Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Arezou (Wish) Island

Urumiyeh Lake, Iran
Arezou (Wish) Island

Location: Urumiyeh Lake, Western Azerbaijan Province, Iran

Opened/Closed: Apparently never progressed beyond the planning stages back in 2007

Arezou (Wish) Island is a "lost womyn's space" that never existed outside the imaginations of a few ambitious tourism planners--and a few hopeful women.

Here's how Reuters announced the news back on February 22, 2007:

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran plans a female-only island to boost tourism in a northwest province, the Tehran-e Emrouz newspaper on Wednesday quoted a local official as saying.

 It will be on the Urumiyeh lake in Western Azerbaijan province, a municipality official identified only as Aghai said.

Under Iran's strict Islamic law, mixing with men in public is forbidden. Strict sex segregation actually protects women rather than restricting their rights, officials argue.

"There will be no men on the Arezou (Wish) island. Public transport, restaurants and other facilities will be staffed only by women," Aghai said.

Parts of Iranian beaches are reserved for women, where they can remove their headscarves and wear swimming costumes. Women have forced their way into the national sports stadium, defying strict sex segregation. There are several parks for women only.

In public women have to cover their body in long loose coats and their hair with headscarves. The chador, literally meaning 'tent', an all-enveloping, usually black cloth is obligatory in some government offices.

From there, the story circulated around the blogosphere for a while--then evaporated. So what happened to Arezou Island?

It seems that since this starry island vision was born, Urumiyeh Lake has been the subject of an increasingly severe environmental crisis. The lake is literally drying up. Where there used to be water, there is nothing but a thick crust of salt. Years of "man-made" interferences--dam building along with other water diversion schemes--have taken their toll. The damage has been compounded by the effects of an ongoing drought, no doubt driven by climate change. There is now an ever-increasing risk of "salt storms," where strong winds will carry the salt elsewhere, creating further environmental degradation. In fact, there were even protests in Iran last fall over this issue, with sixty people arrested.

It's not reported whether these protesters were women.

The boys giveth, the boys taketh away....

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