Mahsa, a National Iranian Symbol of Resistance


In the summer of 1993, I went to Iran to visit my parents who at the time were living in Tehran on and off. We had left Iran six months after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and I had not returned until 1993.

I remember the atmosphere at the time, which was quite gloomy. The hejab of course had already been put in place and one could not wear anything other than dark colors.

As a young woman, I was not in the habit of putting any make-up on (I still don’t), but sometimes I would put a lipstick on. My mother and a male cousin decided to take me to the rug exhibition, which was held in a large, confined area in Tehran. It was a huge exhibition depicting the art of rug making and showing off an enormous rug destined for one of the emirs of the Persian Gulf, the largest one ever made.

As we were walking inside this large compound, a white van approached and stopped. Three women and a man came out. They came toward us and told my mother, tell your daughter to lower her scarf for it is not covering all of her hair, and to wipe her lipstick off. My head cover was a colorful silk scarf and I presume that is what drew their attention. My mother replied by telling them, my daughter doesn’t even wear any make-up and her head is covered, but they insisted. Finally, they left but I, as a young woman, was shaken by this encounter. On that same trip while leaving to return to the U.S., I had to go through the female security line, and, again, one of the “sisters” as they are called, said to me, you have too much lipstick on. Take it off. I obeyed. I was scared and I just wanted to leave Tehran as soon as possible…