Get up, stand up

Gol­riz Ghahra­man Bar­ris­ter, con­sul­tant for the United Na­tions Of­fice on Drugs and Crime, Green Party candidate

Metro Magazine NZ - - My Life In Clothes - TEXT — FRANCES MOR­TON PHO­TOG­RA­PHY — RUSS FLATT

This dress ( main photo) is what I wore to give a speech in Aotea Square on Don­ald Trump’s Mus­lim ban. It was made for me by my neigh­bour in Cam­bo­dia. I lived in Ph­nom Penh and worked as a UN pros­e­cu­tor on the Kh­mer Rouge tri­bunal for about a year and a half. You get ev­ery­thing made. They’re amaz­ing ar­ti­sans. But they’re go­ing to get pushed into the sweat­shops if peo­ple don’t con­tinue to get things made.

My point at the Aotea Square rally was I’m not Mus­lim and I don’t speak as a Mus­lim, but as a hu­man-rights ad­vo­cate I’d fight to the death for some­one’s right to wear the hi­jab. [Trump’s travel ban] is scape­goat­ing en­tire groups based on their na­tion­al­ity. This is how atroc­i­ties be­gin, legally dis­en­fran­chis­ing peo­ple, defin­ing them as dan­ger­ous, as a group. A blan­ket ban on peo­ple from a coun­try as an anti-ter­ror mea­sure is re­ally de­hu­man­is­ing and de­mean­ing.

It was in­ter­est­ing be­cause it made me feel quite pow­er­ful. It’s a dress. It’s not some­thing you’d usu­ally wear to a protest. It was bil­low­ing in the wind. It gave me quite a bit of free­dom.

I’m from Mash­had in the north of Iran, which is a huge city near the Afghan bor­der. Now that Mo­sul in Iraq has been sacked, it’s the most im­por­tant holy city for Shia Is­lam. The amaz­ing shrine of Imam Reza is there.

I was nine when my fam­ily came to New Zealand. We lived in Iran dur­ing the 80s, which was the first post-rev­o­lu­tion­ary decade, and the most re­pres­sive. It was par­tic­u­larly vi­cious in at­tack­ing women, mi­nori­ties and po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents. The year I was born, they in­tro­duced the hi­jab as com­pul­sory Is­lamic wear for women. A mil­lion women marched against it. It was 1981. They re­ally re­sisted, at gun­point.

When I did that speech in Aotea Square, peo­ple one after an­other would stand up and say they were Mus­lim. We had es­caped that. It was im­por­tant for me to get up and say I’m ac­tu­ally not re­li­gious at all, be­cause the Mid­dle East also has di­ver­sity within it. But I am af­fected by th­ese rules of discrimination.

Fem­i­nism as it comes out of the Mid­dle East is the op­po­site of how it’s ex­pressed here. It’s about wear­ing makeup and nice clothes. That’s how my mother ex­presses her­self. She’s like, I can’t be­lieve you leave the house with­out lip­stick on. It’s like, I am go­ing to stand out. Screw you. The pa­tri­archy tells you to be shape­less and de­sex­u­alised.

To me, bright lip­stick is a real Ira­nian-woman thing. She wears bright clothes. They weren’t al­lowed colour. I don’t do colour. I just do black and crazy jewellery.

In my work­day, I wear suits to court, be­cause you just have to. Go­ing out with friends, I’d wear some­thing like the Le Scan­dale top ( 01), with loads of jewellery as well. It’s about women re­claim­ing words like “scan­dal” and “nasty women”. It’s the sus­tain­able-fash­ion la­bel Re­for­ma­tion, from LA.

The vel­vet rib­bon is from Ox­ford. I did the in­ter­na­tional hu­man-rights law mas­ters pro­gramme there. I wear it as a choker. You wear it as a bow for ex­ams. You have to wear a white shirt, a black suit, this lit­tle bow. You also have to wear a car­na­tion, a white one for the first exam, a pink one for all the other ones and a red one for your fi­nal one. You also wear a lit­tle cape. And you take a mor­tar­board but you can’t wear it be­cause you haven’t grad­u­ated yet. It’s ac­tu­ally nuts to get your head around that on exam morn­ing when you’re stressed out.

This ( 02) is ac­tu­ally a don­key or horse dec­o­ra­tion, which I wear as a neck­lace. Some­one brought it out of Iran and gave it to my mum. As po­lit­i­cal refugees, we can’t go back un­til the regime changes, so all this stuff is my only con­nec­tion.

The other body of jewellery I’ve got are th­ese Ma­sai things ( main photo). This is what the women war­riors wear. Th­ese are from when I lived in Arusha, Tan­za­nia, when I was a lawyer at the Rwanda tri­bunal. It’s su­per-touristy be­cause it’s close to both Kil­i­man­jaro and the Serengeti. I was there in 2008 and then again in 2010-11. I was go­ing be­tween Ox­ford and Arusha for about a year and a half.

I got to a point, in Cam­bo­dia, where I re­alised I’d been away for five years or so. Be­cause I’m a refugee and I can’t go back to Iran, I don’t have a true, true home in a way. At some point I would have lived as an ex­pat longer than I’d lived any­where per­ma­nently, so I couldn’t say I’m from New Zealand any more, and I can’t go back to Iran. I started to feel a lit­tle bit pan­icked about not hav­ing a home. I do love Auck­land. This whole area around Free­mans Bay is where I’ve al­ways lived. I went to Auck­land Girls. I can’t get past K’ Rd.

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