With song and dance, Homa Ehsan is hoping to help Iranian women tear off their veils.
A refugee from the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s Iran, Ehsan has built a new life in Orange County. Now she wants to help the women the revolution left behind.
“The Iranian women are very oppressed,” Ehsan says, brushing tears from her cheeks. “Right now, I feel pity and bad for the children killed by the war. I feel pity and bad for the women who had to stay, who are so oppressed right now. It’s very, very tough on them, besides the fact that they have to wear a black veil.”
Ehsan, who lives in Orange, has devoted the past four months to writing and producing a music and dance program that will be presented Sunday to coincide roughly with the 10th anniversary of the Iranian revolution (the Shah left the country in January, 1979). The Iranian Children’s Festival, set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday at South Coast Community Church in Irvine, is geared to Americans as well as Iranians.
“I want to make a bridge between American and Iranian children, of love and understanding,” Ehsan said. “They will be the leaders of the coming age.”
Forty-five children from throughout the county will perform in the festival, which will begin with refreshments and is scheduled to last until 9 p.m. All the songs will be song in Farsi, the native language of Iran, but English translations will follow.
The music depicts ancient Iranian customs and stories, including the fairy tale “The Wedding of the Ladybug,” in which a little insect rejects an abusive suitor to marry the bug she loves.
In one of the dances, a group of sad girls bow their veiled heads, until, one by one, they rip off their veils and break into song and joyous movements.
“I hope this music will give Iranian girls hope that it can be different for them,” she says. “Every girl needs to know this message: ‘Go, get out of oppression and go after your desires. You will find happiness. You will be free.’ ”
As a well-known Iranian journalist who wrote political commentaries and hosted television and radio shows, Ehsan was once a member of the country’s elite. But her life was shattered when the revolution began in Abadan in 1978. She was beaten and threatened with death for reporting Islamic acts of terrorism after the Cinema Rex theater was set afire by revolutionaries.
Having fled Iran a week before Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was deposed, Ehsan was later reunited with her husband and children in Europe and the United States. She still lives with the pain from her beatings and the memories of how the revolution ripped apart their lives. “We lost everything,” she says, still dabbing her cheek. “Everything we had worked for for so many years.”
Other well-known Iranians have contributed to Sunday’s Children’s Festival. Dancing has been choreographed by Shideh Kia Nikkhoo, a ballerina who now teaches dance in Irvine. Jahan Ban, once a prominent photographer in Iran, photographed the children for the production program. Composer Ahmad Pejman contributed a piece for the show.
Ehsan says the tale of the ladybug is a perfect allegory for Iranian girls.
“The ladybug is a symbol of a girl who has desires and love and the hope for a better life. I want to give a feeling of pride to children of Iran who don’t know anything about the politics of the revolution or about their backgrounds. Not knowing where you come from, not having roots, can be very bad for children. They are lost between two cultures.
“It is my deepest hope that Americans will see this show to learn about us and our customs. We have been beaten up and called Iranian terrorists. It is unfair. Iranians have brought to this country . . . millions of dollars and brains.”
Hoping that teachers, Scout leaders and other Americans involved with both American and Iranian children will attend Sunday’s festival, Ehsan says that non-Iranians can buy tickets for half-price. Full-price tickets for others, at $15 and $20 each, will be sold at the door. “Come and see how we dance and celebrate,” Ehsan says. “We are very talented people. We are not terrorists.”