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Divorce Iranian Style


Divorce Iranian Style

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Those convinced that divorce comes too easily in America should consider the alternative found in many other parts of the world. Divorce Iranian Style, a documentary directed by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, provides an eyebrow-raising glimpse of the Iranian divorce courts, a legal arena whose firm patriarchal bias is at odds with Western notions of due process and fairness. Though a man can leave his wife at any time, Islamic law decrees that a woman can only be granted a divorce under the most specific of circumstances: She must first give proof that her husband is infertile, unsupportive, or insane. But even if a couple reaches some mutual agreement, the disadvantaged wife must still frequently make some exorbitant concessions. One woman escapes marriage by waiving her rights to the $10,000 wedding gift promised by her husband; another gives up possession of her two young children. Challenging the courts can often take years, and with the law almost always in the husband's favor, it's a real uphill battle. Many women settle for some mild promises before happily returning home. Longinotto and Mir-Hosseini, herself a divorced Iranian now living in London, are far from impartial spectators. Several times they are called upon to participate in the proceedings, and more often than not, their subjects turn toward the camera to make some aside or at least smile. In one case, a woman who just moments earlier denied ripping a court order in two admits her paper-tearing defiance to the filmmakers with a grin and a giggle. The courtroom is generally portrayed as a bureaucratic, chaotic circus, witness to the most desperate of strategies and brimming over with bickering couples. But in general, the women are shown to be both strong and shrewd, and the feminist vantage of the directors justified in light of their subjects' circumscribed rights.