I’m honoured to have Iranian-born Sima Goel write for Everyday Gyaan. Sima has always had compassion for those who suffer. Her instinctive need to speak out against oppression ultimately resulted in unwanted attention from the authorities, which led her to flee her beloved Shiraz and eventually to Montreal.
Sima Goel is a self-made woman. Her journey to freedom, recounted in her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab, A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, reflects her belief that, without freedom of choice, life is worthless. She is a strong advocate for the disenfranchised and the rights of all, specifically the rights of women. With the publication of her book, Sima has fulfilled the promise she once made to herself: to speak out and share her truth that freedom is the most precious commodity of all.
Wellness chiropractor, health advocate, inspiring author and an in-demand speaker, Dr. Goel considers her most important role to be that of mother to her two teenage boys, and wife to her beloved husband.
Connect with Sima Goel : Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook
It is claimed that in many countries where Muslims rule, the women freely embrace wearing the Hijab. While this may be true in some circumstances, my experience in Iran of 1979 and beyond is different. Although some women wore the Hijab during the Shah’s regime, after the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution every woman had to cover up and those who resisted the new dress code were faced with severe penalties.
During the reign of The Shah, we lived under a dictatorship that sought to control freedom of expression and opinion. Nonetheless, women were at liberty to choose for themselves whether they wanted to cover up or not.
A person has freedom of choice if the consequence of that choice is met with an open mind and tolerance, or if the society allows the individual the right to live and even thrive. In relation to the Hijab, that was not the case in Iran in 1979, and not much has changed ever since.
In 1979, when the new Islamic government took over, rumors circulated that vigilantes on motorcycles were tasked to throw acid on any woman who did not respect the new dress code. I personally did not see any victims, but the fear was enough to prompt women to cover up. In the Iran of my youth, many women wore the Hijab to avoid being disfigured. Many wore it to avoid losing their jobs, to avoid public humiliation, or even jail.
Almost four decades later, I imagine that many young Iranian girls wear the Hijab out of respect for family traditions or religious obligation. However, there also exist young women who, if given the choice of wearing the hijab or facing the world with an uncovered head, will choose to walk freely with their head uncovered.
In a free country, a mother may decide for her daughter to cover her hair, thus respecting her tradition or religion. However, a government that dictates to a woman to cover herself essentially controls her behavior and destiny. In the present century, this demands further examination about the status of women and their ability to freely express identity and choice.
Where the government decrees how a woman can present herself to the world, there is no true freedom. It is “freedom”, as interpreted by the ruling elite. We see that in many countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, women have a limited range of options. They must follow the rules, regardless of their own belief, ability and religion.
Any time a government dictates the dress code, the type of music or the type of books allowed to be circulated, they control you. As a teenager in Iran of the late 1970s, this prohibited environment was a living death. I therefore had to risk my life and looked death in the eye, for the possibility of living freely and making my own choices.
My book, Fleeing The Hijab, is not about right or wrong. It is my story in the face of repression. In a free world, we are entitled to our own opinions, but that does not make your opinion more sound than mine, or vice versa.
The human tapestry is like a Persian carpet. Each thread needs to stand alone in order to exist in harmony with the others. When each person can shine in her own strength, then the human race is strong. My plea is for a world where we are free to choose how we express ourselves. I was a young girl when I first saw true repression and control and so it is as a woman that I share my life experiences.
A true account of Sima Goel, the Iranian teenager who crossed the most dangerous desert in the world rather than accept the restrictions of life in Iran of the early 1980s. Her quest for freedom is a thrilling, timely inspiration for people longing to create a life of meaning. It was the last straw!
The Ayatollah Khomeini had decreed that all women in Iran must wear the hijab, whether they were Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Baha’i. Thirteen-year-old Sima had gone out into the streets of Shiraz to demonstrate for freedom under the Shah’s oppressive rule, and now that he had fled the country, this was the result: a new regime, and a much more repressive rule. The changes Khomeini’s regime forced on the population were totally incompatible with Sima’s ambitions and sense of personal freedom. Blacklisted by her school, unable to continue her studies, mourning the murders of innocent family members and friends, and forced to wear the hijab, she realized she had to leave her beloved birthplace and find a country where she could be free to follow her dreams.
Fleeing the Hijab is a vivid portrait of a dangerous journey made by two teenaged girls through the Iranian desert to Pakistan, where, as homeless refugees, they struggled desperately to find some way to escape to the West. It is a story that needs to be heard and remembered.
Buy the book: Amazon Barnes & Noble Chapters/Indigo
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Win 1 of 10 ebook copies of Fleeing the Hijab (international)
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When I started reading this post I had no idea that the author fleed Iran by finding her way out across the desert and reaching Pakistan as refugee. It must have been horrific. I like to read about strong women as their stories are inspiring. Thanks Corinne for yet again bringing to us an inspiring personality.
As a woman who was brought up in a culture where we wear whatever is available in the shops according to whatever ‘fashion’ is being dictated at the time, I find it hard to comprehend what life behind a Hijab must be like. I can only imagine what it must feel like to be repressed in this way, through fear and mass bullying.
At the other end of the spectrum, I do wonder what forces are driving young women in ‘free’ societies to go out socialising wearing very little clothing and making themselves look cheap. Of course, it is their choice to dress this way and expose vast areas of flesh but I think it is a shame they seem not to place more value on themselves as intelligent women.
Women such as your guest blogger Sima are incredible people who survive against all odds. Her story is completely inspiring. But I do wonder what women like her, who have escaped such extremism in their birth countries, think about the extremism of the ‘free’ societies they flee to when they see pictures of almost naked women (and men more now too!) constantly plastered all over magazines and bill-boards. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude but I do get sick of seeing boobs and bottoms everywhere I look because I think it cheapens women.
It seems to me that we have two extremes. We have one society forcing women to cover EVERYTHING up under pain of death or disfigurement and another where women are encouraged, by advertising, to bare their bodies to the point of semi-pornographic images being part of everyday life. It is a very strange world we live in.
Gilly Maddison recently posted..Stress Busting
You raised very valid points Gilly and I completely agree. There shouldnt be too much force on women to cover up everything and women who have freedom also should in turn be responsible that their individuality is more important than their body and clothes that they wear.
Ramya recently posted..Book Round up – Nov 2015
Very inspiring to read about Sima. I have many muslim friends and most of them in India had a choice whether to cover their head or not until their marriage, which was good. But, after they got marries they have to follow those rules. I always felt how difficult it is for my muslim friends to follow some rules when they don’t really believe and they are forced to follow.
Ramya recently posted..Book Round up – Nov 2015
Why do I want to read this memoir and win it? Many reasons. Because I’m Jewish. Because I used to work with someone who married an Iranian (in Iran, during this time period) and lived there long enough to taste the oppression of daily life…fortunately her husband and she were allowed to leave. Because too many people in the United States, where I have always lived, feel they are “oppressed” – they have no idea what true oppression is. I want to learn more.
Alana recently posted..Music Monday – Someday
This book sounds fascinating. Living in the U.S., I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of the hijab and the control that the government seems to have over their citizens especially the woman.
Rena McDaniel recently posted..HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS FOR PEOPLE WHO SUFFER FROM DEMENTIA
It is really inspiring to read about people like Sima who faced oppression and came out as a winner. Thanks for sharing this Corinne.
Vinitha recently posted..Nothing but a rant #MondayMusings
Such an inspiring read about Simi. I appreciate her courage to fight for her freedom. I would like to read more about her journey and oppression. This book is added to my To-read books. Thanks for sharing Corrrine:) Love and hugs to the lovely ladies:)
When only writing a post stating why should we cover our head and that it should be every individuals decision, in India, got me comments that made me want to stop writing for a while, I can only imagine what she must have gone through…Would love to read this book…
Nabanita Dhar recently posted..#NewMomHacks: How To Rock Your Baby To Sleep
I know, Nabanita. These days it’s hard to speak the truth without getting attacked. Personally, I have nothing against the hijab if it’s completely the woman’s choice. What I can’t understand is when people choose for little girls to wear it.
Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Further Than Yesterday
I can’t imagine being that brave and risking acid and other punishments by not covering your head. I doubt I’d have that kind of courage. My heart goes out to women living in societies where they can’t fully express themselves. I hope someday the world changes. Maybe with more women like Sima it will.
Laurie recently posted..Why Is Finding a Dog So Hard?
The reality is that there are women facing all kinds of violence and oppression in every part of the world, Laurie. I know that even in the US there are women forced by family pressures to wear the hijab and others forced to marry against their wishes.
Corinne Rodrigues recently posted..Further Than Yesterday
What an incredible story! I’m sure there were others who felt the same way but didn’t have the courage to make the change. And how hard to live in a place where things went from bad to worse – I think we in the West are very privileged and too often take our freedoms for granted.
Jennifer Jensen recently posted..An Early Thanksgiving Proclamation from Abraham Lincoln
I recently read another article about the transition of Afghanistan under muslim fundamentalist rule and the pictures created by then was very similar to what you have presented here.. The idea that things are bad needs to be spread to a larger space so that voices of protests can be collected through awareness.
Wow, very inspirational. Simi has such a powerful story, thanks for sharing. And Happy Holidays!
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