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A Feminist Village in Iran


07 July 2005



Alasht (Âlâsh), a small isolated village in Savâd-Kuh region, north of Iran, with brooks flowing along side its narrow cobblestone streets, is entitled “the town of women.”

In this small community men are supposed to greet women first and say “hello” before them, a sign of respect in Iranian culture.

Entering the village, first you will face with the ruins of a helipad, and a deserted and dilapidated hotel whose broken windows have melancholy in their impression. But down there laying on the bottom of a valley, is the small village, Alasht.

Locals call this town Elasht, which means "eagle's nest". But the experts do not still approve of this interpretation.

From the top of the mountains surrounding the village, any traveler may notice a small home-like building few hundred meters off the village, to which a narrow winding path is led.

As a matter of fact this building is a shrine called Dokhtar-e Pak (Immaculate Girl). Locals believe that this shrine belongs to a grand lady and according to an old superstition, men should not approach the shrine or they will be bitten by its guardian serpent. Every weekend women and girls pray in the shrine in the hope of meeting their wishes.

Dr. Parviz Varjavand, an expert of cultural heritage, believes that this shrine was devoted to performing Nahid’s (Ânâhitâ) ritual and added that, “there has been no research performed about this place so far, and we can’t approve or refuse the hypothesis of Alasht being a sacred place for performing Mithraist rituals or those rituals for worshipping Nahid.”

Alasht is situated on the flank of mountain stepping down into a valley and the minaret of its architecturally unique mosque in the upper part of the village makes an outstanding landscape which marks the village.

The bitter cold of the winters causes locals wintering for warmer regions and the town would be empty of its inhabitants, while there always remains one woman or a family as the guardian of the village.

Women of Alasht are the core of their family, who like the mountains of their residence, are proud facing the difficulties of life.

Walking in the streets of Alasht, men should remember that facing any woman they must lower their head and say hello, because Alasht is the women's Village.




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