Sunday, January 24, 2010

The phoenixes of my land

In a commentary on a friend’s counseling article, I wrote about the terrible suicide of Iranian women. The initial article, written by Ms. Hedayatnia, was a generic investigation on the matter of suicide. Similar to many others, it had a Durkheimian perspective in which it had been proclaimed a negative correlation between the rates of suicide and the amount of cohesion in the society. You can see our articles in Persian here: mine, hers.
The figures published by the Legal Medicine Organization of Iran show that the highest rates of suicide is affiliated to provinces in which poverty is extensively prevalent. Provinces such as Ilam, Kermanshah and Lorestan are in this category. It may be surprising that these provinces are of the most traditional provinces of Iran with the tribal culture and with the most amount of cohesion between their people.
Isn’t it a disavowal of Durkheim’s theory? I don’t think so. If we go back to few decades behind, the theory would presumably reconcile with the fact. But now, in our times, you can see a lot of young people in such traditional and tribal provinces which have been familiar with modern cultures via different media. They think in a modern way, maybe some of them have high level of education, but at the same time they are obliged to live in the traditional situation of their community.
The situation is particularly more disastrous for women. In the traditional patrimonial cultures dominating these provinces, women and girls are considered as the possessions of their husbands or fathers. A lot of articles and books have been published on these issues (eg. On the girls’ hymen) and I don’t repeat them. What it is important here, is the discrepancy between these women’s expectations and the rough reality in these communities.
The life has lost its meaning for these women. They can’t endure to be treated as slaves while they have another democratic and modern world in their minds.
In Persian literature, phoenix (‘ghoghnous’) is a firebird that:
“It has a 500 to 1,000 year life-cycle, near the end of which it builds itself a nest of twigs that then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a new, young phoenix or phoenix egg arises, reborn anew to live again.”
Women and girls from the least developed provinces of Iran are our nowadays phoenixes. Notice the form of suicide they choose to free themselves: self-burning! They throw themselves in the flames of fire and let their bodies to burn completely and transform to ash. Self-burning is chosen because of its tremendous impression on other people. They want to transmit a message to us by reluming themselves. Their ashes are the seeds of a better tomorrow for my land, Iran.

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