21 Jun

I want to stroll Tehran’s streets at night, like men can

Fereshteh Ahmadi’s interview with The Guardian

Fereshteh Ahmadi, who has been a judge in a number of Iranian literary prizes, was born in the southern city of Kerman in 1972. She studied architecture at Tehran University and worked as an architect for some years before dedicating herself to writing. Her first collection of short stories, Everybody’s Sara, was published in 2004 and she has written two novels: The Forgetful Angel and The Cheese Jungle.

Like all Iranians, she practises a degree of self-censorship. Ahmadi says Iranian writers have mastered how to use metaphors and symbolism to get around restrictions. In a story featured in her collection Domestic Monsters, published last year, a group of men go up the hill to eat and drink, but there’s no mention of alcohol. Until someone throws up, a clue that strong drink was involved.

“We talk about something, but we mean something else. We’ve learned how to do this and our audience also gets it, the audience gets the clues,” she says.

She remembers an Iranian magazine journalist asking her about something she would like to do that she hasn’t done before. “I said I wanted to go for a stroll in Tehran in the middle of the night. For a man that is a strange wish, because he can do this. Not for a woman. I’ve never done it before – I really want to do it. I want to walk in the streets of Tehran at night at 1am, 2am to see who is still awake, how it feels, what’s happening in the city.”

Ahmadi is critical of how the outside world views Iran. “The world focuses on extremes in Iran, but people in Iran want to portray their inner stories, they want to talk about themselves, where I am in all of this,” she says. “When we want to know deeply about other people, we go and read their stories, watch their cinema but all these years, there has only been a focus on bold issues in Iran. That’s why people, their identity, their connections and their private lives that have similarities to lives in other parts of the world [are] forgotten in the middle of this. I think many of our writers are doing just that. They’re writing about themselves, they’re looking into their own identities.”

Read complete interview here