Forgive my suspicion of this article from Frances Harrison in Tehran, but I’ve just seen such a lot of BBC pieces recently pushing the pacifist line against Iran. It was BBC world affairs editor John Simpson who described how “Iranian politics are as complex and sophisticated as any I have observed around the world”. Not that that means the BBC are soft on Iran of course, but I’ve always found that if I decide that a person or issue is a priori “sophisticated” I tend to find myself looking for sophistication come what may, and if my boss tells me, well…
So, to the questions. According to Frances, “The number of women graduating from Iran’s universities is overtaking the number of men”
Frances’ support for this statement is figurative:
“Twenty postgraduate students are sitting in a plush modern classroom listening to a lecture on environmental management…Three quarters of the students in this class are women – the five men in the class are huddled together in a corner.”
Now, while I know that environmental management in the UK is for the BBC a truly A LIST subject, I wonder how important it is in Iran? And I wonder how come Frances found his/herself in such a lecture.
I also wonder what the proportion of graduates is among the general Iranian population. Is is so significant if the daughters of apparatchiks get a nice little educashun? But I am jumping the gun- that Frances just gets me thoughts buzzing.
Frances does appear to get a bit more meaty when referring to the “applied physics department of Azad University” where “70% of the graduates are women.”
I have to say though I wondered about the pure physics department, and just whether “applied” might also mean learning to be a primary school teacher.
Frances then goes on to talk about the excited Mr Laylaz (funny how all the senior academics she talks to are men), who rhapsodises over the fact that “It will not be long… before women are in charge of recruitment in offices”
Really? All the way up to personnel?
But the vanityemptiness of Frances’ puffery is best exposed by a quote intended to show women’s lib, which makes one recoil at the whole exercise:
“Sudabeh is nervous about her future – she could lose it all if she marries the wrong man.
“I will choose a person as a husband who lets me work because I love my job”
Wow- a man who lets her work, foregoing his legal right to stop her. How about that? Real liberation. And as for her choice, Allah, (momma) and papa willing no doubt.
In short, this is an attempt to couch Iran in our terms, right down to the men “huddled in the corner”. It’s an awkward fit, so our Frances has to queeze the material very hard. It’s irritating when we pretty much know Iran isn’t soft and cuddly, emerging into modernity through girl power.
When all’s said and done though, did Soviet sexual equality make them less dangerous or alien to freedom?
Oh, I almost forgot, a classic bit of soviet style propaganda to note (see the link on why iran isn’t soft and cuddly):
“Iran’s Islamic government has managed to convince even traditional rural families that it is safe to send their daughters away from home to study.”
There must be some great stories behind the regime in Iran: pity we’re left with the BBC to try and tell them.
ps. more questions here