello Shweta,

Not to mention, I look forward to your blogs and If I read it right, You met TASLIMA NASRIN.
Oh My god, I can not believe it how lucky is that. Keep posting.

Rujuta said...

Loved it.

sam said...

such a powerful post.

Y said...

"Yes, Yes we need empowerment...raising daughters gives me sense of surely has to change for better times specially for women and children who are always at the receiving end..."

Vizzy said...

One of your best Sweta..

Spontaneous Mini said...

The best post. Wonderfully written. I wanted to do a post on Iran and the pattern you have traced here, but the thoughts and emotions come as a deluge. You have done it beautifully.

You met Taslima Nasrin.. Write what you think about her and her writings too. Sometimes she is quite controversial and Lajja- I could not finish reading it.

Bought "Things I have been silent about" yesterday.

Papa said...

Very well described.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I agree with your thought.Thank you for your sharing.

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