By Aalia Khan
Tapestries of the heart; an authentic and powerful novel explores the ever-changing effects of religion and politics in Iranian society, told through the lives of four generations of Persian women, and inspired by the author’s personal experiences.
Nooshie Motaref grew up in Iran but left the country in 1981. She says the change in government and lack of rights for women drew her away from the country she once loved and she decided she could not stay there any longer, “They took away my individual freedom, which was against all my beliefs of the time growing up in Persia so I left the country.”
The book has been inspired by Motaref’s own life as well as her mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers; she says “Iran went backwards instead of going forwards; while I was growing up there we were one of the most modern countries of the world. Tehran the capital was called Paris of the Middle East. And then the revolution happened and they wanted their women to cover up and changed everything.” Motaref believes women were being forced to do something they did not want to do.
The book looks at the lives of three women;
A Persian woman had overcome all odds to leave her country behind. She was flying out of an oppressive dictatorship and into a free world. The ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign disappeared with a ding just as Baba’s voice resounded in her ears: “Whatever we do, that is our fate and destiny!”
A nine-year-old girl attracts the attention of a court eunuch, who wants to induct her into the king’s harem. Despite the girl’s tender years, most Iranian families would be thrilled to send their daughters to become concubines of the king, but young Zahra’s devoted mother refuses outright.
In a future generation, Mitra leaves her homeland to study in the United States, returning to Iran with the aim of sharing the new knowledge and western ideas she has acquired and now values. However, when she returns, she realises that Iran has actually regressed and that the government is enforcing a law that requires women to cover their heads. Mitra refuses to abide by this new dictate, and leaves Iran for good.
Motaref wanted to portray to the readers how Iran had changed through the generations, she says The country was first under Islamic rule during her great grandmothers time which then changed to a liberated Iran during her grandmothers time; one in which The king had ordered that women could not cover their heads as it was now against the law. Then during her mother’s time the new king said women could decide whether they wanted to cover their head or not, giving them the freedom. But this freedom was once again stripped away years later when Motaref returned to Iran having completed her education from America.
“The purpose of my book is to show the western readers how people from the other part of the world, especially the Middle East get manipulated by the government or the religious leaders, and every day we have to listen to them about what they want us to do. They are not for bettering but for worsening them” Motaref holds strong beliefs about the running of Iran and believes that Iran should not be completely westernised but the minds of people need to be educated, “The worst thing that can happen to a society is that people just follow their benefiters without thinking about it” She says. She goes on that she does not want Iran to “Forget about the culture or tradition I want them to go forward with the knowledge, education and an open mind.”
Tapestries of the Heart is written for Western readers, partly to educate them on the Middle East and the Islamic faith, from the female perspective. Motaref wishes for readers to “Learn about the society of Iran and how it was modernised. Learn about the regular people of Iran and how people without money can go somewhere and do something. The revolution benefited the leaders not the people.”
Tapestries of the Heart is available online at retailers including amazon.co.uk and can be ordered from all good bookstores.