Ramadan in Tehran...

Ava, has been writing more from Tehran-and here are two latest posts. She writes with such honesty and in some ways is a perfect window through a 'female gaze' into Tehrani life today. Please read and post your feedback here or send it to me, as you have all been doing (and I will forward your messages to her).


It was around Iftar time and I was waiting in my car for one of my girl friends. She was standing in a restaurant's long queue to buy some take away food. All restaurants and eating- houses get quite busy at this time in Ramadan because none of them is allowed to sell or serve food to people; even to children, pregnant women and non Muslims before Iftar.. Drinking, eating or smoking in public violate the Ramadan ban and is considered as a crime.

Behind car windows, I could see people sitting behind the tables, listening to the prayer from radio with their lips busy murmuring while they were waiting for the Azan to start eating.

“Will you please move your car a bit?” A small boy around 7-8 years old whose back was bent under a huge white sack asked me. He had collected lots of dirty used plastic stuff out of people’s trash to sell them as recycled wastes and make money. My heart shrank. His face was red and I could see his jaw and face muscles were tense because of that heavy burden he was carrying on his small arch-shape back.

I moved my car and said: “Do you want me to get you some food?”

“No, I’ve got some, God bless you.” he said and slowly went away.

I turned and looked at the people who had already started eating.

“Heh…What a spiritual moment!! Hopefully we will be all blessed and forgiven. Shame on me, shame on you, shame on all of us.” This was how I felt at that moment.

Suddenly I replaced my own kid’s face with that boy’s face and couldn’t stop my tears anymore.

I haven’t seen my son for more than a month. Since the custody of the child goes to the father according to Islamic civil law, he lives with his father. Every Thursday his father wishes not to bring him to me, he comes up with an excuse and sends him away and takes my only chance to see my own son. I know I’m not the only one but that doesn’t reduce the pain. I can make a legal case of it in the court and fight for it, but I’m sure that it just makes the situation worse and more complicated. I’ve decided to cope with the situation because I cannot imagine him coming with his father back and forth to the court and see me there desperately crying. I’ll cry alone and share my feelings with you, what are friends for?

Finally my friend picked up some food and we went home. Far away from the spiritual moods, we had our dinner and watched a French movie; something that threw us in another world and space: Diving bell and butterfly.

Later at night I was home watching the news and reading papers at the same time. I was glancing over pages and surfing on the words that some pictures took my attention, the photos of 10 juveniles. At first I thought they were top students of the year or the Olympiad champions but I got awfully shocked after I read only the beginning of the article.

They were all executed because of the crime they had committed during their adolescence. One of them had killed his friend during a fight over his dove.

Their faces will remain in my mind forever. They looked too shy in the photos. They have now rested in peace without having to demand for justice. But where the dove is flying to now?

I lit up my cigarette and went to the balcony. I looked at the high buildings around me and looked down to the street. It was late and quiet, though some young boys were standing in a corner chatting and laughing.

I reminded this Ahmad Shamloo’s poem:

I turn down from veranda to the dark alley and cry for all the oppressed in the world.


Most of my friends and the people I know suffer from unpleasant relationships in their marriages. They’ve either broken up or about to break up. I hardly see any happy couple around me. Most of the recent marriages come to an end before the first anniversary, and they end up in court and have to go back and forth this road three times more than the period of the marriage. The only friend of mine who succeeded to divorce with full agreement and with less trouble is still living with her ex in the same house after 6 years of her divorce. Given the high prices to rent a place in Tehran none of them could afford to pay the rent on their own. Perhaps this is a similar story in all societies. People are looking for a right match and then when they think they have found it; they look for the easiest and fastest way to get out of it. Although there’s no fast way in Iran and most of the divorce cases take ages to finalize, unless the woman gives up all her legal rights and gets herself out of the marriage.

According to the statistics since divorce cases take long time to be taken over by the court, the number of women who committed suicide or killed their husbands have increased in the last few years. But surprisingly a group of genius parliamentarians passed a bill in PEOPLES HOUSE to allow men to have a second wife without their first wife's consent. I wonder while our young generation who forms 60% of the population is far behind the costs of a normal decent living and further more not able to pay the rent and form a simple family, why our parliamentarians come up with the idea of promoting polygamy?

Sometimes I feel we are living in medieval era or standing out of space. In this ironic society where I live, nothing is allowed yet everything is possible. Having sexual relationship out of a marriage is considered as a big crime which could lead to stoning to death. But our parliamentarians might have thought that by passing this bill and expanding the size of the family men and women won’t have affairs or commit a so called immoral action. I think they’ve forgotten this old saying: A Haram one always tastes better!

But regardless of the rules and regulations, how far are we allowed to interfere in people’s privacy? Which point is to be achieved by polygamy? Except one more step to be taken against the women’s rights and women’s rights activists!

And of course this hot topic of the last week and protest of the women’s rights activists in front of the Parliament were not important enough to be reflected in the State media. Although the government spokesman openly attacked the State television for having acted independently and not supporting the government enough!

Instead, in the other part of the world where people’s privacy is expected to be respected more than in my country; the hottest news is the pregnancy of the daughter of Republican Governor of Alaska! And no wonder this woman knows how to take advantage of her family problems to win people's hearts.

By all these extremist rulers either from East or West, where the world is leading to?

I was thinking and asking these questions from myself while I was walking toward the office at the first day of Ramadan.

When I entered the building the first thing that took my attention was the fog and the heavy smoke which was standing half a meter down the ceiling. I got into the corridor and looked around and saw nobody. Only a couple of colleagues were standing in a corner.

“Hi, where is everybody?” I asked one of them.

“Happy Ramadan! They are around.” One of them answered.

When I opened the ladies room to wash my hands, I saw all my female colleagues hiding there. Some were biting their sandwiches and some were smoking!

-“May your prayers and fasting be fulfilled.” I said that and laughed.

-“Same as yours.

1 comment:

Celes said...

Thank you for translating and sharing her blog. I a girl in the UK, christian. I have one good friend who I haven't seen in a while who is 25 and from Iran, he always said about the vibrant underground in Iran. It is great just having an insight into life there. I've also been having discussions with people about Islam and the middle east recently; and struggling with people to combat islamophobia, media bias and ignorance. but its been difficult with my own poor understanding, and I admit prejudice of some parts of the culture, at least how I have felt about the attitude to women which I have experienced when travelling to parts of the region, or even in the UK. So again, thankyou, and I hope that there will be many more to come.


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