By Zeinab Rajaei 

As if I am reborn 

January 9, 2023 - 11:12
Exclusive report on women's meeting with Leader 

TEHRAN - The night before, I was told that my name was not confirmed, and I could not go.  My dreams were crushed. I had been daydreaming in the last two days about this visit. Like someone left from a pilgrimage, I told myself, "I was not fated to go.

This is not the first time that I am not invited." An hour later, they called again and said, "Don't be sad!" It was your day too, you are invited." I was a guest to the Leader’s house; now whoever heard the news said "Congratulation, it is like a real pilgrimage.”

Burning with enthusiasm 

I am sitting on a chair; excited and impatient! I am still far away, but I am very excited that there is no TV or mobile phone screen, nor photo paper, it is a real meeting.

 At the most central and farthest point of the Imam Khomeini Hussainiyah, I am agitated like a young child, surrounded by women, police officers, camerapersons and photographers. I don’t feel shy; I raise my right hand as high as possible and wave it enthusiastically. 

I feel like someone who sees a member of her family at Imam Khomeini Airport after many years. Although she has had video communication many times or seen her photos, but now, without the interference of technology, she meets her beloved in person. All the longing and sadness are forgotten. It fills you with joy.

After about three hours of waiting in my chair, I wave my hand sadly. We were in the long queues since around 7 am. Every person who joined the queue saw one or two acquaintances; friend, colleague, family and even neighbor... as if the world has shrunk!
Chatter and laugher can be heard. The most common question is: How many times have you been visiting "Agha"? We have been calling the Leader of the revolution Agha for years; a friendly word, simple, modest but full of respect.

An eye-catching simplicity

After 4 inspections, we reach at the door of Hosseiniyeh. There are some juice and cakes on a table. God damn Corona! inside Hosseiniyeh, the chairs are arranged on the carpet to observe social distance. How impatient we were to sit next to each other and complain from the pressure of the crowd; and say the name of the twelfth imam once or twice to get up and make  some space for others. But now these chairs show that Corona is still here. I am looking for a place to sit when I find myself behind the special seat bar, closest to Agha. The simplest table and chair and a microphone stand; humble, modest and friendly. After all these years, this simplicity is for the Leader of a country of 85 million population impressive and eye-catching.

I am in my chair. In this position, I have a bird's-eye view. People are waving their hands and greeting enthusiastically. Agha sits down but the crowd continues with their greeting. I don’t have pen and paper. I move towards a special place near the Leader where there are pen but no paper. A few people beside the wall shouts God is great, etc. Now that Agha has come and I have reached near him, I don’t want to go back to my seat and stand there watching Agha. God damn Corona. Agha is wearing a mask.

Here it is an honor to be a mother 

After a few movements, I am sitting unbelievably on the right side of Agha with a little angle. The chairs don’t let me see him. I try to stretch myself up to see him; this is the closest visit to this day. very far, very close. 

There is a maxim from Imam Sadeq hung over Agha saying: “The greatest blessing is from women.” Quran is read. Commotion decreases but does not stop totally. Baby girls begin to sing a song in group. Agha is reading a note which seems to be the content of the song by the girls. He likes both song and the music. 

One person mounts the rostrum; she introduces herself as Nafiseh Moosavi. She includes mother to her other titles. Here it is an honor to be a mother. I look at Hosseiniyeh and see honor in women with child in their arms. The presenter transfers the regards of women who could not come, and he answers back. 

In the opening of his speech, Agha would like to have the speeches made by some women to be given to him in written form so that he shares them with some group to study and find solutions for them. Agha’s point is about a suggestion by a housewife, named Parichehr Janati, about lack of an Iranian–Islamic house [in the country]. She thinks house is the most important trench for a woman and it is more important than educational, social and job security. She complains about houses which are cement cubicle mostly like prison for today’s women. She believes this architecture is based on capitalism and is making women to go to kindergartens and parks to find playmates for their children. She wanted a change in architecture to promote the value of house and home.

The second speaker is educated in Germany. She is a lawyer. She is wearing a Monto which is up to her knees and a scarf. There is another gray shawl over her scarf. Her attractive expression overcome the murmurs.   She is Maryam Aghashan. Her major is to defend rights and to divulge lies. She says at the heart of Europe she has been defending Iran against the West. Whenever she receives an honor, she says proudly: “I am an Iranian Shia Muslim.” She has proved Iranians’ power in deed. She stresses that women must make progress without using their gender. 

As a person who has been living in Germany, she is ready to testify that the truth of the West is far different from what their media introduces, and their purpose is nothing but to disappoint other nations to exploit their wealth.

A woman sitting beside me repeatedly says bravo and approves Naghashan. She says “wow, see what successful women we have. Bravo. They are shining like moon.” 

The takbir is heard again. Audience gets ready to listen to Mahdieh Sadat Mehvar. She is a producer and director who complains that policy-making councils do not enjoy the participation of educated women. 

When Shahrzad Zadehmodares mounts to rostrum and says that the average age for pregnancy has changed from 28 to 34 years, hums and murmuring go up in the Hosseiniyeh. She is a professor at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and talks about the problems created as the age for marriage and pregnancy has increased. She says this jeopardizes mothers and children and wants this to be on the top of officials’ agenda.

The next person is a middle-aged woman in the center of the Hosseiniyeh who speaks loudly in Arabic. No one understands her. But we recognize the name of Haj Qassem in her words and the crowd gets silent.  Negin Farahani is waiting at rostrum impatiently but listen to the Arab woman. The woman finally utters a few words in Farsi, “swear to Shalamcheh, to Chazabeh, to Khorramshahr, Swear to Haj Qassem “then she continues in Arabic.  Yesterday was the third anniversary of General Soleimani. 

Finally, Farhani starts her speech. She speaks in teenager voice and talks about the new young generations who are smart and aware and need to be given opportunity. 

There is murmur and noise in Hosseiniyeh because of children and mothers. No one complains about it. Women are used to these noises. All the speakers at rostrum request for Agha’s well wishes. Some ask for a souvenir. Sara Talebi is the last person giving her speech. She is the mother of children at home and 400 students at Hoozeh (seminary). She proposes to buy all Agha’s “keffiyehs”. Women and Agha smile. 

It is now Agha’s turn to speak, but I am running out of papers. I keep asking for paper but in vain. Finally, I ask two people for paper; they are on the other side holding a slogan sheet in their hands. One of them asks “Are you a journalist?”. I nod my head. 

She accepts my requests and hands me two pages of the handwritten slogans, which were like flags for her. I write the most important words of the Leader on the backside of the sheets.

The guests are women, and the topics are females’ issues. From the very beginning, the Leader of the Revolution emphasizes that we do not have a defensive position with the West regarding the women's issue and our position is demanding; but when he wants to talk about the abuse of women in the West and the capitalist system's attention to gender abuse, he says: "It's hard for me to talk about this, especially in the presence of women! According to the Western perspective, a woman's privilege is to be more attractive to a man, and this story is very sad."

Delicate female fists and fingers

When it came to home and family, he said “a woman is like air in a home; it is not possible to breathe out without her; woman is the source of love and peace in the family.” According to him, a woman's homemaking does not mean that she does not have political and social endeavors. But he emphasizes that for a woman and mother, health, faith and raising children are more important than anything else. "Women’s role at home", according to the Leader of the Revolution, “is such that with her delicate hands and fingers, she can untie the knots that men cannot handle with their strong hands and strong voices.” The audience shout, “God is great” in response to confirm and admire the statements of Agha.

The recent events and the efforts made against the hijab are another part of Agha's speech. He asks the audience twice about this: " In the recent events, who stood against efforts against hijab? The audience answer “women”. He says this response is a strong punch to the mouth of those who tried against hijab.

The last point of Agha is about the rules related to the family which makes the women in Hosseiniyeh to adore him even more. The Leader emphasizes that family rules should be so strong and firm that no man dares to use force, oppress, or raise his voice [at home]. The fists go up again with the sound of Takbeer and laughter. 

It is over. The meeting is over. It's time to say goodbye. The crowd, without hesitation or doubt, passes the bar of the special place and approach the speech platform. No one prevents women from entering the closest place to the Leader of the Revolution.

Agha exchanges a few words with some women. I am also unconsciously moving forward. I wish I had the courage to push aside the crowd and go closer. But during pilgrimages, I [usually] stand back and watch.  

Sadness has cast a shadow on the voices, some people are also crying. The Leader's keffiyeh is being released from his neck again; who is going to win it this time? I do not notice who got it. Agha waves his hand and disappears behind the green curtain that I was so excited to see an hour ago. This is the closest moment of the meeting. 

In front of me, a woman with her young child is walking side by side with several other women. They enthusiastically review all the words of Agha. One of them says: "No matter how much we were discouraged all this time, no matter how much we lost our hearts, this meeting was a victory!" I feel reborn..."

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