Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  
Letters to Editor

Bangladesh: Next Iran?

This is in response to a letter by Tishan Mahfuz on 12-12-2005. It is interesting to see that lately some of the letter writers while describing the rise of Islamic militancy in Bangladesh almost always mention and make comparison of our situation with that of Iran and Afghanistan in the same breath. Especially while referring to Islamic militancy, most people implicate Iran.

Here is an attempt to remove the misunderstanding about Iran.

Firstly, the then Taliban ruled Afghanistan was never an ally of Iranians, rather Iran played the single most vital role in the removal of the Taliban regime alongside America. In fact the Taliban ruled Afghanistan was recognised by two governments: Saudi Arabia & Pakistan. Iran has recognised Afghanistan only after the establishment of Hameed Karzai government. We are all aware of the plight of Afghan people especially the women during (and even now) the Taliban regime. Now to present some very basic facts about Iran before the readers. It won't be out of place to mention that I've had the opportunity to get familiar with the mainstream Iranian life and culture for the past 23 years as my husband is from Iran. Iran indeed is an Islamic Republic and surely their women put on head scarves but never by relinquishing their independence. As most of us are aware that over the last fifteen years or more Iranian cinema has been claiming the most prestigious awards at all the major film festivals across the globe. Movie experts categorically agree to the fact that Iranian cinema means exquisite work. Only recently Iranian lawyer & legal expert Shireen Ebadi won the Nobel Prize for her outstanding achievements in the legal arena of Iran. While a state like Singapore imposes censorship on the Internet, there is absolutely no censorship in Iran on Internet. In the higher education institutions including universities and college 25 percent of the teachers are women. Female students account for more than their male counterparts on graduate and past graduate levels. participation of the women in offices, banks, insurance companies, various govt & private enterprises comprise 30 percent of the total work force. One of the four (selected by the parliament) vice presidents of Iran is a woman. Iranian men and women enjoy their right to vote equally in local and national elections. Iran being an Islamic Republic celebrates its cultural festival like "No-Rooz" (new year) with more fervour than religious festivals e.g. Eid-ul- Fitr. Almost all major roads, squares and parks are adorned with stone and bronze statues and sculptures; no question of confrontation or compromise with religion when it comes to their culture and civilisation. There are invariably the cinema, theatre, opera & orchestra houses in larger cities that bear testimony to the fact that in spite of its Islamic identity Iran is far more advanced than many Muslim nations, particularly Saudi Arabia. In Iran women under 18 do not get marriage license, men and women get engaged first and then get into wedlock; otherwise break up as easily as anywhere else in the Western world.

Even in the remotest rural areas computer education is compulsory, male and female students receive co-education in medical schools, engineering colleges, and universities. Young girls and women flock in & around the cyber cafes, restaurants, parks and streets like in any European country -- at any given time of the day or even night.