Monday, July 24, 2006

The Most Suitable Clothing for an Iranian Woman

A long time ago I had a brief chance of having an Iranian girlfriend. She lived in Britain, spoke fluent English, was strikingly intelligent, an electronics expert, attractive in a sort of Italian way , and had very good legs. All in all a very nice lady. The first date was pretty good, the second date was a bit awkward and well, that was it.

However I was reminded of her by the news that another Iranian-born woman, Anousheh Ansari, is going to become a space tourist. According to the Sunday Times:

AS a girl growing up in Tehran before the Islamic revolution, Anousheh Ansari watched repeats of Star Trek and dreamt of becoming an astronaut. She never tired of telling friends that one day she would “see the stars”.

Nearly three decades later, Ansari’s childhood fantasies are about to come true as she prepares to become the first female space tourist.

Now a multi-millionaire in the United States, Ansari, 39, who made her fortune from telecommunications software, has secured a flight in a Russian Soyuz rocket to the international space station 220 miles above Earth.

She is scheduled to fly next year but could make the trip — which will cost her about £10m — later this year if a Japanese businessman who is due to become the next space tourist drops out.With a fortune of several hundred million dollars, she can easily afford the fare, which works out at nearly £50,000 a mile.

No other tourist has done more to develop commercial space travel than Ansari, however. She recently signed a contract with Space Adventures and the Russians to develop a fleet of sub-orbital spaceships for commercial use.

Now I'd normally say spending 10 million pounds on a holiday is obscene. But I'm not going to complain about this - she's doing for love of space, love of adventure, love of the future. And if a Liberal Democrat isn't going to support someone doing something obscene out of sense of love, who is?

The flip side of this is another report in the Sunday Times:

AFGHANISTAN’S notorious Department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which was set up by the Taliban to enforce bans on women doing anything from working to wearing nail varnish or laughing out loud, is to be re-created by the government in Kabul.

The decision has provoked an outcry among women and human rights activists who fear a return to the days when religious police patrolled the streets, beating or arresting any woman who was not properly covered by a burqa or accompanied by a male relative.

President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet has approved the proposal to re-establish the department, and the measure will go to Afghanistan’s parliament when it reconvenes later this summer. The conservative complexion of the assembly makes it likely to be passed.

Afghan women recall with horror the department’s religious police who ruthlessly enforced restrictions on women and men through public beatings and imprisonment under Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.

Women were publicly beaten for wearing white shoes or heels that clicked; using lipstick; or going outside unaccompanied by a close male relative.

“They haven’t even bothered to change the name,” said Malalai Joya, a courageous female MP whose outspokenness means she has to travel with bodyguards and move every day because of threats to her life. Joya, 28, was physically attacked in parliament in May after she criticised warlords.

“The situation for women in Afghanistan has not improved,” she said. “People in the outside world say Afghan women don’t have to wear burqas any more and yes, it’s true that in some provinces like Kabul, Jalalabad and Herat, women can go outside without a burqa.

“They can go and work in offices, and we have 68 women MPs. But more and more women are wearing burqas because of the lack of security. Look at the high rate of suicide among our women — Afghan women prefer to die than live because there is no security.

So there in a nutshell are two views of how women from that part of the world should behave.

My mind's clear on this. I can't wait for the day when Ms Ansari has to take off normal western clothes and put on a costume that covers her completely from head to foot.

It's called a spacesuit.

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