I wondered whether she had been smiling behind her black veil when we said goodbyeby Rory Stewart / November 20, 2001 / Leave a comment
They are not free because their minds are not free,” said the headmistress, introducing me to my first class. “You are not here only to teach them English, you are here to open their minds.”
Ten women were seated around a table in the over-heated room. All except two of them were wearing dark headscarves and overcoats. The two exceptions were enveloped in the full-length black veil, resembling a nun’s habit, that is called a chador. The headmistress had just returned to Iran after 15 years in Hamburg, married to a Dane. Perhaps because of this, she was the only woman who seemed to have difficulty keeping her hair in her headscarf. A purple curl had fallen forward onto her forehead.
“Hello,” I said. “I am Rory. I come from Scotland.”
The headmistress interrupted, “tell the class how you have come to Hamadan.”
“I walked here from the Turkish border.”
“Class, Rory has spent the last two months walking across Iran, only on foot, not using any transport.” She turned to me. “Iranian women are not free. They only think to get husbands with nice clothes and a nice job. That is why I will ask them whether they would marry a man like you.” She looked at the beautiful 14-year-old on my left. “Would you marry a man like this, Aisha? One that is walking all the time. He cannot give you a car. Well, what do you think?”
“It depends on the man,” said Aisha.
“Do you understand my question? Would you marry a man like this?”
Aisha looked at me and raised her black eyebrows. “It depends on the man.”
“You see, they are so conventional,” said the headmistress, turning to another student. “How about you, would you marry him?”
“I wouldn’t marry a man who was angry with me.”
“If he loved me and I loved him, I would walk with him all round this great earth, far and wide,” replied one of the women in a chador.
“You are too romantic.” She turned to me. “What is your idea in walking?”
“Well, it gives me a lot of time to think.”
“People think too much, you should just act. Do you think which foot to put in front of the other?”
“He cannot think on his own: you can only learn from other people,” a student interjected.
“Any more questions,…