Mast-e Mei-e Mousavi
31 May 2009 22:10
By AFSHIN SALIMPOUR in Tehran | 31 May 2009
[TEHRAN BUREAU] At a women's movement event in aid of the Mirhossein Mousavi campaign yesterday I sensed that the momentum of the campaign, undoubtedly growing, was somehow not, at heart, driven by the man himself. That's not to say the momentum itself is in danger. In the course of the last months there has never been so much optimism. It simply struck me that the man himself has become the calm in the eye of a green-colored storm.
Outside the Bahman Cultural Center in southern Tehran, women and children were picnicking on shaded lawns. Kids not even close to the previous voting age of fifteen, with green flags and ribbons, played about unrestricted, tranquil parents keeping a relaxed eye.
Just after reaching the auditorium stairs, a slightly pot-bellied Mouso-phile jumped ahead of me, fully decked-out with green armbands and a sash around his neck. I'd just asked the security guard where the media section was but the young man appeared to have a more urgent need to get inside. He launched into a spirited attempt to sweet talk his way past. In the space of about 30 seconds he had attempted three different lies with no result. The burly, bearded guard just informed him gently that there was no room inside. The guard too appeared relaxed. After all, he had spent his afternoon for once in the campaign, not having to use himself as a physical barrier to rampaging supporters or lock horns with opportunistic journalists.
But inside, the green-clad lad might not have found himself in the heaven of liberal-minded potential girlfriends he'd perhaps dreamed up -- a fantasy to which western representations of Iran have also often subscribed over centuries of exoticizing the Orient.
The women's movement in Iran is not a homogeneous generation of fashion-conscious girls with nose jobs itching to tear off their manteaux. The perennial desire to de-hejab the Iranian woman says more about the sex-hungry western media than the reality of the women's movement in Iran.
Inside, the new, by-default leader of the women's movement, Zahra Rahnevard, sat alongside her husband, the presidential challenger. A series of well-received warm-up speakers came and went with hardly a reaction from the couple at the center of it all. They were waxworks while an auditorium full of green flags and ribbons fluttered and cheered.
Strolling among unobstructed aisles was refreshing after weeks of shoulder-charging through dense crowds and jockeying for position with single-minded journalists and cameramen. The only men in the auditorium this time were Mousavi, myself and a handful of other officials and media personnel. The air conditioners seemed actually to be having some effect and, dare I say it, the hall even smelled better than usual. There was a certain music in the cheers of approval from the all-female crowd. The chants lacked, for once, that sport's field quality with the projected bass exhale that invariably stresses the "Moo" in "Mousavi."
But the biggest cheer of the evening had little to do with Mousavi or his wife and much to do with the cultural, literary and spiritual undercurrents which define so much about the sensitivity of the Iranian woman.
Mast-e mei-e eshgh. "Drunk on the wine of love," a quote from the poet Rumi, better known in Iran as Molana. Or perhaps it was Omar Khayyam? I'm not sure that every one of the women and girls in the crowd knew better than I did but the references rang loud and clear and raised the floor to its feet.
Drunk. Not the falling about obnoxious kind, but that singular relation with existence that we touch all too seldom. The drunkenness we experience when all boundaries disappear. In short, freedom.
Wine. Still produced by hand at home but which has, more recently, largely been supplanted as Iran's national drink by imported hard liquor and even drugs. In poetry it is the sometimes bitter, yet always a sensual, experience of life which guides you towards, towards...
Love. Nothing less than a standard to live by for high-idealed girls and women who find its incomparable expression in the well-leaved pages of the poems of Hafez.
Mousavi's own earthly, bullet-pointed speech, albeit with its promise to do away with the universally hated "moral guidance patrols," to my mind at least, received no more than full-voiced but ultimately dutiful applause. The kind of reaction a loving mother or wife gives to a son or husband who needs the approval.
Girls with determined, far-away looks in their eyes. Girls in the majority here today, comfortable with their femininity, oozing cuteness in the creative ways they've used ribbons, flowers and the color green. Girls enervated with a visceral hope that I saw unleashed by "mast-e mei-e eshgh" and which has been so adeptly harnessed by the Mousavi campaign.
Mousavi's conservative promise to "review unfairly discriminative laws through parliament" and his closing emphasis on "the weight of the work that still remains to be done" are carefully-weighted provisos which have been swept up in the air in a storm of optimism and which may later have to be read in plain black and white once they flutter back down to earth.
Girls with determined, far-away looks in their eyes. Girls in the majority here today, comfortable with their femininity, oozing cuteness with the creative ways they've used ribbons, flowers and the colour green. Girls enervated with a visceral hope that I saw unleashed by "mast-e mei-e eshgh" and which has been so adeptly harnessed by the Mousavi campaign.
Mousavi's conservative promise to "review unfairly discriminative laws through parliament" and his closing emphasis on "the weight of the work that still remains to be done" are carefully-weighted provisos which have been swept up in the air in a storm of optimism and which must later be read in plain black and white once they flutter back down to earth.
Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau