Iran: University Student Writes on Violence Against Women - “Invisible Wounds”

Publication Date: 
June 19, 2011
Shadi Reyhani

University of Tehran student Shadi Reyhani writes a piece on the invisible violence against Iranian women.

You know, violence is not always about swollen eyes, broken teeth, and bloody noses. Violence can be the humiliation that comes from a dirty look; when a man looks down upon the fallen collar of a woman’s shirt while she is serving tea or the look of a brother when his sister is laughing out loud at a dinner party. These are looks that are invisible to us. We have no idea what [these looks] lead to once we leave the dinner party. Violence is the fear that has slowly crept into the psyche of women. It is a silent violence void of any physical contact. It is when the man opens the door and the woman becomes agitated at once and becomes sad. She doesn’t know why. It’s as if she is uneasy in the presence of her man. It’s as if she is not herself. She has the fear of not being able to live up to his expectations. She thinks less of herself; perhaps she needs to be skinnier or fatter or more beautiful or happier or more conservative or sexier or more of a homemaker…or wiser.

Violence is what a woman thinks she should be rather than what she actually is. Violence is a mask that the woman wears so that she can be something different than what she is; something that satisfies her man. A man can crush a woman without even touching her; without even intending to crush her. This is the heritage passed down to men from their fathers and grandfathers: violence, harassment, and humiliation are continuations of common profanities directed toward someone’s mother and sister; be it vocalized in a serious or joking tone. This is when we teach our children to not “cry like a woman”.

Violence, harassment, and humiliation begin when a man asks her not to wear something or not to socialize with certain people…just because! This is considered ‘love’; a ‘love’ that soon turns into a tool to control. The result is women who lack self-confidence and feel, powerless, sad, humiliated, fearful, dependent, and threatened to be left alone. These women may also get beaten up. The women believe that these wounds are wounds of love. They believe a loving man must create wounds and wounds will heal over time. A man’s violent behaviour is often legitimized by stating that he was drunk. When a man harasses, humiliates, and beats up a woman, being drunk is used a good excuse.

You know, physical abuse is not the worst type of violence against women. Swollen body parts, physical wounds, and broken bones heal with time. But the power, liveliness, and self belief that is taken away from women may never heal.

Violence is the heavy hand of a father that is raised against his nine-year-old daughter but never comes down on her. Violence is the bullying by a brother who forever puts a stop to the innocent love of a neighbour’s boy; frustrating his sister of pure neighbourly love. Violence is when a man burps out loud instead of thanking his wife for imprisoning herself in a kitchen all day to cook a delicious meal. Laws which enable a grandfather to inherit all of a woman’s inheritance when her father passes away are violence. The mother’s rights are ignored. Violence is when a brother inherits twice the inheritance of his sister and she is expected to appreciate the fact that he is the bread winner of the home.

Violence is about all of us women who accept all of the [above] without even protesting. And when one of us does protest, we ridicule her and call her names. We, ourselves are the embodiment of violence and we have no one to blame.

Written by Shadi Reyhani
Translated by Tour Irani