Thoroughly researched and meticulously presented, Janet Afary's book uses the prism of gender segregation to take the reader through one and a half centuries in the lives of Iranian men and women. From the mid-19th century to the present, you walk through the streets and alleys, listening to under-aged girls being given away to pre-arranged husbands, to women who will see their husband's new legal wife coming home, to harems of the elite and wealthy bursting with wives, concubines and boys. Yet, you also see how under such horrific repression, Iranian women resisted, survived and even prospered.
The story of women who have been oppressed for centuries and their male oppressors is one of immense importance and a possible cause for Iran's problems. Half of the population's creative energies was held back and kept in lock and chain, while the other half's creativity was mostly spent on devising schemes and institutions to keep them so.
In this sex-obsessed society, you're either enjoying sex or providing it, as all else seems to work within this concept. While imperial powers were increasing their influences in Iran, with the British in the South and the Russians in the North, the Qajar kings, princes and the rest of the elite were busy with their sexual politics.
Reading this book - shocking mostly but always enlightening - could be the first step in addressing the dysfunctional norms of Iranian society. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in understanding current issues in Iran - as well as possible solutions.