The Pen: a Semi-Feminist Tele-Theater
By: Maziar Samiee*; Translation by: Sholeh Shahrokhi
Wednesday 7 November 2007
This story is inspired by a true events.
Scene I: At the corner market
And a quart of yogurt, too, please, Abbas agha!
So, how much do I owe you?
Please, be my guest.
That’s kind of you… is this enough?
Yes, that’s plenty. I just don’t have change to give back. Would you
You know, gum is not good for my teeth. Could you give a pen or pencil, instead?
Of course, here you go. Say hi to your Mom for me.
I will. That’s considerate of you.
Scene II: Tajrish Circle
A group of people with masks covering their faces, like that of the operation room, carry a young woman, who has a provocative appearance, to a Mercedes Benz, parked near by. A few lecture the crowd on the sanctity of modesty and honor. Among the crowd, the face of the corner market client is visible, as he shakes his head and moves down to the taxi stop.
“Seyed Khandan?” [destination]
Jump in before he gives me a ticket.
Scene III: in the cab
People do not have food to eat, but they pick on a couple of girls and their clothing. It is shameful.
That’s because some people make their living precisely out of this public harassment.
You men have no idea how difficult it is to put up with the heat in these heavy clothes and scarves. So, women loosen it up a bit. So, where is the crime in that?
Oh, c’mmon my sister, what does wearing that much make-up have to do with cold or warmth of the air? Did you not see how she had made herself up like a Western doll?
So, she had make herself up. Why are the men looking at her? Shouldn’t the Iranian men observe modesty, too?
It is none of any body’s business. People can dress up the way they want and it should not concern anyone else.
Thanks a bunch, so according to you, there is no distinction between human societies and that of the monkeys?
What do you mean? When did I say that…
Never mind, brother. Driver, please let me out right here.
Here you go, but you owe me another fifty cents.
No way, this is my regular route, man.
He slams the door and leaves.
Jackass! [although the driver used a more sobering language that was revised in the edited version.]Sorry ma’am, so sorry, but the man was so rude. Men like him, the way they act it makes you wonder if they ever had families, themselves.
Don’t you realize, if he spoke in support of the security forces, it is probably because he has his own stakes at it. He is probably connected to those who benefit from beating on these women. Otherwise, do you think he would have allowed his own mother and sisters to be treated like that, in public?
Are you kidding? Who dares to look at their mothers and sisters?
Right you are young man. One must pay a heavy toll to even glance at them.
The young man, who is the first character we have seen in the corner market, pulls out a notebook from his backpack and asks:
Have you all heard anything about the One Million Signature Campaign?
Oh, yeah. I think I know what you are talking about. I have heard of it in the satellite TV. They said something about The UN trying to collect signatures to change the law, or something?
Well. Not exactly. This is an independent movement. Actually a group of Iranian women’s rights activists are trying to revise the law…
No. No, I heard it from Mr. Baharlou on TV, that is why they are trying to nominate Ms. Simin Daneshvar for a Nobel prize, too. Wasn’t she a poet or something?..
“Hemmat” Street… [destination shouted out by another passenger]
Get in. Ok you were saying? Why are they collecting signatures now?
Well, anyone (man or woman) who is against discrimination can sign these petitions to show their support for the change in the law, which in fact would be beneficial for both sexes…
The man who had just gotten into the cab says:
Sorry, I am not sure what you all are discussing, but what do you mean to change the law with signatures? Can anything change with a few signatures? In our country, things are broken at the foundation.
That may be, but if we don’t do this, what would you suggest we do?
Nothing you can do. The minute you make a noise, they will crash you down.
That won’t do…
What do you mean they would kill them all? If everyone was behind them, no one would dare to crack down on these young people.
Pardon me, but this is not about getting killed. Who is going to kill someone for a signature?
He is right. I have to get off here, but first, give me your papers and I will sign it for you. Good luck to you.
Okay, so let’s assume you were able to collect your one million- or one billion signatures. Then what? What is going to change?
The fact that one million people have agreed to sign their names before a petition to reform the law shows that a lot has changed, that the way people in this country think and engage with their social destiny has radically changed.
Oh, man. What are you talking about. These people may be irregular but they wont regulate anything themselves.
But you and I belong to the same people we accuse of not getting involved, but we are talking about this issue, are we not?
Look, young man. You guys have not seen the revolution years. I realize that young students like yourself are full of great ideals and dreams. I too was once like you. I had big dreams for my country- dreams of freedom and things like that. I was even politically active then, and still feel sympathetic toward it, but what do you think happened. We saw the revolution. We saw what came after it. Nothing. For as long as they are in power…
Well, actually I thing social and political issues are more complex than that. I mean long before the revolution there was patriarchy in Iran. The mind of the people in Iran has long been effected by despotism and continues to be so. I mean some things transcend the boundaries of this or that government. Actually, because of the social make-up of our country that these kinds of States come to power, not the other way around…
He is right you know. For these sheep-like people, if a president came from Switzerland, he would have to resort to beating down on them with a stick.
Or the other way around… let me ask you, do you think if our politicians went to Europe, could they continue to rule like this? Would people allow them to act as they do here?
The bunch of people I’ve seen run this country, if you took them to Mars they would manage to run it to the ground like this.
Never mind all that. What I still want to understand is what is it that you are trying to achieve with these signatures?
Actually, the signature is not as important as starting up a discussion about equality between men and women before the law. We want our people to become more aware of the issue. The conversation that we are having now itself is very important and informative… If you let me, I would like to share a few examples of our discriminatory laws…
Sorry man, I need to get out here. Driver, drop me off— anywhere here is fine. Here is your fair.
Scene IV: “Seyd Khandan,” Under the Bridge.
The rain is pouring hard and people are running to catch a cab or find shelter under the bridge.
So, what do you think? Will you sing the petition?
Yeah, give me your papers
The driver reaches into his glove-box for a pen, but his pen is out of ink. The rain keeps getting harder by the minute. The pen does not write. The driver looks at the young man and shakes his head. The young man reaches into his coat pocket and finds the pen he had bought at the corner market earlier that morning. The sky is lit by lightning. The pen reaches the driver and at the moment he is signing his name under the petition, the loud thunder reaches the earth. The young man collects his papers. Another thunder and the stages grows dark.
*Maziar Samiee is an active member of the One Million Signatures Campaign and a member of the men’s committee of the Campaign. Maziar was arrested on November 2 during a student protest at Allameh Tabatabaie University, staged in an effort to protest recent prison sentences for student activists and the suspension from University of other activists. While all those arrested during this protest were released within a day, Maziar and two others, Arman Sedaghati and Behnam Sepehrvand, were at the order of the Ministry of Information taken to Evin Section 209 the security ward. Reports indicate that an arrest order of one month has been issued for Maziar.