Tehran, July 21, 2005. It is 24-year-old Mariam’s wedding day. She is getting married to Mehti. During the wedding, women and men are not allowed to mingle. The men celebrate in one room, women in another, and the bride and groom eat their wedding dinner alone in a third room. No alcohol is served. Everyone drinks Fanta.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY SANNA SJÖSWÄRD - BILDBYRÅN SILVER
I was born in Iran in 1973. My biological mother was unable to take care of me, so I was placed in a children’s home in Tehran when I was just a few months old. I lived there for the first four years of my life, and then in 1977 I was adopted by my Swedish parents.
In 2000 I went back to Iran. I found my birth mother, Sedighre, by taking out an ad in a local paper. I discovered that I had two sisters and that we had lost our biological father, Abolfazi, to an addiction. He died in ’92.
My parents met at a very young age. She was 18. My father started abusing drugs and alcohol soon after. He used to lock Sedighre up in a room and go out for the night. When he came back in the morning he would unlock the door. My mum told me she was very afraid toi be alone.
I’ve been back many times, and during one trip, one of my sisters got married. I took these photos during the wedding.
Sanna just published a book called Roots. It’s about her going back to Iran to find her biological mother. To look at it, go to Sannafoto.se.
At the salon Mariam is having her makeup done with a silver marker pen for eyeliner. She struggles to endure the pain. The text on the pen says: “Warning, avoid contact with eyes, can lead to blindness.”
Mariam has worked as an assistant at a health-care center for a year. After the marriage she must quit her job and stay at home to cook, clean, and wash for her new husband. It is not uncommon for women to have jobs, but once a woman gets married the husband is supposed to support the wife, and not the other way around, even if they’re poor. Men are vain, and he wants to look good in front of his family. I think Mariam is OK with quitting. That’s what you do when you get married.
The wedding wasn’t as grand as they can be in Iran. The bride’s parents aren’t that well-off. There was a little wedding reception at a restaurant and there was food. The bride and groom were in the praying room.
After they’re married Mariam and Mehti will move into an apartment in the Eslam Shahr area, where Mariam was born and raised. Mariam’s parents, sister, and brother live in the neighborhood too. The couple have received interior furnishing as a gift from family and friends.
A female wedding photographer takes their picture. She directs them to smell a rose and look lovingly at one another.
At the wedding everyone talks about how beautiful the bride is, how many kids she’ll have, if she’s been getting any decent gifts, and who the man is related to. The bride and groom are pretty much the only things people talk about.
Another person I met during my trips to Iran was my sister’s daughter Eliahe. She is ten years old. They all live in Eslam Shahr, outside the southern part of Tehran. The class distinctions in Iran are clearly noticeable. This is the lower-class part of town and there are heaps of garbage everywhere and no streetlights. The residents paint the concrete walls in bright colors. In Eliahe’s yard there are flowers and butterflies painted on the walls of the house. She’s a happy kid, and she doesn’t seem to worry about the future.
This woman is watching Britney Spears on MTV, something that obviously is totally illegal.
Sedighre’s husband, Äshghär, and their first-born son Mahdi, 28, take a nap after lunch. Äshghär works as a truck driver and is married to two women. They are both named Sedighre. Mahdi owns a hairdressing salon. He works 14 hours a day, seven days a week. His dream is to move from the slum of Eslam Shahr to northern Tehran, home of the rich people.