Persian Voices: City of Men
But one strange thing about this country is that, apparently, there are absolutely no women in it. You see little girls, four or five years old, in the alleyways but never any women. No matter how much I thought about this I could never figure it out. I had heard that a “city of women” existed somewhere in the world where there were no men, but I’ve never heard of a “city of men”…
Another thing that is very strange about Iran is that a substantial part of the people, about half the population of the country, wrap themselves from head to foot in black sacks, not even leaving space to breathe. And that’s how they go about the alleyways, in that black sack. These people are never allowed to speak and have no right to enter a teahouse or any other place. Their baths are also separate and, at public gatherings like passion plays and mourning-feasts, they have their own viewing sections.
Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh, “What’s Sauce for the Goose,” in Once Upon A Time, trans. Heshmat Moayyad and Paul Sprachman, New York: Bibliotheca Persica, 1985, 96-7.
Editor’s Note: Reza Shah outlawed women’s veiling as part of his modern state-building reforms designed to end gender segregation. This law lasted until the 1941 Allied Invasion of WWII in Iran at which point veiling would become a personal choice. Compulsory veiling was instituted after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.