The Never Ending Sorrow of Women and the Cherished Wealth of the Campaign
By: Zohreh Asadpour
Sunday 29 August 2010
Translated by: Sussan Tahmasebi
Change for Equality: The man was lying on the grass. Even from a distance, you could tell what was wrong with him. He had distanced himself from the picnic blanket where a group of men and women of different ages were sitting. I guessed that they were his family. We paid him no attention and approached his family instead. We asked for a few minutes of their time. They invited us warmly to sit with them.
We began to discuss the discriminatory laws. We spoke about inheritance laws, laws governing blood money (compensation for bodily injury or death), about testimony in court…The young man of the family interrupted. We had given him the petition of the Campaign. He commended us for our commitment to addressing social problems, criticized aspects of the Campaign, spoke of the urgency of addressing economic problems instead of social problems, but still signed on to the petition. The petition moved from one family member to the next.
The young man spoke more than others. I told him that certainly economic issues should be changed and improved, but also explained that the Campaign was not in a position to address economic problems.
The grandmother of the family listened intently, she was fully aware of all which was being discussed and kept track of where we had veered off the discussion, reminding us from time to time, to get back onto the subject of laws. The grandfather, an old man, whose eyes shined with a thirst for life, was engaged in discussion with my friend. I started talking to the mother of the family, who was a middle aged woman. The grandmother moved closer and listened to my words with great attention. I told them about the laws governing inheritance which prevented women from inheriting land. But they knew about this law. Working on the land—the rice fields of Gilan— where women have the bulk of the responsibility, these women knew fully well, that in their villages the land was the mot valued commodity. It’s everything, and they knew too that with the death of husbands, wives were deprived of their rights to the land—deprived of this most valuable commodity.
I stopped speaking, so they could speak instead. The middle aged woman spoke about her life. She spoke of the years she spent as a factory worker in a factory that had gone bankrupt some time ago. She explained that the man lying on the grass was her husband and that he had been addicted to drugs from the start of their marriage. She told me about her fruitless efforts to obtain a divorce and that in the end she had decided to stay for the sake of her kids. She spoke bitterly about the high costs of her husband’s drug habit. She explained that the courts had told her that the children belonged to the father, and that she had no right to their custody. She knew the fait that awaited her children at the hands of a man who couldn’t even support his own drug habit would not be pleasant. So she had stayed and endured the pains and indignity of the marriage, so that she could raise her children. She was not well educated, and the heated tone to her voice, spoke of the burden she had endured through the years. She knew that the laws had been cruel to her, and believed that she had wasted her youth and her life.
The grandmother too slowly began to speak. She seemed much older than her husband. She pointed to her mentally challenged daughter, sitting among the family members. She explained that the daughter had come about as a result of her inability to decide on whether she should have more children or not. She got pregnant, despite the fact that she was middle-aged. Her husband insisted on the pregnancy. Now an old woman, she was burdened by the responsibility of carrying for a grown child unable to care for herself and worried about the future of her daughter. She spoke about her husband, who was not only irresponsible with respect to his family, but also had a ferocious appetite for other women. He had used the laws which favor him, to take on two additional wives. The old woman spoke of the long absences of her husband. She spoke of her loneliness and the immense responsibility of raising children alone…
I was stunned. I had come to speak to this family about the inequities promoted in the law, but I quickly realized that the women of the family had suffered these inequities in cruelest of fashions. And I thought of the helpless women of my land, of the anger and protest that lay beneath the dark realities of their family lives. But still my heart was filled with hope. I hugged the women and kissed them…I knew that their well wishes would indeed light our way and the pain that they have endured in the bitterness of their lives would serve as incentive as we continued along the path to change.
Note: Zohreh Asadpour is an activist based in the city of Rasht. This article was written over a year ago, but translated for the English site’s anniversary celebration of four years of face-to-face engagement with the public.