Iranian students in Australia protest against the SBS policy in broadcasting Iranian movies
" We, a group of Iranian students and families in Australia, protest against the SBS policy of regularly broadcasting solely one type of Iranian movies and documentaries that portray Iran as hell; Iranian culture as backward; and the whole nation as a place of hunger, earthquake, immorality, and poverty. We have not seen a single positive piece about Iran broadcast from the Australian media. Most specifically, we hereby express our objection to the broadcasting of the documentary *Prostitution behind the Veil* in The Cutting Edge program on Tuesday 19 April 2005 for the following reasons:
First, the film breaches the ethics of making others your subject. For instance, while the director, Nahid Persson promises the clergyman, the old man and Leila (17-year-old girl) not to record the Sighe (temporary marriage) session, she acts contrary to her promise.
Neither should she have shown the faces of people she showed for the second reason that it endangers their lives through publicising their culturally and socially stigmatised behaviour. Besides, as in many countries, in Iran drug abuse and prostitution are illicit acts. We believe that the filmmaker and producers have manipulated the two women and others in the film.
Third, taking two problematic cases from the bottom line end of society with drug and probably psychological problems and generalising it to the whole population distorts the fact that we feel the majority of Iranians definitely practice monogamy and that temporary marriage is culturally and socially unacceptable.
Fourth, portraying Iranian women mainly as victims of social injustice in Iran is itself unjust to the struggle of women and human rights activists in Iran. One instance of the bright side of Iran that we hardly ever witness in media is that 65 percent of all university students are women. Women are increasingly granted scholarship to pursue their higher education in the best universities all around the world. They are also approximately half of working force in education and medical sectors. Further, according to organizations such as World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the situation of women's health in Iran has significantly improved in the past years. Not only have child mortality rates fallen dramatically, but life expectancy at birth has also increased significantly.
Iranian female students signing this letter believe that the director who has lived twenty years away from Iran has no authentic right to speak for millions of Iranian women inside due to her poor and simplified analysis of the complexity of life there.
Finally, the issues Iran is usually targeted at are the problems some other countries such as Australia are also confronted with such as illicit drug abuse. Current studies indicate that there is a close relationship between abuse of illicit drugs and some antisocial behaviour such as prostitution and crime (UNODC 2004). Illicit drug users are likely to participate in criminal activities such as burglary or sell sex to obtain enough money for buying their drug of interest. Therefore, singling Iran out in the world and magnifying a minor problem in Iran such as temporary marriage as a widespread practice and a challenging problem for women in Iran is overlooking the strong family ties in Iranian culture while at the same time the audience forgets the routine practice of casual relationships, under age sex or one- night-stands in most countries.
Overall, there are two perceptions of Iran with a huge gap between: one is the perception Iranians have of themselves, and the other is how Western audience perceive Iran and Iranians. The material SBS broadcast about Iran is far away from what the majority of Iranians can identify with. It is a version that at best represents a minority of Iranians. We urge SBS to adopt a balanced approach in its depiction of Iran to give a more reasonable and accurate image of this nation in all its complexity."