From Tehran, Autumn 2022



On September 16, 2022, Kurdish woman Mahsa Jina Amini was killed in Tehran by the Iranian so-called “Guidance Patrol” after having been arrested for not wearing her hijab according to government standards. Following her murder, hundreds of thousands of women and men joined in a movement against the Iranian regime. The following text, written by Termeh, constitutes politically-induced impressions of a stroll in Tehran’s streets during this ongoing movement.

Termeh Funambulist
Tehran, Autumn 2022. / Drawing by Termeh to accompany this text (2023).

Tehran’s autumn sun is not hot. You don’t sweat when it falls on your skin, your body doesn’t get hot—but it has a dazzling light, sometimes brighter than the summer sun. In recent years, when it has rained less, we get more sunny days of autumn than cloudy and rainy days. If we are lucky and the weather is not polluted, the Alborz Mountain range can be seen from different streets of Tehran on the north side. This year, it has been another dry autumn with golden sun rays in Tehran.

I walk down Valiasr street that connects the north of Tehran to the south. Valiasr Street is famous for the plane trees on both sides. It was also once known for its tiny rivers by the sidewalks, which are now dry. I feel the warmth of the sun on my scalp. My hair is short, as I have shaved my hair around my ears. I narrow my eyes so that I can discern the farthest parts of the sidewalk. For several weeks now, I have been looking very carefully and examining the perspective in front of me. A woman with light brown hair is buying fruit at the end of the street, while a woman with black curly hair gets out of the car in front of my feet. Another woman with short gray hair walks vertically down the street and enters the pharmacy. These days on the streets, I look for women and I look at them. It feels strange that I have never looked at women so much before. I have never been so Woman myself.

Before I started doing this, I had always tried to forget my gender. On the street, I was unconsciously paying attention to the men and my distance from them, perhaps to measure my safety. The solution for many of us to escape the imposition of gender in society, was to keep repeating that there are no men or women. This way, we can also forget that we are women.

But these days, we understand that in order to get rid of this gender division, we must all become women once and for all.

I’ve reached the regular streets of the city center—it is not easy to see their ends from the alley I’m in. My eyes follow the faces and heads of other women. I see them through the branches of the mulberry trees towards their yellow leaves. A woman gets out of the car in the middle of the alley, tying her hair back before grabbing a folder of papers and her purse from the back seat. I look carefully at the movement of her hands, her speed, her composure. My own two hands are shoved in the pockets of the loose sports pants that I’m wearing. Yet I had never walked with both hands in my pants pockets before. Why am I doing it now? Towards the right side of the alley, an older lady comes out of an apartment. Wearing a long-sleeve blouse and simple pants, she adjusts her leather handbag on her shoulder, and starts walking. I move a few steps behind her, and notice that there is also a halo that has followed her out of her home. A trace of her movements from the living room, to spinning around the kitchen, then leaning on the porch railing after laying out the laundry. It is as if this woman is moving with the repeated delicate movements that she does in housekeeping, and I could see these details from how she is dressed, without a uniform and a scarf. It is as if a home has stepped outside.

I remember the Iraqi women in the fall of 2019. When Baghdad’s Tahrir Square was occupied by revolutionaries, the women had set up a homey corner on the square. I remember a photo, where they were cutting tomatoes for the revolutionaries’ sandwiches, as well as washing dirty clothes and spreading them on a rope hanging from two tree branches. There was also the image of a woman sweeping Cairo’s Tahrir Square after eighteen days of sit-in, and the image of young people bringing their couches from their homes to block the bridge in Beirut. All these people had brought their home outside, to make the public space a home again.