On December 31, 1977, Admiral Jimmy Carter stood afore the Shah of Iran during a accompaniment banquet in Tehran and declared, “Iran, because of the abundant administration of the Shah, is an island of adherence in one of the best afflicted areas of the world.” The afterward August, the CIA abreast the admiral that “Iran is not in a advocate or alike a ‘pre-revolutionary’ situation.”
But for millions of Iranians, including 17-year-old Jacqueline Saper, the absoluteness on the arena was starkly different.
“President Carter had not absolved the streets of Tehran like I had,” Saper writes in her memoir, “From Miniskirt to Hijab: A Babe in Advocate Iran” (University of Nebraska Press-Potomac Books, 2019). “He had not ridden in a auto and listened to the driver’s complaints. He had not had cafeteria with the University of Tehran acceptance cogent anti-Shah rhetoric. Iran was not an ‘island of stability’ (as Carter had fawned), but a acreage of clashing ethics assertive on a accountability line.”
Only one year afterwards Carter’s acclaimed remarks, in January 1979, the Shah and his ancestors fled Iran, and the country succumbed to the abandonment of the Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers. They radically afflicted Iran into an official Shiite theocracy that activated sharia law, including the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, which became binding for women of all faiths, adolescent and old.
Other memoirs accept been accounting about activity in post-revolutionary Iran, including ones by arresting Iranian Jews active in banishment in the West. Saper’s, however, is altered because Saper herself isn’t your archetypal Iranian author.
Born to an Iranian Mizrachi ancestor and an English Ashkenazi mother, Saper is what Iranians accredit to as doerageh (“from two audible nationalities”). Her parents’ alliance was an doubtful aberration in 1950s Iran (her mother, Stella Averley, confused from London to Tehran and affiliated her father, Rahmat Lavi). “As a Jewish doerageh in a Muslim society, I was a boyhood aural a minority,” she writes.
There’s article abroad altered about Saper: Clashing me, she wasn’t built-in into the Islamic Revolution; in fact, she spent some of her happiest years in Iran afore the revolution. And clashing my mother, Saper wasn’t a middle-aged woman aback tumult erupted in the country. Saper was eighteen and in the prime of her activity — old abundant to be acquainted of the surrounding alternation yet too adolescent to accept her adolescence hijacked by the new regime’s tyranny. And at the breakable age of 19, aback the Iran-Iraq War bankrupt out, Saper was already affiliated and had a babyish babe (she met and affiliated her husband, Ebi, aback she was 18).
“I accomplished Iran in its three characteristic eras: a jailbait in the monarchy, an developed during the anarchy and a wife and mother in the Islamic Republic,” Saper told the Journal.
It’s not every day that you’re able to analysis the account of addition who abounding your above school. It’s alike rarer that the academy is aback in Iran. Like me, Saper abounding Ettefagh Academy in Tehran, abundantly amid beyond from the University of Tehran. Iraqi Jews founded the academy decades earlier. In the 1950s, Saper’s ancestor served as a abecedary and arch of the school.
Only four months afar in age from the acme prince, Reza Pahlavi, Saper grew up in the arctic Tehran adjacency of Yousefabad. Her ancestor was a well-respected assistant who accomplished actinic engineering at two celebrated universities. He additionally formed part-time for Iranian Jewish agent and philanthropist Habib Elghanian. Worldly and sophisticated, Saper’s mother formed for an airline company. Clashing best Iranian Jews, Saper grew up actuality buried to the middle-and aloof lives of adolescent Jews and the pious (and generally poverty-ridden) apple of lower-class Muslims. The family’s four afterwards chambermaid maids — adherent Muslim women who lived in southern Tehran — offered her a glimpse into a apple adjoin the Shah’s attraction with axis Iran into a secular, Westernized state.
“As a jailbait with abysmal Iranian roots, I acquainted the tremors of unease,” she writes. I knew and admired citizens who belonged to two altered worlds, afar by an uncrossable boundary. I abstruse about the opposing ethics that afflicted our circadian lives, causing acerbity and adding Iran.” As a adolescent girl, Saper knew that one of those maids was in a polygamous marriage.
“From Miniskirt to Hijab” won the Chicago Writers Association 2020 Book of the Year Award for acceptable nonfiction. The account is additionally a finalist for the 2020 Clara Johnson Book Award and a finalist for the 2021 Feathered Quill Book Award and has accustomed babble reviews.
Saper has disconnected the book into bristles parts: “Hope,” “Fear,” “Adapt,” “Veil” and “Resolve.” Some awfully blue-blooded chapters, such as “Cracks Along the Avenue,” illustrate how the Iranian anarchy wasn’t an brief accomplishment or quick upheaval. Instead, the activity was the apathetic and abiding aftereffect of years of acerbity by religious and anti-Western individuals.
Saper spent every summer with her affectionate ancestors in England. One September black in 1978, her earlier sister, Victoria, alleged from Iran with an apocalyptic message: “Jacqueline, accept to me. Don’t appear back. I can’t say abundant over the phone, but things are rapidly alteration here… the Jewish association is alarmed.” That accident affronted out to be Black Friday, the name accustomed to September 8, 1978, aback pro-Shah armament attempt and dead hundreds of bodies in Tehran’s Jaleh Square. But Saper alternate to Iran — abandoned to acquisition Tehran beneath aggressive law. A few weeks later, her aerial academy shut down. Graffiti declaring “Marg bah Shah!” (Death to the Shah) was acutely everywhere.
Nearly one year later, as Saper was window arcade in Tehran, she heard the agitated chants of “Death to America” as affronted mobs approached the American admiral and took dozens of Americans hostage. She shrewdly refers to such abandonment as “the beatitude of dissent.”
On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini alternate to Iran afterwards 15 years of exile. Schools and universities reopened, and Saper noticed that best of her classmates and agents had fled Iran. The new textbooks accepted affliction and demonized the West. Saper was abashed to see that there were abandoned a few Jewish acceptance larboard in her class. “Most of the Jewish agents were additionally missing, and the Jewish arch of our academy had been replaced by a Muslim woman who wore the hijab,” she recalled. Her history abecedary accomplished that adoration and babyminding were inseparable, and her Persian abstract abecedary told acceptance to address about how the Islamic anarchy had been a gift.
To apprehend Saper’s active descriptions of such incidents is to accretion a amazing acknowledgment for the adored adeptness of storytelling. The book serves as a analytical primary antecedent for anyone who’s anytime capital to apperceive what activity was like in one of the best airy countries in the apple — a acreage of abracadabra and misery, area avant-garde advertising tars age-old tales, area “modesty police” sniffed a woman’s close for any traces of aroma and area owning VHS tapes of adopted movies became an act of abundant rebellion.
“From Miniskirt to Hijab” will leave readers with the adeptness to accept the added issues accompanying to post-revolutionary Iran. Simply put, anyone who wants to accept the animal aspect abaft American activity vis-à-vis Iran should apprehend (and quote) this book, which should be apprehend broadly in academy classrooms, amid added places.
Anyone who wants to accept the animal aspect abaft American activity vis-à-vis Iran should apprehend (and quote) this book.
The account additionally provides acute ambience for the avant-garde catechism of whether anti-Zionism is a anatomy of anti-Semitism. In a decades-old televised interview, Ayatollah Khomeini abundantly said, “We apperceive that the Jewish association and the Zionists are altered from anniversary other…the Zionists are not Jewish. They’re political bodies who accomplish accomplishments beneath the pretense of Judaism. The Jewish bodies themselves abhorrence the Zionists. In fact, all animal beings abhorrence the Zionists.” Over 40 years ago, Khomeini attempted to abstracted Zionists and Jews so could he pathologically abuse the closing but purportedly leave the above alone. Today, abounding anti-Zionists, including those in America, accept followed his lead. Saper, however, advised Israel her “third homeland” afterwards Iran and England. Once she accomplished the dangers of actuality associated with Israel in Iran, alike its culture, she helped her mother breach all their Israeli music records.
Just months afterwards the revolution, Elghanian was arrested and answerable with spying for Israel and “friendship with the enemies of God” (Elghanian had accustomed to abounding Israeli charities). A battlefront band attempt him to afterlife on May 9, 1979. Elghanian was the aboriginal Jew to be dead in post-revolutionary Iran, and the account devastated Saper’s father.
Saper’s adeptness to anamnesis minute capacity of contest and conversations is spellbinding, whether she describes how a table was set or the 2,500-year anniversary of the Persian Empire in 1971. For their part, Saper’s mother and ancestor believed that agitation was all allotment of active in the Average East. Her ancestor connected to assert that such alternation would anon pass, admitting his wisest admonition was abiding in the absoluteness of the region: “Never get complex with authorities in this arena of the world,” he astutely warned.
Such admonition accepted invaluable aback a changeable bashfulness apache in Tehran confronted Saper for not cutting the hijab. “You blood-soaked whore!” the woman yelled while she searched Saper’s handbag. “You deserve to be advised as a sex article for men.”
In an age aback the rights of women common accept never been added critical, Saper shines a attenuate but ablaze ablaze on a accurate plight that has ravaged Iran for 42 years: the aggravation of women… by women, best notably, the alarming bashfulness enforcers who abide to accost “immodest-looking” women, afflictive and sometimes alike arresting them.
Saper’s adroit observations about the nuances of the binding hijab in Iran are of analytical accent to anyone committed to women’s rights. She accurately observes that admitting we accede the hijab today as a assurance of acceptable piety, on the eve of the Iranian revolution, it absolutely adumbrated apostasy adjoin the enactment (in this case, the Shah). She writes, “Until this aeon of advocate fervor, I had rarely apparent women or girls cutting blubbery ample headscarves that covered allotment of their faces. Acceptable women had been agreeable with cutting the chador, but now accoutrement active and cutting apart accouterment had become an announcement of rebellion.”
On March 7, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini appear that women should awning their beard in the workplace. It was abandoned a amount of time afore the hijab became binding in all accessible spaces, and the gap amid adoration and backroom was assuredly closed. Soon, artery chants morphed from “Marg bar Israel” (Death to Israel) and “Marg bar Amreeka” (Death to America) to “Marg bar bi-hijab” (Death to those after the hijab”).
Buses became segregated, so that men stood in the advanced and women were affected to angle in the back. The warning, “Sister, bouncer your hijab,” was ubiquitous. Saper recalls casual a ample artery banderole that read, “If a woman shows one fiber of her hair, in her afterlife they will adhere her from that aforementioned fiber of hair.”
After marriage, Saper confused from Tehran to Shiraz, area her bedmate was a anaplasty citizen at Shiraz (formerly accepted as Pahlavi) University. Ebi advised bags of blood-soaked soldiers of the Iran-Iraq War who were airlifted from the battlefields. Like her affectionate relatives, who endured the London assault in the 1940s, Saper anon begin herself affected to survive through absolute war. During nightly air raids by Iraqi warplanes, she slept in a abounding hijab in case she had to run out of the abode in the average of the night.
Saper knew she bare to leave Iran, but the administration had placed acrid restrictions adjoin Jewish families, generally amid them so they could not leave the country together.
Once she accomplished that her daughter, Leora (age six), was shouting afterlife chants in her aboriginal brand chic in Shiraz, Saper’s mission to leave the country became clear. “During recess,” Saper writes, “Leora and her accompany would comedy a bold area they formed a burial advance and agitated an article over their active assuming it was a agonize actuality taken to the cemetery.”
After account the book, the clairvoyant will acknowledge the agonizing acquaintance of how Saper, her husband, and two adolescent accouchement able Iran in March 1987. The ancestors briefly acclimatized in Houston, where Leora afford her binding hijab for cowboy boots. They again acclimatized in Chicago, area Saper could assuredly accept in academy at age 28. She accelerating with a business amount and becoming the appellation of CPA (Certified Accessible Accountant). Her bedmate formed agilely adamantine to alpha his career over as a surgeon in America.
In 1999, Saper began teaching as an accessory adroitness at Oakton Academy in Des Plaines, Illinois. “I initially accomplished business courses, but as I became added accepted with belief and speaking about Iranian issues, the academy asked me to advise Iran’s history, culture, bodies and government,” she said.
Her father’s afterlife in 2014 prompted Saper to address her memoir, as she accomplished that adored ancestors belief were at accident of actuality lost. “My accouchement and grandchildren adapted to apperceive about our family’s history and what happened,” she said. “As my accouchement grew up, I accomplished they knew annihilation about our accomplished ancestors history, their adolescence or their affiliated homeland. [And] my granddaughter would abound up alive annihilation about her grandparents’ story.”
Today, Saper’s babe is a advocate and her son is a doctor. She wants to address a additional book about “the abnormal union” amid her mother and father. “In cogent their adulation story, I will abstraction Jewish indigenous assortment and Jewish intra-marriage that was an exceptional abnormality in the Iranian Jewish association of 70 years ago,” she said.
She still remembers the activist artery chants of those who accustomed Khomeini and the Islamic Anarchy over four decades ago: “Esteglal, azadi, Jomhuri-e Islami!” (Independence, abandon and an Islamic Republic!). Her account provides accurate affirmation of the adverse irony that the third alarm to activity (an Islamic Republic) resulted in the annihilation of ability and freedom.
More advice about Jacqueline Saper may be begin on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at https://www.jacquelinesaper.com/
Tabby Refael is a Los Angeles-based writer, speaker, and activist.
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