Destination Campaign!

By: Maryam Zandi

Sunday 24 May 2009

Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi

It’s seven in the morning. I stand on the street among the masses of people and cars. I’m shouting, but my voice can barely be heard. I shout louder. "Vanak Square, Vanak Square!" It’s cold and the chill passes through my clothes penetrating my bones. I shudder. For some reason finding a taxi today is taking longer than other days.

A car passes through the red light and heads straight for us, as we wait for a taxi. We jump back toward the sidewalk, as the car approaches and stops. "Vanak Square?" The driver nods. I get in along with two other women and a stocky man, who sits on the passenger side next to the driver.

The car is soothingly warm. I retreat into the seat and my shut my eyes, to awake only a few minutes later.

I take out four booklets on the laws from my bag and hand them to the young women sitting next to me in the backseat. One of them looks at me surprised. She reads the cover of the booklet and a contented smile appears on her face. She begins to read the rest.

I glance at the man who is sitting in the front passenger seat. He is middle aged, looks clean and is relatively well dressed. He sports a beard that covers most of his face and is wearing an agate ring—which signifies that he is a religious man. Unlike in the past, I don’t hesitate. I don’t contemplate whether I should hand him a booklet on the laws. I am prepared for all kinds of discussions and objections. I hand him and the driver a booklet. The driver places the booklet on the dashboard of the car, and with every stop in the never ending traffic of the highway he picks it up and begins to read the pages. The middle aged man though is engrossed and reads the booklet with great intensity.

The young pretty girl sitting next me says: "my mother had the same problem. She endured a lot of hardship trying to raise us alone. I still remember her visits to the office of guardianship whenever she had to make a decision regarding our care. When I finally reached legal age, my mother took a deep breath of relief and thanked god that she was finally free of the office of guardianship." The young girl signs the petition of the Campaign and asks if she can sign in place of her mother as well. I explain that it’s not possible for her to sign for her mother, but that she can take her mother a booklet. I give her a blank petition form and tell her that when she has filled it with signatures she can contact me to come and pick it up.

The other woman, sitting next to the window, joins the conversation as well. "I want to dedicate my signature to my mother. Can I write this next to my signature?" she asks.

"Of course you can," I reply.

"Patiently and without complaining, my mother raised five children—her sons and daughters. For years she took care of our sick father. But a few months after my father died, my brothers sold the house out from under her. My sisters and I gave my mother our share of our inheritance, so that she could buy herself a small home. All the while that she was alive, I helped her with her expenses. Why is it that she had to loose her house in such a way after my father’s death?"

As the woman tells her story, the driver nods his head in sympathy and agreement. Every so often, he comments by saying: "that’s true. She is right."

The stocky man broke the warm silence of the car. He turns his head toward those of us sitting in the back seat and says: "have you given any consideration to the fact that men are still the main supporters and breadwinners of the family? They have to work to support their families? Who makes the money? The man of the house, isn’t that right?"

— "Yes, I reckon so. Only about 30% of women work." I respond.

— "Then what is this talk about custody rights, the right to divorce, equal testimony rights. What is this nonsense you are teaching women? What about the other issues? You want to undermine the foundation of the family! Why?" he replies.

— "For now, women are trying to become empowered."

— Empowered so that you can obtain a divorce? You want to work so that you can get divorced?" he retorts all the while pounding his hands on the dashboard.

— "don’t pound on the dashboard, you will ruin it," objects the driver.

One of the women sitting in the back seat enters the discussion by saying: "Yes, maybe if a woman obtains an education and with great difficulty manages to find a job and becomes empowered, she may not be willing to put up with all the problems of a marriage, with violence for example or with a drug addicted husband. Yes, it is right she may seek a divorce, and may have fewer concerns in this respect when compared to a woman who does not work. So, perhaps it is better that women are prevented from becoming active members of society, so that their expectations remain low and they don’t come to expect more out of life."

— "My wife has been a teacher for twenty years and she claims that she has made a mistake by working all these years. She says that she should have just stayed at home to raise her children," the stocky man responds in a surprised tone.

— "Well this is your wife’s experience. It’s a personal experience. Do other teachers feel the same way?" I ask.

— "I beg you don’t do this stuff. I know that you want this place to become like America, so that women can obtain divorces easily, so that they can all go to work, and so that family has no value or meaning, and so like America, women can get a divorce with the first sign of a problem," he says.

— "Don’t judge so readily. Please read the booklet carefully," I plead.

— "I won’t sign."

— "That doesn’t matter."

I look around me, it seems like everyone is listening to our discussion. When we reach my destination and it is time for me to get out of the Taxi, the young driver takes the petition and signs it. With a smile he says: "I want these laws to change. We will all benefit from these changes."

The other two women give the driver a smile. The stocky man looks over at him, and says: "my son, you are still very young. You don’t know any better!"

To get to work, I have to ride yet another taxi. I cross the street in the midst of the traffic and crowds. There are all types of people waiting for taxis. A taxi honks at me and without realizing it, I yell: "Destination, Campaign!"


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