[FPSPACE] article about Ansari in NYTimes...
pjp961 at svol.net
Mon Oct 30 11:29:22 EST 2006
An article about the Iranian reaction to Ansari's space flight.
October 30, 2006
Iranians Find Space Tourist Fascinating
By NAZILA FATHI
TEHRAN, Oct. 28 - Iranians hailed the recent voyage of the first woman to go
into space as a private explorer, an Iranian-American, with two jokes that
circulated widely on cellphones.
Muslim clerics, went the first, were refusing to look into the sky for the
moon so that they could announce the beginning of Ramadan because they
feared seeing the amateur astronaut without her veil.
The second said the clerics had announced that fasting should last for two
months instead of one, because they had seen two moons in the sky. In
Persian, the moon is often used as a metaphor for a beautiful woman.
Fascination with the odyssey of the woman, Anousheh Ansari, a 40-year-old
Iranian-born business executive, has gripped Iran
an/index.html?inline=nyt-geo> , particularly the country's young women.
Iranian television and newspapers have reviewed Mrs. Ansari's life and
covered her 10 days in space, which started with a blastoff in a Russian
Soyuz spacecraft from Kazakhstan on Sept. 18 and included eight days at the
International Space Station.
Iranians told one another how she dreamed of going into space even as a
child in Iran. They guessed at the trip's undisclosed price tag, widely
assumed to be $20 million.
And they openly admired her courage and her success. In 1993, she and her
husband founded a business in Texas, Telecom Technologies Inc., which they
sold in 2000 for $550 million in stock. (After the stock fell in value,
shareholders sued, accusing Mrs. Ansari of insider trading. The case is
pending.) Her blog, anoushehansari.com, is still being filled with comments
"When I saw your face on TV after you returned, I vowed that I will go to
space just like you," wrote Mehrdad Younessi, 20, from Mazandaran, a
province on the Caspian. "Even if that does not happen, I assure you that I
will study what you studied."
Not all the attention has been positive. Some Iranians wondered why she went
to space instead of using the money to help poor Iranians. And one comment
posted on her blog said: "Wow! I got to get me $30 million so I can become
the poster child for the military-industrial complex. Good to know the rich
can still do stuff that the rest of us can't."
Efforts to reach her for this article through her new company, Prodea
Systems, were unsuccessful. But in an interview on NPR she said she had paid
the price to achieve her dream. She has responded to her critics by saying
that she did not believe she could solve the problems of Iran's women or the
poor around the world "by throwing money" at them as long as there were
corrupt governments that did not ensure that the money got to those in need.
The tone was far warmer at an event that celebrated Mrs. Ansari's safe
departure, held in Tehran on Sept. 21. It was sponsored by the state
television network and drew more than 500 people, many of them young women.
"I had never seen so much enthusiasm for an Iranian woman," said Roya
Karimi, a journalist covering the event for Zanan magazine, a feminist
publication. "Young girls talked about their dreams, and it was like their
own dreams had come true."
Ms. Karimi said one 17-year-old recited parts of Mrs. Ansari's online diary
from memory. A 24-year-old told Ms. Karimi that Mrs. Ansari was "her role
model and symbol of an Iranian woman" - but a lucky one to have become rich
and have a family who supported her.
Such notes of realism, verging on wistfulness, are not uncommon among
In an interview, Merina Baqeri, 25, said she was very happy about Mrs.
Ansari's trip. "But I could never do something like that," she said.
"She probably had a supportive family," she concluded, citing her own as a
contrast. "My father did not even let me study arts because he wanted me to
become a doctor."
Still, some women's rights advocates have distanced themselves from Mrs.
"Feminists believe that Mrs. Ansari has done nothing for their cause," said
Mahnaz Mohammadi, a feminist filmmaker who is currently helping to organize
a campaign to gather a million signatures for a petition demanding equal
rights for Iran's women.
"What she did was great, but they decided to distance themselves from her
because of the way the Islamic Republic proclaimed her," she said.
The state news media, as well as opposition satellite channels, broadcast
news about Mrs. Ansari's trip this summer. State television conducted a
telephone interview with Mrs. Ansari before her flight, and other news
outlets reported the details of her journey.
Jam-e-Jam, a state-run newspaper with the largest circulation in Iran,
published daily columns with her photo showing her without the obligatory
veil worn by women in Iran.
"Everybody in Iran will pray for her safe landing," a columnist wrote on
Sept. 28. "She proved to be qualified for this trip and will walk out
Only one daily, the hard-line Jomhouri Eslami, has criticized the attention
paid to Mrs. Ansari, warning that she was a bad role model and accusing her
of being a royalist.
In contrast, all of the state news media criticized Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian
human rights lawyer, for not wearing a veil when she accepted the 2003 Nobel
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Ebadi declared that the prize would inspire
women across the Muslim world to fight for equality in oppressive,
patriarchal societies. It certainly galvanized the Iranian women's movement,
which has grown more active, despite government pressure.
Last month, they won a major campaign with the passage of a law permitting
the children of Iranian mothers and foreign fathers to receive Iranian
citizenship after they reach 18. Advocates are continuing to press for the
children of such unions to be declared Iranian citizens at birth.
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