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(Prayer to Fight Oppression)





I imagine that this might have been what Sanaz danced to as she shed the oppressive forces of the regime. "Her large black robe and head scarf- framing her body and face, her large eyes and very slim fragile body- oddly enough add to the allure of the movements. With every movement she seems to free herself from the layers of black cloth" (Nafisi, 266).


To In Reading Lolita in Tehran the mandatory veiling and the oppression of women in Iran are widely regared as negative aspects of the government's rule. But there are different opinions on the issue, an issue which also exists outside of Iran. In 2000, CBS published an article on their website (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/10/23/eveningnews/main243429.shtml) on the Taliban making the veil mandatory for women in Afganistan. Some Afghan officials say, "the United States is condemning what it doesn't understand" (CBS). Afghanistan was, and maybe still is a nation in trouble. After 20 years of war, resisting Soviet invasion, Afghan Freedom fighters turned on each other, which was when the Taliban rose up "with the Koran in one hand and a rifle in the other" (CBS). According to Laili Helms, an advisor to the Taliban, before Taliban rule "Anyone who had a gun and a pickup truck could abduct your women, rape them" (CBS), but Helms says the Taliban's priory is to keep the women safe, even if, in the beginning, that meant limiting a woman's right to work, and forbidding them from appearing in public without a male relative (CBS).Though the CBS article focuses on Afghanistan and Reading Lolita in Tehran is set in Iran, Nafisi experiences similar conditions under the Khomeini's rein. After Khomeini's death Nafisi writes, "the day women did not wear the scarf in public would be the real day of his death and the end of
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(Mulsim veils)

the revolution" (Nafisi, 242). I believe that to Nafisi the veil symbolizes the oppression of women in Iran. With the veil came a loss of status and rights, and in addition, the mandatory veil marked a visible difference in the status of women compared to that of men.


I can't help but wonder if the article "Bans on veils risks another form of oppression" by Craig and Marc Kielburger (http://www.thestar.com/news/globalvoices/article/779796--ban-on-veils-risks-another-form-of-oppression) is an example of the Western world 'condemning what it doesn't understand'. The article looks at a draft law submitted by the French government to issue a partial ban on wearing the burqa.


The Kielburger brothers argue that forcing women to wear the veil is also a violation of human rights, and I agree. The article quotes French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying, “The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience" (Kielburger). I disagree with this statement, and I believe many of the people in Reading Lolita in Tehran would disagree with this statement too. In this interview (http://www.randomhouse.ca/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781588360793&view=auqa) with Random House Readers Circle, Nafisi says, "My grandmother never took off her veil until the day she died, and she lived a long life. For her the veil was a symbol of faith, but if every woman was forced to wear it, whether she believed in it or not, then it would become a symbol of force and a political symbol of the state" (Random House Reader's Circle). I agree with the Kielburger brothers that, regardless of the pretense of "liberation" it is just as wrong to forbid someone from covering their body as it is to force them to. Like Nafisi's grandmother, many women feel it is a symbol of their faith, that should not be taken taken away from them beause some officials, on both sides of the discussion, have confused religion and politics.


In Reading Lolita in Tehran one of the ways the characters overcome the power of their oppressive government is through reading and their novel group. I looked into the therapeutic effects of reading on people, because I believe reading and discussing literature is therapeutic for the women in Reading Lolita in Tehran. In James, Nafisi repeatedly spends the nights in the halls when the city is being bombed. According to Blake Morrison, in his article for the Guardian, "This is surely the great therapeutic power of literature - it doesn't just echo our own experience, recognize, vindicate and validate it - it takes us places we hadn't imagined but which, once seen, we never forget. When literature is working - the right words in the right place - it offers an orderliness which can shore up readers against the disorder, or lack of control, that afflicts them" (Morrison). Nafisi echo's this sentiment over and over in Reading Lolita in Tehran. "The only way I could give rhyme or rhythm to my life was to read my books and work up my confused classes" (Nafisi, 97). Its not surprising that the regime has such strict control of literature, the way it is distributed, read, interpreted and enjoyed. It would seem literature not only has the ability to bestow power, but also to combat oppression.


I believe on of the simplest forms of oppression the women of Tehran face is how undervalued they are. "Most of these girls have never had anyone praise them for anything in their lives. They have never been told that they are any good or that they should think independently" (Nafisi, 221) Let us hope that this will never become a reality in our society, for the only time a country will meet its full potential is when each its citizens has met their full potential, and this starts will equality.


In this media journal I focus on how women have been oppressed in Iran. By no means are women the only group which faces oppression, "Once a writer's apartment was found unlocked. Two weeks later they discovered that he had been whisked away by the secret police, for questioning" (Nafisi, 226). But women do represent a significant portion of the population and they are who Nafisi focuses on in Reading Lolita in Tehran.



"Afgahnistan's Veil of Oppression." CBS Evening News 23 Oct. 2000. 30 Nov. 2010 <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2000/
10/23/eveningnews/main243429.shtml>

"Author Interview - A conversation with Azar Nafisi." Random House n.d. 28 Nov. 2010 <http://www.randomhouse.ca/
catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781588360793&view=auqa>

Kielburger, Craig and Marc Kielburger. "Ban On Veils Risks Another Form of Oppression." The Toronto Star. 15 Mar. 2010. 28 Nov. 2010 <http://www.thestar.com/news/globalvoices/article/779796--ban-on-veils-risks-another-form-of-oppression>

Morrison, Blake. "The Reading Cure." The Guardian. 5 Jan. 2008. 28 Nov. 2010 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/
jan/05/fiction.scienceandnature>

"Muslim Veils -- from hijab to burqa." ApologeticsIndex. n.d. 28 Nov. 2010 <http://www.apologeticsindex.org/
505-muslim-veils-hijab-burqa>


Nafisi, Azar. Reading Lolita in Tehran. New York: Randomhouse, 2003. Print.


"Persian Dance Music." Youtube. n.p.,19 Apr. 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2010 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZaH9cMhOeY>


"Prayer to Fight Oppression." PrayerBrowsing. Oct.-Nov. 2009. 1 Dec. 2010. <http://prayerwarriors.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/prayer-to-fight-oppression-october-31-november-6-2009/oppression>