Women against terrorism
“The movie’s real topic is not terrorism but the contrast between love and ideology. When the latter transforms itself in radicalism, it spares no one including friends and close family members. A form of terrorism that is less remote from us than what we believe, even someone we love can fall victim to it”.
In the words of the film director Narges Abyar, this is the pivotal topic of the film WHEN THE MOON WAS FULL. The picture, which was released in Teheran last February at the Fajr film festival and recently in Iranian movie theatres, has already received numerous prizes. The script focuses on the Jundullah terrosist group, active along the porous borders of Pakistan and Iran in the regions of Sistan and Baloucistan, a predominantly Sunni area. This group, active between 2003 and 2012, was close to Al- Qaeda and had as its main priority to fight the Shiite population, claiming hundreds of attacks against both civilians and military. In the movie some of its male characters become radicalized and pervaded by violence.
What role can women play in stopping Wahabite radicalism, which in its more conservative version of Islam is supported by Saudi Arabia?
“Women can have a leading role in reducing violence in areas where terrorism is rampant. The government is trying to capitalize on this aspect by placing women in public offices in these border regions, as mayors and local governors.”
Official sources confirm that in this area the percentage of women in public offices is the highest of the entire country. Yet, as highlighted by Narges Abyar, this area is also an area where the role of men is very strong and many families are against education for girls. The fact that the central government confides these powers to women is helpful in building in women a sense of awareness of their rights and to fight for them. Of course the path is difficult, not only in Iran but across the world. Women must do more than men to prove their strengths and capabilities.
Does religious radicalism only develop in Sunni-populated areas?
In Sistan and Baloucistan there is a Shiite element of the population but the problem of closed and traditionalist mentality and radicalism exist within both Sunni and Shiite groups. According to the movie director in some cases it is also fomented by external forces. In her opinion the government holds a degree of responsibility in this too because it has left these areas without prospects and in poverty. The majority of the population here is of Balouci ethnicity and had reaped the benefits of economic and social development late. New prospects have opened up recently thanks to a free trade area which has attracted Indian investments in the infrastructure and industrial sectors. This is also due to the development of the port of Chabahar, serving India, Afghanistan and Central Asia which goes solely through Iranian territory (never entering Pakistan). At present however, the social fabric of society remains extremely traditional, women here lag behind the emancipation reached in other urban areas across the country.
As a female director, how do you view women’s rights in Iran?
“Women need to gain civic awareness of their rights. A part of women have not reached it, yet at the same time the majority of them does not want to have external meddling in this area. These are issue that are linked to local culture and must be overcome accordingly. As per the veil, I cover my hair for my own conviction but I believe every woman should have the choice to do so or not.”
How did you fund your movie which is over two hours long?
Not with government finances because this would have not given her the same degree of freedom in the realization of the picture. “I was addressing a sensitive topic so I only sought out private funding. Had I not done this it would not have been possible to have my character in the movie state that the origin of all the problems in the area is tied to poverty and lack of opportunity for the young generation”. Problems which combined with a dangerous mix of religious radicalism and autonomous aspirations have continued to render this region, even after the demise of the Jundullah group, extremely insidious on both sides of the border. The proof of this is the fact that many other groups have claimed attacks such as the one last February where roughly thirty Pasdaran died.