Parenting was critically important for Marjane “Marji” Satrapi as she grew up in Iran during a period of political turmoil, she emphasizes in her autobiography, Persepolis.
There was conflict between a sitting government and a revolutionary party. Satrapi points out the country was ruled by The Shah, as if he were a king, and the people of Iran were not too keen about his rule.
For about 2,500 years, Persians, Arabs, Mongolians, and even modern imperialists occupied Iran. In 1979, an Islamic revolution took place, and a new theocratic government was seated.
Satrapi survived growing up in the middle of the revolutionary war. As a child, she was very impressionable, so her parents shielded her from harm.
The new Islamic government required women and girls to wear a veil. Some young girls rebelled against this requirement, in part because they did not understand why they had to wear it. At school, Marji and friends used their scarfs for jump rope and as a pretend-horse’s bridle while playing piggyback.
Marji’s parents primary focus was to protect their child from all dangers, regardless of whether she liked it or not. The expectation was for a child to obey their parents. Some children obeyed, and some did not. Children do not think about the logic of authoritative rule; they want their freedom from day one, she wrote.
Her parents tried to protect her as best as they could. Marji’s parents knew the incoming Islamic government would crack down on disobedience. They strictly enforced rules forbidding allowing Marji to do certain things and go certain places.
Marji lost several family members and friends because of conflicts between the government and revolution supporters, but she found comfort in her family’s maid named Mehri — the equivalent of a big sister. Marji became very close to the maid; they talked about the war and young love.
One day, they went to a protest demonstration after being told not to go. The protest was against the old government of the Shah. They protested all night, losing track of time. At the protest, things got out of hand and people were getting hurt, so Marji and Mehri returned home.
Marji’s mother was so furious when they finally arrived home that she smacked their faces. The mother was angry because that day so many people were being killed. The day later became known as a “Day of Darkness.”
Marji and some friends found out about a boy’s father who lived in the neighborhood and allegedly killed 2,000 people. Marji and her friends gripped nails between their fingers and went searching for the boy. Her mother just so happened to drive up and began questioning them. Marji told her mother the truth. Her mother said, “How would you like if I nailed your ears to the wall?” Suddenly, Marji’s revolutionary ambitions evaporated.
Her mother discouraged her from the idea of violence by sharing with her a vision of empathy. Throughout the book, Marji received support and guidance from her family. Her mother and father tried to instill in her values that would enable her survival. Her parents eventually sent her to Istanbul, Turkey, where Marji could express the freedom she desired.
The book inspires me to think about parenting, and its purpose. What can one learn from the examples in this book? The understanding that the guidance instilled upon children by parents was for protection.
My parents protected me from the ugliness of street life. “Get in this house before it gets dark,” they would say.
As a young child, I did not know that sometimes bad people came out at night. Some of us disregarded the rules and regulations of our parents and went down a path that led us to prison. An adult’s views comes from experiences passed down from previous generations. Just think: Where would we be if we had listened to our parents?