The current socio-political climate of extreme nationalist narrative has Iran as archenemy, hatred of Muslims, and misogyny deeply embedded within it. Challenging accepted wisdom about Iran, I photographed and spoke to women there during our brief window of freedom between travel bans. In confronting stereotypes of Iran, including those arising from American patriarchy, we must consider the context of imperialism and associated power dynamics in both countries.
Nothing the government or media spins about Iran seems true. A woman boldly spoke to me about Islam and Zoroastrianism, in ways that would surprise Americans. Another told of US sanctions leaving ruling ayatollahs untouched, but mothers without life-saving medicines. Trump supporters were compared to Ahmadinejad’s. Women spoke about religious police and underground parties, corruption, harassment, and restrictions on art and music.
Our governments seek to repress us, and we resist, expressing ourselves in ways that are possible within cultural contexts. Feeling myself a woman undercover in Iran, I returned home to growing oppression within the then-new regime, where women were expected to “dress like women,” keep their mouths shut, and give men whatever they wanted. American women hit the streets to express their opposition. In the streets and malls of Tehran, women expressed resistance in different forms: hair streaming from under a hijab, a full face of makeup, a glimpse of clothing under a long coat. As our government seeks to restrict our freedoms in an increasingly uneasy political climate, I consider the struggles we share with the women in these photos and admire the resistance of other women undercover.