Persepolis: Captivity V. Freedom
A Contained Country Searching for Freedom “It was too late. Too many of those who had at least tolerated the Shah’s rule had been lost. Demonstrations continued. ” (“The Pahlavi Monarchy Falls” 2) In Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, the country of Iran undergoes a series of governmental changes which restricted the citizens. Ironically, when the Shah’s regime fell, the citizens believed they would gain a limitless freedom with no boundaries; however, the citizens were experiencing an unhappy life full of fear and misery.
Happiness is tied to the freedoms in doing whatever you want, the citizens of Iran never fully obtained freedom or happiness because of the strict clothing, call of actions, and material goods. In the opening scene of Persepolis, Marjane and her classmates who are girls, were forced to wear a veil showcasing the transition of a country being re? ned and controlled. The reactions of Marji’s classmates depicts sadness and hostility towards the veil foreshadowing what effect the veil will have in the future for the country of Iran. Fig. 1) With the Shah in power, opposition led to nothing but terror and consequences for the rebels. Fig. 1 (p. 3) “On January 7, 1936, Iran became the ? rst Muslim country to ban the veil following a royal decree by Reza Shah Pahlavi; this was part of a series of actions taken by Reza Shah in an effort to “modernize” Iran. The strict enforcement of the unveiling of women caused much uproar and distress among various communities. ” (Namakydoust) However, when the Shah left, the citizens felt they would gain a sense of freedom.
In their mind, they were “free” because this tyrannous leader had left; so they celebrated and expressed their joy with their clothing which had a variety of patterns rather than just a black or white out? t. (Fig. 2) “The country had the biggest celebration of it’s entire history” (Satrapi 42) That was the only time, the citizens had a sense of freedom. Unfortunately, after the Shah’s regime, the country of Iran was in a midst of an Islamic Revolution and the restriction on clothing was Fig. 2 (p. 42) far more limited. “That in turn encouraged a ove towards more traditional values and ways of living, which included dressing more modestly for both men and women and even wearing the scarf or the veil for some women. For many women making the decision to wear the chador was not based on religious grounds, but it was a conscious effort to make a statement against the Pahlavi regime. ” (Namakydoust) There were two types of men and women: a modern or a fundamentalist (believed in absolute religious authority) man or woman. A fundamentalist man or woman would be completely covered up (a woman would be con? ed in wearing a veil that only exposed their face and a man would not shave and have his shirt hanging out) and it would re? ect their lifestyle under religious authority: being anti-modernists. (Fig. 3) Opposed from the veil to only covering the woman’s head, now the veil was used to cover their whole body signifying how much the citizens were limited after the Shah’s regime. Sadly, it got worse than that. If a woman was improperly veiled, the consequence would be that they could be arrested. The contrast of the fundamentalist women and Marji shows the contrast between their beliefs and the different uses of the veil. Fig. 4) “The way people behave, eat or drink, dress and how easily they interact with the opposite sex is normally an indication of Fig. 3 (p. 75) how traditional or modern they are (even what class they belong too) and what to expect when dealing with them. ” (Price 1) As the years progressed, the veil only revealed negative connotations. It con? ned the women to a certain way of dressing and living in a certain lifestyle. The clothes the Iranian citizens wore, never expressed their own free will or social liberty.
They were always contained and “molded” into what the government or leaders expected the people to wear. Fig. 4 (p. 132) Similar to clothing, any call of actions seemed irrelevant to the government. Demonstrators would chant, “Guns may shoot and knives may carve, but we won’t wear your silly scarves!… when suddenly things got nasty. THE SCARF OR A BEATING! ” (Satrapi 76) but did that stop the army or any opposition? No. Citizens were stabbed, beaten, thrown into jail, and/ or killed. When someone went against the norm and fought for freedom, their actions were considered heroic.
The government, however did not recognize any heroic action during the Shah’s regime, Islamic Revolution, or during the the Iraq-Iran War, they simply used the citizens as objects and as a clearing when it dealt with reforms or any demonstrations. During the war, military leaders recruited young children to be “soldiers” and the Fig. 5 (p. 101) leaders would then hypnotize them into thinking what they are doing is commendable and promised them a better life using them as a “human wave”. (Fig. 5) When in reality, the children who were “promised a better life, exploded on the mine? lds” never having the chance to obtain actual freedom or happiness. (Satrapi 102) (Fig. 6) Once again, the government molded and manipulated the children to follow their rules and regulations simply for their own purpose. Not only did the the government have a huge impact on the citizens’ lives physically, they also challenged the citizens’ knowledge of freedom during drastic situations. In order for the citizens Fig. 6 (p. 102) to avoid being thrown into jail or tortured, they had to follow and obey the government. Even during the war, the slightest sound of a siren frazzled the citizens of Iran.
Knowing that the sirens were a warning about the bombings, Marji’s aunt quickly goes into a state of fear. Her insecurity of getting caught at a party with wine, both of which were forbidden, showcased how much of an impact the government has on the citizens and the terror that lies within them if they were to possibly happen get caught. (Fig. 7) “I found myself with the newborn baby we had been celebrating in my arms. Her mother had already abandoned her. ” (Satrapi 107) That alone, depicts the sad and harsh reality of how an individual can not even challenge government laws or rules because the outcome is Fig. (p. 107) far more severe and life-threatening if and when they rebel against authority. One reader can argue that Marji’s aunt ? ed out of fear because of the bombings during the war and it had no correlation to being caught. However, her action of abandoning her baby at the party can justify my reasonings of her fear of being caught. Another different scenario in which an action led to the a somber outcome was when Marji’s friend, Pardisse talked about her father, who was a ? ghter pilot, and how he died during the Iraq-Iran War.
Pardisse expressed that she would rather have “him alive and in jail rather than dead and be a hero” stating her father’s Fig. 7 (p. 107) freedom was cut short even if it were a “heroic” action. (Satrapi 86) Seemed like no matter what type of action the citizens of Iran did, whether it were: demonstrations, ? eeing, commemorating, etc. the citizens shared a common goal of ? ghting for their own freedom and purpose. Unfortunately, all of their attempts were cut short due to the government’s policies. Finally, the last concept that allowed the citizens of Iran to not obtain full happiness and reedom were the possession of material goods. After the fall of the Shah’s regime and start of the Islamic Revolution, a variety of items that resembled a Western culture (British or American goods) were forbidden. Items such as alcohol, music, playing cards, ? lm, magazines, lipstick, posters, nail polish, etc. were illegal. (Fig. 8) If Marji or any other citizen wanted to buy or use Fig. 8 (p. 132) the material goods that are forbidden, they would have to sneak it in or go to a black market to purchase the goods. The items such as music tapes, chocolate, lipstick, nail polish, etc. ere forbidden because it promoted a Western culture which the religious leaders opposed of. It was only during the Shah’s regime, the White Revolution, where the Shah wanted to modernize the country of Iran. However, when the Shah’s regime fell, the traditionalists Fig. 9 (p. 133) took over control. If the citizens were caught with possession of these items, they could be thrown into jail or taken to a committee where the guardians of the revolution stayed and decided what the punishment will be for that citizen. (Fig. 9) “Their job was to put us back on the straight and narrow by explaining the duties of Muslim Fig. (p. 133) women. ” (Satrapi 133) Clearly reenforcing their limited freedom. Material goods do in fact play a signi? cant role in the Iranian citizens’ freedom and happiness because it truly shows how restricted the citizens are. Simple items, which I consider to be harmless and entertaining, such as music or posters can lead to punishment for a citizen and it’s crazy to see that items that should be used for personal enjoyment are used to restrict one’s life. No matter who was in control, the citizens of Iran were always con? ned and had to obey the government’s laws and policies.
As the years progressed, the country of Iran was going downhill and the citizens were slowly losing their freedom. Some citizens ? ed out of the country in search for a better life and others risked their lives to demonstrate against the government. “We feel it’s better for you to be far away and happy than close by and miserable. Judging by the situation here, you’ll be better off somewhere else. ” (Satrapi 148), said Marji’s parents to Marji; implying she will seek a better life and will obtain that happiness and freedom elsewhere. In the end, all of the citizens lived an unhappy life full of fear. They were never granted bsolute freedom even though some citizens demanded an end to monarchy and the start of a democracy. Every restriction continued to contain and mold the citizens into becoming what the government wanted the people of Iran to be perceived as. Therefore, the citizens were never granted their own individual freedom where they had the ability to demonstrate any of their given liberties such as freedom of speech, press, or assembly. All the citizens were held in captivity due to the leadership and a series of unfortunate events that limited their given freedom, which in turn never allowed them to obtain happiness.