It is rare for a minister to admit mistakes in his management; moreover, a minister of an authoritarian system. And yet that just happened in Iran. The head of Education, Mohsen Haji Mirzai, has been forced to apologize for the discomfort caused by the disappearance of the girls on the cover of the third grade math book.
Until this course, the drawing that illustrated this manual for nine-year-olds showed three boys and two girls (these with their heads covered, according to the requirements of the Islamic Republic) doing geometric calculations under a tree. However, when the new texts were distributed at the beginning of classes last month, the two girls had disappeared from the scene.
Many parents saw in the gesture an attempt to make girls invisible in a country whose laws still discriminate against women in divorce, child custody or inheritance, among others, in addition to forcing them to hide hair and body shapes in public. For her part, Nasim Bahary, the artist who designed the original cover in 2013, showed her surprise because then she already complied with “numerous censorship orders”.
The discomfort was immediately apparent on social media, where a campaign was launched to change the drawing under the label “Women cannot be eliminated”. From those stands, the late Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani was remembered, who in 2014 became the only woman to have obtained the prestigious Fields Medal, the equivalent of a non-existent Nobel Prize in Mathematics.
“My daughter: paste the photo of Mirzakhani on the cover of the book and be proud of being a girl,” Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, one of the leaders of the 1979 takeover of the United States Embassy, encouraged her daughter on Instagram. , who since then has regretted that action, also denounces that “the policy of elimination [de las mujeres] and gender segregation have hit rock bottom ”.
“The decision was a lack of tact; for this we apologize and we will correct it ”, the Minister of Education concluded after his department justified the change because the scene was“ saturated ”. However, Mirzai insists that “today, no girl lacks access to education in any part of the country” and cites as an example that many girls participate in the math and science Olympics.
Similarly, the Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Masumeh Ebtekar, recalled on Twitter that, although the third-year Mathematics book only shows children on the cover, the Science book from the same year has a photo of three girls. Maybe that’s the problem. Most Iranian textbooks show boys or girls, rarely both sexes together, which normalizes segregation from a very early age.
Despite widespread schooling and access to university (where the presence of women is estimated at 60% of the student body), books and laws continue to promote traditional values. This is not a feminist perception. According to research on “the role and status of women” in Iranian school textbooks from the Center for Cultural Studies and Research in Humanities in 2007, only 16% of the more than three thousand names used in them were female, there were only 37 women among the 782 relevant figures mentioned in the lessons and a single woman appeared among the 122 personalities mentioned.