A tale of two women and an inconvenient truth
Entrusted with the responsibility to write the first post of this blog, I have been looking for a topical subject which would provide for an immediate introduction to contemporary Iran and offer an insight into my approach as one of the contributors to the blog. This, I found in the story of two women and the differing treatment they have so far received in Mainstream Western Media.
The first is the much talked about story of a silenced mother, who is fallen victim in the hands of the Islamic Regime and its system of injustice; for she had dreamed of the forbidden fruit and had a desire for another man, whilst she was married. I am, of course, referring to the story of Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran – an outrageous example of barbaric cruelty, which rightly deserves the kind of measured and meditated attention it has so far received.
Thanks to the high-profile media interest in her case and interventions of such world leaders and internationally respected public figures as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and First Lady of France Carla Bruni-Sarkozy the cost of inflicting any further harm to Sakineh increases by the day. In fact, it could be argued that in this occasion the international elites are proving themselves successful in lending their voice to the voiceless and they deserve credit for it. [This is so, in spite of the fact that the contemporary elites have so far fallen well short of endorsing a more humane system of justice at the international stage.]
The other story [which is not as widely publicised], however, concerns the fate of a young, 26 years old, articulate, independent girl who is an outspoken journalist and a Human Rights activist. I am indeed talking about Ms. Shiva Nazari Ahari.
A founding member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters [CHRR], Shiva has dedicated much of her adult life to the advancement of the cause of human rights in her native of Iran. Yet, in spite of her many achievements, hard-earned reputation, compelling story and worrying situation, we have not yet heard about her.
With this, I do not mean to imply that her case was left unnoticed by the international elite. [In fact, Shiva's case has been a subject of international concern to the point that in June 2010 Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton formally called for her release.] Instead, what I find disturbing is the fact that only one of the above two stories has found its way to Mainstream Western Media and its audience.
Talk to almost any Iranian, and regardless of her/his political views, s/he will complain that most often the publicised stories in the West are the ones which reinforce the superficial and carefully crafted stereotypes that portray the Iranian women as poorly educated and powerless - the ones which portray the Iranian society as a society in need of American B-52s and their “democratising” cargo.
It is disheartening to think that, such seems to be the case, even when the intelligentsia in the West is conscious of the fact that Iranian women - especially the younger generation - have long been the vanguards of their society. It is genuinely hard and demoralising when one discovers that further to confronting a totalitarian theocracy, Iranian youth are expected to compete with the full might of Mainstream Western Media, fearing that the machine could be at work to manufacture consent for yet another misadventure.