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Prostitution Behind the Veil 2004


Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Producer n/a
Directed by Nahid Persson
VHS, color, 88 min.

College - Adult
Women's Studies, Human Rights, Area Studies, Sociology

Date Entered: 10/25/2005

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

This starkly graphic documentary records, over the course of one year, the story of Mina and Fariba, two young women living in poverty in modern-day Tehran. Both women are from educated and middle-class backgrounds, but have lost their husbands to heroin or prison. To support themselves, their children and their own drug habits, the women are forced to engage in street-corner solicitation. Although illegal in the Islamic Republic, prostitution is ignored or, in some cases, fully sanctioned by local Shi’ite clerics. Temporary marriages, or sighe, that can last for hours or years, supply the means by which many women are forced to live in a restrictive and hypocritical society.

Nahid Persson, an Iranian expatriate, is the director and narrator. She is given a great deal of access into the daily lives of her subjects, including following the veiled women as they walk the streets with their young children in tow. Although her portrayal of Mina and Fariba is sympathetic, it is clear that Persson is deeply troubled by what has happened, in terms of human rights and social justice, in her homeland. Viewers who have a vague image of what life in fundamentalist Iran is like will, after viewing this film, share the filmmaker’s despair. The film is narrated in Swedish and Farsi, with English subtitles. Recommended.