Panel discusses violence against women

Panelists discussed the film “The Glass House” and the challenges girls and women face in Iran.
Panelists discussed the film “The Glass House” and the challenges girls and women face in Iran. Photo by Hyung Mee Lim.

Violence against Iranian women was the focus of a talk in Luce Hall Wednesday night.

Over 50 people attended a panel discussion about “The Glass House,” a film chronicling the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation’s work with four Iranian girls who face drug addiction, sexual abuse, and life on the margin. The panel, which painted a picture of the difficult conditions women face in Iran, included Farhad Hakimzadeh, husband of the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation’s founder Marjaneh Halati, University of Maryland-University College professor Gohar Farahani, and Yale public health assistant professor Kaveh Khoshnood.

“Every woman has the right to be heard, valued, and respected,” Farahani said. “And Omid-e-Mehr shows girls can transform themselves despite extreme adversity.”

The Omid-e-Mehr Foundation is an Iranian organization that helps women afflicted by violence develop skills that will enable them to lead better lives.

Farahani said three main factors contribute to the high rates of violence against women in Iran: poverty, tradition, and a patriarchal legal system that gives men power in marriage. Despite these challenges, human beings have resilience — the ability to respond to extreme or averse situations — a quality that the foundation taps into, she said.

And they are not without results: the organization has an 82 percent success rate in graduating women who transition into a “fruitful life,” Farahani said, which includes working for three months at a charity organization to learn about helping other people. The program has been so successful that its popularity has risen beyond the foundation’s capacity. Three in every four women who wish to enroll are now turned away, Hakimzadeh said, adding that a second center would be opening next year to accommodate some of this excess demand.

Still, he said the program is not without its problems.

“It creates too much self-confidence in the girls, so when they go out into the real world they are sometimes disappointed,” he said. “When you go out in the world and confront the stigmas with which society judges you, it always hurts, and it never goes away.”

He explained that the world the foundation creates is “safe” because the staff actively try to encourage girls to help themselves.

A broader picture of the condition of women in Iran was provided by two special guests in attendance: Hamid Rahmanian, who directed “The Glass House,” and award-winning Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed-Arya.

Rahmanian said that during filming, a specific problem he identified was the need to encourage parents to tackle the cultural and patriarchal issues that motivate household violence. He added that the Omid-e-Mehr Foundation has since responded to with a separate program for parents.

The Omid-e-Mehr Foundation was founded in 2004.

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