I remember my days as a high school girl in Iran. There are bad memories: school officials trying hard to keep us away from any male species even though our school was same-sex, along with all the other schools in Iran; or being monitored daily to make sure none of us plucked our eyebrows or wore makeup; and facing dire consequences when we did so. There are also good memories: jokes, laughs, and friendships.

Overall, I loved my high school experience. I was born in the middle of nowhere and raised in a very urban place in downtown Tehran. In both places, almost everyone could afford high school and college. Education in Iran is virtually free and women are not exempt by it.

Iranian women are very studious. Men often make jokes about how rigorously they study. They do better than men on Concours (Iranian University Entrance Examination), so there is a cap for women in certain fields. A man with a lower rank can go to a better medical school than a woman with a higher rank. Women think it is unfair; men think it makes sense since educated women end up being housewives anyway! However, this does not stop girls from studying hard to become doctors, engineers, or lawyers. Most Iranians are very bourgeois about their careers and only these three appeal to them.

Education is extremely important to the majority of Iranians. My almost-illiterate, 81-year-old grandmother had a fight with my cousin because she chose to get married instead of going to graduate school! Parents encourage their children to study. They might work two jobs so that their children can afford extra classes and resources. And, they usually reward their children when they accomplish anything academic.

However, it is unfair of me to say that all Iranian families are open-minded. There have been numerous cases in which a girl was forced by her parents to quit school to get married. These traditional families still exist, but they are in the minority and fortunately, most Iranians would disagree with such decisions. All in all, Iranian women are hardworking and intelligent. They are not afraid to pursue male-dominated careers and we have an excess of female engineers in Iran. And if they do end up being housewives, I hope that it was their own choice and not the pressure of the family or society.

[Image Credit: Dokhtiran]