Shirin Ebadi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during and after the revolution of 1979 sends a clear message to the world about their ideas about Iranians, and Iranian women in particular. For me, it cleared up a lot of confusion as to how the Ayatollah even gained power and become such a dominant figure in the lives of Iranians.
Before the revolution Shirin was able to go to a university, she was able to wear skirts and shirts out in public, didn’t have to cover her hair, and was even able to get her degree in and become a judge. In her memoir, she tells us about the disatisfaction of the Shah and of the Islamic revolution that swept the country and it’s people and her civil rights away virtually overnight. As a judge stripped of her powers, Shirin worked as lawyer, constantly trying to fight for human rights and protections against a biased and failing system. Almost all of her cases were of tragic death and mistreatment of women and children.
What I found most affecting about this book is the similarities between the protests leading up to the Shah’s overthrow and the protests going on in Iran today over the alleged rigged elections naming Ahmadinejad as President. Ebadi was more recently in the news after being arrested in Iran (for a second time). Her first arrest was eloquently detailed in her memoir and really highlighted the challenges that Iranians knowing face each day that they step outside their homes to protest against their government. Ebadi’s book is an excellent source of information for anyone wondering two things;
1. Why the US shouldn’t get involved with Iranian affairs.
The United States shouldn’t get involved this time around, because of previous adminstrations meddling. When Iran’s President Mossadegh decided to nationalize its gasoline, the United States got upset and staged the overnight coup that took him out of power and put the Shah in power instead. The US stepped in again later on to help put the Ayatollah in power when the Shah fled Iran. Add to that a third strike of arming Iraq with weaponry during the Iran/Iraq War and more recently being labled an Axis of Evil by the Bush Administration, I think Iran is fully due its right to be doubtful and resentful of US meddling in its political affairs.
2. What is life like for women in Iran after the revolution?
Life for women is dangerous, troublesome, restricting and overall limiting. Iranian women are by far the most intelligent in the Middle East because women are allowed to stay in school and even go to a University and get a degree. Although there are not enough jobs for women after graduation, and women take up a larger percentage of those enrolled in universities. A woman’s life in Iran is as you would expect, limited rights and constant fear of breaking yet another rule issued by the powers that be.
If you want a primer on the history of Iran and why these protests are of such importance to this nation and to the world, then this is a book you need to read. The history is accurate and well told, and Shirin’s experiences stay with the reader long after the book has been finished.Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi Random House, 2006 ISBN 1400064708 232 pages