How to uphold “the sanctity of women”

Harare, Zimbabwe

Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, who is getting tactical nuclear weapons from Putin, has been here in 2023, followed by President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran, not to be confused with Iran’s supreme leader Ali Kahmenei. 

My other persona, columnist Andrew Saxon, had this to say about a Khamenei visit as Iran began its pivotal role in regional religious wars.  

Khamenei must have been relieved to arrive home in fundamentalist Teheran after his Zimbabwe trip, safe at last from the affrontery of wine, women and song.

The Iranians boycotted a state banquet because women were mingling too freely with men, there was wine on every table and they didn’t like the ”loose songs” –  love songs – being played by the police band during the warm-up to the banquet.

When the Iranians failed to take their seats, the Zimbabweans went ahead and enjoyed their dinner all the more without having to make polite, diplomatic and ‘dry’ conversation.

The whole trip turned out to be most awkward for us. Khamenei’s flight to Victoria Falls was laid on with only stewards aboard on the request of the Iranians. All alcoholic bar stocks had been removed from the plane.

The Iranians toured the falls and were photographed at the crocodile-breeding farm. There were some anxious moments when tourists appeared in full force — most of the women in bikini tops and very short shorts.

Though Khamenei stayed at the government guest house, other members of his delegation were put up at the Sheraton where they showed little of the Islamic fervour expected of them by their leader. A guest in a nearby room told me the carousing and merriment went on into the small hours of the morning. Their spirits were high, with one Iranian swaying unsteadily down the corridor, obviously intoxicated by the beauty of our capital city and fatigued by the whirl of the day’s itinerary.

Women who went to Khamenei’s farewell press conference were supplied with scarves and veils.  An Iranian had asked for the telephone number of a woman journalist so he could visit her ”during the night.” She graciously declined, saying she didn’t want him to risk being beheaded when he got home.

In the aftermath of the ill-fated banquet, the Iranian embassy took out advertisements in the local press trying to explain their dining requirements that were made crystal clear in exchanges of formal diplomatic notes long before the actual event. 

It was all a matter of obeying the laws of Islam on alcohol and protecting the “sanctity of women,” said the ads. In the West women were mentally and physically abused and had even been “cannibalised” in Australia. National Archives in Canberra soon pointed out that the precise reference quoted by Iran came from hearsay accounts of aboriginal flesh-eating rituals by explorers Down Under that one little-known French diarist, Albert Montemont, picked up on and published in Paris in 1833. “We are torn between puzzlement and admiration as to how the Iranians managed to find such obscure material,” said the Aussie Archivists.

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