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Shahbanou's Reminder

By Reza Bayegan

Shahbanou's regular messages to her compatriots are more than royal declarations on topical Iranian issues. They provide us with a sense of perspective in the midst of chaos, and instability that has been our national lot for the past quarter of a century. From the sadness of exile, Empress Farah has observed the discipline of keeping the channels of communication open between herself and her compatriots. Her website has an extremely high number of visitors and she is as devoted as ever in pursuing humanitarian, educational and cultural activities. In spite of all the tragedy in her own life, she has always been there to express her solidarity with her people in times of sadness and also moments of celebration.

In Shahbanou, Iranians find not a fair-weather royal, but a veteran soldier of her country’s modernization programme and campaign for equal rights for women. Her latest message on the occasion of International Women’s Day, 8 March, was a clear testimony to that continuing role. Her strong and encouraging words are the articulation of the irrepressible commitment of Iranian women in securing their inalienable rights, dignity and freedom. The text of the message underlines the many victories that Iranian women have been able to achieve over the past century. Shahbanou reminds her compatriots that thanks to the irreversible strides in the years prior to the revolution, Iranian women have been able to resist the worst oppression of the clerical dictatorship. Moreover the humiliating situation of women under the Islamic Republic with all its pains and suffering is only a temporary setback in the road to the attainment of democratic rights for all Iranians. Shahbanou’s reassuring words remind us that the obstinate cloud of fanaticism will not be able to dominate the Iranian skies forever.

Shahbanou ends her words very aptly with a line from a poem by Forough Farrokhzad's Another Birth:

I will grow I know I know I know

In this poem Farrokhzad invokes an oppressive and desolate atmosphere. Nevertheless, in the midst of despair there comes the life-affirming promise of renewal. The speaker pledges to plant her hands in the garden and declares her belief in their regeneration. In other words, creativity and power bide their time beneath the darkness of the passage between the past and the future. The bleak and dismal winter with all its false air of permanency has no alternative but to give way to the superb vitality of the spring. Forough Farrokhzad not only helped to free the sensibility of Iranian women from ready-made emotions and conventional mindset, but also made all Iranians, men and women face their world with a renewed sense of responsibility and sincerity. She challenged us to make a break through our self-imposed prisons of rigidity and dogmatism. In one of her celebrated poems she wrote:

Oh the incarcerated voice

Will not the splendour of your despair

Ever succeed in burrowing its way

Out of this detestable night?

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, nothing could have been more appropriate than Shahbanou’s remembrance of the genius of a woman whose poetry is the crown jewel of modern Iranian literature. Empress Farah’s message this time, like on previous occasions, is an appeal to our nation’s sincere and intelligent self, and a reminder that we should live up to the best thoughts and emotions present in our great culture and literature.


... Payvand News - 3/23/06 ... --

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