There was not an empty seat in Webster’s library conference room on Nov. 5. People arrived in droves seeking answers to some of the middle east’s current political questions and a slice or two of pizza.
The discussion at the Holden Public Policy Forum’s Pizza and Politics: Unveiled in Iran, Women’s Stealthy Freedoms touched upon more of the middle east’s politics than just Iran’s women, although that was the focus.
Webster University political science professor and native Iranian, Dr. Tamineh Entessar, provided history on Iranian and middle eastern politics before fielding questions from the audience.
“[Entessar’s] area of expertise includes third world and middle east politics,” former governor of Missouri Bob Holden said at the forum. ”Which we know watching the news day in and day out the middle east is right on the front page just about every single day.”
The forum’s main topic was women’s rights in Iran and the associated underground movement. It was made clear by Entessar that Iranian women actually have it a lot better than many other middle eastern societies, such as Saudi Arabia where women are not allowed to drive.
Entessar said women in Iran wearing traditional all-black hijabs typically want to don the traditional wear because of their family tradition or values.
Conversely, Entessar said women who wear the more revealing, fancier scarves are likely those who are trying to move away from the hijab. She said in most areas of Iran, women wearing these scarves are accepted in spite of the laws which say otherwise.
However, acid attacks are an issue according to Entessar, although they are nothing new.
“What is new here,” Entessar said, “is the parliament [of Iran], which includes three percent women, picked up the subject and they are encouraging the attacks. The parliament passed a law saying that vigilantes have the right to do that.”
Responding to a question about what to do in Syria, Entessar said the west needs to stop trying to do anything. She said removing President of Syria Bashar al-Assad will happen naturally, and continuing to throw the weight of the United States around would likely only lead to another situation like Iraq, Afghanistan or Libya.
“So, what does the west have to do at this very moment? I don’t know. There is nothing to do. The whole thing is going to fall apart over there,” Entessar said.
The one thing Entessar insisted everyone take away from the discussion was the importance of the separation of church and state; not allowing for the separation of the two institutions would lead to restrictive cultures like that of Iran.
The Holden Public Policy Forum’s Pizza and Politics is held regularly at Webster University, and their next meeting is on Dec. 3, titled Election 2016: A Look Ahead. The meeting is scheduled for 6:00pm in the Emerson Library Conference Room.