When Americans hear the words “Iran” and “women” used the same sentence, images of long black veils and public floggings are probably what come to mind. But what western media does a poor job portraying is the quiet, but bold, feminist movement that is taking place in Iran.
For example, Americans would probably be surprised to learn automobile racing is a popular sport in Iran. They’d be even more shocked to discover one of the nation’s top competitors is a women.
Meet Iran’s Dana Kirkpatrick, Zohreh Zatankhah. Ms. Zatankhah is a nationally ranked racecar driver who has taken first in races against her male competitors. In all 40 of her last races, she has placed in the top three.
“When I started this job, the men would laugh at me, Zatankhah said. “They aren’t laughing anymore.”
But sports isn’t the only male-dominated field Iranian women are making headway in. Tahmineh Milāni has been testing the limits of the her nation’s film industry for years. In 2001, she was arrested and jailed for her controversial film, “The Hidden Half.” Her most recent film, “Payback,” tells the story of a group of women who pose and prostitutes and then seek their vengeance on accepting men.
“A society that reduces women to mere sexual objects, would have to pay a very high price for it,” Milāni said.
While Milāni’s and Zatankhah courage and accomplishments are more than impressive, it’s the activism of the granddaughter of the Islamic Revolutions’ leader that is most shocking. Zahra Eshraghi’s grandfather was none other than Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini is still revered by Iranians as the father of the 1979 Iranian revolution. His strict interpretation of Sharia law imposed on women is something his granddaughter is trying to reverse. And although she wears the traditional chador, Eshraghi has become famous for her recent campaign against requiring women to wear headscarves.
”I’m sorry to say that the chador was forced on women,” Eshraghi said of the long black garment. ”Forced — in government buildings, in the school my daughter attends. This garment that was traditional Iranian dress was turned into a symbol of revolution. People have lost their respect for it. I only wear it because of my family status.”
It’s been almost 100 years since the United States gave females the right to vote. Should American women ever grow complacent or forgetful of their revolutionary past, perhaps their sisters in Iran can offer inspiration.