January 1, 2007

The Curtain Falls On Iranian Theatre

From Sparerib - a women's liberation magazine
No 182 September 1987

Farzaneh Taidi Is an actress. She was smuggled out of Iron a few month* ago, and now lives In exile In London. What she has gone through In Iran under the Shah and then under the Khomaini regime typifies the life of many Iranian women.Rana Rahar who chose to live In London rather than under the Khomeini regime Interviewed Farzaneh.

taidi.jpgR: You must have faced many problems before you became a well known actress, could you tell us how you coped?

F: 1 was committed to becoming a professional actress, and to fight against all difficulties. 1 have now been an actress for over 18 years. My first and most important obstacle was my father. He was against my becoming an actress because like the majority of Iranians he considered acting an unsuitable profession for women. Women in Iran are expected to get married as soon as they leave school and by the age of 17 they would have had their first if not second child. Women are not expected to work outside the home.

R: How did you manage to overcome this fate?

F:1 had to think of ways to free myself of my father's hold on me. 1 was lucky to have the support of my sister and certain friends of the family. Coming from the upper middle classes also helped me to be in the right place at the right time. This accounted for my first TV appearance. A friend who knew people in the office of Dramatic Arts in Tehran told me that they were looking for someone to play the role of a European woman, My blonde hair and Nordic features made me ideal for the role. When father came home this friend mentioned that this play was being rehearsed and asked if it was alright for me to attend the rehearsal. He agreed and the next day 1 went for audition, and got the job. The problem was then how to trick father into letting me out of the house. My mother supported me by telling him that 1 wanted to attend my brother's piano classes. 1 went to rehearsals for a short while until one day my father turned up at the rehearsal. He was furious. He took me home and would not let me out of the house until my sister convinced him that 1 should learn English. 1 pretended 1 was going for English lessons while 1 was really attending rehearsals. This is how 1 managed to appear in my first TV play. After this my father agreed to my appearing in other plays as long as he could turn up at the first rehearsals to put me in the care of the directors or producers, This made me think that if 1 married an actor my father would get off my back and 1 would be free to pursue my career. i jut married and pregnant soon afterwards. This marriage of convenience did not work, 1 got a divorce, and lost custody of my three year old child. Soon after the divorce, my ex-husband sent our child to Britain. 1 was not allowed to see my son for 12 years, that was five months ago when 1 first arrived in London. 1 wanted to change Iranian society. 1 wanted to fight for women's rights. 1 used to think that by presenting different role-models for women society would change. It did not take long for my dreams to be shattered, 1 soon realised how patriarchal and commercial and male dominated Iranian cinema was. There are a lot of poor people in Iran, and 1 think that economic poverty usually leads to cultural poverty. This is reflected in the shoddy state of the film industry in Iran.

R: But we know that those who produce films are upper class, highly educated men. Why have they not been able to create an alternative world view for the Iranian culture?

F: If you are asking me why Iranian cinema has been so sexist and commercial, 1 would argue that it is related to the infrastructure of our poverty stricken society. The fact is that the majority of Iranian women and men are illiterate and poor. This means that they are not intellectually demanding from our intelligentsia who do not bother to produce any meaningful realistic or responsible art forms
Those who have a lot of money own the film industry and make their own films. These people are the most reactionary people in Iran in terms of cultural values and standards. Men who want money and fame meet young lower middle class women and promise to make them movie stars. They introduce these women to commercial directors, who first spend a few days and nights with these women in bed. Then they introduce them to drugs and ask them to act in their pornographic films. Many such women, betrayed and abused emotionally physically and sexually commit suicide.

taidi.jpg

R: Have directors and producers treated you similarly to how they treated these young women?

F: 1 never appeared in commercial films because they had no place for serious female roles. But even alternative and so called progressive film makers were very patriarchal in their attitude to women. They have never written a positive and active role for women other than the role of a prostitute or of a mother/ housewife. 1 have appeared in ten films between 73 and 78 1 played serious female roles in nine out of ten yet my roles in all of these films were minimal. The leading character was always a man. Iranian history has produced several strong and distinguished women such as Parvin Eatesaami, a poet and philosopher, and Gorat ul Alne, a women's rights campaigner of the 18th and 19th Century, But film makers in Iran never consider making a film about either of these two women.

R: Why did you not try to write your own script and direct your own films so that you could portray women in a different manner?

F: When 1 turned 30, and had just begun to feel confident and experienced enough to do such things the Islamic Revolution took over. And that compounded the obstacles 1 faced. My first troubles with the Islamic Republic began in 1979 only 7 months after the victorious take over by Khomeini. In February 1979, a journalist from the German magazine STERN asked me to comment on the impact of the Islamic Revolution on women. 1 said that 1 was very concerned about the future of women under the Khomeini regime. 1 explained how some fifty years ago because women were not supposed to be seen in public, male drag artists played women's roles in the theatre and cinema. 1 was concerned that those days may return. 1 said that the revolution was a disaster for progressive women. Immediately after it was published my statement was picked up by the Islamic Revolutionary Courts. Since then 1 have become the subject of unprecedented mental and psychological torture. At the time 1 was working together with my husband Behrooz Behnezed in Pars Theatre in Teheran. 1 was about to go on the stage when the phone rang and 1 was summoned to the Courts immediately.

They interrogated me for three days at the end of which they forced me to sign papers guaranteeing that 1 will never again give Interviews, It was like signing away my own Personal freedom.

From the moment of my arrest until the day 1 eft Iran five months ago, 1 have had the Revolutionary Guards and the Committees Armed Forces on my back . They would enter my dressing room without knocking . Their impression of actresses is that they are sexually available. They would pull out handkerchiefs and wipe our faces to make sure we did not have any make-up on. They would threaten to execute me in the revolutionary manner if 1 refused to observe Islamic uniform on the stage. Once 1 had a Kurdish style scarf instead of the government designated black grey or navy blue ones. Armed guards immediately appeared backstage and stopped the show.

R: How did you become a Mam Nou Ul Chehreh (forbidden to appear in films or theatre?)

F: It was a long process which 1 saw as an integral part of the power struggle that went on between the Mosque and the theatre and cinema. Pars Theatre was located exactly opposite a Mosque. We used to drive there every day. The Revolutionary Guards guarding the Mosque and the Mullahs running it were not happy to see hundreds of our fans rushing towards our car every day. Pars theatre had 850 seats all of which were always sold out. We had three shows a day all of which were sold out. On Fridays we had an extra show at 3 p.m. for those who attended Friday payers at the Mosque. That show too always was sold out. The Mullahs did not like our growing popularity. They started to compete with us by organising talks by leading islamic leaders of the government together with free three course lunches. People would travel from as far away as Mashahd (over 1000 miles) to see our plays. Theatre at that time was a very powerful means of communication while the mosque had only just begun to be a power base. Eventually they demanded that Pars Theatre remove displayed pictures of women actresses. Some months later they demanded that women's names should not be mentioned in any form of advertising, not even in the box-office area. They knew that our life-line was our audience and they were trying different ways of attracting them away from us. Fortunately none of their attempts worked and we were always fully booked that is when they started threatening us with death. Then and there 1 gave up acting.

taidi.jpg

R: Did they ever approach you with suggestions of cooperation with the Islamic system?

F:Yes, on numerous occasions we were approached by the Ministry of Information and Guidance with scripts for films. My part in the film was so ridiculous and so obviously propagandist that 1 was disgusted. According to the script 1 was to play a village wife with several children. 1 am standing on the roof of my house, my few months old baby is there too. 1 become furious with anger for some reason. In blind anger 1 pick up the baby and throw it down from the roof. Before the baby touches the ground 1 am to realise what 1 have done and 1 should scream Allah UL Akbar (God is great) and Ya Khomeini then two magical hands are to appear from nowhere and hold the baby just before it touches the ground and is saved. 1 refused to act in such a film. The film was to be directed by younger Mullahs or their relatives, with money provided by the government. 1 wrote back saying I would not be party to the spread of naivity and ignorance among village women. That was the ultimate disobedience. 1 was forbidden to appear in any films or plays.

R: Why didn't you leave Iran earlier?

F: 1 love my country. 1 would never have left had it not been for the continuous harassment of the Revolutionary Guards. 1 was also forbidden from leaving the country.My passport was confiscated. 1 had to be smuggled out. Some Pakistanis are now becoming wealthy
businessmen by smuggling Iranians like me out of Iran. They charge astronomical sums. After standing on street corners in Tehran to sell all my jewellery, paid my smuggler £20,000 pounds and arranged to meet him in the town nearest the border of Pakistan. It was a nerve shattering experience. 1 was anxious lest we are found out, anxious at not knowing what this strange man might do to me. Somehow 1 reached the border town safely. 1 was picked up by a little van which slowed down a little to pull me in and then accelerated away. 1 was alone with three men and we were driving fast across mountainous and dusty roads. After some time the van stopped in the middle of nowhere. Several men came out of hiding in the desert and jumped onto the back of the van. They were Iranians who also wanted to be smuggled out. A few hours later the van stopped in the middle of the desert and we all got out. In front of us was the vast desert. It was hilly and thorny, and we were to walk for many miles. 1 walked alongside the men until 1 could no longer go on. My lips were dry with heat and thirst. My feet were full of blisters and my face was burnt from the sun and dry heat. 1 had to walk until they found me a camel. 1 rode the camel until we were at the guarded border. 1 had to get off the camel and walk again. Altogether we walked and rode camels for over 350 miles across the desert. In Pakistan 1 saw thousands of Iranian refugees. They live under the worst possible conditions.

The smugglers get all that money from us in Tehran and make many promises regarding hotels being provided and pocket money being given until we get out of Pakistan. But once in Pakistan they disappear with the money leaving us to fend for ourselves. 1 had to stay there for a few weeks before the British Embassy gave me a visa and the relevant papers to come to Britain.

R: The Islamic Republic is repressive and offensive to Iranian women, why don't they revolt against the state?

F: The major barrier is that the majority of women, about 70%, are illiterate. This is because parents do not believe in educating their daughters because women are supposed to be wives and mothers only. Another barrier is the isolation women in the cities face. They have no experience of organising together to fight for their rights. Forming a liberation movement is a historical process that does not happen overnight. In the Western societies of today, women have the benefit of historical experiences such as the fight for the right to vote, to own property. But we don't have such experiences, and if we do, the knowledge of got out. In front of us was the vast desert. It was hilly and thorny, and we were to walk for many miles. 1 walked alongside the men until 1 could no longer go on. My lips were dry with heat and thirst. My feet were full of blisters and my face was burnt from the sun and dry heat. 1 had to walk until they found me a camel. 1 rode the camel until we were at the guarded border. 1 had to get off the camel and walk again. Altogether we walked and rode camels for over 350 miles across the desert. In Pakistan 1 saw thousands of Iranian refugees. They live under the worst possible conditions.

The smugglers get all that money from us in Tehran and make many promises regarding hotels being provided and pocket money being given until we get out of Pakistan. But once in Pakistan they disappear with the money leaving us to fend for ourselves. 1 had to stay there for a few weeks before the British Embassy them is denied to us by dictatorial governments we have been living under since the early 18th Century.

R: Is there anything women in the West could do to support Iranian women?

F: The feminists in the West should raise their own awareness of how their imperialist governments contribute to the repression of women in Iran. Because what is happening in Iran today is the result of concerted Western support for the Islamic Government. Do Western feminists know that their state machinery was involved in bringing Khomeini to power? They should fight against their own governments' involvement in Iran. Only when Western support is withdrawn, only then, Iranian women will find some breathing space to think of organising themselves and fighting for their own liberation.

SPARERIB



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http://www.farzanehtaidi.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/156
 
 
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minoo

hargez nemitavan tasavor kard kasi dar iran onham yek banoo betoone ta in had movafaghiat kasb kone va nadide gerefte beshe beomid rozhaye royaii

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فرزانه:مینو جان،عزیزم این گوشه ای از خیانتها و جنایات این رژیم است !!!!! ملیونها ایرانی،با تخصصهای حرفه ای در سراسر جهان آواره اند.....و بی هیچ جرمی.
زمان نشان خواهد داد حق با کیست......

 
 

 
 
Mohsen

ba arze salam khedmate khanoome taidi

baratoon arezooye movaffaghiyat daram

omidvaraim roozi shoma ro dar iran bebinim

Mohsen
az Karaj
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فرزانه: دوستِ من محسن از کرج(یادش به خیر!!!)منهم برات آروزی سلامتی دارم.به امید دیدن ایرانی آزاد.....

 
 

 
 
محسن

فرزانه خانم،

صفحه Comment در " سفر با باد " باز نميشه.

لطفاً شما يك بار اين موضوع رو با پروگرامر و سرويس دهنده فني اين سايت چك كنيد تا اشكالش برطرف بشه.

كوچيك شما- محسن

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فرزانه: من برای شما ایمیل هم فرستادم،که تشکر کنم از توجه و مهربونیِ شما،بخش ایمیل هم اشکال داشت ولی حتمآ حالا رسیده.
آقا محسن عزیز ،بازم ممنون.

 
 

 
 
Mohsen

I was so upset of this tragedy.
all the subjects which mentioned here are horrible and unbelievable real state of life in Iran. Hereby I do appreciate Farzaneh for such strenght and hope all the other Iranian women behave like her.

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farzaneh:dear friend,thank you so much for your honest comment.i have to say that,there is a lot more to say & share with you people to show the reality of what has happened to the actresses like me under the ISLAMIC regim......future will tell more......
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فرزانه:آقا محسنِ عزیز،من هنوز وقت نکردم به چند تا دیگه از نظراتِ شما(در بخشهای دیگه) جواب بدم!!!!
همینجا از مهر و محبتی که به من داری سپاسگزاری میکنم،و برایت آرزوی سلامتی دارم.

 
 

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