Freedom in Love is One-Sided

Nafiseh Azad

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

I enter the Metro station. Like always, I am confused by the many entrances. When I finally find my way, I have to run to make it on to the train. I am so tired, that I am unable to stand. I join a group of other women and we sit on the floor of the women only car*.

The young woman sitting next to me has a plain face, with dark eyes and narrow eyebrows. She is wearing light makeup, which is hardly noticeable. Judging from the way she is dressed, it seems that she is returning from work or university. Our glances meet and we both smile. She places her head on her knees, but after a moment she lifts her head. I ask if she is tired. She smiles and asks: "is it that obvious from the way I look?" We both laugh.

"So you don’t feel like a serious discussion?" I ask.

"Why?" She asks as she readjusts her pose. Her face looks completely surprised. With some difficulty, I reach across all the legs surrounding us on the Metro and hand her a booklet on the Campaign explaining the laws and a petition form and ask her to read it.

"If you agree with the statement of the petition, then sign it," I explain. Other passengers surrounding us, whether sitting or standing, stare at us with interest. I am too nervous to give them all petition forms. The woman returns the petition form to me. "You don’t want to sign it?" I ask.

She smiles and replies with a "No."

"Do you disagree with changes in the laws or is it that you just don’t want to sign?" I ask.

"I think some of the laws should be changed and others shouldn’t," she explains.

"Which ones, for example," I ask. The woman mumbles. It is apparent that she wants only to be rid of me and my questions. She hands the petition to another woman, who is watching us with interest. I turn my gaze away from the young woman and start a discussion with the other women on the Metro. One of the women signs and starts a discussion with the first woman. She wants to encourage her to sign the petition. I hear them talking. The first woman says, "I am opposed to the changing of laws which allow for polygamy."

I wish she had not said this. All the women on the train are now staring at me. Those standing are focused on me from above and those sitting from below. I turn my head so that I can see the woman better. All of a sudden it feels as though her appearance has changed. But she is playing with her cell phone and looking at the women who surround her. A streak of stubbornness is apparent in her expression. "You mean that you would be willing to allow your husband to take on a second or even a third wife while married to you, with the law supporting him in doing so?" I ask.

"What’s the problem with that?" She responds abruptly and forcefully. "I am the second wife to my husband." All the women surrounding us are now staring at me. There is something in their gaze. It is as if they are waiting for me to put this woman in her place with a strong and reproachful response. But the woman does not allow me to respond, she continues: "I fell in love with my husband. I am still in love with him. If it weren’t for the law, I would not be allowed to be with him. Even if it is for one day a week, it is legal. This law gives us greater freedom of choice, why should I oppose it?"

I collect my signatures and leave the metro. The women only car, filled with serious discussion, departs the station.

I repeat to myself: Freedom of choice….Freedom in love….Freedom in love is one sided!!

*While the Metro is not segregated and allows for women to ride in all cars, one car on all trains is set aside as a women-only car. Most members of the Campaign focus their signature collections on the women only car.

Read this article in its original Farsi


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