PART I – Since your love became my calling

Summer was over sooner than I thought. At the school enrolment we were told that girls and boys were no longer allowed to go to the same schools; since my school had been chosen as a school for girls, my parents had to find a boys’ school for my third grade. Mum began her undergraduate nursing course and was very excited about the dawn of a new phase in her life. Dad had become dean, Faculty of Metallurgy, University of Science and Technology, and Uncle Mohammed, my mother’s brother, back from Paris after completing his PhD in Sociology, was employed at the Sociology Research Centre at National TV. Despite being forced to change my school, everything still seemed all right. I didn’t really care about having no female classmates; I would have more fun with the boys. The girls would only remind me of Azadeh.

However, after a while, not having any female classmates felt strange. We no longer competed for the girls’ attention and the rate of cursing, swearing and bad language steadily increased. It was then that I learnt about sex and I couldn’t believe my ears until I asked dad what ‘fuck’ meant and why anyone would want to fuck his friend’s mum. Dad was forced to give me ‘the talk’ much earlier than he had planned.

We were given new schoolbooks with the picture of Imam Khomeini on the first page. Every morning we stood in line in the yard while someone recited a few verses from the Quran and then we had to listen to the new National Anthem:

The Islamic Republic has been established,
To give us both religion and this world.
Because of the Iranian Revolution,
The palace of oppression has been destroyed.
The image of our future is the picture of our Imam Our everlasting force is our faith and unity
God’s hand is helping us,
And in this battle He is our guide.
In the shadow of the Quran,
Let Iran stand forever.

It would be many years before it was replaced by something a little more meaningful.

Nothing had really changed in our lives other than what we were taught each day at school: to love Khomeini, which I didn’t mind since I loved him anyway; the atrocities of the Shah’s regime, which I already knew about; and training in Islam, which I was already receiving in good measure from both Madar and Hadj-Agha. But dad was already beginning to worry. Other than classical music and revolutionary songs, music was banned under the Sharia. Films, when they were shown again at the cinemas and on TV, were censored. Most of what we saw on TV was either revolutionary films such as Z and State of Siege, or from the Second-World-War era about Yugoslavian partisans fighting the Nazis, or Russian black-and-white films such as How the Steel Was Tempered. More and more women began to wear headscarves or chadors—although it wasn’t compulsory yet—and more and more men displayed short beards, thus conforming to the Islamic prohibition on shaving facial hair.