I am a complete maniac for desserts. Given my easily aroused sweet tooth, I love to tuck into cakes, chocolates and sweets. I am trying to stick to healthier alternatives, but still, it is so hard to be disciplined. I just bought the most fabulous food processor. It is made by Philips, and it is out of this world. It is an all-in-one juicer, blender and processor. I have become a little obsessed making smoothies. I fantasize all day about the mouth-watering treats that I can now make at home. I have the same feeling of a young kid who has been given a marvellous toy, yet must wait impatiently at school, before coming home to play with it.
Anyway, today I have a question for you.
How many of you have ever heard of Azam al-Sadat Farahi? Well until a few years ago almost nobody had heard of her. She was a phantom, someone only known about in passing as Mrs Ahmadinejad. Search on the internet, and you will find little information; her husband’s biography actually sheds more light. According to reports, she first met Mahmoud at the University of Science and Technology in Tehran, where she majored in mechanical engineering, and he specialized in civil engineering. For a period of time she taught both chemistry and physics to high school students, but was never fully qualified to teach at a tertiary level. For the moment she no longer works, but devotes her time to official duties. She is the mother of three children, one girl and two boys: Mahdi, Alireza and Fatemeh. Mahdi got married in 2008 to the daughter of Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, who is Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, and in 2006, his daughter married the son of Ahmad Khorshidi, who is a loyal Ahmadinejad supporter.
With few pieces information available about Madame Farahi, anything that can be learnt is usually due to her rare public appearances. It was back in 2005 that everyone got the chance to see her accompany her husband on a visit to Malaysia. In 2009, during Ahmadinejad’s re-election campaign, Farahi did not make her presence felt and shied away from making speeches to endorse her husband. On the other hand, his rival’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, took every opportunity to speak on behalf of her husband Mir Hossein Musavi. The couple would walk holding hands and stand side by side on podiums. Both Rahnavard and Farahi are extremely devout women, who have both been critical of the west and secular values, but Rahnavard was not afraid to express herself and does not behave submissively. It is difficult to tell if Farahi chose to or was told to take a relative back seat in her role as the first khanom of the Islamic Republic. When Farahi does make appearances, she is always on the verge of being blotted-out by her all-concealing chador. In the Huffington Post Shirin Sadeghi posted an excellent photo of Farahi at a state dinner sandwiched between the wife of the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, Randa Berri and the wife of Lebanon’s president, Wafaa Suleiman. The two other ladies are simply a picture of elegance, whilst Farahi, is encased in her jet black chador. Sadeghi makes the point that she represents a minority within Iran. Only in the most religious places do women still wear the garment, and Farahi seems like a throwback to the early days of the Islamic revolution.
Just like her husband, Farahi is not averse to making ridiculous comments. In late April 2010, she accused Western countries of using the structure of the United Nations to “promote illicit affairs”. “The family, which is the main pillar of every society, has collapsed in the West and they are seeking to extend their problem to the Islamic world by spreading decadent schemes”. And just like Mahmoud, she also enjoys using highly colourful language. In 2010, the Tehran Times reported her involvement in the first International Conference of Women Scientists. At the conference, Farahi described ‘science’ and ‘women’ as cornerstones of creation, and described women as founts of love and passion, epitome of God’s love and beauty.
It was in 2009 that Farahi made the news after she wrote a letter to the then first lady of Egypt, Suzanne Mubarak, asking that she does more to help the people of Gaza: “I ask you to do whatever is in your capacity to help the people of Gaza and to help them from the oppression that they are suffering from, so that your name is placed alongside the name of worthy and peace seeking women”. Unfortunately Suzanne never did get round to helping Gaza’s oppressed population, but Lady Ahmadinejad got her first taste of notoriety. In the months after her letter of appeal, a forum of first ladies led by Suzanne Mubarak came to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization in Rome, and Farahi delivered a speech, once again in full chador. She affirmed Iran’s commitment to fighting hunger and said that since her country follows religious teachings, this guarantees food security for all families.
It seems a long time ago that the elegant and super-chic Shahbanou Farah Diba, who was the pride of Iran, travelled the country meeting and greeting people, was also a proud patron of the arts and spoke several foreign languages. She could not be more different to Madame Ahmadinejad, who seems completely out of touch, playing and acting to a different tune. In comparison to Farah, she seems faceless and colourless. She represents an Iran, or rather is a symbol of the excitement and frivolity that was drained from the country after the 1979 Islamic revolution. Today everything is sealed off and hidden away, and beauty is considered a threat. It should be no surprise that Iran’s first lady appears the way she does.