Cultural Trends/Popular Culture

Turkish Writer Discusses Her About-Face in Iran

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Solmaz Sharif speaks with Turkish author and journalist, Rabia Kazan, who is looking for English publication of her 2007 book "The Angels of Tehran." It chronicles her trip to Iran and a reshaping of her perspective on Islam.

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I left that hotel and finally settled down in a safe house. I was sick for a couple of days and during that time I reviewed what had happened to me. I decided to conduct some research on this topic and see what Iranian men and women think of Sigheh.

Q: That's why you stayed in Iran?

A: Yes. I interviewed various types of people, from taxi drivers to retail store managers. I talked to every woman that I had a chance to talk to, and I interviewed some women's rights activists.

Q: How did the Iranian women affect you?

A: I admired their courage. They don't accept the injustice. To me, it is like Iranian women talk through their eyes. I witnessed a scene in Iran that stunned me. A group of young girls were sitting around a table in a cafe, and a couple tables to their right, a group of young boys were hanging out. One of the girls was staring at one of the boys. After a while, that boy walked toward the girls and left a small piece of paper on the table (I was told that it was his phone number). She just looked at him but she wasn't only looking; she was, in fact, talking with that boy.

I have no doubt that one day these girls will "explode" and bring freedom for themselves and their country.

Q: You mentioned that this trip changed your view of Islam. Could you explain it more?

A: I went with a friend to a party one night in Tehran. Drinks and drugs were everywhere. It was like a Western nightclub. I was very religious at the time, so I was cursing them out loud when a young girl turned to me and asked, "Do you even know what is written in the Quran?" The truth hit me that even though I am a Muslim woman, I haven't read my holy book in my own language to fully understand what it says.

So I read the Quran as soon as I found one, and I was shocked by its severity toward women by allowing men to repress women's rights.

Q: Did your criticism of Islam cause any problems for you?

A: Of course it did. When I went back to Turkey, I gave my perspective in an interview. I made lots of enemies after that. Even my mom wasn't happy about my criticism. Then I decided to take off my Hijab, since the Quran does not require, only recommends, that women wear the scarf.

Q: That is a big change. Why do you want to publish your book in English?

A: When I published the book in Turkey, the Iranian government threatened me. Iranian officials wanted me to interview with their TV channel and say that I was hired by western countries to write this book.

Their reaction made me determined to publish my book in English so that more people around the world could better understand Iranian women's fight for freedom. I want to help Iranian women. I will donate my income from the first 2,000 books sold to an Iranian women's rights organization.


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Solmaz Sharif is an Iranian journalist and broadcaster with more than 12 years of experience. Sharif founded the first Iranian women sports magazine called, "Shirzanan," and was a broadcaster in BBC Persian. She moved to America in 2007 and now lives in New York.

For more information:

Rabia Kazan's blog:

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To say that I admire Ms. Kazan's courage would be an understatement. The fact that she traveled to one of the most harsh nations in the world and came out to write a book about her experiences is something I don't think I could ever do.
My only worry is that she is looking at Iran from an "outsider's" prospective. Yes, she shares the religion of a majority of Iranians; yes, she is a woman. Yet she is not an Iranian woman writing about the lives of Iranian woman. Her perspective, her view on the whole situation facing women will have a more Western skew. I understand she can empathize with the women there, but to me, it's like a French woman coming to America to write about the arguments about birth control here; she herself might have had personal issues regarding birth control, but her perspective is an outsider to the whole situation.
Nevertheless, I'm eager to buy and read her book.

Ms. Kazan is a very courageous woman! And thanks to womensenews for publishing her story!