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Iranian Film Fireworks Wednesday: A Gender-Based Analysis.

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By Bita Ibrahimi.

Translated by Matthew and Ashlee Pitts.

The use cinematography and film-making have become an outlet for creative individuals to analyse, criticise and question society in real-time. In Iran, women are playing an important role in this, even after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Historically, women have had extremely limited opportunities and were noticeably absent in the film world in Iran, however, the presence of women behind and in front of the camera has steadily increased since the start of the Revolution despite policies that required women to wear hijab[1] and to keep chastity on screen[2]. Asal Bagheri, a cinema expert, has described the current situation of women in Iranian cinema as being part of a “politically engaged” type of cinema[3].

In Iranian films, women are typically casted in subordinate roles to accompany their male counterparts, a lifestyle where they are subordinate to men. Moreover, women are reduced to playing traditional roles, such as the mother, wife and housewife, whose activities are limited to managing their children’s education, appearing desirable their husband, and doing household jobs. These films convey sexist and misogynistic images of the relationship between men and women. Men are generally placed on a pedestal and represent authority whereas women are portrayed in a negative light by encompassing their beauté fatale and a dependence on men. Many films in Iran depict recurring sexist and misogynic clichés.

Over time, the obligation to wear the hijab has become increasingly significant in representing a special image of women in Iranian cinema in comparison to other countries, in particular because of the way it conveys stereotypes and makes them a part of the norms of Iranian society. Gender plays an important part in contemporary Iran, and is at the center of this analysis of the films of Ashgar Farhadi, who is considered to be a prominent screenwriter and film director in Iran and throughout the world of cinema.[4] Farhadi is most famous for his film Fireworks Wednesday, released in 2006, which was given a positive reception and won awards in film festivals in Nantes and Chicago.

 

Tested by Adultery

The film is focused on an Iranian couple whose relationship is tested by adultery. The film takes place during the Iranian New Year, also known as the Festival of Fire (Chaharshanbeh Suri in Persian),[5] which was banned by religious authorities. During the celebrations, lamps and decorations are set up in large towns and cities. This festival provides the backdrop to the dramas between a young Iranian couple, and sheds a light on three main female characters.

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The first female character to appear in this film is a cleaner named Rouhi, who a poor and religious woman who comes from outside the main city and wears the chador.[6] She does the housework on a weekly basis and comes for the traditional final cleaning before the New Year.[7] Throughout the film, she quietly observes all goings-on as a passive spectator and she is portrayed as being content with her life. The viewer discovers parts of the plot through the eyes of Rouhi, and she plays a key role in the film despite her passive nature.

The second female character in the film is Mojdeh, who lives in the home where Rouhi goes to do housework. Mojdeh comes from a modest family background and is not particularly religious.  She has short hair, does not cook, does not respect norms in society regarding the duty of women at home and does not have a typically feminine appearance. The third female character is Simin, a divorced beautician. We do not have a lot of details about Simin, but it is revealed that Mojdeh’s husband Mojtaba is having an affair with Simin.

 

Women under the control of men

The film depicts some of the social, economic and religious pressures faced by women in different social classes in Iran. All Iranian women face enormous pressure, and the man remains the master over his wife. However, in the case of Rouhi, the director shows an example of her disadvantaged background. When Rouhi wants to ask permission from her husband in order to trim her eyebrows, this shocks Mojdeh who asks: “do you need the approval from your husband to trim your eyebrows?” Nevertheless, Rouhi insists that asking permission for something so ordinary is completely normal in Iran.

In comparison to Rouhi, Mojdeh is from a moderate family and she does not have to ask permission from her husband. However, she is subjected to physical violence. In one scene, Mojdeh’s husband hits her, and the camera shows her crying in a taxi. In addition to violence, this scene portrays the low status of women in the patriarchal society of Iran. Mojdeh also cries in the bathroom when she discovers that her husband has been unfaithful. She is helpless to do anything other than crying, and is unable to change her situation. In Iran, women are not afforded the legal right to file for divorce whereas men are able to do so fairly easily.[8] Moreover, in one scene where the Mojdeh’s son is crying, a male friend of Mojtaba says to him: “men never cry!”. In this film, tears are the sign of weakness, and, as women are portrayed as weak, only women should cry.

In addition, Motjaba places the blame on his wife who, in his eyes, is not sufficiently feminine. Motjaba complains that he “can’t remember the last time she cooked. Ask the neighbours if they can smell food being cooked”. Cooking is the main duty of women in Iran, as well as being the sign of their feminine nature and social standing.

 

What is the role of women in cinema in Iran?

Women generally play an important role in Iranian cinema. They were originally caricatured as being dependent on men and, for most of the time, content to be inferior to men, whereas the characters played by men were portrayed as charismatic, confident and firm in standing up for their religious beliefs. Over time, the status of men and women changed in Iranian cinema, and now women are capable of taking the initiative in changing their situation. In the film Fireworks Wednesday, the film director attempts to alter the static position of women in society by demonstrating the plot through the eyes of women and the way they feel, which consequently allows the viewer to feel empathy towards the female characters. However, as it has already been noted, signs of masculine dominance and the masculine viewpoint of the director are shown in an apparent way in the film. Women are reduced to just a few emotions, notably anger, anxiety, irritability and crying. In short, although Asghar Farhadi intended to depict the true nature of the status of women in contemporary Iranian society, it is evident that he has not shown their true position. His interpretation of the role of women has been influenced by the masculine point of view that he has of society, and this consequently has an impact on the way he represents women in Fireworks Wednesday.

[1] The hijab – which means headscarf or veil in Arabic – refers to the Islamic headscarf only covering the head. It can surround the whole face or be tied more loosely to reveal some of the women’s hair.

[2] For women in Iran, sexual relations outside of marriage are strictly forbidden, and adultery can be punished by stoning. The control of feminine sexuality represents the guarantee of ensuring chastity. For a full explanation, see https://blogs.mediapart.fr/irani/blog/040416/iran-la-condition-feminine.

[3] Quoted from « Et la censure créa le cinéma des femmes iraniennes » https://www.opinion-internationale.com/2016/01/26/et-la-necessite-crea-le-cinema-des-femmes-iraniennes-entretien-avec-asal-bagheri-specialiste-du-cinema-iranien_23169.html

[4] Read more about Farhadi at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asghar_Farhadi

[5] The lamps and fire symbolise the hope of the arrival of light and happiness in the following year. There are many fireworks and fires in the streets.

[6] The chador is a type of fabric in the shape of a semi-circle that is worn in Iran. It hides both the head and the body of the women. It has to be held up at all times to avoid falling on the floor. The chador was originally worn during prayers before it became obligatory to wear it all times in public. Reza Shah banned the chador in 1936, but it was reintroduced upon the arrival to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.

[7] This is the final cleaning before the start of the New Year, which is called Norouz and takes place on 21 March according to the Iranian calendar.

[8] Only men have the right to ask for divorce according to Islamic law. In Article 1133 of the Islamic civil code, it is stated that “a man can divorce his wife whenever he so chooses”. The current family law on divorce (or talaq in Arabic) supports the right of the husband to ask for a divorce at any time, while at the same time applying some restrictions. For instance, a man has to ask permission at a tribunal to grant a divorce if his wife disagrees. The role of the tribunal is to attempt to reach a mediation between the couple. If a reconciliation is not possible, the man then has the right to a divorce.

 

Reasons for the variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets.

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Source: Http://www.mdgmonitor.org

 

By Florence Goodrham

The MDGs established in 2000 by international agreement are probably the most significant major attempt to defeat poverty ever undertaken.  The UN set out eight development goals to reduce global poverty substantially by 2015.  They are viewed as basic human rights – the rights of every person on earth to health, education, shelter and security.  Reasons for variable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal targets can be determined through examining different regions. These include Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, South Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Read the rest of this entry »

The Ottoman Empire : is it back to life in modern day Turkey?

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By Camille de Félice.

Translated by Matthew Hall.

The period following the attempted coup d’état on 15 July 2016 in Turkey has been characterised by efforts to reshape our understanding of historic events. This historical revision is a regular occurrence in Turkish history since the foundation of the Republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who placed an emphasis on the pre-Islamic history of the Turkish people and considered that the Ottoman Empire was reactionary and needed to be consigned to the past. This wish to manipulate history saw a turning point through the arrival in power of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) in 2002. The AKP, which inherited the tradition of political Islam in Turkey, has positioned itself to be the voice of a majority that had been too often ignored and even held in contempt by the elites during Atatürk’s rule, and its takeover of political power allowed Turkey to reclaim the Islamic and Ottoman eras as their own. The increase of symbols representative of Ottoman power[1] that are sometimes used as decorations, such as stickers on car windscreens and mobile phone cases, as well as the large number of cafes bearing the name ‘Ottoman’, the growth of ice-cream sellers dressed in clothing corresponding to the image that Europe has of the Ottoman Empire and the popularity of this style in furniture shops, feature among those of the imperial legacy that were previously suppressed. Read the rest of this entry »

The GIMUN Chronicles, 29th of March, 2017.

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EDITORIAL.

By Lama El Khamy & Michelle Bognuda
@Lamaelk_GIMUN | @mbognuda_gimun

image 29_03There were so many of them, and they all arrived in a mass. They came from all over, at different times and in different ways. Some were tired, some were excited. They were all anxious about what lied ahead. Mostly, they came, because they wanted to pave a better future for themselves and those that they cared about.

So many people wanted to cross the border, and not all of them managed to do it. Some had friends from within the walls and knew what to expect, others had no idea whatsoever of what they would find. They swarmed in, all at once, and the locals were overwhelmed.

However, everything turned to be fine. Indeed, it was an utter success. People from all over the world were together, in the same place, and they discussed freely. They exchanged different points of view and they learned from each other. After a week of debating they unfortunately had to leave the Palais des Nations, because the Annual Conference had come to an end. They
loved it though, and leaving was bittersweet. They left the UNOG as better versions of themselves. Their views and horizons were better and grander than they were on registration day at Uni-Bastions. They promised their new friends to keep in touch, and they promised themselves to apply to GIMUN again the year after.

* * *
Yes, dear delegates and staff, this introduction was indeed about the conference, and not about illegal immigrants. But, Marco Sassoli’s contribution to the Human Rights Committee yesterday struck a nerve with us, and we wanted to tease your mind. As you will see if you check our article about his speech, he talked about diversity and immigration, among other things. And he talked about legal immigration as a possibility of solving a lot of the problems that we hear about, like raft accidents and so forth. If you were not there, ask your friends who were to bring you up to speed.

So, work hard in your committees. Learn how to debate, and use this invaluable skill to tackle discussions and topics such as that of Mr. Sassoli, even with people who don’t have your same frame of mind. We need this now, more than ever. Or, as Director General Michael Møller said, tagging us on Twitter, “faites entendre votre voix, participez dans le débat”!

The GIMUN Chronicles, 28th of March, 2017

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EDITORIAL.

By Valentina San Martin & Meryl Brucker
@ValSanMar | @MerylBk_GIMUN

image 28_03Depuis quelques heures, la conférence annuelle de GIMUN 2017 bat son plein. Vous-mêmes, participants, êtes au coeur de cette expérience qui ne fait que débuter. N’est-il pas excitant de savoir que les débats, mais aussi les évènements post-conférence, vont continuer à se succéder au cours de cette semaine, alors que les rencontres et les discussions ne feront que s’intensifier ? Les articles du jour aborderont des thèmes tout à fait sérieux comme les injections létales ou le maintien de la démocratie. Ceux-ci seront agrémentés de clichés de la journée d’hier ainsi que d’autres divertissements variés. De quoi certainement patienter en vue de se retrouver ce soir autour d’une boisson rafraîchissante pour éventuellement élargir les débats. En ce qui vous concerne, sachez, chers participants, que nous savons que vous avez oeuvré pour cette conférence et que le résultat qui s’ensuit n’a pu être possible que grâce à des efforts continuels de la part de chacun d’entre vous. Il est désormais temps d’en récolter les fruits ou plutôt de «manger le gâteau », comme l’a si bien dit notre cher Secrétaire Général, Charles Bonfils-Duclos, lors de sa dernière interview. Nous voulons que vous savouriez ce gâteau, que vous partagiez ce plaisir via Twitter, Instagram ou même Snapchat ! Nous comptons sur vous pour faire de cette conférence la meilleure expérience genevoise possible car vous l’avez bien mérité. Sur ce mot de la fin, nous aimerions vous remercier pour votre ouvrage.

The GIMUN Chronicles, 27th of March, 2017.

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EDITORIAL.

By Lama El Khamy & Michelle Bognuda
@Lamaelk_GIMUN | @mbognuda_gimun

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If you are a veteran MUNer, you know what is waiting for you: debates, concentration and fulfillment. If you are new to this world, you will find out that even though we all know that this is a simulation, it is terribly real. Real, because you will meet people who will inspire you. Real, because you will talk about and defend actual issues, that UN committees, literally next door, are also discussing. Real, because you will leave this week feeding for more, and longing for your next conference.

What is so special about MUN, you may ask. Well, first of all, MUN is found in countless countries around the world. But, let’s focus on what’s important here. In general, it helps you understand that in fact there are other youths interested in something grander than themselves. By participating, as you may already know, you realize that your doubts and thoughts about the future have a platform here. You are fighting for a country that most likely is not your own, but you get to learn about a new culture, and when you hear fellow quasi-delegates speak, you realize that everyone is practicing and learning and defending. These are
keywords for virtually everything. Practice makes perfect. Learning feeds the brain, whatever it may be about. Defending what is right, or maybe even wrong, makes you think, and thinking is the invaluable base of everything. MUN is a great opportunity to open your mind to the world, an opportunity that helps you grow as a person. And what better way to do that than in style!

GIMUN, in particular, has its perks. Geneva is a multicultural city, and GIMUN takes place at the actual UN headquarters, thank you very much. You are waiting in line to be vetted by security and you hear real-life delegates chit-chatting. You are waiting in line at the cafeteria and you catch a glance at some super-serious-looking person that’s obviously the real deal. It gives you strength. It shows you what is next, after classes and exams and job applications. You can explore what you want to do next. And while you learn how to debate, a larger than life skill, you can actually see minds at work for the greater good.

In this issue of the GIMUN chronicles, we have prepared a great surprise for you, and it involves a very important UN public figure. We’ve also provided you with several discussions about current topics, which we are sure that you’ll enjoy and discuss with your colleagues. Now, enough of us and read on. Welcome to the Palais des Nations!

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The GIMUN chronicles, 25th of March, 2017.

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EDITORIAL

THE GIMUN CHRONICLES | EDITION VII
GENEVA INTERNATIONAL MODEL UNITED NATIONS
By Meryl Brucker & Valentina San Martin
@MerylBk_GIMUN @ValSanMar

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Dans un monde où il devient de plus en plus difficile de trouver l’équilibre entre liberté d’expression, croyances et coexistence pacifique, la conférence annuelle de GIMUN 2017 ne pourrait pas s’annoncer plus en symbiose avec sa ville-Genève. Symbole de paix, de démocratie et de dialogue elle se démarque par son histoire diplomatique riche et érige un principe qu’elle affectionne tout particulièrement: la neutralité. Il n’en sera pas moins capital ni anodin d’aborder les thèmes de crises socio-politiques qui continuent d’ébranler le monde à ce jour. En tant que conférenciers, il faudra se demander ce qui a poussé, chacun d’entre nous, à participer à ces grandes discussions qui s’étendront sur une semaine entière. Quels sont nos objectifs, nos idéaux? Il n’y a rien de plus porteur d’espoir que de voir de jeunes individus en quête de sens et de solutions se réunir dans l’emblématique Palais des Nations pour partager leur conception de la diplomatie. En cherchant à passer outre les convictions éthiques, politiques ou religieuses de chacun – ce qui semble diviser plus que jamais nos sociétés contemporaines, cette conférence se basera sur l’écoute, le respect et la perspicacité. Notre équipe presse se chargera donc d’informer chaque participants de l’avancée des discussions. Elle tentera également de dépeindre l’actualité internationale et de vous livrer un contenu complet et stimulant. Sur cette note plus que jamais positive, il ne reste plus qu’à souhaiter à chacun d’entre vous une semaine riche en discussions, en rencontres, en émotions et bien entendu en lecture!

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