On Saturday the 20th, the first day of violent protests, one of my cousins took me to the south of town to see what was going on. We didn’t get closer than the market before miraculously receiving a call (since cell phones were being disconnected in the busy areas) from his bruised friend, warning us of beatings with cables and batons. He mentioned that there were more women out in the streets than men, and that they were being braver in the face of the violence. It made sense, he said, since they are undoubtedly more repressed and have more to fight for (or maybe less to lose?).
Around the same time, one of my aunt’s neighbors came by to say that she was planning on going out to protest and suggested that we all go together if we decided to go. I thought this was a very brave thing for her to do; my aunt, however, gossiped to several different people about how inappropriate it was that this neighbor was doing so with a young child at home.
With the gruesome, heartbreaking, and widely-viewed death of Neda, the face of the casualties of this pseudo-revolution has become a female. Another video which is played and replayed on the news stations here shows a woman dressed in black trying to protect a police officer from the beatings of the protesters. Although most people cheer on the crowd, urging them to punch and kick harder, I respect this woman for her “two wrongs don’t make a right” philosophy—even if it means that the regime has more material to work with. These two videos aside, however, I’m not sure I’ve seen the women to men ratio my cousin’s friend described on that first day. I hope the young women of Iran are not staying home, listening to worried mothers and tending to whiny children. I certainly hear their voices loud and clear from the rooftops at night.
Likewise, the number of women making headlines in politics is rather low—not surprising, considering how politics are dominated by men in Iran as just about everything else in this society. The first big news I heard was the one-day detainment of Hashemi-Rafsanjani’s daughter, who like her father is a Moussavi supporter. According to the regime’s news sources, it was “for her safety.” Moussavi’s wife, Ms. Zahra Rahnavard, has also made occasional news, updating her Facebook page to ensure supporters that rallies were still to be held and posting on her husband’s website that he was safe and still standing by the people (I have a secret fantasy that Rahnavard will overtake her husband as the fiery leader with no ties to the Islamic Revolution who can lead the revote movement to a bigger, stronger revolution, but it’s founded on little other than conjecture). Today on TV, I saw Ms. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer, calling on the world to find out the truth behind the voting and those jailed for protesting. I wonder if one or all of these women, all sheerzanan (literally: lion-women, meaning women of bravery and strength) in their own right, will continue to grab more headlines and be a powerhouse for Iranian women to follow to the front.