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Missing the point?
Another look at Iraj Mirza's famous poem on the chador [Full text]

September 4, 1998
The Iranian

When I bought "The Complete Poems of Iraj Mirza" from Iranbooks in Bethesda, just outside Washington DC, I went straight to the poem I had heard so much about over the years -- the one about his views on the chador, which was written some 50 years ago.

I had already read or heard parts of it before. But I had never read it in its entirety. As I was waiting for a friend in the car, I read it all with great enthusiasm. What courage and wisdom, I thought. Iraj Mirza had made a strong argument against false chastity, but with great sense of humor and imagination. And he used adult language in a way rarely seen in Iranian literature, even today, outside Iran.

When my friend got into the car, I asked her to give me a moment of her time. But before I finished the first page, she asked, "Isn't this the one about rape?"

I was stunned. "Rape? Who said it was about rape? It's about the fact that a woman is not necessarily chaste if she covers herself head to toe."

"I can't believe it!" she said. "My God! How can you not see that the man raped her? Women have been subjected to many forms of oppression. But rape is a far more serious issue than the chador."

"But 50, 60 years ago, the chador was a big social issue and that's why Iraj Mirza wrote a poem about it. The woman here raises hell when the man, a stranger, asks her to take off her chador. But she does not resist him when he tries to have sex with her."

"Excuse me. But she does try to resist. She's not at all willing to have sex with this guy. That's rape, plain and simple."

Read it and decide for yourself (in Persian) >>> Page one

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